‘Star Wars’ Bit-Player Simon Pegg Recalls Fear of ‘Fandom Menace’

Like many actors who entered the Star Wars Universe after it sold to Disney, Simon Pegg never quite understood what he was getting into
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Whenever Star Wars is in the air—which, admittedly, is increasingly always—an actor connected to the deathless franchise will recall with fear a small, dark, vocal corner of the Star Wars Universe, known as The Fandom Menace.

Now, it’s Shaun of the Dead star and co-writer Simon Pegg, who had a nearly invisible cameo in J.J. Abrams’ 2015 installment, Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens, yet still felt the lash of the world’s most dedicated and… uncanny… fan community.

“I’m a franchise whore,” Pegg admitted on SiriusXM satellite radio’s Jim Norton and Sam Roberts last week, referring to the fact that he also has a central role as Scotty in Abrams’ parallel-universe Star Trek films, as well as significant parts in the Mission: Impossible series and Dr. Who.

But, he added, as Mediate was first to report, “To be honest—and as someone who kind of was, you know, kicked off about the prequels when they came out, the Star Wars fan base really seems to be the most kind of toxic at the moment. I’m probably being very controversial to say that.”

 

That toxicity is part of long-running controversy between old-school devotees of the original 1977-1983 trilogy and most of the people who have had any part of the franchise ever since—from the makers of the so-called “Buff” 1990s series of action figures, to Jake Lloyd, the child actor the Fandom named “Mannequin Skywalker” for his portrayal of 10-year-old Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the first prequel, 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace.

But, mostly, fans don’t like Disney.

George Lucas sold Star Wars to the Mouse House for $4 billion in 2012, and the sequel trilogy commenced releasing in 2015. Some fans feared that at the hands of LucasFilm President Kathleen “The Force is Female” Kennedy and her new team under the Disney banner, the sequels would be grim, committee-visioned, modern morality tales heavily weighed-down by maudlin social messaging.

Kennedy and her team, on the other hand, worried that any attempt to make the sequel cast more inclusive than the original (which featured only Billy Dee Williams and The Voice of James Earl Jones as far as Black actors) would be met with a sizable, racist-misogynist backlash by trolls for whom no script magic or compelling storyline would ever be enough.

Well, under Disney, there still hasn’t been any magic script or storyline a decade later. Still, both sides were kind of right.

The release of The Force Awakens led to the popularization of the term “Mary Sue,” or a female character who masters many abilities without going through any particular trial or training onscreen—or at least an onscreen training montage.

The sequel trilogy’s protagonist—Daisy Ridley’s, Rey—was largely labeled a Mary Sue because she seemingly became the galaxy’s most powerful Jedi (throwing accidental Force lightning, mind-tricking and even healing people) without doing more Luke-style workouts.

But Pegg, who played Unkar Plutt—remember him?—in Awakens, specifically said “at the moment.” Well, at the moment, the biggest thing in Star Wars would be the recently-concluded VI-Part series Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+.

In that one, although Kennedy and LucasFilm have admitted that recasting classic characters is a bad idea, ten-year-old Princess Leia is played by Vivien Lyra Blairwas. Some viewers felt Leia was a little too knowing, while Moses Ingram’s villain, Inquisitor Reva, was initially seen by many as a loud Mos Eisley bully rather than a serious, Jedi-level threat, before that character’s storyline came to pretty decent popcorn-and-high-fructose conclusion last month.

But that stuff is hardly the entire story of why a part of a part of the Star Wars Fandom is called “Menace.”

In May, Ingram reported on her Instagram Stories that her direct messages on the platform had been flooded with racist comments ever since Obi-Wan premiered.

“There’s nothing anybody can do about this,” Ingram said of the DMs, some of which include the N-word. “There’s nothing anybody can do to stop this hate. I question my purpose in even being here in front of you saying that this is happening. I don’t really know.”

Co-star Ewan McGregor tweeted at the time, “I heard some of them this morning and it just broke my heart. Moses is a brilliant actor, she’s a brilliant woman and she’s absolutely amazing in this series… I just want to say as the leading actor in the series, as the executive producer on the series, that we stand with Moses. We love Moses, and if you’re sending her bullying messages, you’re no Star Wars fan in my mind. There’s no place for racism in this world.”

In a rather cutting additional remark, Pegg did say the thing one must not: he compared the Big Two.

“I find the Star Trek fans have always been very, very inclusive, you know, Star Trek’s about diversity. It has been since 1966, it always was,” he told Norton and Roberts.

“There’s no sort of like, ‘Oh, you’re suddenly being woke.’ No, Star Trek was woke from the beginning, you know… This is massively progressive. Star Wars—suddenly there’s, there’s a little bit more diversity and everyone’s kicking off about it. And it’s, it’s really sad.”


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