Fan Wars: The Last Popeyes

Previously published in The Daily Star of Hammond, LA.

My little brother and I were driving through Popeyes for some fried chicken after seeing a movie, but instead of getting excited about the chicken and mashed potatoes we were yelling at each other about are disparate views on the latest Star Wars movie.

The main issue was that I liked the movie and he didn’t. I had fun, thought the different set pieces (like the opening bombing sequence and several other shots) were excellent, enjoyed the humor and I wanted to see the movie again, which I almost always want to wait several months before watching a movie again. The crux of our argument was that he didn’t like the things most of the “fanboys” were angry about, but then he said, “I just didn’t like the writing. It didn’t meet my expectations.” This was when we started yelling.

“What do you mean you didn’t like the writing!?” I said. “It was funny, cool and flipped some of the familiar Star Wars tropes on their head to give us something newer than just a retread like “The Force Awakens!”

“I thought it broke the rules Star Wars had just for the sake of doing it,” he responded. “Like they could have gone a different direction with Snoke or Rey, and they –“

“Bro, you’re super wrong! You say they could’ve gone a different direction from the old movies but THEN SUGGEST THEY DO THE SAME THI– Hello, Can I get two number three combos with the mashed potatoes and gravy and Mtn Dews? No, two number three combos both of those with Mtn. Dew. Yes, that’ll complete my order. Thank you.” Then I turned back to my brother and kept shouting about Star Wars.

We got angry with each other because we approach Star Wars from two different places. My brother keeps up with the video games, movies and online message boards that posited a ton of potential plotlines for “The Last Jedi” for two years. My brother not liking the writing set me off because I write for a living and my brother is a freshman at Belmont University majoring in management information systems, so I tend to get kind of pretentious about writing even though he’s a smart kid (it’s something I’m working on).

The second thing he mentioned, about it “not meeting expectations” is the big thing for him and most people that were a part of the backlash to “The Last Jedi.” It’s the same issue with the backlash to the newest season of “Game of Thrones” and every single other nerdy thing that has reached the center of pop culture (like Harry Potter, “Lost,” Marvel movies, etc.).

Movies like this are in a strange place because Hollywood thought movies like the original Star Wars were only going to gain a cult following, which they did, but they also garnered mainstream success and popularity. The big issue is the collision of a cult-like following and mainstream critics and moviegoers that don’t understand each other. But it also leads to another question — Why do superfans seem to hate a lot of the new iterations of their favorite shows or movies?

People have more access to information about movie-making and storytelling than ever before thanks to the internet and podcasts devoted to those two areas. The “fanboys” have a better grasp on the same vocabulary only critics used for judging movies and TV, so now they have some of the knowledge to support why they didn’t like something. This is good since more people can have more intellectual conversations about movies and helps them keep the “elites” from dominating that space.

With the internet, these superfans are also able to communicate with each other regardless of their geographical location about the things they love the most. This has led to people having almost too much information about movies before they arrive in theaters which can ruin an experience at the cinema. But, most importantly, it’s also led to tons of people posting theories about what the next movie will be about to the point where the mass of super-fanboys write their own version of the script that they think would be perfect.

They’ll spend two years doing this until they come to a consensus about what the best sequel will do. There’s one major issue — 99.9 percent of these people have no real say over what will happen, no matter how loud they shout. So when someone like writer-director Rian Johnson makes this movie and decides to keep the franchise from just repackaging past plotlines is to do something different than those fans expect it makes them angry because they spent two years building up expectations for a specific movie and Johnson refused to give it to them.

The best art should attempt to be new, creative, fresh and challenging instead of appeasing fans. And fans (myself included) have to learn to be alright with another person’s interpretation or take on a beloved piece of art or creative expression.

After I got our food in the Popeyes drive-thru, my brother and I started to reach a boiling point in our argument over whether the movie was good. Until we both decided that we had to agree to disagree and move one without shouting at each other. In the words of Kylo Ren, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.”

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