Whoa, I did not expect that. Advanced reviews are trickling in and the critics sound as though Rise of Skywalker is more like the Ruse of Skywalker. According to at least one review, TRoS is ‘completely manic,’ and according to another this last installment of the franchise is “a sterling, shiny example of what Martin Scorsese would call ‘not cinema.'” When critics, who typically fall over themselves to faun over Star Wars, are lining up to stick knives into the movie, it’s a sign that we should plan for some type of Internet-wide emotional crisis. Star Wars outrage can spawn crazy, worldwide meltdowns.
How do we deal with the anger, the anxiety, and the disappointment?
First, let’s take a step back. TRoS is supposed to be, on some level, a response to the fan backlash in ‘The Last Jedi.’ The given understanding is that ‘The Last Jedi’ was a polarizing film that challenged what you believed about Star Wars. To that I say yeah, that’s what art is supposed to do. Rian Johnson got in our face and said “What do you really think this is about?” ‘The Last Jedi’ was about the story we needed to hear, not the story we wanted to hear. It made us feel something, it made us think, and it made us appreciate Star Wars on a new level. To that, I said, ‘bravo.’ That is what art is supposed to do.
Maybe the world wasn’t ready for that. That’s cool. Maybe we can look at this as a teachable moment for science fiction. You might take the opportunity to examine your artistic aspirations for this, and future scifi stories. To put it another way, when you go to a gallery, do you want to see Kandinksy and Monet, or do you want Thomas Kinkade? You can’t have both, you can’t have a ‘Kandinksy with the appeal of a Kinkade.’ That’s not how art works.
But to get us past this moment, the emotional surge of either love, bitterness, or outrage, mental health professionals will tell you that it’s valuable to have an emotional crisis plan. ECPs are designed to guide you through low moments and struggles. They help us respond effectively to stress, disappointment, and anxiety. How can we use this strategy to get us through the opening weekend of The Rise of Skywalker?
I have a few suggestions, and maybe you have others you’d like to share. First, let’s learn to manage ourselves or our tightly-wound friends:
Your ‘Star Wars isn’t as Good as I Hoped It Would Be’ Checklist:
- Make your expectations crystal clear about Star Wars – make sure you can explain what they are, and why you think they are reasonable
- Know where your expectations of Star Wars come from: yourself, your family, or society. Decide if they are worthwhile goals.
- Fans who use Star Wars to succeed tend to think that works for everyone. Explain to them that it’s untrue.
- Know that TRoS reaching your highest expectations will not make you happy. Be satisfied with its personal best.
- Choose a goal that TRoS can reach safely. If an A takes all your energy, but a B makes you happy, aim for the B.
- Different cultures and age groups have different values for TRoS and Star Wars. They might not realize the difference. Talk to them about it.Challenge your expectations. Would you expect the same of a friend? If not, how can you expect it of Star Wars?
- Talk to a neutral party. They can help you figure out how to best manage others’ expectations and your needs of TRoS
- Are you setting TRoS up for failure? Make sure the goals that TRoS are striving towards are ones you actually want to see it reach.
- Focus on what Star Wars can do moving forward, not what has happened in the past. Keep moving forward.
But what about Disney, JJ Abrams, and Lucasfilm LLC people? They’re human, too. If anything, they’re more investedin TRoS’ success than we are. Here are three things they (or you, if you’re reading this) can do to create an effective coping strategy when toxic, ill-tempered, or immature fans pour out their anger online:
Put Things in Perspective
Learn to see Star Wars fans as people. They have flaws, struggles and they can have impaired judgement. Those same fans might have emotional or intellectual handicaps. They also might have personal blockages and limitations regardless of their role as a Star Wars fan. See them as persons who mistakes and who are terrified of being judged by other Star Wars fans.
In other words, learn to see your difficult fans as human. Learn to see their angry social media posts as a type of disability.
In many ways the effect angry Star Wars fans have on us is fueled by our feelings of injustice (being wronged) and the belief that things could, or should be, different. In other words, expectations dictate how we feel.
You need to let go of your expectations and accept your Star Wars fans for who they are. You can’t expect someone with, say, a narcissistic personality disorder to act with empathy and kindness. No more than you can expect a snake not to bite.
Star Wars fans are *much* easier to deal with when you accept that they won’t change. Don’t expect of them more than they are capable of, and you won’t be disappointed or hurt.
Don’t Fall Into the Guilt Trap
Angry fans love making you feel like you’ve hurt them. Or, making you feel like you’re a bad person if you don’t do something they ask.
Don’t fall for it; they’re setting a guilt trap. Instead, calmly remind them that you don’t appreciate being emotionally manipulated, and you won’t tolerate it anymore. Manipulators don’t like being called out on their dirty tricks.
If they continue to press the issue, remind them that you can’t do what they’re asking you to do this time, and they need to respect that. The trick is agreeing with everything they’re saying (how can they argue when you agree with them?) and re-stating your decision over and over again.
In conclusion, we love Star Wars. This forty-year-old franchise makes indelible impact on film, sci-fi, and human culture. But like everything we love, it can get out of control if we don’t manage our emotions. When you walk out of the theater in the next few days, remind yourself to look at TRoS with gratitude. After all, anger is the path to the Dark Side.