The Star Wars Symphony and How to Make Fandom Non-Toxic
At some point, there was a first time we all saw Star Wars. There’s a calm as the “A long time ago…” text sets the stage for your journey into a galaxy far far away. Then, you’re blasted .5 past light speed by John Williams’ score and the giant text speeding away into the stars. If that doesn’t get your attention, then you really are lost.
I had the privilege of seeing the Nashville Symphony perform the music of the movie as it played on the big screen. I know most of the Nerdbot base of operations lies in sunny California, but like a geeky secret agent nobody asked for, I seek out all the nerdy events in Tennessee that I can. Let’s face it, if Nashville is going to do something nerdy, music is going to be the centerpiece. Although to truly be music city approved, it really should have been a Johnny Cash impersonator somehow singing his way through the Star Wars score. Actually…yeah I’d watch the hell out of that.
There was something that night that struck me even more than the live orchestra playing some of the most iconic music of all time. It was the big screen and movie going experience in general. There aren’t many chances to see the original Star Wars with a full audience. I wasn’t expecting to pay so much attention to them. Like the silhouettes in Mystery Science Theater 3000, it was the crowd that got me thinking the most.
Every time a main character came on the screen for the first time, the audience erupted. It was like seeing the movie for the first time. I found myself clapping for a young Mark Hamill (and damn it, the American treasure deserves every applause), wooed by the almost perfect Harrison Ford, I mean my God, and remembering the wonderfully kick-ass Carrie Fisher.
The audience brought me back to a younger version of myself that only needed the cardboard tubing of Christmas wrapping paper to be a fully trained Jedi Knight. My imagination was on fire for this universe in a way that was fresh and desperately needed.
Why was it needed?
Because that same fan base has damn near ruined the whole thing for me.
Most of my Star Wars conversation recently has revolved around desperately trying to defend myself over The Last Jedi. What was a whimsical love of a fictional universe, which includes garbage monsters and teddy bear tribes, turned into a scholarly debate on the foundation of what good writing and characterization are.
The fan base should be arguing over what a parsec is not headbutting each other with their version of a correct opinion. And, as we all know, it got even worse than just fans dumping on other fans.
It got to a point where I wondered if I could even gush with friends about the new films without having to present my dissertation on the subject. This isn’t to say I don’t like discussing movies, or that I think we shouldn’t make room for critique, but I get it, you don’t like it, please let me just have fun. After months of constant defense simply because I absolutely loved The Last Jedi, I forgot about the child Chris whose heart races every time S-foils get locked in attack position.
Watching with an audience brought that back. We were all there for the same reason. We absolutely love this. In fact, we adore this so much we want to find new ways to enjoy it. All of us there are together in that shared nerdiness. There wasn’t a single person in that building that wasn’t cheering when the Death Star blows up. No one was sitting there questioning the motivation behind why Princess Leia decides to head right for the rebel base, even though they know they are being tracked by the Empire. No one was picking apart why the X-Wings had to go through an arbitrary trench to get to this little exhaust port at the end of it. The analysis was off, and the immersion had a complete grasp of all of us.
There were two little kids, brother and sister, sitting in front of my fiancee and me, who kept giving each other glances during all the exciting parts. Luke blows up a TIE Fighter in the Millennium Falcon turret, Leia blasts stormtroopers while saving everyone’s ass, and Chewie threatens to rip off arms; all the best parts got a reaction. They were enamored. It was a simple reminder of the kind of joy these movies bring, where it all began, and what I still love about the new trilogy.
We see something in these characters that make us a part of a universe that’s utterly fantastical. The simple farm boy, the scavenger girl, the hot-headed apprentice, even the reluctant droid, all have something we connect to. It’s that personal involvement in the heroes journey that captures the hopeful dreamer in all of us.
When a fandom helps you remember that, it’s exactly what community should be doing. No matter where this franchise goes, let’s hope that’s where the fan base goes too. It’s not about showing off what you think you know about scene construction or hiding sexist racism behind critique, it’s about a common love of a galaxy that induces hardcore daydreaming.
It’s something to remember the next time someone says they can’t wait for the next Star Wars, as self-entitled fingers want to release all the nerd rage on some completely sincere fan whose inner child is genuinely excited.
It’s about protecting what we love, not destroying what we hate.
Are you part of any fandoms? Do the gatekeepers and know it alls keep you away, or do you do the deep dive and ignore the haters? Tell Nerdbot about it in the comments and get the conversation going!