James Gunn: Toxic Star Wars haters should 'go to therapy'

The Guardians of the Galaxy director speaks out after Jar Jar actor reveals he considered suicide.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
3 min read

Star Wars fans can be a little touchy when the latest film doesn't live up to their expectations. 

Sometimes that feeling can bubble over into real-life toxic actions. Actress Kelly Marie Tran recently deleted her Instagram posts, with many speculating that it was because of online harassment due to her role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And actor Ahmed Best, who played the controversial character Jar Jar Binks in 1999's Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, revealed on July 3 that the reaction to his role almost drove him to suicide.

On July 4, James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy series, tweeted a link to an article about Best, with the comment, "People need to chill out." 

Gunn later responded to the reaction his tweet received, writing, "People responding to this post saying, "Yeah, it wasn't the actor's fault! It was the writer's!" are missing the point. Critique it. Don't like it. But spewing hate and bile at individuals just doing their best to tell a story, even if the story sucks, is lame. Don't watch it!"

And then he went further, saying, "Star Wars (or any movie) may be important to you, but it doesn't belong to you. If your self-esteem depends on how good you think the current Star Wars is, or your childhood is ruined because you don't like something in a movie, GO TO THERAPY."

It turns out not all fans agree that Star Wars doesn't belong to them. Wrote one Twitter user, "But that's all about perspective Gunn, cause in a sense, a movie series like Star Wars DOES belong to us. To all of us who felt a connection with it. When a film is created, it technically belongs to the creators, but from a certain [point of view] they give their creation to the world."

On Thursday, Gunn gave a thoughtful reply, saying, "Once it's out there, I don't think it belongs to anyone. It just IS and what individuals make of it is what belongs to them. But, yes, of course the [intellectual property] & specific materials belong to Disney & our emotions & thoughts around it belong to us."

And the fans weighed in on both sides in the ensuing comment thread. Many agreed with Gunn that some fans go overboard with their devotion. Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz joined the discussion, writing, "I loved Star Wars as a kid. [The Phantom Menace] mostly bored and annoyed me. I got over it. Because I'm an adult."

But some didn't feel fans were always to blame for the events affecting actors. "Daisy Ridley left [social media] for her own reasons, nothing to do with fans. Kelly [Marie Tran] left for unconfirmed reasons. And fans are entitled to their opinions," wrote Scott McNaughton.

And at least one fan pointed out that therapy isn't free, writing, "Sounds nice. As soon as I can cover rent and food I will try to budget for it."

James Gunn has a Star Wars connection of his own: He's neighbors in Malibu, California, with Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill . The two recently got together at a party after Twitter user Ian Fee suggested Gunn should find a role for Hamill in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. 

No word on whether that will happen, but Hamill recently told Collider he's "happy to be in the [Guardians] audience, there's a lot less pressure."

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