For all the glory and neverending residuals that accompany even a minor role in the Star Wars universe, its fanbase has long been so rabid that the fervor sometimes takes a turn for the inappropriate. People forget that they’re spewing outrage over the behind-the-scenes machinations of a space Western about worlds beyond our wildest imaginations. As the frothing-at-the-mouth nerd culture debates about the merits (or lack thereof) of The Last Jedi continue, it’s worth keeping in mind that many of the people involved with the franchise are just artists out to do their best, and shouldn’t be raked over the coals for committing the capital offense of not precisely matching an idea you had online about what a movie should have been.
Sometimes, when you ask people to be kinder to artists, an eyeroll is the immediate response. After all, if they’re putting themselves out there, they should be able to take whatever’s thrown at them in return, right? Not always. Consider, for example, the case of Ahmed Best, who’s most famous for a role under which few people would recognize him: Jar Jar Binks, the eternally controversial protagonist of 1999’s Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Best was the motion-capture performer behind Binks, and as a recent Tweet of the actor’s suggested, the vicious fan backlash that resulted from the strong presence of the kid-friendly Binks character in the movie took a substantial toll on Best himself.
It’s not as though the media backlash that Best once faced has diminished over time; modern Star Wars actors Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran both previously left social media due to over-aggressive fans, directors are backing out of the series due to the risk of fan harassment, and even Best’s Episode 1 co-star Jake Lloyd has spoken about how the responses to the movie and those responsible for it had a legitimately negative impact on his life. For all of the stereotypes (often unfair) that exist about geek culture, perhaps it’s time to stop pretending that people taking movies far too seriously only has an adverse effect on those people alone.