Here Are 5 Things I Learned From Star Wars Celebration 2022
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Here Are 5 Things I Learned From Star Wars Celebration 2022

Star Wars Celebration 2022 was a blast, an experience, and an adventure I will never forget.

For four days, Lucasfilm and Disney took over the Anaheim Convention Center in Orange County, CA (not far from Disneyland, actually) and gave the most devoted fans (like me) an incomparable adventure.

Here are my five takeaways.

Racism exists — and real fans speak out against it

Let’s start by getting the more noxious stuff out of the way.

Shadow and Act has previously reported on the racist attacks endured by actress Moses Ingram, who plays Reva (aka Third Sister) in the super-smash Obi-Wan Kenobi series. It’s worth noting that Ingram’s experience is, unfortunately, not unique — the more toxic Star Wars fans have attacked everyone from child actors (Jake Lloyd, who played young Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace) to Black actors (Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks, and John Boyega, who played Finn, received the lion’s share of the malice), Asian actors and more.

This has led the more prominent figures in the Star Wars fandom to speak out against this sort of toxic behavior — and as seen in the video above, Ewan McGregor (who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi — and whose maternal uncle, Denis Lawson, played Wedge Antilles in the so-called “original trilogy”) is leading the charge. This has inspired other Star Wars actors like Kumail Nanjiani (who plays Haja) and Sam Witwer (who voiced Darth Maul and screamed that infamous “Kenobaaaaaaaiiiiii!” cry) to follow suit…and, in turn, the fandom as a whole has seemed to reply in kind.

This sort of direct call-out to such noxious racism, unfortunately, seemed like a distant fever dream in the not-so-distant past (it would have been nice to get a more public call-out back when The Force Awakens was released, you know) — but it’s a sign that the “official” stance of Star Wars and its “approved” (for lack of a better word) fandom isn’t a “safe space” for the gun-totin’, MAGA-lovin’, good-ol’-boy style racists who seem to equate Gina Carano’s justified firing (for posting anti-Semitic memes & making transphobic comments on Twitter) for the unjustified (and completely disgusting) racist attacks endured by non-white actors on social media.

In short, if you feel “triggered” by call-outs from Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s because — as the old saying goes — hit dogs holler.

'The Fandom Menace,' and blogs catering to them, don't have a large presence

Much ado has been made about “The Fandom Menace” (a play on The Phantom Menace, used to describe the more toxic parts of the fandom) and their inexplicably popular, rage-filled bloggers that cater to their worst impulses. It’s to be expected that socially maladjusted fanboys with Luke Skywalker self-insert fantasies are “tough guys” online, and nothing more than mewling little weasels in person, but it’s even funnier to watch it in action.

What is, perhaps, the biggest testament to their irrelevance is how few people from legitimate media outlets — not to mention how few fans — interact with these types of noxious folks. And George Lucas still ain’t gonna cast you, hire you, or allow you within 100 yards of Skywalker Ranch. Have you considered therapy? Meditation? Sound baths? All that anger is no good for you, boys.

Point being — they don’t matter to Star Wars fans, they didn’t matter at Star Wars Celebration, and they’re never going to matter. Sorry, not sorry.

This is a REALLY talented fandom

Fanart was in abundance at Star Wars Celebration 2022, and the artists were all universally talented (and celebrated!).

One of my favorite rags-to-riches fan art stories, however, is the story of Australian artist Jake Bartok. He got his start making Star Wars-inspired medieval fan art (I have two of his pieces) and sharing it on social media. To make a long story extremely short, Bartok developed more than a little bit of a cult following and became universally beloved amongst the fandom. That then led to an actual paying gig from Star Wars, and Bartok’s illustrations can be seen in the upcoming book Star Wars: Stories of Jedi and Sith, which will be out in July 2022. (And yes, he was at Star Wars Celebration 2022!)

Dreams do come true for Star Wars fans, and it couldn’t have happened to a more awesome guy (and artist!) than Jake Bartok.

Everyone from the actors to the crew are universally beloved

Even the mere intimation of a Star Wars-adjacent celebrity (or even a crew member!) was enough to send fans into a tizzy. And who can blame us? Our heroes from a galaxy far, far away were here in front of us, live and in the flesh…even if they were a little too short to be stormtroopers.

Star Wars Celebration 2022 — and beyond — is just a lot of FUN.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan for 44 years (I’ve been on this Earth for as many years as the franchise has been — and watching the films, both in the theaters and on Betamax, is one of my first clear memories, and actually was one of the many bits of pop culture that inspired me to go into the entertainment arm of the journalism industry). I’ve lived through the so-called “Dark Years” when we had no films — that time between the release of Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace — and, instead, had to rely on the Extended Universe (now dubbed “Legends”) books that were sometimes amazing (Exar Kun, Tenel Ka, the so-called ‘Thrawn Trilogy’ that has since been ‘re-canonized,’ in a manner of speaking) and sometimes pure chaos (Joruus C’baoth, Cade Skywalker [no, seriously, look at that guy]) to get our fix.

And I can honestly say that there’s no better time than now to be a Star Wars fan. With a steady stream of content in both films and television — not to mention book series like The High Republic that take place outside of the purview of the “Skywalker Saga” — Disney is providing gifts that keep on giving to fans like me.

While you can’t please all the people all the time — as Bob Marley once said (or was it Yoda?) — you can please a lot of the people a lot of the time, and that’s especially what we saw at Star Wars Celebration 2022.