Every now and again, Jessica comes across someone on Hinge who flaunts something she’d prefer to keep a secret. “[Hinge will] have prompts like, ‘You’ll never believe that…,’ and people respond with, ‘…I’ve never seen Star Wars,’” she says. “Some people definitely think it’s a conversation starter, and that they’re unique and special because of it. But I have zero interest in that.”
Jessica, as you may have guessed, hasn’t seen a single minute of Star Wars either. Nor does she intend to anytime soon. At this point, despite the onslaught of shocked responses she gets whenever this supposedly fun fact leaks out, she says her avoidance of the series has become “a whole thing.”
“Now it’s almost like rebelling against the status quo,” she tells me. “I’ve gone so long without seeing one I might as well keep going.”
With nine movies, a new series on Disney+, countless books, video games and a seemingly endless amount of licensed merchandise, Star Wars fandom is arguably bigger than ever before. Which makes it nearly impossible to navigate the culture as someone who has managed to avoid the space opera.
So how do those like Jessica do it? A few different ways…
Fear Is the Path to the Dark Side
Many Star Wars non-fans consider 1999’s The Phantom Menace to be the tipping point, as well as the moment they truly dug in their heels. “That’s when not seeing the movies became a thing,” says Anastasia, a 37-year-old in Florida. “And I made the active choice to never see them.”
“I’ve never been much for the whole sci-fi space adventure theme,” Cay, a college student in Sweden, adds. But as time went on, “it became something I purposefully refused to watch because of how people would demand it of me, as if it was something that was every human’s duty.” In fact, Cay admits she might have given in, but the “forceful demanding kept me from it in a rebellious way.”
Fear Leads to Anger
Most of the time, non-Star Wars watchers are met with dismay and confusion. But sometimes, it’s much worse. Cay describes one such incident: “After getting the usual confusion, it escalated. It started with ‘What the hell is wrong with you?,’ followed by ‘Nothing you say about movies matter; you can’t say shit when you haven’t even seen Star Wars.’ That, in turn, led to me saying things back and being rather irritated at them. It ended with them being physically violent. Maybe they were annoyed at my persistence to fight back, but honestly, I’m still stunned by the whole thing.”
Now Cay only tells people she trusts will have a reasonable response. “Way too many times when I’ve told people I’m not 100 percent sure [what their reaction will be], I’ve gotten shit in return,” she says. “So now it’s become a sort of deep dark secret. I never thought I’d have more worry telling people I haven’t seen Star Wars over telling them about my sexuality.”
“If I reveal that I haven’t watched Star Wars in conversations where I don’t have a lot in common with others, reactions span from indifference to near-hostility,” adds Tom, a 28-year-old in Canada. “One coworker has asked, verbatim, ‘How can a person live as long as you and not see Star Wars?’”
Sometimes, “to diffuse the onslaught,” Tom will tell people he’s “saving it for a rainy day.” This way, he’s able to project the idea that he values the movies (he doesn’t), and plans to watch them in the near future (he won’t).
But sometimes, Tom’s admission “inspires someone else to reveal that they haven’t seen the movies either, and those looks of solidarity from others who actively don’t watch Star Wars can be a rewarding, reinforcing experience.”
Anger Leads to Hate
“Star Wars makes it so much easier to know who to stay away from,” says Juna Skrami, a 24-year-old in Chicago. But if she can’t keep her distance, she’s sure to go on the offensive. “I usually say something like, ‘That’s the one with Frodo right?’ Then I watch people seize up,” she tells me. “It’s just fun because people get angry at you. And for what? Like you want me to sit and watch days-worth of media that I’m not even interested in? Sorry, but no.”
Meanwhile, Jessica reports that upon revealing her Star Wars-aversion, many dudes see an opening. “Lots of men will say something along the lines of, ‘We should spend a whole day just binging all of them,’ which obviously doesn’t interest me,” she says. “But to be fair, I also have no desire to spend a whole day watching Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, both of which I’ve seen in their entirety.”
Hate Leads to Suffering
All that said, as modern fandom has become something to flaunt, especially when it comes to viral shows and movies, Cay says Star Wars has gotten harder and harder to avoid. “Now, everyone automatically just expects it of you,” she explains, comparing the online ubiquity of fan art and memes to being surrounded by Christmas decorations when you don’t celebrate the holiday.
“It annoys me when it feels like it’s absolutely everywhere, but since you can’t get away from it, you just get used to it,” she says. “So I carry on to the best of my ability, scrolling past things I don’t understand without trying to figure them out.”
Not that it’s that hard to determine what she’s been missing. “It’s fairly easy to piece things together to understand Star Wars through memes and such,” Jessica tells me. “I guess I’m a fake fan because I love Baby Yoda because he’s adorable, even though I have no clue what he does. I mean, I already know how it ends anyway. SPOILER: Darth Vader is Luke’s father. There. Now you don’t need to see it either.”