Toxic Fandom: It’s Time to Stop and Be Kind

A recent episode of The Mandalorian brought a welcome surprise to the Star Wars franchise as Ahmed Best made his triumphant return to a galaxy far, far away.

It also brought a painful reminder.

Best, who previously portrayed Jar Jar Binks in the prequel trilogy, returned as Kelleran Beq in the episode, playing a vital role in Grogu’s past. Beq is not new to Star Wars as he was previously on the children’s game show Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge in 2020.

Besides Best reprising his previous role, his inclusion in The Mandalorian brought full circle a sort of redemption for the actor after many lambasted Jar Jar Binks and Best himself.

That’s not to say Best needed any type of redemption. I mean, the man just did his job and portrayed a character that George Lucas staunchly defended

That didn’t stop fans from criticizing and belittling Best to the point that the man considered suicide. Best was 25 at the time of The Phantom Menace and never deserved the type of treatment he’s claimed to have received.

I mean, death threats, for a man just doing his job? We’ve got to do better than that.

Star Wars actor Ahmed Best discusses his challenges following his portrayal of Jar Jar Binks.
Image Credit: Ahmed Best (via BBC)

Toxic fandom is an absolute plague and it destroys the lives of those on the receiving end. Sure, they receive a lot more money for what they do, but they are still human beings. 

I’m not saying our favorite franchises aren’t above criticism. They are works of art, which will draw praise and disapproval. What I am saying is we’ve got to stop with the harsh treatment of people just doing their jobs and be kind.

Toxic Fandom Encompasses All

Before I go any further, I want to clarify that most people don’t engage in toxic fandom. It is, however, appearing to be a growing trend that shows itself in many different areas.

Star Wars has been a common spot to find toxic fandom in recent years. Moses Ingram (Reva in Obi-Wan Kenobi), John Boyega (Finn in the sequel trilogy), and Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico in The Last Jedi) all received vitriolic responses to their portrayals. They didn’t do anything other than just show up and act.

Toxic fandom doesn’t stop at the individual actors. 

Some DC fans turned toxic in their pursuit for the Snyder Cut of The Justice League. There was some toxic fans who bullied their way into the first Sonic the Hedgehog movie, ultimately forcing a redesign.

Sure, the design looked better, but at what cost? There was a long stretch of personal scrutiny against the artists and designers working on the movie before a change was made. It doesn’t make it ok just because the end result was a good one. 

The Snyder Cut of the Justice League.
Image Credit: Warner Bros. (via Geek Tyrant)

There is also unfair criticism of the work itself. 

About 10 years ago, Stephen Colbert on his satire show The Colbert Report, did a faux commentary of the introduction of Muslim superhero Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel. This was clearly satire, but it became all too real later down the road.

People review-bombed the Disney Plus show so much largely because of the inclusion of a character with Pakistani and Muslim heritage. If you don’t know, review bombing is a practice of providing negative reviews solely for the purpose of dragging down a production based on negative perception, typically without viewing the production.

There are so many examples of this throughout the years although it’s become more prevalent since the advent of social media. Although, Eminem was rapping about toxic fandom back in 2000 with his hit song Stan. 

It’s Time to Be Better

I love investing myself into franchises. I loved venturing through the Marvel Cinematic Universe or rocketing through a galaxy far, far away. 

That’s not to say I don’t have my criticisms of them. There have been bits of franchise that I love and others that I don’t. I love The Legend of Zelda, but that doesn’t mean every game knocked it out of the park for me.

It’s ok to not like something. We all have our personal tastes. That’s the great part about art; we can look at the same painting and have differing opinions. It can speak to us in many different ways. 

That’s ok because that’s what art should do. That said, there is a way to critique without criticizing

Fans dressed as Spider-Man.
Image Credit: Science News Explores

There was a lot of criticism surrounding Chris Pratt and his portrayal of Mario in the upcoming The Super Mario Bros. Movie. This ranged from Pratt’s actual portrayal to his alleged beliefs.

There were some critiques on how he portrayed Mario that, I thought, stayed within the bounds of healthy criticism. There were others who tried rallying on social media saying, “Come on guys, we got them to change Sonic, we can get them to change Mario.”

Fortunately, as more trailers came out, the noise started to die down to just critiques of the performance. People started rallying around the fact of just being Mario fans.

And that’s what fandom is all about.

We all love something and should all just gather under the big tent to share what we like and what we didn’t. There’s no need to sling mud at those who worked on the production. What did they do to you other than bring you some entertainment you didn’t like?

No one should ever have to go through what Ahmed Best went through for his portrayal of Jar Jar Binks. He deserves every bit of praise he’s getting now for his portrayal of Beq in The Mandalorian

At the end of the day, fandom should be fun and filled with healthy discussion on the entity itself. There’s enough tribalism and divisiveness in our lives that it becomes exhausting fighting and being cruel about everything.

Being kind doesn’t require a lot of effort, but it’s impact goes a long way.

If you or anyone you know has thoughts of suicide, help is available. In the U.S., please call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. This lifeline is available 24/7.

The Boss Rush Podcast is the flagship podcast of Boss Rush Media and The Boss Rush Network. Each week, Corey, LeRon, Stephanie, Edward, and their friends from around the internet come together to talk their week in games, entertainment, and more while also bringing topics for conversation, answer listener and community questions, and cover major news and events happening in the video game industry. Watch The Boss Rush Podcast live on Wednesday Nights on Twitch at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT or on Monday mornings at 7 a.m. ET on YouTube and podcast services everywhere. Thanks for listening! You can also get this episode one week early on Patreon.

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Featured Image: Disney (via Pirates and Princesses)

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