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The Star Wars Fandom: An Ugly History With Cancel Culture

[EDITORIAL] Cancel Culture in its most basic form is nothing new. Wikipedia gives a great definition of the phenomenon, defining it as a type “of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – either online on social media, in the real world, or both.” Narrowing that definition, dictionary.com describes it as the “practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” Why bring this up? Because right now there is an uproarious “Cancel Culture” outcry in the Star Wars fandom over Gina Carano. When you look at the fandom’s history though, such claims are ironic at best. Look closer, and the outrage over Carano’s departure is both disingenuous, and hypocritical.  

Gina Carano as Cara Dune
Gina Carano as Cara Dune in Season 1 of The Mandalorian. (Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Disney and Lucasfilm, as we know, recently parted ways with the Mandalorian actress. We’re not going to debate the merits of the studio’s reasoning, or of Carano’s response. For the purposes of this discussion, it’s the reaction of the Star Wars fandom that’s at issue. Fans claiming the situation to be just another an example of Cancel Culture make me wonder if they’ve ever read the two definitions above, or understand them. That’s especially true upon closer examination of the fandom’s long, ugly history with cancellation.

Star Wars Fandom And Cancel Culture

Star Wars Fandom
Ahmed Best takes the stage at Star Wars Celebration to a standing ovation. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Disney)

When it comes to the Star Wars fandom, its culture of cancellation goes back decades. Jake Lloyd, a child at the time he portrayed Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, barely ever worked in Hollywood again. Ahmed Best contemplated suicide after some fans tried to “cancel” him for his role of Jar Jar Binks. Most recently, however, parts of the fandom again fully embraced Cancel Culture when it came to the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

The Last Jedi was the most divisive film in Star Wars history. So much so that fans sought to “cancel” the film by erasing it from the proverbial archives. Yes, they literally petitioned to have it removed from canon and to ban Rian Johnson from ever touching Star Wars again. There were even fan remakes. Further, rage-filled factions of the Star Wars fandom loathe Kathleen Kennedy. They’ve vocally called for Kennedy’s ouster as Lucasfilm President. Yet, in the same breath, many of those same fans audaciously scream “Cancel Culture” at the top of their lungs over Disney parting ways with Carano… without a hint of irony.

Cancel Culture; Star Wars Fandom; Kathllen KEnnedy
How man “fans” wanted to “cancel” Kathleen Kennedy over this photo?
(Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

No, Gina Carano Was Not Cancelled

No matter how you break it down, Disney and Carano parted ways over ideological differences and social media behaviors. The studio felt that Carano’s actions weren’t representative of the company. This is an employer/employee dispute. Period. It’s the same as you would see if anyone else violated the terms of their employment agreement with any other employer. This case just happens to be a dispute between a high-profile employer, and high-profile employee. Yet some in the Star Wars fandom claim that Cancel Culture is to blame.

It’s not.

The fact Disney doesn’t want to work with Gina Carano doesn’t mean she’s been cancelled. Need proof of that? Look no further than Miley Cyrus. The singer and actress went on to become a multi-million dollar industry in her own right after Disney similarly parted ways with her. Still, parts of the Star Wars fandom cry cancellation. The saddest part is this – in response to the Carano situation, those so-called fans are LITERALLY cancelling their Disney+ subscriptions, “withdrawing their support” of Disney “after they have done or said something considered objectionable.”

Cancel Culture; Star Wars; Star Wars Fandom
Source: Ryan Kinel – RK Outpost

There’s no clearer example of Cancel Culture than that, and they’re doing it, again, oblivious to their own hypocrisy. They are utterly and completely guilty of doing exactly that which they accuse Disney of doing. They’re also doing it in ignorance of the fandom’s long-standing and most recent history of attempting to cancel that with which they don’t agree. Don’t like Rian Johnson? Ban him forever! Kathleen Kennedy? Get rid of her! All apparently perfectly acceptable. But God forbid Disney fires Gina Carano….

Sorry Star Wars fandom. You don’t get to have it both ways.

By JJ Goodman

Lawyer by trade, writer by passion. Author of 'The Deep Space Chronicles' series available at Amazon.com, a rambling blog at jjgoodman.blogspot.com, and musings on all things 'Star Wars' here at That Hashtag Show.

10 replies on “The Star Wars Fandom: An Ugly History With Cancel Culture”

Hey JJ,
Your article opens with what the denotation of the phrase Cancel Culture means in its objective sense, which is why much of what you present in your case is correct and I can’t really disagree with. However, when Star Wars fans are using Cancel Culture they are referring to the connotation which includes an understanding of today’s social and political zeitgeist. Pedro Pascal (the star of the Mandalorian) tweeted a comparison of Trump to Hitler and the border issue likening it to concentration camps, but with no repercussions (full disclosure I don’t have a problem with anyone expressing their opinions as long as everyone gets to) Cancel Culture isn’t just about losing your job, it’s about getting labeled as an atrocious person with all the pronouns that get associated with it and getting smeared for your opinion and blacklisted. It’s about being purposefully maligned and misinterpreted and punished for it. There’s a political and social context, not just a dictionary definition. It’s about not being given the benefit of the doubt. Being dissatisfied with a film because of the content of the film, or being dissatisfied with an actor because of the quality of their performance inside of the medium, or a director for the same reasons is not the same as smearing someone and removing them because of their personal real life social and political beliefs. They do that in China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Russia… But not in the USA (until recently). Fan complaints about content and storylines are a democratic process, removing a fan favorite character without (in their eyes) real justification (actions not words) seems to be the key difference to the denotation and connotation cancel culture argument. Offensive or different opinions are important because they open the door for conversation and education and discussion. Also, I have yet to read where she violated the terms of her contract since she found out she was fired on the internet and not in a Board meeting or a pink slip in her locker.
Finally, I agree with you that Star Wars Fans seem to be ruthless AF about certain things and not others and there are definitely hypocritical aspects to their complaints. However, including a Hannah Montana reference doesn’t help, maybe Splash Mountain being canceled but really upgraded into a more inclusive ride featuring a Disney film that people can actually watch and appeals to other races would have been better.
I enjoyed your opinion and your stance. Thanks!

Matt: Thanks for a such a well-reasoned and thought-out response, and I totally get where you’re coming from. I think my comparison though, and accusation of hypocrisy, will perhaps seem a little clearer especially when viewing Carano’s situation against that of Kathleen Kennedy. Many have called for Kennedy’s ouster specifically because she’s perceived as having a feminist or “social justice warrior” agenda with respect to Lucasfilm. In that instance, fans are without question smearing her and seeking her removal because of her personal, real life, social and political beliefs. Therein lies the paradox – claiming Carano was cancelled because of her socio-political beliefs, and being angry about it, while at the same demand demanding Kennedy’s cancellation on the basis of hers. If I was a psychology or sociology professor, I bet I could make an entire semester’s worth of lesson plans just based on the Star Wars fandom alone!

Again, thanks for the comments, and thanks for reading. If there are any topics you’d like me (or the site, generally) to cover, please let us know!

JJ

In line with what Matt says, I do not believe that you can make a strong comparison between Gina Carano and Kathleen Kennedy or even Miley Cyrus for that matter. concerning “Cancel Culture”. Like Matt mentions with Pedro Pascal you have to compare actors to actors. Kathleen Kennedy’s unpopularity is based on her decisions to promote her agenda in the what has always been a politically benign Star Wars universe once she gained control of Lucasfilm. Gina Carano has had no known problems on set and her social media posts do not reflect in the finished product. Personal politics, whether you are a Democrat or Republican, should not cost you your job if it is not a requirement for the job. I personally believe there is a lot more to this “firing” than what has been said and it is Lucasfilm not Disney that said they will no longer employ her. Sometimes we do not differentiate between Disney and Lucasfilm.

Hahaha! Oh dear. Every article I’ve read from you is such lying garbage. You’re a true journalist mate. Although, journalist usually know at least half of what they’re talking about, so I think you’ve failed twice. Incredible.

It’s sad that you’d wanna defend Disney or Lucasfilm. I didn’t realise you support concentration camps, openly racists leaders, and woke SJW’s on Twitter. Shame

Darius: Thanks for your comment. Input from readers is always appreciated, even if it is misguided and misses the mark. If you read the article, then you’d know I did not in any way defend Disney or Lucasfilm with respect to their handling of Gina Carano, or in any other aspect. To the contrary, I specifically noted that I wasn’t going to discuss the merits of their actions, or of Carano’s response. You’re projecting sentiments into my words that simply don’t exist in the article.

Again, if you actually read the article, you’d understand its purpose in pointing out there is a great hypocrisy in the fandom if, on the one hand, it deems Carano’s firing to be “cancel culture” because it disagrees with Disney’s position, while on the other hand demands Kathleen Kennedy’s cancellation because it disagrees with hers. You can’t claim one to be cancellation without acknowledging the other to be, as well.

Like every journalist, I know I’m not perfect and won’t please everyone with my words. Considering I’ve written nearly a thousand articles for this website over the last several years, however, I am pleased to hear you’re reading them, even if you disagree with what you’re reading.

Be safe out there, mate.

Dear JJ,
Thank you for the article. I agree with a few of your premises but disagree with your position regarding the fanbase’s hypocrisy with Kathleen Kennedy and Gina Carano. I think context requires us to acknowledge that the criticism of Kathleen’s political beliefs stems from her political agenda’s interference with her ability to produce a quality Star Wars content. Her beliefs spilled out into every aspect of the plot, quality, and direction of the sequels. Everything from the obvious demonization of the classic male characters, Fin’s pathetic character arc, and Rey’s invincible girl power force ability, made it hard to watch the movie without noticing Kennedy’s agenda, to even the most objective critic. On the other hand, Gina’s political beliefs did not negatively affect her Star Wars on-screen product. She excelled as Cara Dune and quickly became a fan favorite. Simply put, she kicked ass and we all loved it. The consequences of Gina’s political beliefs were 3 bad taste tweets. The consequences of Kennedy’s political beliefs were 3 bad movies, upending the franchise, and burning millions of dollars in revenue. The decisions that Kennedy makes should be scrutinized 100% more closely than Carano simply due to the massive discrepancies in power and responsibility associated with their respective positions. To call this an apples to apples comparison would be ignoring the fact that Kennedy is responsible for objectively bad Star Wars content while Carano is not. I’m a California liberal, trust me, I don’t want to cancel Kennedy because I disagree with her political beliefs. I want to cancel Kennedy because she makes bad Stars Wars as a result of those beliefs.

This, sooooo this. Well said C Moore. If all Kenedy did was tweet a bunch of crap without creating terrible overtly political movies no one would care. If she had no political beliefs and put out this level of terrible crap people would still want her gone. This is why Mandalorian has gone over so well. It isn’t overtly political. Left or right, doesn’t matter. It is just a good story with good people trying to do their best in the situations they are in. Best thing ever? No, but at least I don’t feel like I am sitting through a lecture by some fringe of the spectrum.

Dear JJ,
Thanks a lot for the article; it’s a complete breath of fresh air online to hear about someone who is approaching this controversy with a level head and actual reason. I too have been a lifelong Star Wars Fans who has partaken in various fan activities, regularly plays Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG, and have been to Four Star Wars Celebration Conventions (yes, FOUR) in a row and I’ve got to tell you: Star Wars Fans in real life I have encountered there are nothing like the toxic fans that hound the internet. They are friendly, sociable and generally open-minded people who are united by their love for the franchise and don’t let the often controversial decisions made over the years affect their love for Star Wars (whether it be the Special Editions, Prequels, Sequels, animated shows, Disney ownership, etc.). I do not at all believe that the internet echo chamber about Star Wars is a good representation of the franchise and especially the fandom.
In regards to the Carano controversy, while I don’t entirely agree with the executives’ decision to let her go, I do think based on what she said as well as her general activity & demeanor that it was a perfectly valid reason to fire her. Making any comparisons about the Holocaust & WWII poorly is guaranteed to piss off a lot of people (I should know, I’m a very big history buff myself).
Personally I find this whole “cancel culture” aspect from this corner of the fandom ridiculous since not too long ago many of these same toxic websites & YouTube Pages that are bitching (pardon my language) about what happened to her were actually decrying the character of Cara Dune for being a “feminist, woke, mary-sue” figure who exists to push forward an “SJW agenda.” Its rather ironic and pathetic actually. I think what it really is is that these people are just mad at the company because they fired someone who just-so-happens to line up with their own political beliefs. Its really selfish if you stop and think about it.
But regardless, keep up the good work. and MTFBWY.
-Brandon JK

I don’t know you and I have no idea what your motivations are. I did find your books on amazon which makes me wonder if you have work in front of Lucasfilm or hope to in the future. That said, I find the premise of your argument specious at best. “cancel culture” as it is currently happening is when you get fired, blacklisted and deemed toxic on social media for your political views even when these views have nothing to do with your work. It is a genius move by the internet mob or those with power seeing as the first amendment protects free speech but nothing protects your job in the private sector. It is a very powerful tool to silence those who you don’t agree with (e.g. the Hollywood Blacklist, 1947). Carano was not just fired she was called an anti- semite, racially insensitive and trans phobic. It is important to note I am not saying she is those things I’m saying this is what her employer called her when they fired her on social media. Second, “between a high-profile employer, and high-profile employee.” to equate Carano and Disney as equals is absurd, you’re a lawyer, come on, you’re better that that. Unless said “employer” is your client…Kidding. Third, the movement by the Fans (who yes, could be considered a mob)to remove Kennedy and Johnson is because of the quality of their work. The original issue the fans had with Kennedy was that she was destroying the quality of the franchise she was put at the helm of (the Mandalorian was reportedly contractually Jon Favreau answering directly to Iger / Chapek). It started before Carano and It didn’t get emotional/personal until after the hypocrisy of the Oscar video featuring Kennedy was released. The move to fire Johnson was about his writing and directing of the Last Jedi and they didn’t want to see him do a star Wars trilogy, I never heard anyone say he should never direct again, I may be wrong but I haven’t heard anyone say he shouldn’t be allowed to do “Knives Out 2”. If Carano was fired for her acting, her punctuality even anger management then you would be spot on but she wasn’t.

“Sorry Star Wars fandom. You don’t get to have it both ways.” You don’t get to have an opinion on what it quality and what is crap. and you don’t get to stand up for someone who you think was treated unjustly and call out hypocrisy.

I only wrote this because at the end I saw “Lawyer by trade, writer by passion. Author…” and I thought, as a lawyer how can you not see the defamation of taking her words out of context and as a writer/Author can’t you see that Cancel culture is just the new name for the old trick. In the ’50s the right went after the communists in the’20s (now) the left will go after the Conservatives. We know with the perspective of time that they were wrong in the ’50s. The question now is will enough people say it is wrong or will they say this time it is justified.

you’re a lawyer go read Carano’s tweets and you tell me.
Should she be fired and branded and kicked out of the business because of her political beliefs

or do you disagree with everything she said but defend to the death her right to say it.
The answer to that determines what kind of country we will live in.

Jim

Jim:

Thanks so much for your comments. Admittedly my employer/employee scenario is a bit oversimplified. Allow me to explain further: I’m not comparing Carano with Disney as industry equals when I say they are both “high profile.” I’m referring to the fact that Carano was a star in one of the most popular television in existence right now. Thus she is “high profile” from a media perspective, as Disney has always been. The profile I refer to is simply one of being in the public eye. I very much examined this from a lawyer’s perspective, hence my separation of the employer/employee issue from the issue of free speech. Carano has every right to say whatever she wants and espouse whatever opinion she holds, in any manner she sees fit. So long as she does not suffer any governmental interference or prosecution, she is wholly acting within her free speech rights. If her speech, however, violates the terms of an agreement with a private employer, that’s something different entirely separate from the issue of her Constitutional rights.

For me it’s really not matter of whether she should be fired for her political beliefs, it’s whether or not she could, and the unfortunate answer to that query, much to many folks’ dismay and misunderstanding, is yes, she absolutely can, if her employment agreement allows it.

There’s a great quote in the film The American President that I have always loved with respect to the notion of free speech: “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” Do I disagree with some of the things Carano has posted on social media? I do. Do I nevertheless think she has the right to say them? Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. What people need to understand though is that freedom from prosecution does not equate to freedom from consequence.

I hope this helps to better illustrate where I’m coming from. Again, thanks for the comments, and thanks for reading.

JJ

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