Loving something that’s also cherished by millions of people is tricky. Belonging to a community of strangers who are bonded over one thing often becomes troublesome when infighting breaks out. People quickly realize just how little control they have over the actions of others.
The good news is that sometimes the rest of the community fights back, and the current situation with Star Wars is a good example of a broader, positive online trend that often doesn’t get as much coverage as the negativity.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi actress Kelly Marie Tran reportedly wiped her Instagram account following ongoing harassment. It seemed to many, including The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, that fandom’s vocally toxic dark side won an irrational, unspoken battle.
That’s horrible, what’s the good news?
Not everyone gave up, however, and a beautiful initiative was born out of the wreckage.
#FanArtForRose is a Twitter campaign to highlight Tran and her character, Rose Tico; it’s a middle-finger to an imbecilic group of people who throw out harmful, vile insults like they’re Halloween candy. Many art pieces that accompany the hashtag illuminate Tico as a symbol of the resistance, supporting her when so many others are attacking. Here are a few examples:
I sincerely loved her character and #KellyMarieTran seems like a such genuine and sweet individual. Her Instagram was a joy to follow and I will miss it. Thanks too for repping people who never get to see themselves reflected in media! #FanArtforRose pic.twitter.com/I65BeTjzLG— Tiff Bartel ❤️ (@tiffbartel) June 5, 2018
Save what we love— Autonomousinque (@Autonomousinqu1) June 10, 2018
Sad to hear about what happened. The SW fanbase can be incredibly toxic. I hope she knows that those who use their energy to spread their hate, absolutely do not speak for all of us. #FanArtforRose #StarWars #thelastjedi #KellyMarieTran @rianjohnson pic.twitter.com/YL1BV3s4TI
The online treatment of @kellymarietran is deplorable, and yet in the face of hatred and disproportionate negativity she does what other trolls can never do and that is move on. She is truly a hero of the resistance and an inspiration. #FanartForRose pic.twitter.com/OaQmLrxs4l— brian kesinger (@briankesinger) June 6, 2018
There are hundreds of illustrations and paintings just like those and, as they spread across Twitter, picking up attention from those in and outside of the core fandom, it’s a reminder that adoration is a key component to being a fan.
“Now that Kelly Marie has quit social-media, I really hope she somehow gets the chance to see the outpouring of love & affection for her in the #FanArtforRose,” Mark Hamill tweeted. “Adoring Fans! Amazing Artwork.”
Fandom can be a complicated thing in general
Fandom is often a beehive of confusion; a collective modeled on an ever-changing ideal of what the community believes. This is only more true now. People are connected 24/7. Ideas are shared from people in different countries, friendships are made thousands of miles away and, perhaps most importantly, it’s never been easier to find a tribe of like-minded individuals who are ready to listen and reiterate a particular stance.
The internet changed fandom, for both better and worse. It’s empowered people, instilled a confidence in fans who may have felt insecure without a community to call their own — a community that’s always accessible.
Toxicity in fandom is easy to point to because its ugliness is impossible to ignore. People point to events like Tran’s reported Instagram cleanse as a sign of what fandom has become today. It certainly seems more difficult to find positive stories (in general, to be honest), but the Star Wars community reminded us that fandom can be good.
Digital spaces are scary. It can feel like swimming through a sea of eels while trying not to be electrocuted. Toxicity turns people away from finding a community of like-minded individuals who they can share their excitement with, but campaigns like #FanArtForRose help to remind us all that people are actually mostly good. The positive aftermath of all the bad news we get online sometimes, maybe often, goes unnoticed.