Mourning a Stranger

Every so often, a celebrity dies, and the world expresses its sorrow that they’re gone.

I can sympathize with those who get saddened when famous people they liked die. My friend Mia got legitimately sad when Leonard Nimoy passed away because she had spent countless hours watching the original series of Star Trek. She had even shown me the entire series not a month before he died.

But I used to get the feeling that people jump on these glorified condolence bandwagons just to be a part of it.

Self-proclaimed fans will flock to Twitter to tweet about how much they will miss a person they have never even met. Does it never strike them as strange?

I was mildly perplexed, and a tad annoyed if I’m being honest, about this trend until the recent passing of Stan Lee.

His work impacted me in ways I can’t even impart to you.

And when he died, I felt an inexplicable sense of loss.

I mean, I didn’t know Stan Lee personally. I never even shook his hand or saw him in a crowd. He was a name on a page, a picture in a book, a cameo in a movie.

But his death shook me.

Being the analytical dweeb that I am, I spent some time thinking about why it was affecting me so much, so much that I even reached out to those people on Twitter I had previously disparaged.

Why I cared so much about Stan Lee’s passing boiled down to three things: how long I had associated Stan Lee’s work with my favorite comic books, how much I appreciated Stan Lee’s work for what it was, and how desperately I relied on Stan Lee’s work to find meaning in my life.

I have read comic books since I was nine years old, and heroes like Spider-Man always featured heavily in my reading selections. Super heroes have always been a concept I could get behind, even as an adult. Stan Lee’s heroes in particular taught me so much. Not how to punch or anything like that. But that even a nerd who wasn’t the best-looking person around, could be the coolest hero around.

And that maybe spiders weren’t too scary.

And his work eased me into comic books before I started reading the darker, more mature stuff. In a way, he introduced me to the format of a comic book.

Anyway, this line of thinking took a turn for the morbid, and I actually started fretting, for weeks, about all the people I admire and how devastated I will be if they die before me. It was like a slide I couldn’t jump off of.

Side note: Thinking about mortality in this manner sucks. Don’t do it.

So after another few weeks spent flipping through Alan Moore’s graphic novels, reading Stephen King’s early works, and listening to nothing but John Williams’ soundtracks, I finally took a chill pill.

I just realized how lucky I am to have these kinds of people existing in the universe at all.

And how lucky I am to not be alone in my fandom for them.

Solo and the Star Wars Fandom

Saying that you were a fan of Star Wars used to mean that you were part of an exclusive club that everyone was in. (That kind of makes no sense, but if you think about it, it kind of does too.) I feel like Star Wars was the beginning of nerd culture becoming popular with the mainstream. It was a cultural phenomenon that eventually spread beyond the niche it catered to.

But lately, is it just me, or is admitting you are a Star Wars fan starting to have negative connotations? Being a part of the fandom is beginning to mean you are one of the most difficult persons to please when it comes to your entertainment.

Personally, I thought The Last Jedi was a…flawed movie. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the friendly discussions I can now have about its merits and detriments. I loved the fight with Kylo Ren and Rey versus the Praetorian Guards. I wasn’t too keen on the Canto Bight escapades. I’m willing to have hour-long conversations devoted to these things. I feel the exact same enthusiasm for the prequels and the originals as well.

I suppose people are entitled to their own opinion, but since when did our sci-fi/fantasy movies have to be perfect cinema?

Take Solo, for instance. Aside from the fact that Disney is clearly trying to milk Star Wars for all it’s worth, Solo was not a bad movie. It was fun! (Am I going to get ridiculed for thinking so?) It was a lighthearted romp through space, which is what I want my Star Wars to be.

If you were feeling hesitant about watching it because people have been bombing it down from the get-go, don’t let that stop you. Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, and Chewbacca are back, and we get to see some new characters as well. There might be things you hate about the movie. But there also might be things you like about it. Don’t let supposed “hard-core” Star Wars fans stop you from enjoying a movie.

Don’t get me started on the people who spend exorbitant amounts of time attacking Star Wars actors either.

People (these anonymous people who we never meet face-to-face) have been hurling insults at the people who make the Star Wars movie in a completely disagreeable fashion. These insults aren’t critiques. They are cruel words that serve no purpose except to be hurtful.

Because of the actions of these haters (and there really is no other word for such volatile and spite-filled people), the Star Wars fandom is now being called toxic.

Like it or lump it, I’m a part of this fandom, this toxic fandom, and, in a way, that makes me culpable for the actions of the others in this group. (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, anyone?)

As such, I want to do my part in making the fandom a better place for us to disagree with each other. Disagreeing, by itself, is not a bad thing. If respectfully done, it’s a wonderful thing. Disagree away! I want to call out the people who are just blindly shouting abuse. I want to invite anyone and everyone to share their opinions about the movies.

Hell, I’ll even let people make cases for how Jar Jar Binks is the best character in the Star Wars universe.

Ushi and Me as an X-Wing Pilot