Star Wars fans don’t get along. The fandom has been called toxic and divided, and many times, it’s lived up to that stereotype.
But I, for one, count the diversity of the fanbase as a positive. It’s what’s led to the wide range of stories, genres, and media types over the years, each generating its own small base of fans. More broadly, these fanbases are created based on your generation and what part of the series you gravitated to first for whatever reason. I hope you’ll be able to find yourself among at least one of these waves of Star Wars fans and start to see that there’s enough room at the table for us all.
The Original Trilogy Boomers
I will always be jealous of those who were old enough to experience the original trilogy of films at the age they were made for. My own mother was among those who got to be blown away by the sights and sounds of Star Wars, back when it was just a single film made by an auteur independent filmmaker. This is the generation that got to be shocked by the revelation and subsequent cliffhanger ending of The Empire Strikes Back and may have been slightly annoyed by the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi because they were too aimed at pleasing young children.
Most of these fans watched but did not love the prequels, understandably thrown off by just how different they were — not to mention the fact that they experienced a 16-year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace (and probably weren’t reading the Extended Universe books in the early ’90s). If you fit into this group, though, you were likely thrilled by the return of The Big Three for The Force Awakens, especially since you fit into the same generation as the original cast and crew of the first films.
The series may have wandered far from these first three sci-fi adventure films, but in many ways, Star Wars has always belonged first and foremost to this generation. Just don’t expect them to know when Andor fits into the timeline or care about any of the lore-building in Ahsoka. For them, there are three Star Wars films, and that’s largely where the buck stops.
The Gen X OT fans
If you’re a Gen X 1980s kid, this is all you. You probably saw Empire or Jedi when you were far too young, and fell in love with the series before you even knew quite what you were watching. You grew up in a world saturated by Star Wars and its impact on the surrounding culture. You were the first generation of action figure collectors — the kids that Star Wars was relentlessly sold to in every conceivable way. You grew up with these movies, and you experienced the tangible thrill of waiting for a movie called The Phantom Menace to launch in 1999. And that’s when your relationship with Star Wars likely took a drastic turn.
The Gen X OT fans were the generation that couldn’t stand Jar Jar Binks, laughed mercilessly at the dialogue and characterization of Anakin Skywalker, and experienced the true disappointment of seeing your childhood dreams destroyed by the prequels. By the time the credits rolled on Revenge of the Sith, you were likely done with Star Wars entirely, only revisiting it in fantasies of imagining what could have been.
This generation of fans tends to accept parts of the Disney era, but not whole cloth. They happily consider them leagues above the embarrassment that was the Prequel films, even while picking and choosing from the bunch that most closely align with the original trilogy.
The all-in Expanded Universe fan
The late 1980s and early ’90s are known as dark times for Star Wars fans. There wasn’t much hope that more films would ever be made, and as Trekkies enjoyed the mainstream success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Wars fans were watching the original trilogy on repeat. Most moved on, but some took to the burgeoning growth of Star Wars storytelling happening in other mediums.
The Expanded Universe took off in the early 1990s with the Timothy Zahn Thrawn trilogy, which was often seen as the sequels to the films that were never made. In the blurry line between young Gen X and elder Millennials, the Expanded Universe (EU) pulled in a generation of fans who were hungry for more Star Wars storytelling. They’d seen the films countless times, but the novels, games, and comics were letting people dive into the Star Wars universe like never before. In many ways, these are the first true Star Wars nerds — the ones who knew the species of every alien, the background of every minor character, and even the unofficial future of what happened after Return of the Jedi. They weren’t afraid to “um, actually” you on the playground either.
The fans committed to the EU have always had a tumultuous relationship with the subsequent films. Lucas was notoriously ambivalent toward the EU, picking and choosing things he liked, while also scraping elements he didn’t. Like the Gen X OT fans, the Expanded Universe crowd largely didn’t take to the Prequels either. They were more likely more invested in the Knights of the Old Republic games in the early 2000s than in the Prequels that Lucas himself was creating.
Millennials were the first generation to never experience the Original Trilogy in theaters. That is, until 1997. Many of us grew up with the original films on VHS or constantly playing on television, but they weren’t our Star Wars.
We Millennials grew up with the Prequel films, and many of us were the perfect age for them, even to have avoided the hate associated with them. Of course, we were later told by our cool, Gen X elders that they were silly and embarrassing. But if you were young enough, you may have been shielded from such opinions upon your first viewings — especially of The Phantom Menace. Those who fit this demographic very well may be aware of the weaknesses of the trilogy, whether it’s the acting, the dialogue, or the over-reliance on blue screen backdrops.
As the Prequelists have come of age, along with them came a burgeoning historical revisionism of these films, which just happened to appear alongside the release of the Sequel trilogy. It’s not much of a surprise that those films’ perceived rejection of the prequels was not taken lightly. The Prequelists were among the first to call out even The Force Awakens for its treading of familiar territory. If you’re a Prequelist, you likely despise the sequels but are happy about the newer Disney+ shows‘ embrace of Prequels-era characters and lore. If seeing Anakin’s return in Ahsoka gave you the shivers, you know you’re in this group.
The Last Jedi fan club
We all know The Last Jedi was a divisive film. In many ways, the backlash against Disney-owned Star Wars started here. The complaints were many, whether it was the depiction of Luke, complaints about it being overly political, or being accused of not taking the established lore seriously. On the other hand, it’s been praised for its deep characters, incredible visuals, and unabashed risk-taking. It’s certainly a film that wasn’t afraid to explore new territory with its characters — that’s for sure.
The Last Jedi fan club tends to view the film as the bright light among the Sequel Trilogy, often positioning it against the direction J.J. Abrams took the characters in Rise of Skywalker. The Last Jedi fan club has spent years dissecting every scene of this film, examining in detail the complexity of the themes and dialogue. There’s even a chunk of this group that became a hardcore Star Wars fan through The Last Jedi, it being the first film in the franchise that they could connect with on a deep level.
You know you’re in this group if you rank The Last Jedi above the original trilogy, and went on to watch the rest of Rian Johnson’s filmography, which you probably hadn’t seen any of before he made his Star Wars debut.
The Gen Z and Gen Alpha animated lovers
Plenty of people have loved and embraced the various Dave Filoni Star Wars animated shows. They’ve gone from being a “mere cartoon” to an essential part of the chronology (and key to the resurgence in love for the Prequels).
But there’s one generation in particular that grew up with these shows as their Star Wars. The Clone Wars started in 2008, and if you were a kid when these were on television — or more realistically, seen them once they hit streaming on Disney+. Star Wars fans who are now parents were quick to let their kids go hog-wild with The Clone Wars. The result was a generation of Star Wars that didn’t rewatch the original trilogy on repeat, but instead binged seasons and seasons of The Clone Wars.
This was followed up by Rebels, a show that built off so much of the lore and characters from The Clone Wars, taken into a new era of the chronology. Hardcore fans of animated Star Wars often don’t hold the same negativity toward the prequels or sequels and are able to see the entire franchise as one larger story.
The original trilogy isn’t necessarily special or sacred either. They’re just where the story started — and honestly, they’re probably a bit slow-paced for their taste. But the animated shows as a way into Star Wars is a surprising yet widespread phenomenon that’s made a show like Ahsoka possible.
The Reylos are a special breed of Star Wars fan. Birthed in the first sparks of connection in The Last Jedi, Reylos saw where things were headed in the Sequel Trilogy early on, and as the trend of shipping fictional characters grew, fell for the Sequel Trilogy’s enemies-to-lovers story that was humming along in the background all along. There’s admittedly very little in the films to tell this story directly, but for shippers, the tease of love and relational tension makes the romance even more swoon-worthy.
Reylos are sequel fans in general, but might dislike how the romance ultimately came to an end. The big kiss was the ultimate validation for Reylos, only to be followed by the ultimate heartbreak in Ben Solo’s death. You know you’re a Reylo if your biggest criticism of Rise of Skywalker is that Ben Solo’s Force Ghost didn’t appear in the last scene.
The Andor-only crowd
Andor appeals to a crowd that other Star Wars shows and films haven’t been able to. Andor‘s serious tone and slow-burn pacing make it unlike anything we’ve seen so far in Star Wars, so naturally, it has formed a unique fan base that is much more specific than just your typical Star Wars fan. Don’t get me wrong — the series has been more-or-less embraced by the broader Star Wars community, but there’s a specific crowd that takes Andor as the golden standard and exists as a new way to create Star Wars fans.
It’s not that the Andor-only crowd is anti-Star Wars, but its members among this group may not have connected deeply with Star Wars ever. Maybe they were more casual Star Wars fans or only appreciated the cinephile-approved and respected entries in the series, such as Empire Strikes Back and perhaps Rogue One.
But Andor stands apart from even these in its tone, setting aside the more mythic storytelling style for something that’s deeply grounded. It’s caused some who’ve written off Star Wars entirely to get back into the franchise, if only just to eagerly anticipate the second season.
The ones who love it all
This is a catch-all, of course. And yes, lots of Star Wars fans probably don’t fit into one of the aforementioned groups. But the people who fall into this final group are those who are often called shills or accused of being overly positive toward Star Wars.
There are some of these from every age and generation — those who choose to take each patch of Star Wars storytelling into the larger quilt, happy to head-canon their way out of every wrinkle or awkward connection.
It’s not for everyone, but to be in this group is to embrace all the disjointed weirdness and diversity of tone that exists across Star Wars. They are those who just want to get the broader Star Wars fandom together to sing Yub Nub around the warmth of the Star Wars universe.