It’s Not About…
It’s not about me.
Somewhere in the vicinity of twenty years ago, I watched the Star Wars prequels as they were released. To a fan who came up in the pan-and-scan VHS era of the original trilogy and experienced those films in theaters for the first time in 1997, the prequels were a big deal.
They were new official tales in the Star Wars mythos.
What started my journey of understanding my place in fandom was the backlash. Writers and filmmakers and storytellers and fans hated the prequels, and I didn’t understand why. At first, I stood sword and shield in hand, defending the franchise that I loved against the storm. After all, how dare anyone attack the best stories ever put on screen?
That defense was disingenuous. No work of art, regardless of value or price, is perfect, and to disregard the flaws because of love is intellectually dishonest. Even The Empire Strikes Back has flaws, and not recognizing that screams of blind faith.
Countless lives have been lost throughout history because of blind faith.
Later I reflected inward, inadvertently reaching toward the polar opposite. If these artists and fans whose opinions I valued so deeply could find so much fault in this franchise, why couldn’t I? How was it that I could enjoy these films when people I respected so obviously did not?
All I found down that path was self-doubt. I convinced myself that if I could not understand successful and intelligent artists and writers whom I respected and idolized, there was no way that I could ever be as good as them. My art and my writing had to be worthless.
To be completely honest, parts of that mindset still plague me to this day.
The greater lesson was that art is subjective. Even the greatest works of art are not universally loved because everyone sees them differently. That led to the more personal lesson: It’s not about me.
I can review a work and form an opinion (educated or otherwise) about it, but that doesn’t make my word the absolute truth. The same holds for you. Art alone cannot harm a person or infringe on rights: It requires a human hand to push into that territory – ask any mob who has burned books and censored artists to save their children from “the devil’s influence” – but regarding the art alone… all viewpoints are valid.
But I draw the line at attacking people for their opinions on art.
In order to form an opinion on the book, I read Twilight. I did not like it, but I’m glad that people who enjoy the work do so. Doctor Who fans call The Caves of Androzani the best serial in the entire history of the show, but I was unimpressed.
I didn’t have the best time at Batman v Superman, but the two young women sitting next to me were moved to tears by the end. They were invested. They are fans.
Even Manos: The Hands of Fate, a film that is more often than not called one of the worst in history, has a clear minority of up-votes on IMDb.
Being part of the majority who hate a film doesn’t make you right.
It’s clear that we have reached yet another inflection point in a major fandom.
I know Bond fans who despise everything after Connery’s time. You know what? That’s okay in my book as long as you also respect that some consider Brosnan as their gold standard. They’re Bond fans too.
I know Trek fans people who never got into The Next Generation because Kirk was the only captain for them. That’s okay, but the women who work in STEM fields now because Janeway provided them a beacon of hope as Trek fans too.
The Matrix has two live-action sequels. The Doctor has regenerated fourteen times. The Indiana Jones trilogy has a fourth film. Star Trek has seven series and thirteen films.
Star Wars is headed toward its tenth official live-action chapter. And it’s okay… You don’t have to like the films after 1983, but don’t let your dislike become a malignant tumor of hatred toward the people who find value in the art.
Sometimes the story moves to a place where you cannot follow. Sometimes the art evolves beyond your taste. It’s okay for people to enjoy things that you do not. It’s okay to let go.
Your heroes can die. Their legends remain.
It’s not about you.