This is something I’ve mulled over writing for a while, and after the events of the past week I believe it’s needed.
There is a cancer in Star Wars fandom, and that’s what’s jokingly referred to as “headcanon”. This is a disease of fans creating their “own” Star Wars in their heads and using that to shape their reality of what’s really going on. I’m not talking about fan fiction, that has a place. Its place just isn’t in spreading bogus spoilers you made up in your head or your imaginary way of how Lucasfilm operates.
The past week featured a story attributing some things to Ian McCaig, and some of it seemed to come from “headcanon” in which whoever heard the stuff from McCaig filled in the gaps with what they wanted to hear:
Headcanon has been building up for a long time. It began to rear its head in 1999 with the release of The Phantom Menace, when hordes of Star Wars fans revolted against George Lucas’ vision because he didn’t read their minds and produce the Star Wars Prequels they were inventing in their heads for eighteen years. But when Lucas sold the company to Disney, it fired up headcanon into overdrive.
Naturally people were imagining what their ideal Sequel Trilogy would be. Everyone did that. The cancer takes effect when people let that headcanon become fact in their minds, and that’s when you can get into trouble.
Last year, right in the middle of Star Wars Celebration, an infamous picture of Luke from The Force Awakens was leaked online. Lucasfilm sent out DMCA take-downs of the image faster than any take-down has been issued in the history of the internet. And the reason for that is that it spoiled the final scene of The Force Awakens, but at the time most people refused to believe that.
During the lead-up to Episode VII the most pervasive headcanon about the movie was actually denial. There were Star Wars fans who refused to believe that Luke Skywalker would only appear in the final scene, as well as many who refused to believe that Han Solo would be killed off before the “Big Three” would be reunited on screen in a big fanservice hug.
Of course, The Force Awakens is out now and everyone knows that those things did happen, but for most of 2015 the headcanon that controlled those fans led them to do some stupid things. The worst of which were the death threats that the source of the rumors (MakingStarWars) got, but then you had some fans who made creepy stalker videos on YouTube threatening to “expose” people for lying about Luke’s role in the movie. That’s not even including the numerous fakers on Reddit who claimed those who said Luke would only be in one scene would be “F’ed” when the trailer came out.
All of this because people let their headcanon of what they wished Luke would do in Episode VII take over their opinions of the in-production movie. There were people who spread around headcanon of Kylo fighting Luke while chasing him and saying “Have you no honor!”, Luke embracing Rey at the end and saying “My baby girl!”, and then there was one story that claimed Luke had three different costume changes in the movie…alluding to him having a big role. Of course people also tried to use Mark Hamill’s time on the set as vindication for their Luke Skywalker headcanon.
As bad as this phenomenon became in 2015, we haven’t seen anything yet. As the past week has shown us, with fakers such as KY10REY, Mike Zeroh, and the StarWarsFromTheSet site, we’re only at the tip of the iceberg for crazy Star Wars headcanon causing epic facepalms when it goes viral.
The key for everyone involved with writing about Star Wars is to do a headcanon check. Before you post a report on something or a spoiler, first check and see if it’s something you wish was happening…or something that is based in reality.