I had a moment of clarify last weekend. An epiphany if you will. It started out very small but slowly spiraled to encompass a great deal of my life and my world. I’d like to share it with you, but I must warn that this is a bit of a tirade. A bit of a rant. I’ve long dedicated myself to civil discourse, good manners, and all the usual hallmarks of polite behavior. Still, I would be surprised if some toes were not stepped on.
It all started as most things do in my world of make-believe: with Star Wars. A conversation brushed on the recent brouhaha over the next-to-most recent Star Wars film, The Last Jedi (or Episode VIII or however we’re naming them now). See, a whole swath of the fandom took issue with Laura Dern’s character of Vice-Admiral Holdo. Many more took issue with Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico. I’m not really sure what their problems were. I think in Tran’s case, it was that she had the audacity to be Asian and/or curvy. In Dern’s case, I think her purple hair was supposed to turn men gay? I really don’t know.
Kelly Marie Tran ended up deleting one or more of her social media accounts over the whole affair. She was receiving death threats and harassment for giving a rather fine performance in a fantasy movie about space wizards and laser swords. And I just couldn’t quite process this. I kept trying to wrap my head around why people, purported fans of this franchise, were behaving so vilely over these characters in a single film.
When the first live-action Transformers movie came out in 2007 (…good god, that was over a decade ago…), many in the fandom decried the films for (and I’m quoting here) “Raping their childhoods”. Even back then, this accusation puzzled me. How does one sexually assault a period of time? And what was being done that was so horrid? Somebody made a movie that incorporated words and a few loose themes similar to a cartoon you enjoyed as a child. What is so bad about that? Sure, it might not be a good movie but it’s still a movie you can just ignore. I can’t stand Romeo & Juliet but that doesn’t have me picketing TCM every time they show Westside Story. What the hell, guys?!
And let’s be clear, it’s guys doing this. I know there are plenty of irrational and abusive women in the world but taking to social media to hyperbolically attack those who participate in and create commercial art is largely a male pastime.
The epiphany was a simple question: why do we put up with this?
Seriously, why do we put up with this? As fans, why do we tolerate our siblings in the fandom behaving in this way? Why do we give them the credence and presence and platform to behave like this? Why do we entertain the notion that this is even remotely acceptable in any way, shape, or form? People claiming to be Star Wars fans were, by the thousands, threatening an actress until she closed her social media accounts! What the holy fuck is wrong with us that we tolerated that? What for a single moment made any person anywhere in the world pretend that was even remotely acceptable?
The epiphany steamrolled from there. I thought about our current political climate. I thought about the utter insanity that we live under year to year. I don’t even mean specific politicians (although, sweet mercy, there’s a lot to unpack there). I mean things like gerrymandering, where voting districts are deliberately drawn to give an unfair advantage to one party over another. Why do we put up with that? Why do we tolerate that? Why do we pretend that’s a thing that can even remotely be allowed?
Let’s just focus on voting: the Electoral College. The Electoral College is dumb. The Electoral College is designed specifically to give an advantage to people in less populated states. Now, to be fair, there is an issue to confront of certain states essentially deciding the national political debate but if that’s where the people live than by golly, that’s how the deciding should be done. The Electoral College doesn’t make any damn sense and that we tolerate it is positively mind-blowing.
Let’s jump away from voting. Healthcare. Why do we pay for medicine? Why is our ability to treat life-threatening diseases tied to our income? Why is a person devoid of money or employment deemed unworthy or at least ineligible to receive treatment simply because of that lack of money/employment? A woman fell between a metro car and the platform the other day, requiring her fellow passengers to push the car enough to free her trapped leg. Her leg was still badly hurt but she refused medical care purely on the grounds of expense. That. Is. Insane. And again I ask, why do we put up with this?
The list goes on and on. More American schools are being forced to teach Creationism in Science Class, that slavery ‘wasn’t so bad’, and Abstinence-Only Education. Amazon employs slave labor. People act like vaccines are dangerous and Planned Parenthood does nothing but murder infants. Cells phones are flagrantly designed for planned obsolescence. The list goes on and on.
The world is a confusing place. It’s busy, and among the busy comes chaos and confusion. Chaos and confusion brings disorientation and inefficiency. Inefficiency breeds more confusion. And in confusion, the misanthropic or opportunistic or simply self-centered find ways to exploit and take advantage. Whether by inattentiveness or misunderstanding or simple exhaustion, we tend to allow it. Once it’s gone on long enough, we get used to it. It ceases to be a crime and becomes a habit. It becomes a tradition.
But why? Why do we put up with this?
There’s no end-all solution. There’s no singular action that will remedy these ills. Even voting will only do so much (although, it will do quite a lot and you should still ABSOLUTELY VOTE EVERY CHANCE YOU GET). Different issues demand different attention and require different solutions. But they require attention. And the necessitate action.
As for the inciting incident, I lament Kelly Marie Tran’s departure from social media. I hope it doesn’t signal her departure from the Star Wars franchise. I liked Rose a lot and I’m hoping to see her in the next movie. And I hope by the time it comes out, the world will be a much better place.