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FISCHER: The dark side of internet reviews

By Travis Fischer,

What in the heck is going on with “The Acolyte?”

The latest offering to the Star Wars universe has riled up “audiences,” for lack of a better term, in a way that boggles the mind.

FISCHER: The dark side of internet reviews
Travis Fischer

Typically, I try to stay away from internet fandom discourse, but the discourse around this show has reached absurd levels.

Thus far, about halfway through its run, the show has garnered tens of thousands of negative reviews online. Far more reviews than any other Star Wars television show, demonstrating a clear and concerted effort to hate on it without any regard for authentic critique.

In fact, so intellectually lazy is the review bombing campaign that the people behind it haven’t even bothered to make sure they’re leaving their negative reviews on the correct show. According to some reviews, “Acolytes,” a 2008 Australian thriller, has also somehow “ruined Star Wars.”

Don’t get me wrong. Lucasfilm’s Star Wars offerings since being bought by Disney have definitely warranted a certain amount of criticism. The Sequel Trilogy was a stunning example of professional malpractice, somehow managing to demonstrate a different kind of storytelling incompetence with every entry.

If somebody wants to be irate about Star Wars, there are plenty of legitimate criticisms to focus your attention on. Which makes the drama surrounding “The Acolyte” all the more baffling because, four episodes in, I can state with relative authority that the show is about as milquetoast an entry in the Star Wars franchise as one could possibly make.

One would think that such passionate vitriol and defense would necessitate a show making big swings with risky story developments and unexpected new directions and stylistic choices. Like how “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” took the bold move of pretending it wasn’t the second movie in a trilogy.

“The Acolyte” isn’t that. The show isn’t breaking any new ground or redefining what Star Wars is or even exploring a new direction for the franchise. The show is, more than anything else produced in the Disney Era, the most boilerplate, by-the-book, typical Star Wars fare that has ever been shot in live action.

Where “Andor” was Star Wars re-contextualized as a high stakes espionage drama and “The Book of Boba Fett” was Star Wars re-contextualized as Robert Rodriguez’s nonsensical fever dream, “The Acolyte” is just Star Wars doing Star Wars. It has all the questionable acting, stilted dialogue, and flexible continuity that fans have been excusing for decades.

“The Acolyte” isn’t great or bad. At worst, it’s a bit plodding and forgettable, which makes it even stranger that it’s eliciting any kind of reaction at all, much less such a vitriolic one.

Let’s just call a spade a spade here. The review bombing is not coming from Star Wars fans. When 10 times the number of people that reviewed “The Book of Boba Fett” are reviewing “The Acolyte” unfavorably, it’s not coming from people that care about Star Wars. It’s coming from people that care that there’s a Star Wars show with an under-represented demographic in the lead role. In this case, the lead actress is both black and a woman.

It’s not about Star Wars, it’s about politicization bleeding into of every aspect of our lives and insincere opportunists trying to create and exploit wedge issues wherever they can.

Which is a problem, not just for society at large, but because it makes it difficult to engage in honest critique.

The Star Wars fandom has enough battlegrounds already without people using the franchise as another proxy battle in the culture wars.

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and doesn’t care about Ki-Adi-Mundi’s age any more or less today than he did a week ago.

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