Star Wars Celebration Chicago has come and gone. But the positive energy fans brought to (and took away from) the event has only made the franchise stronger.
“Disney has RUINED Star Wars.”
“No one cares about Star Wars anymore.”
“If you like the new Star Wars, you’re not a REAL Star Wars fan!”
Comments like these find their way into our respective corners of the internet more and more often these days, it seems.
No matter how much we try to clap back with positivity, it seems like our voices are always drowned out by much louder, angrier cries.
I write about Star Wars. It’s literally impossible for me to escape the negativity that so often surrounds the content I cover online, especially on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes even in my email inbox.
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At least, that’s what I thought before I drove to Chicago to attend a small event called Star Wars Celebration.
Walking into the convention center for the first time probably felt the way seeing Star Wars for the first time feels. (I was very young when my dad first introduced me to it; I have no memory of that wonder, but I can imagine I was overwhelmed by it.) The Main Theme was playing on a loudspeaker. A giant TIE fighter and X-Wing towered above the crowd. In the distance, I heard happy beeps.
I had to stop walking to take it all in. The music. The mural to my right. And of course, the cosplay. The cosplay is almost always what catches your eye first.
A baby wearing a stormtrooper outfit, sleeping in his stroller.
A Darth Traya straight out of KOTOR II.
Enough clones and stormtroopers to fight a war.
And it’s not just the costumes or rows and rows of vendors in the exhibit hall that draw you further in (though that does do the trick). It’s also the energetic crowds. The fans of all ages completely in their element, every one of them wide-eyed and glowing like they’ve just been transported to a galaxy far, far away for real.
This was only Thursday. I would have stop-and-absorb moments like this all throughout my time celebrating in Chicago. And it’s those moments that have restored my hope in our fandom.
There were plenty of moments I got teary-eyed this past weekend (#CloneWarsSaved!). But it was during the Jedi: Fallen Order panel — not during The Rise of Skywalker trailer for whatever reason — that I openly wept.
When the debut game trailer came to its end for the first time, I looked around the arena at all the lit and raised lightsabers illuminating the room. This is something that typically happens at big panels like this, and it’s cool to see on camera. But it’s completely different when you’re in it.
In that moment, I truly felt like I had discovered what the Star Wars fandom was really all about. Not persistent criticisms of actors and directors, of plot holes and “betrayals” and chants of “not my Star Wars.” Something else. Something much more powerful.
Together, gathered in one place, we weren’t just Star Wars fans.
We WERE Star Wars.
We ARE Star Wars.
Star Wars is in our blood. It IS us.
It is the fans that make Star Wars what it truly is: A family.
Does this mean every attendee of this con had the same opinions, the same favorite movies, the same feelings? Of course not. I’m sure there were fans who walked away from the Episode IX trailer disappointed, for example.
Does it mean every fan has to like or dislike the same things to be able to “join the Star Wars club”? Absolutely not.
But what happens when you’re face-to-face with people, and not hiding behind your computer screen, is civil discussion. Debate. Listening. Understanding.
Believe it or not, in the real world (or as close as you can get to it at a Star Wars convention), people can disagree without insulting each other or bad-mouthing an entire franchise for not meeting their expectations.
Two people can sit next to each other and start talking about The Last Jedi. One can say, “That movie really wasn’t my favorite. There were parts I didn’t like.” And the other can reply, “I’m interested to hear what you didn’t like about it. Lay it out for me.”
And by the end of that conversation those two fans can still have opposing viewpoints on that movie, shake hands, and respect each others’ arguments. Who knows — they might even become friends.
The people who send me tweets and emails telling me I’m not a real Star Wars fan for writing about Rian Johnson are loud, rude, and persistent. At times — all over the internet — it can feel like these people are the majority, flooding forums and comment sections with their hate.
But they are nothing more than loud, rude, and persistent. I’ve been where the “real” fans are — the ones who come together to celebrate the parts of Star Wars they love, lift each other up, and respect each other.
Tell me again how hated Star Wars is as you watch the love for Kelly Marie Tran and Ahmed Best erupt from thousands.
Tell me again how no one likes Star Wars anymore as you listen to the raw reactions to the trailers and sneak peeks that rolled out this weekend.
Tell me again how Star Wars is a dying franchise. Show me your proof. I’ll wait.
I’m confident that fans who attended SWCC returned home with more positive Star Wars energy than they came with. I know I did. And we’re going to allow that energy to spread until it reaches even the darkest corners of the galaxy.
Though light and dark must always be in balance, there is one thing that will keep Star Wars alive for generations to come: Love.
Hate is strong. But love is stronger.
Hate is loud. Love lasts longer.
One of my favorite memories from my final day at Celebration happened in the exhibit hall. I’d just impulse-purchased a giant porg from a Funko stand and it didn’t fit into my bag, so as I carried it around, people kept stopping me to ask where I’d gotten it.
After I pointed one older woman in the direction of the booth, she looked at my purchase, looked at me, and just said with this huge smile on her face, “I love porgs.”
THAT is what being a fan means to me. Picking out the things you love about your fandom — big and small — and shamelessly nerding out about them.
From where I stood (you do a lot of standing in lines at these things, it turns out), there was no hate at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. There was only love, and excitement, and a sense of togetherness I have never experienced before.
Was it the Force? That must be what it feels like.
I am, and always will be, proud to be a Star Wars fan. Star Wars is more than just a story. It’s the fans who truly bring it to life. And no amount of internet hate can take that away from us.
Love wins. It ALWAYS wins.
May the Force be with you. See you in Anaheim.
Did you have the chance to head to Chicago and experience the love of Star Wars? What did you think? Tell us your favorite moment and takeaway from the weekend!