By Jake Widjaya

Star Wars has met the modern world, and it is facing crisis. With the latest entry in the series – Solo: A Star Wars Storyseverely underperforming at the box office, many are wondering: has Star Wars fatigue set in? 

Analysts have touted the film’s release in the American Summer season, competing with the gargantuan Avengers: Infinity War as well as Deadpool 2, Lucasfilm’s decision to release the film a mere six months after the series’ previous entry, and the film’s comparatively lukewarm reviews from critics as reasons for its underperformance.

All of these are true, yet there seems to be something missing. Marvel Studios released three films in 2017 alone, but Infinity War’s release had the biggest opening weekend ever; clearly, the frequency of films released isn’t a large deterrent for the general audience. Further, the Star Wars prequels were met with far worse critical reviews, yet fared far better at the box office than Solo has. 

The reality is that, starting from The Force Awakens’ release in 2015, Star Wars – a uniting, widely-loved, enormously-impactful film series – has crashed into the contemporary media consumption discourse of division, overreaction and vitriol. We aren’t experiencing Star Wars fatigue; rather, we are experiencing Star Wars fandom fatigue. 

Describing myself as a Star Wars fan would be a grave understatement. The films have shaped my tastes, Knights of the Old Republic opened my eyes to the storytelling potential of a different medium, and John Williams’ scores for the films are still my favourite music of any genre. So, I do not write the following lightly: the Star Wars fandom has become the most toxic fanbase of modern times, to the point where I would happily deny being a fan of the films in public. 

The Last Jedi achieved the primary goal of what a Rian Johnson-penned Star Wars film should have done by shattering expectations, but at the same time it also shattered the fanbase; we are still feeling the impact of its writing choices today. No film series exhibits such widespread passion as Star Wars, and so an environment of extremes exist – people really love Star Wars, and if there’s something about a new release they take issue against, they will really hate it and let it be known. 

The main saga’s eighth entry is still sparking debate in almost every internet comments section, however unrelated the topic may be, as well as an inundation of amateur YouTuber video essays. Unlike other media, it’s almost impossible to escape discussion about the series when browsing the internet or even taking a walk around a populated area. Star Wars fatigue is understandably setting in for many not because they are tired of the films, but because they are tired of hearing that “The Last Jedi ruined my childhood” and that “[Lucasfilm president] Kathleen ‘Satan’ Kennedy must be fired for her murder of a 30 year old franchise (despite her leading three out of the four films released under her tenure to immense critical and commercial success)” almost daily. There’s a general feeling that it’s all becoming a bit too much.

People are tired of hearing about Star Wars, because its prevalence in the cultural zeitgeist has lost its novelty (a ‘novelty’ which lasted a few decades). Discussion encourages passion for something which, for Lucasfilm, means repeat viewings of their Star Wars films. When that discussion is overwhelming and unreasonable, however, many will simply refrain from that discussion; that’s a saddening reality, both for Lucasfilm and for genuine fans. How this problem can be fixed remains to be seen, but there is hope that the year and a half wait for JJ Abrams’ Episode IX will foster a reflection of what it means to be a Star Wars fan.

I don’t sympathise with the common advice of remembering that “they’re just films”, because they never will be ‘just that’ for me; instead, remembering that there are other things to do with your life can allow us to get a better perspective on things – and through that perspective, both alleviate fatigue and realise what the series actually means to us.

I will always love watching Star Wars, and I hope that, someday, I can once more feel comfortable in saying that I do to others.

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