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This should have been Disney’s time in the sun, basking in the rays from happy fans. The House of Mouse just released its biggest Star Wars project in years, “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” a show featuring its most popular Star Wars characters, only to have it land with a thud.
Most companies would analyze what went wrong and try to fix it, but not Disney. Instead of trying to understand fans’ distaste, Disney took the nuclear option and blasted their viewers as racists.
Disney Implies Its Own Fans Are Racists
Obi-Wan Kenobi is the latest expensive and disappointing entry in Disney’s cavalcade of streaming content. The story follows Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi as he suffers a midlife crisis while trying to save a tween-age Princess Leia from the Empire. At best, it’s OK. At worst, it’s painful.
The selling point of a show like this is to bring back beloved characters from the admired Star Wars prequels. You would think traditional positive marketing and welcoming back those lifelong fans would be the smart play, but that’s not what Disney’s marketing department had in mind.
Just three days before the May 27 premiere, The Independent released an interview with actress Moses Ingram, who plays the tone-deaf antagonist Reva, telling interviewers Disney warned her to be ready for racist attacks from fans. She also said Director Deborah Chow went to lengths to put “proper systems in place” to protect the crew from feared fan racism. From the beginning to Disney, they were making clear that the real enemies weren’t the inquisitors but the fans.
Then just as the first reviews were coming in, Disney issued viral posts on Instagram and Twitter. “We are proud to welcome Moses Ingram to the Star Wars family and excited for Reva’s story to unfold. If anyone intends to make her feel in any way unwelcome, we have only one thing to say: we resist,” Disney wrote on their official social media.
You’d think that would be enough, but Disney isn’t anything if persistent in advertising. The Mouse then grabbed Obi-Wan Kenobi himself, Ewen McGregor, in what looks like a hostage video, saying: “if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind.”
Star Wars Fans Are the Problem
At no point during this or later parts of this debacle, did credible evidence surface of a racist attack on Ingram, neither from Disney nor the media. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop them from going on the hunt for their favorite targets: the nerds.
As if the Mouse had waved his magic wand, every mainstream and lefty outlet joined forces to attack the fandom. At first, the attacks either were unskeptical reports of the Ingram story, attacks using clips and quotes from celebrities like Trevor Noah, or claims of review bombing; meaning fake reviews put up by bots or trolls. However, this pretext quickly devolved as journos felt they had been given permission to bully.
A headline from NPR reads, “Racist ‘Star Wars fans aren’t new. Why doesn’t Disney do more to protect its actors?” The Week went with the trite “The Star Wars fandom’s racism problem.” Other outlets, usually more left-wing, like Mother Jones, skipped the on-ramp entirely. “Why Can’t the Star Wars Nerds Imagine a World With Black People?”
Everyone from local news outlets to national papers like The Guardian, to popular magazines like Wired, to blogspam like Screen Rant, to more hoity-toity fare like Fast Company, and everything else in between got in on the orgy of media violence. Leading to my personal favorite, from Mel Magazine“There’s No Bigger Loser Than A Racist ‘Star Wars’ Fan.”
In response to this media bombardment, the Babylon Bee pithily retorted: “’I Wish They Had Made This Black Character More Interesting,’ Says Star Wars Fan Who Is A Racist.”
Crying Wolf to Divert Fair Criticism
This isn’t the first time the media piled on Star Wars fans. After “The Last Jedi” debuted, a popular hate article topic circulated, created by Rian Johnson calling fans manbabies and blaming fans for bullying Kelly Marie Tran off social media. On Twitter, you find Last Jedi haters next to GamerGate for being partially responsible for everything from politics to mass shootings. What’s different now is the scale of the attack, and that it’s Disney leading the charge.
Consider that these attacks began before “Obi-Wan Kenobi” was even released. Disney knew it might have an expensive turd on its hands, and it needed some way to justify the rumored $25 million per episode budget. So, what do you do in this year of our Lord 2022? You go with woke anti-marketing, enlisting the media to save your show and protect it from any potential criticism both from reviewers and fans alike.
More frustrating is that this strategy might actually work, at least in the short term. Obi-Wan is getting talks of a second season, and while the audience score for the show on Rotten Tomatoes is middling around 59 percent, the review scores remain a high 87 percent. Disney knows if the media puts out 500 articles about a show, then the project is staying on top of the Google search results for a good long time.
But is Disney eating its own tail? Are they expecting new fans to appear after digesting their programs and forgetting about their newest streaming bore-fest? Can you tell me what happened in “Captain Falcon: Winter Soldier”? Because I know I can’t.
These shows are lackluster, boring, generic, and forgettable. As seen with Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s death blow to Me Too, people are sick of false prudish wokeness. People may defend woke Disney, but few like it. It isn’t Rey Skywalker that fans want to be, but Luke.
Peter Pischke is a journalist and health and disability reporter. He can usually be found manning the Happy Warrior Substack and Podcast, providing commentary on news and nerdery of the day. You can find him on Twitter: @happywarriorp.