Gatekeeping in Fandoms: The Star Wars Problem
Gatekeeeping. Urban dictionary defines it as “when someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.” Gatekeepers are those people we’ve all met. The ones who tell you you’re not a “Real X”™ because you don’t meet some strange criteria. There are gatekeepers for almost every community that exists under the sun, but the place where they are most rampant is fandoms.
Fandom gatekeeping comes in all forms. You’re not a true fan of this or that musician because you haven’t heard an obscure EP that isn’t even in circulation anymore. You’re not a true fan of this author because you haven’t read every single thing they’ve ever written. There’s even sports gatekeeping where you can’t be a fan of X team because you can’t name the manager from 55 years ago. All these are appalling, and in many cases sexist. But one of the biggest offenders is the Star Wars fandom
Star Wars is one of the biggest media franchises in the world. It spans 11 movies, multiple TV shows, a plethora of award-winning games, comic books and so much more. As a result, it has a massive following, and this is a massive problem. See, Star Wars fans are some of the most vicious gatekeepers you will ever meet. From the Prequel era, there has been a very vocal section of the fandom incredibly keen on “purifying” the fandom by their own very unstable standards.
Why am I writing this now? Because Darth Revan is trending on Twitter. And if you have little knowledge of Revan, then, according to these gatekeepers, you are part of the problem. Darth Revan is a character from the Star Wars game Knight of The Old Republic (KOTOR). He exists in the Expanded Star Wars Universe, which existed after the release of the Prequels. Revan is merely a symptom of a much larger issue: The Star Wars fandom, much more than most others, will attach value to your level of “fan-ness”. So if you liked the Sequel Trilogy, but haven’t read all the lore, you’re a “casual” or “fake fan”; if you haven’t seen the 2003 Clone Wars TV show, then you’re not a serious fan.
There’s a legal “proverb” that no lawyer can know all the law. In a similar fashion, no fan can, nor should they be expected to know all the lore. Expecting fans to know every single aspect of the thing that they like as some form of justification for why they like it, or that they must know certain obscure facts and figures to receive validation of their fandom is insane and dangerous to the very franchise they claim to love.
Fact of the matter is, no one is required to justify their fandom. People like what they like for their own personal reasons, and nobody can invalidate them. Not everyone will know Darth Bane, but everyone who loves Star Wars loves it because it spoke to them in a way that they can relate to personally.
Gatekeeping is a problem, especially in Sci-Fi communities, but the level that the Star Wars fandom can take it, and the frequency with which it does this, is something that paints a bad picture on an otherwise brilliant franchise.