10 Years Later, The Newest Star Wars Show Has Restarted an Annoying Old Debate

No one hates Star Wars more than those who claim to be Star Wars fans. Sure, the past few years have given the fandom plenty to critique. The sequels splintered the fanbase beyond recognition, and Lucasfilm’s efforts to expand the galaxy on the small screen have been mixed, at best. And in some cases, criticism is inevitable: not everyone will find something to like in the franchise’s recent output. At a certain point, though, the discourse reaches a fever pitch, and even Lucasfilm’s most promising projects get swept up in the drama.

The Acolyte is not the first Star Wars project to face the brunt of fan backlash, and it likely won’t be the last. But the new live-action series is also one of the best additions to that galaxy far away in a long time, embracing decades of nostalgia while also thinking critically on the franchise’s legacy. It also might be the most diverse Star Wars story yet — and while that’s definitely a boon for marginalized fans, it’s made The Acolyte the target of a vocal splinter of the fandom.

The Acolyte is just the latest Disney project to face bigoted backlash, but toxic fandom is only getting worse.


Whether you know them as the Fandom Menace or a cluster of blue checkmark users on Twitter, it’s impossible to escape their orbit. The same folks that review-bombed diverse swings like Marvel’s Eternals and the Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power have now set their sights on The Acolyte. To hear them tell it, the series is the worst thing that’s ever happened to Star Wars, and its showrunner, Leslye Headland, is just as fiendish as Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. To them, The Acolyte’s “woke” agenda is something to be feared. It’s ruining Star Wars; it’s poisoning pop culture itself. It needs to be stopped by any means necessary.

We realize how ridiculous that all sounds, right? God, I hope so. But if not, let’s try this: The Acolyte is not actually “ruining” Star Wars, but the bigoted backlash is definitely ruining the fun for everyone else.

While The Acolyte’s critical reception couldn’t be better, a vocal minority has changed the way all fans interact with media.


It’s not outright shocking to see something like The Acolyte marred by racist, misogynistic, and even anti-LGBTQ backlash. That Star Wars devotees would share multiple bad-faith treatises about the series on YouTube, or tank its audience score on Rotten Tomatoesis just par the course at this point. This is, after all, the same fandom that launched consistent attacks against actors like John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, and Daisy Ridley; the same fandom that were publicly admonished by Ewan McGregor himself when Obi-Wan Kenobi faced similar pushback.

The problem is that nothing has changed. In the 10 years since this vocal minority suddenly cried out against diverse casting and more nuanced storytelling, they’ve yet to actually learn their lesson. Their arguments are bleeding into even the casual discourse surrounding The Acolyte. Comments on set design and screenwriting have turned into misogynistic microaggressions against Headland; even critiques on the series have been weaponized by its haters. There’s no room for nuance when it comes to The Acolyte: you either stand with the series, flaws and all, or you’re irrevocably against it.

Can Lucasfilm protect its creatives from the blacklash surrounding the franchise?


The origins of this toxicity aren’t difficult to figure out. At the end of the day, it boils down to entitlement: many male fans feel like they own the franchise, and are determined to safeguard it from anyone that could challenge that ownership. That makes it hard for disparate groups to coexist, and it’s even harder for any non-white, non-male creatives hoping to tell stories within the franchise.

What began as a relatively niche issue has become Lucasfilm’s biggest hurdle moving forward. The Acolyte can weather the storm (after all, it’s been well-received by critics) but what about the fandom, and its relationship to those guiding the franchise now? As the discourse spirals out of control, it’s getting harder to ignore it outright. There’s no easy way out, but something has to change, otherwise, this vocal minority will end up ruining Star Wars for the rest of us.

The Acolyte is streaming on Disney+.


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