Amandla Stenberg as Osha in The Acolyte

No, ‘The Acolye’ Isn’t Ruining ‘Star Wars,’ Whether You Like It or Not

Nobody hates 'Star Wars' more than 'Star Wars' fans do.

Disney+’s Star Wars: The Acolyte has hit the small screen and, predictably, has divided the internet. Despite how venomous some of the responses to the High Republic Era-inspired show have been, one thing is for sure: No, The Acolyte isn’t “ruining Star Wars.

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The Acolyte is an easy target for closed-minded Star Wars fans because of its attempt to be more diverse through casting choices. This isn’t the first time that Star Wars has featured an inclusive cast, yet Lucasfilm is faced with the same prejudice and backlash when introducing new talent to take the lead. From some perspectives of certain corners of the fandom, Star Wars’ inclusionary efforts have “ruined” Star Wars, though that’s simply not the case.

Star Wars fans were already not completely satisfied with the reintroduction of legacy characters in more modern productions (most controversially, Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Last Jedi), which proves that it’s not who these stories are about, but how they’re being told that kneecaps Lucasfilm’s creative energy. It’s the lack of imagination and desperation to keep new content flowing no matter what that has caused Star Wars to slump.

The incessant need to blame race or gender as a reason why a certain aspect of entertainment is “failing” or “going woke” has unsuccessfully attempted to masquerade around as thoughtful, genuine criticism. “Woke Star Wars” can’t hurt you; it’s not real. If anything, Star Wars has been “woke” since the Original Trilogy when taking Merriam-Webster’s definition of the word into consideration: “[staying] aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” The Acolyte has been treated with superficiality by onlookers who have assumed judgement based on how the show has presented itself instead of giving it a chance to stand on its own.

There are valid and constructive critiques that can be made about The Acolyte when opening up discussions around how Disney+ and Lucasfilm have approached their streaming series. Not every ounce of backlash should immediately fall back on “The Acolyte has ruined Star Wars” as its only argument. Admittedly, The Acolyte should have committed to higher quality in screenwriting, direction, and storylines when thinking about how much untapped potential it holds.

It’s a shame that the team behind the show barely took risks when letting The Acolyte become more experimental or mature. The show needs to be taken more seriously in order to fully achieve their end goals. The Acolyte had every opportunity to do introduce unique, intense, or daring elements when playing with new reaches of the Star Wars universe, but has emphasized its own weakness by keeping the its scope cornered in familiar territories.

The Acolyte is ruining Star Wars” also assigns far more importance to this one show than is warranted. It’s perfectly okay to express disappointment in how The Acolyte has fared, and it’s understandable that watching Star Wars struggle to uphold its reputation may be painful for those who have fallen in love with the galaxy far, far away, but pinning the downfall of Star Wars as a whole on a singular installment is baseless.

The Acolyte isn’t even the first Star Wars project to be faced with accusations of “ruining” the saga. Only a Sith deals in absolutes. Claiming a late-stage spinoff series has become the bane of Star Wars’ existence discredits the saga’s achievements as a whole. Logging into Disney+ to watch The Acolyte is a voluntary decision. Just as someone can choose to follow along as the show makes its way through its first season, they also have the choice to walk away at any point. Personal preference deeply influences how relationships with pop culture are maintained, but the overwhelming anger that’s been expressed towards The Acolyte feels incredibly forced.

What is it about The Acolyte that has specifically ruined Star Wars? What’s so different this time around that has caused such an uproar? Little justification as to why this show has dismantled Star Wars to its core has yet to be explicitly defined. Those who have expressed their distaste for the show circle around the same talking points with the same desperation of a vulture circling a skeleton in hopes that something to eat will appear. Despite how many have reached for reasons as to why they rejected The Acolyte so heavily—such as the Wookiepedia incident—their far-fetched reasoning speaks to how insubstantial unfounded hatred is. The inability to craft a coherent counterargument trivializes such an extreme mindset.

Star Wars has faced “controversy” since the Sequel Trilogy, proving that the fandom’s history is bound to repeat itself. Beating the same drum of “Star Wars is being ruined” has become a pointlessly redundant, exhausting talking point that has worn away at itself over time. It must be so draining to remain preoccupied with denouncing Star Wars’ legitimacy just time and time again. Instead, it should be celebrated that the series has been able to carry itself this far. Star Wars is in need of fresh, versatile narratives driven by fresh, versatile characters. However, they’re going to need more than what The Acolyte has offered in order to really make a change.

Anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. Just because something is different, or new, or veers away from from expectations, doesn’t mean it’s single-handedly tarnished the immeasurable impact that Star Wars has left upon popular culture and entertainment media. The Acolyte will not be the first nor the last Star Wars title to face inevitable, shallow hatred for simply existing. Could it have done something more exciting or coherent when diving head-first into the High Republic Era? Yes! Instead of pouncing on the idea that one weak link will topple Star Wars and has doomed the franchise, The Acolyte can be looked back on as an example of a show that may have been stronger in concept than in execution.

Star Wars is responsible for its own decline. The carelessness of simply letting content be created for the sake of creating has spoken for how disinterested Star Wars is in repairing itself. That’s not to say that modern or Disney+ Star Wars hasn’t been exceptional. The first two seasons of The Mandalorian, Andor, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and episode five of Ahsoka have solidified themselves as examples of where Star Wars has excelled in its new era. These are prime examples that the series can feel like Star Wars again when Lucasfilm is thoughtful in making its way through the galaxy. For as long as Star Wars exists, there will be those who will love it, and those who love to hate it. When it comes to The Acolyte, let it be, even if it may not be great.

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Annie Banks
Annie Banks is a professional entertainment journalist from Chicago, Illinois. She holds degrees in journalism and marketing, and has been incredibly fortunate to watch her career path collide with her passions. Throughout her six years of entertainment journalism experience, Annie has fervently written about movies, television shows, anime, manga, K-Pop, comics and video games. To this day, she still proudly retains her title as a Rotten Tomatoes-approved Tomatometer critic.