Friday, December 18, 2015

The Day the Fandom Died.

Friends of mine have been inquiring as to when and how many times I'll be screening Star Wars VII when it debuts this December in multiplexes across the world. None have actually asked if I actually wanted to see it, essentially assuming I was going to, except one person and that came about due to my hesitation on giving an answer. That answer is no, I don't want to see Episode VII: The Force Awakens. 

Frankly nothing up to this point has stoked my fires and has worked me up into the required fan frenzy needed to throw money and time at the object of said fandom. The trailers have mostly left me cold and that isn't a good sign. And after the "Force Friday" merchandise nonsense ended I have a great opportunity to check out the goods as that might clue in more about the film which might pique my interests.

When I stopped by my local Target to do some basic needs shopping and decided to walk past the toys and seasonal garbage section to check out the Star Wars goods. I spent close to thirty minutes going up and down the aisles, checking out every bit of product, and then I reached a point where I was standing in front of the LEGO displays for J.J.'s space opera odyssey where I said something out loud that took me by surprise.

"....I don't want any of this." 

It wasn't spoken in a loud or condescending manner but one of quiet disappointment. If you saw my face when I spoke those words it may have looked like I lost my best friend; a defining part of who I was that up and left. This was the realization of something coming for a long time: I don't need Star Wars any longer. 

I have my memories of the original films and those have had a lovely rose colored gloss that has lasted for years yet as I have aged and become more critical of the media I consume as well as how I spend my time I become thankful that I watched Lucas' original films as a child because if I went in today I'm certain I wouldn't have devoted so much energy to this brand.  And this isn't anything sudden because when I look back and really think about it all of the signs were present in the Kubler-Ross model for coming to terms with an emotional experience. 

Denial appears early and for me that came about during the prequel films which released back in the late 1990's/early 2000's. This was especially true with The Phantom Menace. I kept denying how terrible the movie really was, denying the possiblity that the other films to follow would be equally as bad because George was just getting his movie making legs back with this one so it could be a dog in the manger, and outright denying that I was no longer the target audience for this series; I will return to that later.

Anger manifested a few months after Phantom Menace left the theaters as I had time to digest just what I watched and realized just how bad it was. Not only that but while being caught up in the fandom I went multiple times, gleefully I might add, while also spending my hard earned money on the relevant merchandise on something that I actually hated. I felt bamboozled and, more importantly, wasted my time with this which really made me angry. I also was angry when it was even more painfully obvious that this was and will always be a kids film and the brand didn't mature with its original audiences. I was angry that I didn't get something more developed and evolved but was given 2+ hours of Jar Jar and Jake Lloyd delivering such Shakespearean lines like "Woo-hooo!". 

Bargaining hit right around the release of Attack of the Clones with the "if/then" deals I made with myself to justify keeping up with brand such as "If the movie gets ok reviews then I'll check it out a few weeks after release" and "If the movie is ok then I'll consider checking out the toy lines, etc." It wasn't good and I didn't follow through with the second statement. Anger and denial reared back up as well during this phase too. Bargaining also creeped in regarding making silent deals internally as to what merchandise I would consume from the brand to keep up so to speak. My fanboy "drug" of choice was Star Wars branded LEGO model kits; eventually I realized I just enjoyed putting together LEGO and I didn't need the Star Wars branded ones for that amusement.

Depression crept in post prequel trilogy and well before Disney got its white gloved talons into it. Lucas was doing jack shit with his brand except re-release after re-release of the films in various formats, games that were on the horizon were promoted then cancelled, and nothing new was coming out except TV shows such as The Clone Wars but that was aimed again at 1) children and 2) it was set during that prequel era which was horrible. My object of fandom was falling by the wayside in a very slow, methodical march; I was feeling left out of the thing that I adored. I was no longer feeling included for wanting more out of this brand and it really bummed me out that others my age could still find that same bliss which has now escaped me. Anger creeps in here to as I began to resent others for their fandom which is an interesting concept; I was pissed off and jealous that I didn't have another's level of obsession. 

Finally Acceptance happened in that toy aisle in Target where I admitted that I didn't want Star Wars any more.  More specifically I admitted that I wasn't a child any longer and this brand didn't grow as I did which then lost its value to me and my resources (time, money, etc). I have to say just because I reached this stage does not mean I'm content. In all honesty anger emerged again because of this revelation yet I will move forward and leave this in my past. Interestingly these stages do not fall in a strict pattern and will bounce around depending on the level of the emotional investment towards the object in question. In a bizarre twist when I look back at this process it feels like it is part of a maturation ritual for the mass produced age. There is a journey involved where on an emotional level I am questing towards adulthood and in the process I must kill my childhood to move forward. The destruction of my fandom of a product that is for children is just another step on the path I am on which has taken years.

So while I am fine with not watching the film it didn't stop me from acting cheeky and doling out faux spoilers to the movie such as "BB-8 is a DROID!" or "The movie is 2hrs and 15min long!!!" just so I can play around with those on social media I'm friends/friendly with. The most I may ever do involving Star Wars would be playing the table top RPG that a friend of mine runs periodically as it fills that child-less yearning I craved that the main content maker, Disney, will not fully venture into. Past that Star Wars becomes that part of me from a long time ago and that is where it needs to belong.

Side note: when thinking about writing this I went poking around and found an article from 2011 via which gives a humorous look at this process that was similar to mine minus watching 150 episodes of Pokemon.

Another side note: Back in 2012 I wrote a post about changes Lucas made regarding Star Wars and I was horribly wrong about it but totally fanboyish.