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Star Wars fans, let's not be jerks about The Rise of Skywalker

Commentary: Fan reaction to The Last Jedi was scary. We don't need a repeat.

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Don't go to the dark side, Star Wars fans.

Disney

The release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is just days away. Perched at the culmination of a decades-long saga, it's logical to expect fans are going to have feelings. Excitement. Apprehension. Mild nausea from too much popcorn. All are valid. 

One emotion we all could probably live without? Rage. 

Guys. Listen to me. Whatever happens, let's be cool about this, OK? 

I get it. You're super invested in this whole franchise. The prequels didn't go so well. The Force Awakens was, well, a new hope of getting good Star Wars movies again. Now finally after four years, fans get to see how this entire storyline plays out. Will Rey's parents be revealed? Is Kylo Ren redeemable? Will I drown in a puddle of my own tears upon seeing Carrie Fisher? Like I said -- feelings.

Here's the problem: Fan response to 2017's The Last Jedi was kind of a shitshow, and it didn't have to be. That's why I'm bracing for impact this week but also imploring anyone who's apt to lose their mind if The Rise of Skywalker doesn't meet some specific set of expectations to just exercise some restraint. 

I'm not here to tell you Star Wars doesn't matter. Clearly, it does. Star Wars: A New Hope came out in 1977. The trilogy spawned books and comic books, TV series, video games, that one holiday special, theme parks and an obscene amount of merchandising. After Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, it only took six years to recoup its $4 billion investment. Money aside, the franchise has burrowed its way into pop culture, turning up on shows like 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother; the Twitter account Death Star PR has more than 300,000 followers. The Beastie Boys referenced Luke and Darth Vader in the lyrics to "Do It." 

And if you like it, it matters. 

There's a tipping point, though. When The Last Jedi came out, pockets of the internet quickly resorted to their worst behavior. Director Rian Johnson got death threats. Actress Kelly Marie Tran incurred so much online harassment that she deleted her Instagram account. Mark Hamill had to come to her defense on Twitter saying, "What's not to love? #GetaLifeNerds" while tweeting a picture of the two of them together. Tran even told Good Morning America last week that she'd been to therapy in the wake of everything

Nothing is worth ginning up so much vitriol for the purpose of funneling it toward other human beings. 

What's more, it doesn't make much sense to introduce hate to a subject matter that you love. Boost those negative signals enough and Star Wars will cease to be something that's brought audiences so much joy and excitement -- it'll become something associated with a repellent toxicity. 

Don't spill your bile on the Millennium Falcon. Han would hate that. 

And let's be real: Palpatine would want you to send those angry tweets. It might sound flip, but it's worth remembering that the corrupting power of anger and hatred is like the central theme of every single Star Wars movie, and those to give into it are the bad guys

Now playing: Watch this: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Official Trailer (2019)
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I've covered online harassment and toxic fandom enough to know what drives some of this behavior. As mentioned earlier, a whole lot of people really love Star Wars, and some folks love it to an extent that it becomes inextricably linked to their identity. So when something, like The Last Jedi, doesn't turn out they way they want, it feels like a personal affront. It's not a personal affront. What it is is an impossible expectation that a multi-million dollar project housed under a giant media company is going to meet any given person's exact hopes and specifications. 

None of this is to say that you can't have a negative opinion about The Rise of Skywalker when it comes out. By all means, engage with the thing you love. Have your say. Dissect every scene. Just remember humans made it and they don't deserve to have their lives made miserable. Plus, the original three movies are still everything you want and need them to be.

So if you don't dig The Rise of Skywalker please remember: it's not the end of the galaxy -- the suns will continue to rise over Tatooine. 

Originally published Dec. 17, 5 a.m. PT.