For a franchise almost 45 years old, Star Wars remains timeless. But that doesn’t mean the people behind it are exempt from progress.
Gina Carano’s firing from the role of Cara Dune changed the landscape of The Mandalorian and reshaped the overall Star Wars fan experience. Suddenly, the fandom wasn’t divided by Abrams vs. Johnson or prequels v. sequels. The only thing that seemed to matter was where you stood on #FireGinaCarano vs. #IStandWithGina.
How did it happen? An alliance of extremely dedicated — and extremely young — fans took it on themselves to make sure everyone was included, even in the face of derision. Inverse spoke to three people behind the #FireGinaCarano movement to find out how they got one of the Star Wars galaxy’s biggest stars fired, why it matters, and, most importantly, what happens next.
What happened — It all started on September 8, 2020 when Carano liked a comment by a YouTuber claiming people “with pronouns in their bios” were mad about the video he made defending her. That led to a number of accounts replying to her explaining why people put pronouns in their bios — not just in support and solidarity with trans people, but just to make it easier to speak to each other. They pointed to her co-star, Pedro Pascal, who put his pronouns in his display name.
In response, Carano blocked them.
“IM CRYING IT ONLY TOOK FOUR MINS” tweeted Kennedy (@darthsokas) when Gina blocked her. Later, Kennedy, who asked to remain anonymous beyond their Twitter account, reflected on that moment.
“She didn’t owe anyone a reply,” Kennedy tells Inverse. “She could’ve just ignored the requests or politely declined them, but she decided to respond negatively and allowed her supporters to do the same which provoked the fandom in response.”
Carano claimed people were harassing her for months to put her pronouns in her bio. So she decided to find a way to “make light of the hate.” Echoing Pedro’s method of showing his pronouns, she changed her Twitter display name to “Gina Carano boop/bop/beep.”
But to Star Wars stan Twitter (and to trans people like me), the hate she was making light of wasn’t against herself, it was against trans people. Joke pronouns, regardless of the intent, diminish the importance of sharing pronouns. That’s when #FireGinaCarano first started.
It began with just a handful of tweets, but the determination to get it trending combined with the sheer numbers behind the Star Wars Twitter community was enough to build momentum. Then, those who disagreed with the hashtag began sharing their own opinions, which inadvertently helped it become more popular. By September 13, #FireGinaCarano was trending in the U.S.
Months later, in an interview with former New York Times op-ed editor Bari Weiss — no stranger to controversy herself, Carano revealed Lucasfilm had provided an apology she could use to diffuse the situation. “I declined and offered a statement in my own words. I made clear I wanted nothing to do with mocking the transgender community, and was just drawing attention to the abuse of the mob in forcing people to put pronouns in their bio,” she said.
What followed was a feedback loop — Carano would post a meme relating to free speech, the replies would be followed with a string of the few non-blocked stans asking her to apologize, which would prompt her to double down. This cycle continued until Carano posted a series of anti-semitic memes, which was finally enough for Disney to take notice and fire her.
The Power of Stans
In the vast cafeteria of Star Wars fandom, there are all sorts of tables. There are the rumor Redditors, the theory YouTubers, the podcasters, the novel evangelists, the reactors, the shippers… the list goes on. But on Twitter, there’s one main group single-handedly fueling the enthusiasm for Star Wars — stans.
Stan accounts are recognizable by their handles, usually a mishmash of Star Wars words or names, and a profile picture of some popular character. Like any stan fandom (standom?) you can find them in the replies of tweets with fancams — fan-made montages of celebrities or characters set to pop songs. This is adorable when it comes to, say, members of BTS or Jughead from Riverdale, but a little less cute when focused on lesser-known aliens like Kit Fisto or Yaddle.
Still, Star Wars stan Twitter thrives, from teaching Pedro Pascal how to properly use the skull emoji to express laughter to live-tweeting Mandalorian episodes in the early hours of the morning. The demographic of Star Wars stan Twitter is mainly teenagers raised with social media. They know its power, and they know how to use it.
“I have been myself overwhelmed multiple times by stan Twitter so it’s hard to think about how overwhelming it can be for actors,” says Reggie, a stan who posts under the handle @dilfjdw and asked to remain anonymous. “However, there’s a difference between getting without-reason hate and being called out for wrong actions!”
Other stans also objected to claims Carano had been subject to “bullying.” “I only ever saw people trying to educate her, and of course some people were angry, but overall it was people just trying to teach her to do the right thing and she outright refused,” said V, another stan who also wished to remain anonymous.
There are plenty of conservative celebrities. There are plenty of celebrities who don’t include pronouns on their social media. The difference between those people and Carano is that Carano fought back. If you’re a celebrity, you’re in power. Nobody can force you to do anything. All you have to do is ignore those requests.
Asking stans whether someone should be fired for being conservative yields some surprising answers. One person I asked took ten minutes to answer, because she sincerely couldn’t comprehend how I defined the term. Because these stans are typically so young, ranging from 15-17 years old, they don’t see “conservative” as a signifier of wanting lower taxes, smaller government, and deregulation. “Conservative,” to them, is increasingly becoming conflated with “bigot.”
But they’re not the only ones. Outcry after Carano’s firing seemed to be focused on her “being fired for being conservative,” which is easily debunked. She expressed conservative values and transphobia for months before Lucasfilm took action. She wasn’t fired for conservative values, she was fired for hate speech, and claiming the two are the same from either side harms everyone.
Perspective is key here. Lucasfilm wants to make Star Wars marketable to as many people as possible. Hate speech directed at a specific group — in this case both the Jewish and transgender population — is a liability to that mission, so the company will take action. Hate speech means you can lose your job. It’s as simple as that.
This doesn’t mean Lucasfilm doesn’t care about its fans. By its very nature, Lucasfilm is nothing without the fans. But fans are not a monolith. Not all of them have strong opinions about Maclunkey-gate and not all of them tweet montages of Ahsoka Tano. Some of them are eight-year-olds who had Darth Vader birthday parties, and some are housewives who run Instagram accounts for their Grogu plushes. There’s no definition of a Star Wars fan, and because of that, there’s no room for hate.
What's next — The same week fan culture was dealing with the fallout from Carano’s firing, Joss Whedon was the subject of chilling allegations by Charisma Carpenter and other members of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast. Gross misuses of power like this are often cast aside, and still not totally seen as valid, because it was “another time.” Carpenter herself even said she “held her tongue and even excused herself” until the Time’s Up movement opened her eyes.
Many of the people behind #FireGinaCarano can’t remember this other time. They are going to make sure hate speech isn’t cast aside as the product of outdated views. It had to happen now.
So what does stan Twitter think should happen with Cara Dune on the show? The answer is complicated.
“I think The Mandalorian should do the classic ‘they left on a journey, won’t be back for a while’ type thing because it would be the most believable,” said V. Reggie thinks the key is replacing her with another Season 1 character, Omera. Alternatively, they suggest a new character played by a BIPOC actor in order to improve diversity. Kennedy believes there are only two valid options: recast Cara Dune, or completely kill her off.
The Ahsoka problem
Though not currently a part of the Mandalorian recurring cast, Rosario Dawson is poised to star in her own Mandalorian spinoff series simply entitled Ahsoka. However, Dawson and her family were recently sued by a trans man who claimed they purposefully misgendered him and even assaulted him. Though all charges against Dawson herself were later dropped, the fandom is wary another Carano-like situation is lurking.
“It bugs me and several other people and I think that it would be good if they at least recast the actress because she already makes so many people uncomfortable,” says V.
Kennedy agrees, adding, “I think that the majority of stan Twitter, myself included, are skeptical of her because we don’t know if the charges on her are true or not.”
Because there’s no extensive evidence like there was on Carano’s Twitter account, opinions are still mixed on Dawson. “Stan Twitter tried to get #FireRosarioDawson trending but a lot less people were on board,” Kennedy says.
Unlike Carano, Dawson has expressed horror at the claims against her and reiterated her support of trans voices. Drawing the line in these matters is always difficult, but for now, Lucasfilm’s is somewhere between Carano’s actions and Dawson’s.
For the most part, the community seems to be basking in the prospect of supporting The Mandalorian without the mental gymnastics required to justify its casting.
“I’ve heard a lot of marginalized communities who stopped watching the show because it made them uncomfortable, incapable of separating actress and character,” Reggie says. “Now that she is gone, people can be free to watch it without feeling absolutely awful about themselves or their identity.”