Some Star Wars fans have, with all due respect, lost their Plagueis-damned minds.

In the wake of The Rise of Skywalker, they’re chasing wild conspiracy theories on Reddit. They’re accusing this person or that company of “ruining” the franchise on purpose. They’re insisting that the ending of the movie is part of some massive coverup of an alternate version that would have been more to their liking. They’re demanding Disney and Lucasfilm “#ReleaseTheJJCut.”

These are trying times for hardcore Star Wars fans, and for more casual fans who love the original trilogy, love a lot of the new movies, love the world of Star Wars in all its funky alien beauty, but find the conversation around the franchise to be exhausting — if not downright excruciating. Who cares what Star Wars stuff you like? Maybe you like the prequels, or maybe you love the Battlefront games, or maybe you just appreciate having an excuse to eat bizarre alien food at Disneyland. Must we fight over everything? Does Star Wars have to feel like an actual war? It shouldn’t, but it does way too often.

As someone who falls quite solidly into that category of casual Star Wars fans (except about the ronto wraps at Disneyland, I’m legit hardcore about that and don’t you forget it), all of that hate and paranoia, coupled with a disappointing Star Wars movie, was starting to wear on me. The Mandalorian was satisfying, but covering The Rise of Skywalker began to feel more like an obligation than a perk of my job. I was burned out.

I’ve said for years that no one hates Star Wars as much as a “true” Star Wars fan. At times, it feels like a lot of fans think the “right” way to prove their love for Star Wars is by only expressing how disappointed they are by what it’s become and all the people who still enjoy it. A classic example of this genre is the tweet that was making the rounds earlier this week insisting that “seeing the Star Wars movies does not make you a Star Wars fan,” and that “actual Star Wars fans” have done things like “Read books in the EU” and “Participated in SW discussion groups.”

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According to that definition I only qualify as an “actual Star Wars fan” by the slimmest of margins, even though I grew up endlessly rewatching the original movies, playing with a large collection of Kenner action figures, and had an inflatable Darth Maul chair in my apartment in college. To this day, I’ve never read any Star Wars novels in or out of the Expanded Universe. I don’t frequent Star Wars message boards. Unless you count Droids, I’ve never watched any of the cartoon series either. Only my interest in Marvel’s recent Star Wars comic when it was written by Jason Aaron gets me into this exclusive club.

Self-identified “real” Star Wars fans acting as gatekeepers to keep out anyone they perceive as inauthentic is nothing new; “Bullied neophytes for not being ‘true’ SW fans” feels like it should be the last bullet point at the bottom of DrEdPowell’s list of credentials. The only reason I’m writing about it all is a funny quirk of timing, because it was a classic example of exactly why I’d fallen out of love with Star Wars — right as I found my love for Star Wars rekindled, thanks to my daughter.

2. A New Hope

Despite all of the negativity floating around Star Wars, I’ve wanted to introduce it to my four-year-old daughter for a while. She loves superhero and adventure stories and outer space, so the whole milieu of Star Wars seems right up her alley. But she’s also a little skittish about movies and TV shows with scary bad guys; a few months ago she got freaked out by Mandy Patinkin’s villain in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, and he looks like this. Live-action Darth Vader was not going to fly at this age.

I searched for the right gateway to the galaxy far, far away and eventually found a Little Golden Book of Star Wars: A New Hope adapted by Geof Smith and illustrated by Caleb Meurer and Micky Rose. It retells the entire 1977 film in somewhat simplified fashion. The artwork is lovely, and it effectively lays the groundwork of the universe — Jedis, the Empire, X-wings — without getting too deep into the minutia or some of the darker elements. I gave it to my daughter for her birthday, hoping it might at least make a small impression.

She’s now demanded to read it at bedtime four nights in a row. Two nights ago, she walked into my bedroom and greeted my wife with “May the Force be with you, Mom!”

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This week I also gave my daughter a remote-controlled D-O droid toy that a colleague passed along. D-O’s role in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was almost entirely superfluous; he held one bit of information that could have been acquired anywhere else if the screenwriters had wanted. As a Star Wars character, he’s a total bust. As a Star Wars toy, he’s absolutely amazing — especially for a preschooler.

He’s a fairly simply gadget. D-O’s controller makes him go forward and backward, or spin in either direction. The droid cheerfully beeps and chirps as he rolls around. He topples over occasionally, and at least my particular D-O tends to drift right when it rolls. To a four-year-old, though, the illusion is convincing. Last night, my daughter called D-O her robot brother and then put him to bed under a blanket. She kisses and hugs him too. It’s gotten intense.

George Lucas always insisted that Star Wars was for children. In 2017, he reiterated that “it’s a film for 12 year olds” designed “like mythology” to teach kids “this is what we stand for.”

This is the sort of thing “true” Star Wars fans get furious about — even Lucas admits in that clip he’s not supposed to say this stuff out loud — but having a child, and introducing them to Star Wars really puts that into perspective. One night this week, my daughter stopped me during the passage where the Rebels analyze the Death Star plans and prepare to launch their attack on its weak spot. “Why is Princess Leia standing in the front?” she asked. When I explained that’s because she was one of the leaders of the Rebels, she replied, “But she’s can’t be the leader; she’s a girl.” That led to a fruitful conversation about how girls can be leaders too. And we might not have had it without Star Wars.

Seeing how excited this all makes my daughter has made me more excited about Star Wars than anything in years (except maybe those ronto wraps, yum). So we’re going to keep sampling the Star Wars Golden Books (the one with Rey on the cover called I Am A Hero is up next), and in a few months maybe we’ll try the original 1977 movie. Even before she’s seen the film — let alone tried a comic or Expanded Universe novel — my kid seems to have the makings of a “true” Star Wars fan. In fact, during our last nightly reading of our book, she pointed at the final page and demanded to know why Chewbacca didn’t get a medal like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.

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