Self-appointed sci-fi fan barometer, actor Simon Pegg, has labelled Star Wars fans as “the most toxic” fan base in a headline interview on Sirius XM. Having worked in Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who he is well and truly inside the genre. Is the 52-year-old actors take on this fair?
On the Jim and Sam show just before the weekend, Pegg was asked outright which franchise has the hardest fans to please. He replied:
“To be honest–and as someone who kind of was, you know, kicked off about the prequels when they came out, the Star Wars fanbase really seems to be the most kind of toxic at the moment. I’m probably being very controversial to say that.”
At least he was honest about his own involvement in this so-called “toxic” fandom when he was very vocal about the shortcomings of Prequel trilogy. He even went as far as to write the preface to a book on the subject, where he likened himself and other fans over the prequel era as being like abused spouses, returning to Star Wars and making excuses for it despite repeated beatings.
So what has changed for him, or in him?
“I’ve apologized for the things I said about, you know, Jar Jar Binks because of course there was a f— actor involved and he was getting a lot of flack and it wasn’t, you know, a camp rabbit, it was a human being, and because it got a lot of hate, he suffered. I feel terrible about being a part of that.”
Pegg went on to talk about the constant subject brought up in these conversations – diversity. He notes:
“[In] ‘Star Wars,’ there’s suddenly a little bit more diversity and everyone’s kicking off about it and it’s really sad, you know?”
He is no doubt referring to some reactions to Moses Ingram’s character of Reva in Obi-Wan Kenobi. There was also the much publicised abuse said to be received by Kelly Marie Tran following her debut as Rose Tico, or John Boyega’s comments about the treatment of his character in the Star Wars sequels, being pushed to the side.
As an observer of all this in real time, I cannot deny that there are elements in all fandom that can be toxic, just like in sports fandom or “stan culture”.
However the biggest complaints about Reva that I witnessed were that she was a poorly written character with a plot arc that made very little sense under examination. She was then played with seemingly no effort to make her seem like she came from another galaxy. The closest to racial commentary I saw about her were valid complaints that she acted, in the words of others online, like she came from Planet Baltimore.
With the character of Rose, the dominant complaints were that Disney / Lucasfilm had taken a very attractive girl with a personality that shone through in interviews, and turned her into an annoying janitor with the haircut of Lego figure. If I was looking for racism around Rose Tico, I would have looked closer to home. At the white women in Lucasfilm who uglied her up so she couldn’t outshine their own cipher.
A similar issue emerges with the character of Finn. Boyega is right that the character was side-lined somewhat in the sequels. Again, they should be looking closer to home. So determined were they to cast an actor of color in a lead role, and so pleased with themselves they were to have done it, they forgot to actually write the character effectively beyond his mere existence and publicity talk of his skin color.
Maybe if they had a plan beyond the tokenistic, then his character would have lived up to the wonderful potential of a rogue Stormtrooper switching sides? They made him a sanitation drone… and it is the FANS who are toxic?
Maybe if an act of creative cowardice hadn’t robbed Finn of an incredible sacrifice in the final stages of The Last Jedi, where they were too scared to let the black guy die, he would have been remembered as a real hero?
What I suspect here is Pegg basically ensuring he remains in the Hollywood club by saying the right things.
What I also see is that yet again Hollywood is pushing sub-standard product and then blaming the fans for their own shortcomings.