Welcome back to the era of Star Wars. With the high from Star Wars Celebration Anaheim and the release of "Teaser 2", the saga has accelerated back up to the main-stage platform that it seems to take by storm every few decades. But now, with movies coming out every single year between the new trilogy and 'anthology' series, it seems as though Star Wars has found a long-term home in our headlines and hearts.
This burst of fan appreciation isn't as new or sporadic as mainstream outlets might have us believe - in fact, this author wagers that the Star Wars fandom is one of the longest-running movie-based fandoms with the fewest franchise movies of it's size. Die-hard fans of Ghostbusters and The Warriors are easily less privileged with the wealth of material that Star Wars has, but in physical size (not passion!), they simply do not compare. So how has the Star Wars fandom, beyond published books or comics, managed to survive with only six (or less, depending on which fan you ask) films over the course of more than three decades?
Content Creation is in Our Hands
While fanfiction was absolutely pioneered by the creative and massive Star Trek fandom, Star Wars fans have taken hand-made merchandise and fan-created storylines to completely new levels. Between worldwide costume clubs and monthly saber meetups, fans of Star Wars managed to expand the galaxy all on their own due to an ongoing, mutual passion for the film. Droid builders clubs have brought R2-D2 and astromechs like him to living rooms for families to enjoy. Fan fiction writers have crafted complicated, long-running storylines and found themselves writing for Lucasfilm and DK Publishing not long after.
Star Wars has survived on a creative fan base that is simply hungry for more content, and when we cannot get any official releases, we make our own. When there aren't enough male twi'leks, we design heroes of the Free Ryloth movement and the Alliance; when there are no female Rebel pilots, we give stories and costume to our own. Star Wars takes place in an endless galaxy, and the fan creations that reflect just how infinite that possibility can be has helped influence a solid culture of creativity in our galaxy far, far away.
High Demand = More Stuff
When I worked for a particular YouTube channel, one of the biggest and most important things we had to encourage our fans to do was simply talking about us. Word of mouth and high demand produce new and exciting content, which was something the Star Wars fandom realized pretty early on. The more you buy a particular comic series, the longer it got. The more support a game title had, the more sequels we'd receive. Even [Star Wars: The Clone Wars](tag:200641), which didn't get the greatest initial reception, went on for six seasons due to fans' affection for the new characters and the ongoing stories of movie favorites.
Fans dedicated themselves to collecting toys, comics, books, video games, and props in order to proudly display their love for Star Wars, encouraging the team at Lucasfilm to consistently keep their lights on and produce a long-running series of new plotlines. Star Wars Insider, one of the most popular and long-running fan magazines in Star Wars fan culture, has published several new (canon!) stories throughout the years that fill in gaps and expand the universe.
The never-ending wish for more Star Wars is finally being granted, but the insatiable fandom has asked for even more, with video games like [Star Wars: Battlefront](tag:2684021) on the horizon. Star Wars fans know what they want, and they know how to support it by sharing, telling their friends, and putting their money where their mouths are.
Speculation, Theories, and Generally Going Insane
Long before the days of SuperShadow during the prequel trilogies, Star Wars fandom has been doing what so many Pilots do best: speculation and theories. From Han being Luke's brother to Boba Fett being a woman, Star Wars fans have been excitedly diving in to the realm of endless possibility, kicking off websites specifically for rumors and theories in order to predict the future. Not everyone loves spoilers, but these fans and their imaginations cannot get enough of them, and the popularity of this kind of fandom is prominent everywhere.
With new platforms such as Reddit and even here on Moviepilot, that time-honored tradition of eagerness continues to flourish through wild imaginations and curious sleuthing, to the point where certain theories have gained so much popularity that directors and studios get involved with responses. It's at a point where all-out wars will explode in comments sections when someone suggests the return of characters like Jar Jar Binks, and when debates over possible, unconfirmed plot points turn in to comment threads long enough to read for hours.
This is, of course, not much of a bad thing - the consistency of Star Wars hype on the internet is driven by these theories and spoilers, keeping the sharp inhale before The Force Awakens as a consistent, ongoing gasp of fan culture. We're all sitting on the edge of our seats because of this rumor or that, and this action is a massive part of what has kept the fandom alive for decades.
Unique, but Shared Experiences
One of the most unique aspects of the Star Wars fandom is that it simultaneously exists on small and gigantic scales, depending on the fan. Even the most casual Star Wars fan can have special ties to the series. Star Wars is an individual passion shared amongst a global audience, so they way you might enjoy the series may differ from the next fan.
Star Wars now spans over three major generations, and for many families, it serves as a bonding factor in the home. The difference between fans exists even within family units thanks to time: our parents of grandparents may have seen it in theaters, but for anyone part of my generation, we saw Star Wars first on VHS tapes, and in my particular family, these were tapes that were recorded off of the Sci-Fi channel. Even today, young fans are watching the new trailers with wide eyes, screaming "Han Solo!" before they can even form full sentences.
Our experiences differ not only by generation, but what we want out of the saga as well. Some folks turn to the original trilogy as a story of hope in dire times, and others see it as a fun escape from reality in the most grandiose of ways. We turn to Star Wars to see our own struggles come to life on a galactic scale, because the universe of movies, books, comics, video games and more holds something for everyone. Some of us passionately follow the lore and are die-hard readers of the huge expanse of novels, while others prefer to play with figurines or write stories of their own.
This vast uniqueness of experiences is what makes Star Wars so huge - because when two fans with different styles connect, hobby styles meshing together is close to inevitable.
Star Wars is becoming a family heirloom, passed down through generations; it is the multiple inside jokes and quotes inserted in to conversations that only fans of the series would know; it's the little girl bedazzling her first Darth Vader helmet so that she can stand next to her favorite Sith Lord at a convention. It's that international feeling of joy at any signs of upcoming films, and the reminder that you aren't alone, even if you're watching the new trailer by yourself in the dark. Star Wars fandom is a persistent companion, and as someone who has lived and breathed this saga since before she could speak, I wouldn't have any other obsession at the top of my list.