Finding Fandom

The ideas and views expressed in the following article are that of the author alone. We encourage respectful debate and discussion at Clashing Sabers, so please refrain from backlash. Let’s keep the discussion respectful! (Also, some of the ideas may not be suitable for younger audiences.)

You’d think that finding like-minded people with whom you can share your experiences with respect to a certain common interest would be an elating experience. Arguably, there are many reasons why it is so, but more often than not (at least in my case) you may be met with exactly the opposite.. As someone’s quote lying around on my Tumblr said: “My words will either attract a strong mind or offend a weak one.”

I’ve discovered throughout time that fandoms and the people that make them are great when you remain strictly on the subject. For example, in terms of Star Wars, the fandom (from my perspective) is at its best when it looks for answers, when it receives information and spends its time understanding it, reuniting all the uncountable possibilities of each mind at work into a great pool of knowledge.

 

One problem that you will constantly encounter with me is that I am very easily triggered when people have something negative to say about the prequels. I stand by the opinion that the first people and the first part of fandom that ever got to see the prequels is also the first one to have backlashed on them; those first people are what I call “The Purists™.” They are the ones that have grown up as Star Wars was barely born and taken out of the crib. They hold those first three movies in the highest regard. So much so that they’ve made these stories their stories, in the sense that they claim to really understand ‘the Star Wars feel’ and what Star Wars should be about or like (when really Star Wars has always dared to be something new and unexpected, ironically enough.).

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When Star Wars is not what we want it to be, should we riot? Probably not.

Their disappointment with the prequels is the best one to prove this point: they were disappointed and angry that the man behind the infamous badass Lord Vader wasn’t the archetypal and stereotypical slaying, smooth-talking hero that they’d all envisaged and wanted, and instead were met with a troubled man, who was sensitive, complex and layered, full of emotion, passion and love; they were angry that the tone of the movies changed drastically from adventurous to a significantly more political environment, to the point where Jar Jar Binks need to be the one mechanism that could provide any sort of light-heartedness. Even so, he is branded the most hated character in the history of the saga.

The Star Wars fans that had loved the creation of George Lucas as he made it in the beginning completely forgot that it was his story, and that by all means he could have done whatever he wanted with it. By no means was he responsible or should be made responsible for how people interpreted his work. But to assume Lucas’ work as your own, or to think that you have any right to claim that you know better what Star Wars should be/feel/look like, or the right to demand the story be a certain way in order to fit your needs is hypocrisy in its zenith.

It’s also fabulous when I see fellow prequel defenders say that they dislike Clone Wars Anakin, because Dave (Filoni) doesn’t know how to write him, whilst completely forgetting that he was working closely with George the whole time. Also, to think that Dave, a dedicated Star Wars fan in his own right would disservice the franchise (right under George’s nose)…well that’s baffling to say the least. And why does Anakin need to be just one way or another? Why can people not embrace the fact that, once again, he’s layered, and as the Chosen One that will bring balance to the Force, in many ways there is a sense of balance in himself. He needs to be constantly defined by both poles, both feminine and masculine, both positive and negative. Just because he is emotional, doesn’t mean he can’t be strong and imposing. It’s ironic, because the separation of the Force into a Light and Dark Side also predicts really well what happens in fandom when people choose to separate versions of a character instead of uniting them into the brilliant whole that they are, just because of who wrote it or how he wrote is or god knows what else. (aka ‘Reasons to love Star Wars more 101’)

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This problem also gave birth to another one that I’ve seen exists in a lot of cases and people: deciding fandom. It’s not uncommon to see people wholly dedicated to what they like/love. Frankly I do see myself as one of those people as I love all aspects of Star Wars both in spite and because of its slight flaws; while I can and do criticize it sometimes, I still love it to no end. There are, however, people that remain critical at all times and choose favorites, or say that they don’t like ‘x’ movie because of ‘y’ reasons and they wouldn’t watch it too often because of said reasons. If you can’t get past your critique and still enjoy every part of Star Wars, I have noticed I am very inclined to think that you are not “as fan as.” It’s clearly not a good approach. I certainly shouldn’t be one to decide how much fans people are, but when I have a level of dedication that you as a “brother in arms” fail to reach, and still call yourself a fan especially after you just stated that you don’t like 50% of the saga you say you love, I am honestly…triggered.

A few days ago I had a rather heated argument with a female on Tumblr about Ahsoka’s sexuality! You heard me right, oh yes you did, and it’s not even important that sexuality is never even brought into question or even relevant for the character of Ahsoka because. Apparently people now like to fantasize various things about characters, something which we usually brand with the terms headcanon or fanon, except nowadays people can be so aggressive about their fanons that they throw it around and treat it as actual canon.

The post that ignited the argument read like this: “Ahsoka Tano is a lesbian” (to which we can add the various others that go along the lines of “What a beautiful day for Ahsoka Tano to be a lesbian” or “How can there exist people that don’t think Ahsoka is a lesbian” and all gems of the sort). To this post I responded with giving the person in question actual Facts™ (and not alternative, mind you) about what actually happens with Ahsoka in each and every somewhat romantic/sexual context she’s ever been in…that is, with Lux and Kaeden respectively with which umm, well nothing happened. With Kaeden, even though the girl tells Ahsoka: “I could kiss you right now”, Ahsoka never responded or reciprocated anything, she even sounded quite baffled and uninterested, and over Lux she quickly got over even if she might have felt something for him. Since Ahsoka is never defined by sexuality or romance and it’s not a relevant trait in her character even in her later, adult life (I mean if you do see her with anyone apart from perhaps some crickets that sing her anthem, do tell me), I deduced that she might be ace/aro, but even that is not of relevance. What happens when people get caught up too much in their likes, dislikes, and headcanon, to the negating of being able to see other sides, is that what Star Wars really is, a mythology and a story beyond anything we have ever seen.

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However, I presented the facts as they are, and when I reached my conclusion I carefully emphasised that it’s just my personal hunch and belief (as an actual asexual that has an idea about how things work on this side of things) that she might be like that, I never put it categorically as “Oh, no, no, Ahsoka Tano is actually ace.” The person in question just made another post in which she said the exact thing (“Ahsoka Tano is a LESBIAN” …yes, with bold and caps-locked this time) and proceeded to say in the tags that, quote: “this seems to annoy people so I’ll keep doing it.”

The problem here is not so much that she likes to think of Ahsoka as a lesbian (even though I do have to moan about that too, of course) but rather that she was aggressive in expressing her opinion to the point where she treats her “fanon” as a “canon” and gets offended and salty when people have different opinions, even when they are actual, clear-cut, verifiable facts from the actual show/book. People should be able to have their headcanons without having to step on other people for not agreeing with them, plus the point of headcanons is that you cannot replace them for actual canon. You can think all you want of ‘x’ as a lesbian or whatever, but if in canon the matter is not settled there’s no reason for you to ignite the next intergalactic war because the canon is not like you want it to be and people are pointing it out to you.

Now the issue with ‘lesbian Ahsoka’ that I personally have is because again it’s not even relevant to the character. I think Ahsoka is a strong and compelling character precisely because and thanks to the fact that she defines herself and she doesn’t need to be put next to anyone else to be a complete, whole, and rounded character. Even more so, the only person in her life we can put “next to her” is actually Anakin, and the beauty in that is that it’s not even a romantic relationship. It’s a perfect, unified and by far a type of absolute love that binds those two, and it’s of a completely different type then what we perceive as sexual/romantic love or attraction. It’s a whole new level and perception of love and oh, my god, protect it! So to attribute any sort of sexuality to Ahsoka to me feels like a total disservice, disrespect and misunderstanding of her character in the first place.

Alas, I have heard that people of this kind are actually just looking for representation; because they are in a certain way, they want strong characters that could represent them and their choices. This person apparently considers that Ahsoka could make a strong representative for lesbians. And here I am being like “Isn’t this actually yet another type of fetishization?”…that is a question I still don’t know how to answer objectively. If I am to give in and answer subjectively, I do indeed see it as a fetishization. Just as Purists™ wanted the man wearing the Vader mask to be their dream hero on a shining white horse, so do people want Ahsoka to be lesbian.

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The prequels changed how we perceive Vader….

 

But this matter differs slightly for the sole and sheer reason that it’s about sexuality,Today, sexuality and all types of attraction are controversial subjects. The world is more diversified than ever and along with the creation of labels with which people could better identify not only themselves but also their counterparts in their experience, suddenly the forced and simple illusion of monogamy and “straightness” is finally shook by the reality of variation. But the illusion is only now beginning to fade, people are very slowly starting to come out, and/or be accepted and the best way to normalize all these possibilities is through media, because they reach all and any. It’s understandable why people would want representation, why they would want a character to be like them and be strong at the same time, because that would establish that they themselves are valid and strong as well.

But is fetishization, or imposing you ideal and need for representation on a character really the answer? And is doing that while also not paying attention to what that character actually both respectful to it and yet another answer? Because I really don’t think so. Characters are very much alive. They have their own lives within their own universes and narratives, and to override their existence with your own because you want something from them feels like utter disregard. And once again, while they do have their own life, that life is granted by their creator(s) and he will write his characters and story as he pleases; to impose your will on his writing and on what he meant for the character is an insult to his hard work and right of creation. No good creator creates for the sake of the world (that would be the commercial way); they create their work to be liked and appreciated by the people, but the key here is that they do it for like-minded people. A creator showcases his work as he envisaged, it as it is a part of him, his imagination, his soul. If you step on it because it didn’t meet your ideals it means you’re really not understanding it at all.

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