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Wesa No Carin’?

Posted in Announcements, Opinion with tags , , , on 12 November 2018 by Megan

About a week after my horrific encounter with a Lucasfilm employee (read part 1 here), a member of the Alliance to Preserve the Expanded Universe approached me on Facebook messenger, reporting that Ms. Gutierrez had taken to Reddit telling people to calm down and stop bothering me (as a non-Redditor, I know nothing further about it than that). This group member suggested that I use the situation as an opportunity to open a line of communication with Lucasfilm. Although I did not have very high hopes in any such maneuver being successful, I felt that I at least had the responsibility to offer the olive branch. (Or glowing orb of peace.) I determined to write a physical letter, use up two of my remaining Star Wars US postage stamps, and make the friendliest possible overture of contact. The Alliance member who approached me not only agreed to proofread my letter, but also offered an original piece of artwork to send with the letter: a gift and symbol of the unity of fandom. This custom art depicted Qui-Gon Jinn and Artoo (the favorite characters of myself and Ms. Gutierrez, respectively) “waiting for more stories” outside Yoda’s hut on a rainy Dagobah.

Five other administrators of the Alliance Facebook group also reviewed my letter before I printed and mailed it, to be absolutely certain its tone was respectful, appropriate, and that all issues had been addressed. In this letter, I stated that I would visit this entire situation in full on my blog if she did not object. In eight months, I have not received any message whatsoever. Here’s the letter:

Dear Andi Gutierrez:

I’m reaching out to you regarding the unfortunate occurrence on Twitter last week.

Allow me to say first that you have my profound sympathy over any medical stress you may be under. It was never my intention to disrupt you, least of all when you had more important things to be focused on. I regret that this occurred, as my purpose was not to “target” you and I identified you only because the journalism standard I learned is to name anyone in an image; had there been a version of the image without you in it, I would have used that. I believe I also would have worded things differently had I noticed who I was speaking to in my first tweet replying directly to you.

Our presuppositions seem to have made us speak right past each other. Twitter, even with 280 characters, still isn’t the best place for clarity. I saw Luke Skywalker’s face crossed out and recalled the crushing misery on Mark Hamill’s face in an interview when Rian Johnson condescendingly patted him on the shoulder to silence him. Of course, you merely saw the good-natured hijinks of coworkers and friends. Ours is just one example of the growing divide between many fans and the company we wish to think the best of. I hope this letter will encourage dialogue between Lucasfilm and fans unintentionally alienated; I mean to publish it on my blog unless you object.

I also regret if you experienced any harassment; I am emphatically not associated with anyone who came after you. The complaints I saw people making were not the same as the message I meant to convey. Simply this: many fans felt a death mark on Luke’s face is a tone-deaf joke at a time when so many people are still reeling from creative decisions in the most recent film. We are tremendously discouraged when Lucasfilm employees respond to such concerns with dismissal. We’re frustrated, but “trolling” is the farthest thing from what we want. We want to communicate.

I appreciated your efforts on Reddit begging fans to get along with one another. I hope to work with you in that regard. Please feel free to reply to me at my personal email, [redacted]. Enclosed, please find a gift, a piece of original artwork made by a fellow member of the Give Us Legends movement, in hopes that it will encourage friendly relations between fans and creators once more.

Sincerely,

[Redacted]
The “RebeLibrarian”

Enclosure

More than anything, I wanted to forget all about this. I almost didn’t send the letter several times. I ignored tweets, deleted DMs, decided not to have anything else to do with it. But the situation at Lucasfilm is not getting better, and choosing to “grin and bear it” (as I’ve done these last months) is not bringing about a resolution. Starting in 2014, Lucasfilm seemed to decide that mocking and shaming fans into silence was the way to handle disruptions. And over the last year, again and again, the employees of Lucasfilm (and I include in that designation directors and actors who have participated in Lucasfilm projects while not necessarily literally working in that office) have doubled down on their antagonism. The vitriol gets stronger and stronger, pitting “pro-Lucasfilm” fans against “anti-Lucasfilm” fans when in reality, we should all want the healthy thriving of the fantastic saga that has changed all of our lives for the better. But Lucasfilm refuses to let anyone say “you’re not doing justice to George Lucas’ Star Wars.” The kneejerk response is “you’re a troll.” Or more recently, “you’re a Russian bot.” We are instantly degraded because we don’t toe the party line. When did Star Wars become so Soviet?

As I started in the previous post: It seems like more and more, Disney|Lucasfilm and Star Wars fans are unable to talk. If fans disagree with corporate policy on any level, or hold any opinion deemed negative by the Star Wars overlords, there is a total communication blackout between these two groups. And that blackout, I’m here to say, does not originate with the fans. It is a calculated thing coming from within the company, originated by those working for Lucasfilm.

I know this is not true Lucasfilm. Therefore, this cannot be the desire of the people who work so hard to create the stories that mean so much to so many. So where is it coming from? It must come from ignorance. The people in charge simply must not know that this is going on. So how do we fix it?

My experience with Ms. Gutierrez was a very brief nightmare. But other fans have lost more than I have. Fan podcasts have lost their Lucasfilm endorsement. I’ve simply had unpleasant interactions with Lucasfilm employees, like the time Pablo Hidalgo told me to shut up because my opinion didn’t matter (not in so many words, but when I asked if that’s what he meant, he didn’t deny it). But this is not the way to do business. Fans don’t want to go to a movie when they know the people behind the movie think they’re stupid. Every year, more fans sign on with the boycott, and insulting us just isn’t bringing us back into the fold somehow.

There is a light of hope, though. Recently, the hysterical Chuck Wendig went on a Twitter rant about how his Twitter rants have resulted in his being removed from all future Disney|Marvel/Lucasfilm productions. That is how to fix this growing chasm between fans and creators, between fans and fans. Get rid of the people who are fueling hostility, who think insults are a rebuttal, who viciously attack anyone for disagreeing with them.

Now, don’t misquote me; I’m not saying wipe the slate over at Lucasfilm, but Chuck Wendig knew better. He literally wrote a book full of advice for writers that contained the advice “don’t be a d*** on social media,” and if you can’t avoid that, “hire a ghost writer.” Get rid of the people who spout vitriol even though they know better.

In the end, Ms. Gutierrez did reach out to people on Reddit and ask them to let the whole situation go. I was not able to get in touch with her personally, but I think we both realized that through mutual poor communication, we allowed an overreaction to take place. That’s good. Now, in order to close that chasm, it needs to keep happening. Some people like Chuck Wendig need to go. Others, I hope, just need encouragement to speak appropriately, honor the legacy that was entrusted to them, and give fair hearing to the valid concerns of fans. In short, stop assuming that everyone who disagrees must be a troll.

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A Communications Disruption Can Mean Only One Thing!

Posted in Announcements, Opinion with tags , , , on 12 November 2018 by Megan

It seems like more and more, Disney|Lucasfilm and Star Wars fans are unable to talk. If fans disagree with corporate policy on any level, or hold any opinion deemed negative by the Star Wars overlords, there is a total communication blackout between these two groups. And that blackout, I’m here to say, does not originate with the fans. It is a calculated thing coming from within the company, originated by those working for Lucasfilm.

I know this is not true Lucasfilm. Therefore, this cannot be the desire of the people who work so hard to create the stories that mean so much to so many. So where is it coming from? It must come from ignorance. The people in charge simply must not know that this is going on. So how do we fix it? A good start is by bringing things into the light — like my bleak encounter with a Lucasfilm employee nine months ago.

It was the end of February, the beginning of my Wednesday work day, when somebody I was in a conversation chain with on Twitter asked, “Have you seen this?”

“This” was a still from a Disney|Lucasfilm web show; I’d never heard of the show, I don’t remember the name of it now, and I don’t think it’s important to the story to look it up for you. At first I didn’t see why it possibly mattered. Some woman, evidently the host — some random YouTuber, I assumed — stood in an office-looking place with bits of ephemera all around. And then I noticed the picture under her left elbow: the famous shot of Luke and Vader in the Death Star turbolift, a scene with particular meaning for me as it kicks off my favorite 45 minutes of cinema in the universe.

But Luke’s face had a big red X over it.

“Well, that’s a little ungracious on a Star Wars show,” I thought. This was barely two months since December’s big catastrophe — namely, the decision of nucanon to discard Luke Skywalker like a wad of gum and not treat Mark Hamill, his actor, much better.

And then I found out something that made me sit up and pay attention: the show was an official LFL production. It was recorded in their office. This crossed-out picture of Luke was displayed in a fairly prominent location in the office of a corporation named after the man who created Luke Skywalker, Lucasfilm, the entire franchise, the very thing that gave these people a job in the first place.

Now I was upset.

I should point out here, if you’re unfamiliar with me or my work, if you started rolling your eyes that I never heard of this show or its host, here’s a couple things you need to understand. I don’t follow Disney’s “nucanon” Star Wars. I don’t accept into canon anything produced after the buyout in 2012. I unliked the official Star Wars Facebook pages in 2014. I unfollowed their Twitter account in 2015. I have never followed any employee of Lucasfilm on Twitter, ever. Mark Hamill is the only real life person involved with Star Wars I even follow on Twitter, which I’ve done since the day he got the account. I use Twitter’s “mute” filters to keep any Disney Star Wars out of my feed. I don’t have a YouTube account; I don’t watch internet videos. My engagement with “Star Wars current events” is very limited in nature and specific in scope. Basically the only thing I do is remind Lucasfilm that it was immoral of them to declare 38 years of canon “non-canon” and then cannibalize it for parts in their reboot. I think the reboot was foolish, but I’ve never asked them to cancel it. I’ve never gone after the employees. As someone who endured a stalker for years, I’m sensitive about how I interact with others, and I have always been explicit that my objections are objections against the entity of Disney|Lucasfilm, and they are not personal on any level against anyone.

So I wrote this tweet, after doing a little brief research to identify the person in the picture (since that’s just good journalism):

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

I didn’t tag her, didn’t even think to check if she had a Twitter account, because she had nothing to do with the content of the tweet. I didn’t assume the artwork belonged to her, was her doing, or was even endorsed by her. So I accused her of nothing, because she had absolutely nothing to do with the point I wanted to make. She was merely in the picture. Despite using the word “viral,” I expected no reaction because, firstly, I had under 500 followers at that time; and secondly, because I’d made similar tweets in the weeks before with little attention.

It’s worth pointing out that by the time I made this tweet, almost noon for me and not yet 9 AM for her, Ms. Gutierrez had already announced on her Twitter (which I didn’t know existed) that she was “done” because she had already received “so many” emails about it. I shouldn’t have to add that I don’t know what her email is, and could not have been directing anyone to harass her inbox because the image had been circulating on Twitter and Facebook long before I even learned of it. (People did immediately run off with my MS Paint recreation of the crossed out Luke picture, though — that makes me laugh.)

Now, to be honest, I have no idea how Ms. Gutierrez found my thread. I did reply to her on another account, but I had no idea who she was (her @ handle was what had displayed, not the boldface nickname). If I had known I was addressing an LFL employee and not a fellow Twitter fan, yes, I would’ve worded it differently.

When she made the remark about it being her livelihood, I checked her feed and realized who she was. So I responded a little more deferentially but with evident frustration:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Because this has been the ongoing interaction with Disney|Lucasfilm. Fans say “this makes us uncomfortable,” “we’re upset about this,” and the DisLFL employees respond with taunts, bullying, or the brush-off.

I was completely shocked by her reply, telling me that she “couldn’t tell” if I was trolling or not, but ‘bye!

So I posted this as a follow-up to my earlier tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

This lit an absolute fire. Notice two things: first, that I didn’t reply to her because she said the conversation was over. Second, that I chose to screenshot rather than RT, and that I didn’t tag her in it, because I didn’t wish to drag her into something she said was over from her point of view.

But that didn’t stop her from finding it (was she stalking my feed?!) and retweeting it to her ~500,000 followers (again, I was sitting on about 480 followers at the time), commenting something about how she might have cancer and really couldn’t deal with people like me right now. I must’ve gotten about 200 @’s, most of which I never read because they got vile fast. I also got maybe a dozen direct messages that included threats, profanity, insults. I had to aggressively filter my Twitter notifications for the next week, just to keep this garbage out of my sight.

I was alarmed that she might be getting entangled in something like this while dealing with a serious health concern, and yet simultaneously disgusted that she chose to target me of all people. Not the @JarJarAbramss account she had been replying to initially. Not any of the other many accounts that shared the image or even the Facebook page that posted it first. Hours after she declared she was going to ignore it because she was fed up with all the emails, she was engaging with tweets on it, and then, it seems almost arbitrarily, chose to broadcast my handle to her followers as a target.

I decided to shut it down and walk away while I still could. I’m an anxious, introverted person who can’t handle confrontation well ever since I picked up a stalker in my senior year of college. If someone with half a million Twitter followers was going to send them after me, I thought, it’s very possible they can get my Twitter deleted. I decided it wasn’t worth the risk — I love my Twitter, love the interaction I have there, and didn’t want to jeopardize it over this, or wreck my health by putting myself in a situation to field dozens of vile threats in my DMs. So I closed the lid.

For a week.

(Next page!)