Really, Your Snoke Theory Doesn’t Suck

Last week Jeff wrote a post titled “Your Snoke Theory Doesn’t Suck.”  I read it.  I appreciated it.  I felt it was something that needed to be said.  I thought nothing else of it…then the internet exploded.  Well, exploded is a strong word but it certainly elicited some surprisingly strong reactions.  As I’ve followed some of the Twitter firestorm, it started to bother me.  So here we are.  I could be grading but my conscience was urging me to write instead.  I guess I’ll just be up late finishing those papers!  Let me say clearly, whoever you are, wherever you are out there in Star Wars land, I’m reaffirming what Jeff’s already said – really, your Snoke Theory doesn’t suck.  

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Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

If you’re not immersed in the Star Wars side of the interweb, here’s the issue.  A hashtag was created by some people within the fandom – #yoursnoketheorysucks – in reference to all the fan speculation surrounding the identity of The Force Awakens big bad, Supreme Commander Snoke.  It trended a bit and stickers, t-shirts, etc. are now being sold with the phrase on them.  People like Rian Johnson (director of The Last Jedi) and Ashley Eckstein (voice of Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars: The Clone Wars) have even been photographed holding up the “Your Snoke Theory Sucks” stickers.  In response to all of this, Jeff wrote a short piece essentially saying there’s no reason to trash someone else’s idea, in jest or in seriousness.  A major part of the fun of Star Wars (and all great stories) is trying to guess what happens next!  We all do it.  It’s one of the marks of a great story, if it pulls you in so much that you’re obsessing over the characters and where the story may go.  It was neither aggressive nor pointed.  He simply encouraged us all to be welcoming and supportive of each other’s ideas.

Well the Star Wars fandom (or rather, a small yet noisy subsect of the fandom) didn’t take kindly to Jeff’s call to compassionate presence.  Here’s the thing though…he’s right.  Period.  How is this even an issue?  This is why I was so surprised about the fury I saw in some tweets about this!  After reading the post, I couldn’t fathom anyone disagreeing, let alone disagreeing with such fervor that they’d feel the need to attack the piece.

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Note, this is NOT how we should treat one another. / Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

The truth of the matter is telling the Star Wars fandom at large “Your Snoke theory sucks” is mean.  I’ve seen some tweets saying the whole thing was sarcastic or an inside joke or done in jest.  I certainly can’t speak to the mindset that went into creating the phrase but I can say the whole idea’s grown to a point where it’s not just a joke.  By its nature, it can’t be.  Jeff and I have known each other for over a decade.  We discuss Star Wars all the time.  He can tell me (or vice versa) that my theories suck in a joking way because we have an existing friendship.  For a pseudo-insult to work as a joke there must be a strong foundation of love and respect between the individuals.  You have to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the other doesn’t really think you or your theory sucks.  In the absence of such a secure relationship, even if it’s said as a joke it has the potential to be hurtful.  That’s not okay.  And the moment the phrase is tossed out to the world wide web directed at the fandom in general – especially using clearly caustic language like sucks – the joke is lost.  It’s impossible to have the loving, respectful relationship with every individual who reads that post or listens to a podcast that ensures they know you’re only kidding around and you still value who they are and what they have to contribute to the fandom.

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Who is this guy??  We don’t know!  That’s part of the fun! / Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

When that rhetoric jumps a step farther and we see people like Rian Johnson or Ashley Eckstein holding up those stickers it becomes even more problematic.  Imagine for the moment you’re a ten year old kid.  You are wrapped up in the world of Star Wars in a way that only youth allows.  You live and breathe this stuff.  It’s your world.  You’ve seen The Force Awakens dozens of times and you love it.  Naturally you’ve been wondering about Rey’s parents or whether Kylo Ren will be redeemed or, yes, who Snoke is.  You love debating it with your friends.  If you see people inside Star Wars, people you admire and/or look to as heroes, glibly holding signs that say your Snoke theory sucks, how is that going to feel?  Sure, you may see it as a joke.  But you may not.  It may hurt too.  It may undercut your sense of self or security in your own opinion.  And that’s not okay.

I’m not saying any of this was the original intention of the “Your Snoke theory sucks” crowd.  But these are the effects that can naturally flow from this sort of callous rhetoric.  Regardless of intention, the simple phrase a) undermines anyone’s Snoke theory as being unworthy of consideration or respect and b) separates the fandom into two groups – those who suck and those who are on the inside with the “good” ideas or the in-house knowledge.  Regardless of intent, that’s what the language implies.  We must be aware of this and we must be cautious.

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Yay for teamwork! / Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

I presently co-teach a course called Star Wars and Modern Myth-Making with my friend Hannah.  In the course, we walk our students through the theological, mythic, symbolic, literary, and musical aspects of the Star Wars Saga.  For a final project, we have our students pick something in the wider world of Star Wars – either the Expanded Universe or the Disney Canon – and evaluate it.  They choose whether to read a novel, read a year’s worth of comics, watch 15-20 thematically connected episodes in The Clone Wars, or watch The Force Awakens and evaluate it.  Then they write a three-to-five page paper where they, among other things, pull out theological symbols, discuss how it uses mythological frameworks, assess character development, and evaluate whether or not it fits thematically with Lucas’ narrative.

This afternoon I had a conversation with one of my students.  She’s a newbie to Star Wars, never having seen a single film before taking the class.  But she’s come to love the story!  She was worried she wouldn’t be able to do the level of analysis required for the paper.  I assured her, in all honesty, her insights are among the best in the class.  Her notes are insightful.  Her writing is brilliant.  Her comments in class are nuanced and informed.  In short, she’s incredible proof that the class works!  She’s doing college-level deconstruction and blowing Hannah and I away with her insights.  She was reassured and, I hope, empowered by my honest appraisal of her skills.  As we talked, I kept thinking of this Snoke theory issue.

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Are we always encouraging this type of awe and excitement in all we meet? / Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

What does this “Your Snoke theory sucks?” rhetoric do to people like my student?  What sort of welcome does it offer to Star Wars newbies?  How does seeing such abrasive language empower them to trust their ideas or jump into the world of speculation?  It doesn’t.  Again, I’m not claiming any of this was the original intent of the people who loosed “Your Snoke theory sucks” on the world.  I hope it wasn’t.  But this is what comes from that sort of callous language.  It inhibits people from fully participating in the Star Wars fandom.  It divides, intentionally or not, those of us who love Star Wars into “winners” and “losers.”  It undermines.  It mocks.  It is, in all honesty, an avenue to bullying in a very real way.  So it’s wrong.

We live in a time where Geek Culture has become mainstream.   But this hasn’t always been the case.  When I was in middle school and high school (in the late 90’s and early 2000’s) loving comic books and Star Wars wasn’t cool per se but you weren’t viciously persecuted for it.  However, the further back in time you go the less accepting mainstream culture becomes of nerdiness.  I’ve talked to people five or ten years older than me at my local comic shop who tell stories of being beat up for wearing Star Trek stuff or having their Spider-Man comics stolen and torn.  Being a nerd put you on the outside.  And, according to those I’ve talked to, with that came a degree of protecting each other.  Sure you debated and challenged each other.  That’s part of the fun of jumping into stories we love!  But you looked out for each other all the same as mainstream culture judged and rejected you.  In nerdy circles, all you had were each other.

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Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

Now, as Geek Culture has become mainstream (and social media has given people an all-too-easy avenue to spew toxicity surrounding things they “love”), we see cliques arise within fandoms.  I grant I’m a bit on the periphery of the Star Wars fandom.  I love Star Wars but I’m nowhere near the “inside.”  However I see the cliques and the snark and all the horrible high school clichés played out among people who supposedly love the same thing.  I see it with comic fans all the time too.  I write often of how ridiculous and illogical the hatred towards Legacy Characters is.  Yet people still feel the need to attack what they don’t like as opposed to happily dwelling within and celebrating what they do.  In this grouping of like-minded individuals with the desire to attack those who think differently we see Geek Culture versions of the “cool kids” and the “uncool kids.”

As a theology teacher, every year I do a unit with my students on bullying.  I will never forget a powerful conversation that occurred several years ago.  I posed the question, “We all know bullying is bad.  We all want to be included.  We’ve been seeing assemblies about it since elementary school.  Why is this still a problem?”  One of my students raised their hand and said, “I know we go through this every year but we don’t really have that problem here.  I’ve never seen anyone bully or exclude anyone else.”  After they finished speaking, another student raised their hand and compassionately said, “I don’t mean to judge but, if you think that, perhaps you’re part of the group that’s excluding others, intentionally or not.  It is a very real problem here.  And it doesn’t feel good to be on the outside.”  I think of that exchange often, of the wisdom and the challenge in those words.  Even if we don’t see a problem, we must always be aware of how our actions and our language can affect others.  Our constant push should be towards loving inclusion of all.  As human beings we can’t live in isolation.  We’re wired for community.  We all deserve to be loved, respected, and included by nature of being a human being.

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It doesn’t feel good to be alone… / Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

For me, that’s the real issue at the heart of all this “Your Snoke theory sucks” business.  It creates the avenue for exclusion, judgment, and bullying within the Star Wars fan community.  Whether or not that was the original intent is largely irrelevant.  It does.  There’s no room for that, for any of it.

This brings me back to where I began.  I can’t fathom the negative reactions Jeff’s piece has gotten.  It’s gotten a lot of support too, and that’s great.  But the negativity?  We can be (and sadly are) asses to each other for all manner of things.  But to be an ass because someone wrote a thoughtful piece asking for friendly acceptance of each other’s points of view and encouraging people to have fun and engage in exploring a fantasy world they love?  That doesn’t make any sense to me.  Nor does it sit well with me.

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Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

Every enduring religion has its version of the Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated.  Shouldn’t that go doubly so for people who are passionate about the same things you are?  Shouldn’t we all be excited about each other getting involved in the things we love?  I was ecstatic when Kelly, one of my very best friends, finally watched Star Wars for the first time last year!!  Now we can talk about it together!  I don’t dismiss her ideas because she’s a newbie nor do I discredit them if they don’t mesh with how I see Star Wars.  If anything, I appreciate how her perspective may illuminate something my preconceived notions prevent me from seeing.

To tell the world at large their Snoke theory sucks, regardless of the original intention, can be demeaning.  Would Kelly enjoy Star Wars if I treated her like that?  Would my students new to a galaxy far, far away enjoy the films and our class discussions if Hannah and I approached their insights in that way?  No.  Of course not.  They don’t deserve that either.  No one does.  So, to echo Jeff’s sentiment, if you have a Snoke theory, it absolutely does not suck.  There is enough hatred and judgment in the world without adding to it.  God knows we all need a bright escape from the darkness that can fill world we live in from time to time.  So let’s all theorize.  Let’s have fun.  Let’s enjoy Star Wars together.  Everyone has a right to be here.

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Just as Han Solo passed the torch to a new generation of heroes, we too must be welcoming to those who share our passion. / Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

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20 thoughts on “Really, Your Snoke Theory Doesn’t Suck

  1. I’m really guessing most of these people have grown up with Star Wars given to them with a neat little bow on top or have forgotten their pasts if they are my age or older. All we had as children in the late ’70s and ’80s was theories to get us through the years between movies or when they were over to continue the story after Jedi. Before we had the expanded universe novels, comics, or even the prequels we had playground chatter, rumors, and imagination. We lived on “heard from a guy who heard it from a guy” level info that was total bullshit but it was fun to ponder. To attack anyone using their imagination to ponder and find wonder and excitement in something they both love is fucking ridiculous and an incredible waste of time. This pisses me off now and pisses off the boy on the school playground I was in 1981.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Thank you!! I’m pretty passionate about people being able to use their imaginations and HATE anyone that is vile enough to discredit it. I may not like it all but I respect the thoughts and dreams of others.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Yes! Yes, yes, yes! We don’t have to like everything. We shouldn’t – it makes for more exciting conversations if we don’t all agree with everyone on everything. That’s the fun of debating and speculating! But we absolutely must respect and honor each other’s ideas. Respecting the thoughts and dreams of others – this should be THE creed for all fandoms. Hell, it should be the creed for simply being human.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. yeah man, there was a time when I gave up taking comics into school – now, however, i wander into th local Awemongers Emporium and see customers OLDER than me!
    Th acceptance of geek culture in th mainstream is great, but theories such as these, alas, r yet to receive any acceptance…
    In my experience, such trolls r envious at not being able to formulate their own logical and concise thots hence th vile backlash
    WOW – Star Wars and Modern Myth-Making? now THAT is what I call a course! I am wasting my time trying to get that diploma from th Ponda Baba Charm School – DUDE, WHERE DO I ENLIST?!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think your take on trolls and trolling is spot on my friend. We need to take care of ourselves and each other, not tear each other down! As to the Star Wars class, you’re always welcome to audit should you find yourself on my side of the Atlantic. Heck, we can even do a day where the Bradscribe guest lectures on a galaxy far, far away :). Also, kudos on the Ponda Baba reference. I’ll be laughing about that all day.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, I didn’t realize that post upset people. I have a very snarky sense of humor, and tone is difficult to perceive on the Internet, so I understand the #yoursnoketheorysucks people. But man, does gatekeeping suck, and it’s one of my pet peeves in the geek community.

    I once upset some Legends fans with a post about how we should enjoy the bits of Legends that canon is now pulling from. I was completely blindsided by the angry response to what I thought was non-controversial. Star Wars has always been a positive force in my life, and while I may complain or be disappointed by certain aspects of it, I will always strive to be positive about it, and try to spread positivity to the community. I wouldn’t have expected “Be nicer” to be controversial either, haha, but I guess it’s easy to get defensive on the Internet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The internet IS a weird place. It’s the potential for true global connection with so many people who share your passions…and we spend an odd amount of time fighting over weird things. Like I said to Rob above, I think your live – “while I may complain or be disappointed by certain aspects of it, I will always strive to be positive about it, and try to spread positivity to the community” – is another perfect example of what should be a creed for fandom. Disagreeing with something’s cool. It’s natural too because we all have our own opinions. We should like different things! But even in, or especially in, our disappointment we need to try and always spread positivity. Amen!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Fan theories and and fan fiction should elevate a fandom, not bring it down. On Twitter, I have noticed more negative comments in the Star Wars fandom, than in the Star Trek fandom. I wonder why?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I note that in the comment section on articles too. I don’t have an answer but it does make me sad. I can be embarrassed by how other “fans” act in the name of Star Wars or comic books or whatever. You’re right – the fan community is only elevated by fan theories and fan fiction! It’s beautiful to love something enough to engage with it on that level!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Michael,

    This was great. I think you are right about the geek culture changing. When something fringe becomes popular you thus have more people of various kinds mingling in. Sadly fallen human nature is part of the package and just like entropy is does seek to ruin something that was working just fine before they came. I guess the real thing is that those who know what is right in this situation, like you and your class, keep on modeling how it is done. That is our witness in the NEEK world or any world the Lord puts us. Love your article. This is a keeper and you know something to think about when going to book conventions. We are building our platform and this is an issue to consider when building bridges between the world and the church.

    Thank you,

    Gary

    On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 8:03 PM, My Comic Relief wrote:

    > Michael J. Miller posted: “Last week Jeff wrote a post titled “Your Snoke > Theory Doesn’t Suck.” I read it. I appreciated it. I felt it was > something that needed to be said. I thought nothing else of it…then the > internet exploded. Well, exploded is a strong word but it certai” >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Gary! As always, I deeply appreciate the support, encouragement, and prayers in this work. I think you make a brilliant point too – these toxic riffs that pop up inside fan communities can be a real place for the church to model church, one community reaching out to the other and teaching along the way.

      Like

      1. My other God Among Geek brothers are working on our platform when we go to conventions and speak to churches. So like a bridge we try to expose people outside the church to godly things and godly people how to interact with those who may never step inside a church. I know you have this job, too.

        Liked by 1 person

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