While I’m on the topic of fan groups and exclusivity, let me touch on another subject that has really irked me in the past year. I find that the deeper I get involved within Star Wars fan world, the more exclusive it becomes.
For instance, when I was meeting with this girl in the Rebel Legion that I’ve known for quite some time, she was talking about the recent conventions she’s gone to in costume. She angrily started bitching about other girls that show up to a convention in a store bought slave Leia costume and people want photos with them (I get the feeling the girls were more on the attractive side as well).
“It’s just so ridiculous,” she said disdainfully. “These girls show up in their costumes that they didn’t even make and all these guys want to hang out with them and take photos. But, it’s like, can’t they tell the costumes are from the store?”
Clearly she’s jealous that they are getting attention, I get that. But the scorn and disdain that she felt towards these girls was very real and made me very angry.
Who cares if they bought their costumes at a store? Shouldn’t we be welcoming them with open arms and saying “Welcome to a convention!”? What if this was their first convention ever? Maybe the fact that they even showed up in a costume was a big step.
The very first convention I ever went to I wore a mismatch of items. I had a Star Wars t-shirt on, a Jedi robe my mother had made me (not up to RL standards by any means), and a store bought plastic lightsaber (Qui-Gon Jinn’s, to be exact). I was just SO excited to even be there that I broke out every Star Wars item I had and threw it on. If I thought that people were making fun of me behind my back, I would probably have never gone to another convention.
Second time I got upset was this summer, when I was talking with another woman in the Rebel Legion and asked if she had seen my Call Me Maybe parody video. She says condescendingly, “Mmm, yes I did see it. The Slave Leia costume wasn’t up to Rebel Legion standards.” Lord knows it’s hard enough to please the RL folks with any costume, I should have expected someone would have something critical to say about my video (hair wasn’t in a braid, hair was blonde, background characters were not in full costume, etc) even though it was just for fun. But I was still surprised because 1) yes, the costume was up to standards because I borrowed it from a RL member. I just wasn’t wearing every single accessory and 2) that’s it?? That’s all you have to say? The video was for fun! It was FUNNY.
Third time (three’s a charm) I became disgruntled, was when a different RL member was talking about another member in the RL (yes, tons of behind the back whispers here…and I’m not even “officially” part of the RL yet!) and how she *gasp* commissions costumes. She believed that the only costumes that should be allowed in the RL were those that were sewed and put together with your own hands. Dear Lord, there would be no hope for me if that was the case. My Jedi Knight costume was seriously painful to make because I have no sewing experience. If we start excluding those that get their costumes commissioned, the RL will be very small indeed and the new member sign up would be almost non-existent. Not many people want to spend all the time they have (which may be very limited to begin with) on sewing their own costume. That’s why it took me over a year to finish my costume: I do not have the time (or patience) to meet with someone every weekend and work on a costume.
Why is there this exclusivity within an already exclusive fan group? Where did this Elite Fan come from? It upsets me so much inside to see some people drive away others instead of bringing them closer. My heart hurts because I struggled through understanding the costuming standards of the Rebel Legion and know that it would turn away someone with less of a drive. I’m thankful I’ve been blessed with a lot of gumption to see projects through to the end.
Maybe this Elite Fan stems from once being in the minority. Perhaps some or all of us have been teased by others within our lives for our Star Wars obsession, so when we find a group where we feel welcomed and belonged, we want to make it as exclusive as possible. By no means do I think this is a conscious thing. In fact, I think it stems from finally belonging and fitting so that we begin to only want people in our group who are really “in the know.” Naturally, that will exclude many fans who only have a basic knowledge of Star Wars or who are just starting out in their love for it. So this cycle effect is created where once we were teased, but now belong, so instead we tease others who do not know how to belong.
We should not be condescending, critical or even backstabbing other Star Wars fans. As a girl, it’s bad enough to go to a Convention and have men ask us if we are there with a boyfriend or if we’re there for a cute actor. We should not have girls or other fans criticizing us as well.
Perhaps I have had bad experiences in the past year, but I know these are not entirely uncommon experiences either. The Elite Fan pops up everywhere and perhaps I should accept it as part of life. In any club, organization, or even social circles, there will be someone who looks down their nose at others.
But the thing is, I don’t want to accept it. I see the new fan and I think of how I was once that newbie. In some ways, I still am. I do not go to half as many conventions as others, nor do I own a lot of costumes. I do not read the EU and sometimes it takes me 3 or 4 days to watch the new Clone Wars episode on my DVR (gasp!). Does that make me less of a fan? If my parody video is not up to RL standards, does that make my video not worth watching? If I buy a costume at a store because I do not have the time or energy to make one from scratch, does that mean I know less about Star Wars and love Star Wars less than you do?
Again, I repeat, we should not be condescending, critical or even backstabbing other Star Wars fans. Conclusion. Rant over.