- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2018

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro veered from U.S. politics on Monday to address Disney’s and Lucasfilm’s handling of a galaxy “far, far away.”

The Daily Wire’s editor in chief came to the defense of angry “Star Wars” fans this week after they were labeled “toxic” by The Hollywood Reporter and other publications throughout the entertainment industry. A spate of articles appeared after actress Kelly Marie Tran — “Rose Tico” in “Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi” — abandoned social media.

“Racist invective, misogyny, rape and death threats all hurled at her constantly, unrelentingly, transforming what had been a Cinderella story — ‘The Last Jedi’ was Tran’s first major film — into a modern-day nightmare,” THR’s Marc Bernardin wrote Monday. “On June 4, she all but quit social media, stripping everything from her Instagram save for a profile picture and a bio that says “Afraid, but still doing it anyway.

“No diehard fan wants to imagine himself as old Luke Skywalker, hiding on an island from everything new, anything that might shake his steadfast belief in how the world is supposed to be,” he added. “But if you saw the original ‘Star Wars’ in the theater, that’s who you are, unless you find a way to open yourself to heroes designed to hook a new generation while still resonating with yours. Those who haven’t are lashing out at everything that reminds them that they’re no longer young Luke, staring off into the horizon of a future still dawning, like twin suns.”

Mr. Shapiro countered that narrative by saying Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy is far more to blame for the franchise’s woes than “faceless Reddit trolls” who heckle celebrities.

“Calling your audience a bunch of deplorables didn’t work well for Hillary Clinton; it’s not going to work well for Disney, either,” Mr. Shapiro wrote. “But that didn’t stop Bernardin from laying all the blame for ‘Star Wars” failures not at the feet of studio head Kathleen Kennedy but at the feet of the ‘toxic fandom.’”

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The conservative echoed concerns from a growing YouTube community, a “rebellion” of sorts, that recoils at partisan politics inserted into the new films.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story,” for instance, sagged at the box office after co-writer Lawrence Kasdan announced the “pansexual” nature of Lando Calrissian.

“We must never — ever, under any circumstances — blame Kathleen Kennedy. Kennedy, you see, is woke,” Mr. Shapiro said. “The Lucasfilm story group is entirely female. … “‘The Force Awakens’ is garbage; ‘The Last Jedi’ is double-garbage. That’s because Kennedy had two choices upon being granted the helm of the Star Wars universe: (1) fast-forward fifty years, beyond the original characters, and reboot, losing the nostalgia of the original characters but gaining freshness; (2) recast the original characters and pick up where Return of the Jedi left off. Instead, in fully risk averse fashion, she chose door (3): leech off the nostalgia while introducing new characters a few years in the future.”

“This led her to the idiotic decision to murder off all the original beloved characters in increasingly stupid fashion — and then to the doubly idiotic decision to go back and create new movies around those now-dead characters,” he continued. “She pissed off all of us who grew up on ‘Star Wars,’ and in doing so, destroyed whatever good will existed among us for the newer batch of characters.”

THR’s article also came after rumors that Mrs. Kennedy will step down as Lucasfilm’s president within months.

“I think there’s a lot of good evidence and arguments for why ‘Star Wars’ is overall on the right course, is doing well, and is in the right hands,” Forbes’ Mark Hughes wrote June 8 after blasting “racist and sexist reactionary” fans.

“But if the rumors are true, and if Kathleen Kennedy does decide to move on, then I can only hope Lucasfilm finds someone with as much great experience and as wonderful a track record as Kennedy has amassed in her career, and who shares her nuanced understanding of how to make great ‘Star Wars’ movies,” he concluded.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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