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Kathleen Kennedy Talks About Male Star Wars Fandom

If you follow Star Wars news you probably already know about statements Kathleen Kennedy made about Star Wars fans, male fans specifically, and how women in Star Wars often suffer more from attacks and have it harder in Star Wars because of the male fanbase. I believe this deserves a discussion. So grab your popcorn and click through for some thoughts about all this.

Star Wars lightsaber duel

A typical male Star Wars fan?

In case you do not know what any of this is about… a PR article about The Acolyte in the New York Times that is mostly about Leslye Headland also has some statements by Kathleen Kennedy, where she talks about Star Wars fandom, male fans and how women struggle more in Star Wars.

Here is the relevant quote taken from the NYT article:

“Operating within these giant franchises now, with social media and the level of expectation — it’s terrifying. I think Leslye has struggled a little bit with it. I think a lot of the women who step into ‘Star Wars’ struggle with this a bit more. Because of the fan base being so male dominated, they sometimes get attacked in ways that can be quite personal.”

Harmless enough one might think, the usual thing you expect to hear in this day and age, complaining about toxic fans is common, but the thing is, Kennedy never mentions “toxic” fans but a “male dominated fanbase” as if men are the problem  here. The YouTube sphere and social media is up in arms about it.

Ok, so let’s see… which women struggled with the “male dominated fanbase”… the only people that come to mind are Moses Ingram, Daisy Ridley, Kelly Marie Tran, Headland, Obaid-Chinoy and… that’s it, basically. Unless Kennedy includes herself here. And as I will argue further below Ridley doesn’t even belong on this list.

Whereas Carrie Fisher, Natalie Portman, Felicity Jones, the entire female cast of Ahsoka, Rosario Dawson, Ivanna Sakhno, Natasha Bordizzo, Katee Sackhoff from The Mandalorian, Ming Na Wen at worst maybe had the writing of the series and some character arcs scrutinized and critized, but to my knowledge they were not only not attacked on a personal basis, but fans actually like the actors and often the characters too. Jones’ “Rogue One” is often quoted as the best Disney era Star Wars movie even, Emilia Clarke also never received any hate or had to struggle with her Star Wars role, then again, she was pretty familar with fan backlash when the final Game of Thrones season was released, but even this fandom did not attack Clarke, she survived the GoT finale unscathed and people still like her. If I include voice actors then Ashley Eckstein should be added. People really like her and her work. No one (as far as I know) was ever bothered by the lesbian side plot in Andor or hated the Vel and Cinta actresses or didn’t like the inclusion of Denise Gough as the ISB officer or attacked Genevieve O’Reilly or hated on Adria Arjona (quite the contrary)… at worst people said Andor is boring and not for them… but no one attacked any of the people involved. But contrary to what is happening with The Acolyte Andor’s PR was not politicized, no one made a big deal beforehand about the many female roles in the series, or the lesbian romance sideplot… so why is The Acolyte, even before the show premiers, received so differently?

And how or when did Denise Gough, Adria Arjona or Genevieve O’Reilly and all the others “suffer”… when all they get is appreciation or love even. And when I say “all” I exclude the very few crazies ANY famous person will inevitably attract. But this has nothing to do with Star Wars then.

And even behind the camera people like Bryce Dallas Howard receive nothing but support and praise by fans.

The ONLY female Star Wars characters and associated actresses to receive flak are those where people think the role was badly written and /or the content was just bad. Much is said about Rey… the reasons why people feel Rose Tico is a terrible character are also well established.

Of course Kathleen Kennedy herself has been heavily criticized and at times even personally attacked, you can join a clubhouse with George, Kathy! This happens when a non trivial number of people think your movies and shows are bad. Not just in Star Wars. This happens everywhere.

Then there is the curious case of Gina Carano, whom Kennedy conveniently ignores, because the only people who personally attacked her were the ones who usually come to the defense when people like Ingram, Tran or Ridley are allegedly harrassed online. Only this time they all flocked around Carano and gave her a hard time. This is not about whether or not Carano’s actions or social media posts are deserving of criticism or not, this is about how she was attacked on a personal level – and Lucasfilm not only did NOT defend her against any of the more personal attacks, they fired her. So I find it pretty rich that Kennedy complains about male fans making women in Star Wars struggle more… when the ONE female star who had it the worst, Gina Carano, was actually pretty well liked by said “male fans”.

Then there are the many, many, MANY, male cast members and even the franchise creator himself who were on the receiving end of a lot of criticism, some of it, at times, very personal. George Lucas famously retroactively ruined everyone’s childhood with the prequels, I even vaguely remember death threats against him by some deranged people. The attacks on him, pre social media on the early internet, were at times pretty vicious. People heavily criticized Hayden Christensen’s acting, Ahmed Best’s Jar Jar became one of the most hated prequel characters, Jake Lloyd’s perfomance was also criticized. But especially in the case of Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd there are many false accusations… Lloyd suffered mental issues, but not because fans bullied him (there was no social media to speak about back then), he had severe issues in school where his classmates were not very kind to him. Best complained about the media at the time attacking him and Jar Jar, not the fans though.
More recently Rian Johnson was everyone’s favorite person to make fun of and to attack. Not because he’s a man, but because a substantial number of people felt he had made a genuinely terrible movie. Abrams also got his fair share of criticism with The Rise of Skywalker. And Finn received a lot of criticism as well, that is the people who wrote him.

In fact, a LOT more men associated with Star Wars were on the receiving end of negative campaigns, personal attacks at times even. Daisy Ridley herself never really experienced any widespread hate even (not by Star Wars fans), even people who dislike Rey usually say how they like Ridley, a few trolls posted stupid comments on Tran’s social media, but as I said… this happens all the time… with basically everyone. I do not remember any widespread negative remarks about Ingram… only lots of criticism about how Reva is written and how the character was mostly pointless in Obi-Wan Kenobi. I would say any of the criticized prequel actors had it much worse though.

Now are there toxic fans? Absolutely. Any reasonably large franchise will have idiots in it. Any resonably large sample size of the population will always have idiots in it. Sadly, at times idiots like the same things you do. But to imply a male dominated (more about that soon) Star Wars fanbase makes it harder for women is certainly nothing the president of Lucasfilm should have ever said. Because it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. But it may speak volumes about how she perceives male Star Wars fans… or maybe she takes all the attacks on her very seriously, it gets to her and she is under the impression all women in Star Wars “suffer” like her. Then again, only Kennedy was graced by a special appearance in South Park. So she can feel salty about it all, I will give her that (she can join a club with Tom Cruise or any of the other (male) celebrities roasted by South Park, at times very viciously so, I mean they literally compared Bono from U2 to a turd one time). But Kennedy really does not seem to know Star Wars fandom or how popular and liked most women in Star Wars are.

Also, what is it… is Star Wars fandom “male dominated”… according to everything we know (fandom surveys, thater attendance statistics), roughly 40% of all Star Wars fans are female. Now among hardcore fans, on YouTube and here on a collecting website you will absolutely find a lot more men though. So at best you can say certain facets of Star Wars fandom are male dominated.

But to say women struggle more… is still nothing that holds up when you look at the facts. Daisy Ridley is liked by most fans… even by those who think Rey is horribly written. Very, very few people dislike Daisy or attack her, all the (at times very negative) comments about Rey often include the statement that nothing is wrong about Ridley, that it is entirely the fault of the scriptwriter and director, not hers. Nasty remarks on Instagram are said to have made Tran quit social media… the thing is, ANY celebrity will inevitably get occasional nasty remarks on social media. A few bad apples are, sadly, unavoidable. People like Chris Pratt get viciously attacked on social media. Some crazies attacked Adam Driver’s wife on social media because his simps could not accept their dream boy is in a relationship (and married) – and I bet THOSE fans were not “male”. To imply that a male dominated fandom is responsible for making women in Star Wars struggle more is just stupid.

Couldn’t it be possible instead that people criticize, at times passionately, vehemently, and a very small number also crossing lines in the process, when they feel a series, movie or character was badly written? Some of  the men in Star Wars were immensely criticized in the past, as I pointed out. With Lucas on the receiving end of massive flak for quite a long time.

Or did Kennedy merely want to imply that the women in Star Wars suffer more from it on a personal level, because they process it all differently and have a harder time coping? If that is what she wanted to convey she worded it very poorly, because she makes it sound as if male Star Wars fans are giving some women a much harder time, simply because they are women.

Another thing: passionate, at times even nasty and rude criticism, has been a part of both professional critiques and feedback by fans since… critiques were first written. These things exist in all the creative arts, music, books, theater, cinema… as an artist you either do not read about yourself at all, or you have a thick skin. Social media certainly amplifies it, more people get a chance to spread their opinion where, in theory, half the world can read it.

Some classic music album, movie, book or theater play reviews printed in magazines and newspapers would probably be labeled “hate speech” by Kathleen Kennedy.

And concerning The Acolyte…. much if not all of the criticism surrounding this series can be directly blamed on the showrunner and various cast members who politicized the PR campaign or by saying things that are bound to upset some Star Wars fans. Headland said her show “won’t be kind to the Jedi”… when the overwhelming majority of fans like the Jedi and truly wonder what it is Headland is going to do here and fear they may hate it. Actors like Amandla Stenberg or Jodie Turner-Smith played the race card and talked about how Star Wars apparently wasn’t a “safe space” for black fans before. Which will inevitably raise eyebrows.

Many people who bother to read these silly PR interviews or watch the clips are just fed up with all of it. Back in the day PR for a movie or show meant you talk about said movie or show and sing its praises and do not wax poetic about diversity, race, inclusivity et al.

You sometimes get the impression that Lucasfilm is pre-emptively trying to deligitimize any potential negative The Acolyte fan feedback by hiding behind gender and sexuality, implying the main reason why Headland and all the others involved in the show may get attacked is because they are female or lesbian, or non-binary, or whatnot. Not because fans simply do not like the basic premise, the execution, the story, the character arcs… and conveniently forgetting the many more male actors and male directors and Lucas himself even who had to endure a lot of criticism.

Will there be a small number of usual people who will viciously hate the new series and an even smaller number who may even attack the people behind the show on a more personal level? Sadly, this is guaranteed… but to make things clear, these folks are a miniscule minority. Kennedy is doing a disservice to Star Wars and is discrediting male fans directly when she implies a “male dominated” fandom is to blame here… no, it isn’t. Idiots are to blame… but the number of idiots is very, very small.

And they exist everywhere. Also, as mentioned above, back in the day when reviews were not so political reviewers could become very, very nasty and utterly trash an artist, at times even crossing lines.

Now this is not an excuse of course, bad and nasty behavior is bad and nasty and will inevitably hurt people. But the point is that this is not new, it’s been with us for as long as there have been the arts, only now 8 billion people on this planet can be wannabe critics at any time.

In other news: Super Star Wars fan Jenny Nicholson’s video about the utter failure and major disappoinment that was the Star Wars Hotel has gone viral with receiving more than 5 million views, even if the video is 4 hours long (she also talks about her own experience going there and how it underwhelmed and disappointed her and she is anything but a toxic hater).

Maybe at the end of the day you receive criticism, at times very passionate, when people do not like your work. And when people feel it’s really bad you can expect some really vehement criticism. Throughout history a small number of idiots have also attacked people personally then. Still, do not hide behind your gender, sexuality or anything really then… yes, a very small number of imbeciles will personally attack an actor or director, but this is nothing that exists in Star Wars only and it has existed for ages. And it is not representative of the overwhelming majority of negative fan feedback.

But Kennedy only adds to her image of being clueless about Star Wars when she gives these interviews… it’s right up there with “we have no source material, no books”. Maybe it’s time Kathleen realized it’s time to go. And should Filoni become Lucasfilm president one day and make more material that is like Ahsoka… you can bet he will be roasted vehemently, at times viciously by some… but not because he wears cowboy hats or is a man… but because those people are unhappy with that he is doing with Star Wars.

One final thing… yes, the attacks on women in the entertainment industry can be a of a different quality, often getting comments about their looks or of a sexual nature (at times really nasty), stalkers are a real problem too. It is not unreasonable to say women in the entertainment industry experience a different kind of negativity than most men do and that this may hit closer to home then and create more severe issues for the women in entertainment. But the thing is, we talk about Star Wars specifically here. And to say a lot of women in Star Wars struggle more because of the male fans is simply not true, when a vast majority of women in Star Wars are appreciated and liked, in fact, a lot more men are or were heavily criticized. Male Star Wars fans love almost all female Star Wars characters and appreciate the actresses. Maybe Kennedy should have included that tidbit in her silly statement.

New York Times advertorial about The Acolyte (I would not really label this an actual objective article).

Jenny Nicholson explains in exhausting detail why the Star Wars Hotel was a major disappointment and “spectacular failure” (now even more than 6.3 million views).

 

 

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