The Star Wars Fandom Is a Valid Place for Activism, Actually
In the fight to preserve human rights for the historically excluded, Star Wars fans draw strength from the stories that teach them they can win.
“In my life, when you find people who need your help, you help them, no matter what.” — Ahsoka Tano
When people turn to fictional universes like Star Wars, not all of them do so with the intent of escaping into an alternate world. Sometimes, escapism is a valid coping mechanism. But many fans reading and watching these stories unfold take something unique away from them with each new viewing: The desire to make a difference in their world.
Activism and Star Wars go together like a Jedi and her lightsaber — and this is nothing new. Star Wars: Force for Change, for example, developed from fans’ collective desire to engage in philanthropy after being inspired by George Lucas and A New Hope.
The positive impact of Star Wars on its fan communities has only grown from there, as evidenced by efforts over the last few years to combat anti-trans rhetoric and laws, people’s right to bodily autonomy, and more.
Fan-led campaigns like The Amidala Initiative and WHAT CHOICE? were built to draw attention and funding to support individuals and their families in need. Both were built and promoted by Star Wars fans using characters and concepts from the franchise, and they’re neither the first nor the only causes like this.
So why, when fans continue to use their community to release good back into the world, are they met with cries to “keep politics out of Star Wars”? Why — when almost every Star Wars story features at least one character doing everything they can to help those in need?
E.K. Johnston’s Queen’s trilogy continuously circles back to Padmé and Sabé’s efforts to free Tatooine slaves — for no reason other than slavery is wrong and they have the power and resources to help. They gain no political or social benefit from doing it — in fact, they must conduct all their operations in secret and undercover.
They help because people need help.
Ahsoka Tano spends the final season of The Clone Wars unable to resist helping innocent people from suffering — to the point where she puts her own life at risk in refusing to take the life of a single clone trooper during Order 66. They pursued her and traumatized her. But she tried to help them anyway, knowing she likely wouldn’t survive the effort.
She helped because people needed help.
Neither Luke Skywalker nor his friends asked for medals after saving dozens of planets from Death Star-related destruction — they set out to destroy the weapon, knowing the costs, because more lives would be saved with its elimination than taken away. The Alliance used its limited resources and minimal power to make a difference, even if it didn’t end the war.
They helped because people needed help.
To say there’s no place in Star Wars for doing good goes against the messages Star Wars continuously sends with every story it tells.
Everyone takes from Star Wars what they need when they need it. But it’s irresponsible to see the parallels between these stories and our very real world and not apply the messages to our everyday lives. Star Wars isn’t about the good guys beating the bad guys followed by victory celebrations and fireworks. It’s about the complexities of “good.” The sacrifices we make to create better, safer worlds. The temptations of evil, and the strength it takes to do the right thing, even when it’s the hard thing.
These beloved characters aren’t just heroes trapped in a fantasy universe. They inspire fans every day to be better people. If you’re not one of those, there’s nothing wrong with settling deeper into your escapism if that’s the response you choose. But it’s also not a reason to shame those who prefer to use Star Wars as a motivator to push for real-world change.
If people in power around our world cared about all of humanity, we wouldn’t need activism, in general or in fandom spaces. But because the most powerful people in our world only care about themselves, Star Wars fans often compare them to a galaxy far, far away’s most evil entities. But there are good people they turn to for inspiration as well.
And that is why they fight — to try to prevent the world from descending further into chaos. If Padmé and Ahsoka and Luke can do it, they can too.
Activism in fandom isn’t about telling someone how they can or can’t view Star Wars or the MCU or Stranger Things. It’s about wanting to do good, and using life-changing stories to put those desires into actionable steps.
That is how change happens. Someone sees that it has been done before, and they make an effort to see it happen again. Just because a fictional character or story inspired that move doesn’t make it any less valid.
As long as Star Wars has existed, it has shown fans real change can happen — and that they can be a small part of making it happen. That hasn’t changed in over 40 years, and it won’t in the next 40 either. Star Wars may be fake and in space, but it speaks to real hearts, and the fandom — as well as the world — is better off because of it.