[Warning: The following story contains SPOILERS for the season finale of “The Mandalorian.”]
On Dec. 17, a popular Star Wars YouTuber joined roughly 30,000 fans as he livestreamed his reaction to the Season 2 finale of “The Mandalorian.” The YouTuber — who most often goes by the name of his account, Star Wars Theory, and has also been referred to as Toos in some press reports — watched mostly in concentrated silence during the first 30 minutes of the episode. But when a telltale X-Wing Fighter cruised into view, he jumped up in his seat as a childlike grin washed over his face.
“Don’t give me hope, bro,” he said to no one in particular. Roughly a minute later, when he saw a cloaked, hooded figure wielding a green lightsaber appear, Toos burst into tears, certain of what the episode later confirmed: It was Luke Skywalker.
For the next 15 minutes, Toos wept as the episode unfolded. When it was over, he seemed slightly embarrassed, but mostly in dumbstruck awe at the deep feelings the episode had evoked in him. “Thank you, Lucasfilm,” he said, still wiping back tears. “This was what the little six-year-old in me wanted to see.”
Ten days later, Toos had a different sentiment entirely for Lucasfilm, exposing once again the delicate and precarious relationship between the studio and its most vocal fans — and at a moment when it seemed like Lucasfilm and Disney had put the worst of Star Wars fan unrest behind them.
Toos posted to Twitter that he’d noticed that Pablo Hidalgo, a top executive in Lucasfilm’s story department, was commenting on a thread that was ridiculing Toos’ emotional reaction to Luke’s appearance on “The Mandalorian.” Because Hidalgo’s account was private, however, Toos couldn’t see what the exec was saying.
“I’d hate to believe he would join in [the teasing] as a Lucasfilm official,” Toos tweeted to his 101,000 followers, asking anyone with access to Hidalgo’s account to send him a screenshot of his tweets.
That’s when he learned what Hidalgo tweeted: “emotions are not for sharing.” Toos was outraged, interpreting Hidalgo’s remarks as indeed piling on the mockery of his genuine emotions. By that point, Hidalgo had deleted the tweet, but, rather inexplicably, he also put a screenshot of it as the banner over his account; Toos took it as more trolling. “You’re telling people it’s not ok to have emotions about the work your company produces, and you make fun of them for crying?” he tweeted. “Not ok.”
Pablo chimes in to make fun. Deletes the tweet. Then puts one of them as his header. How is this acceptable from someone so high up at Lucasfilm? You're telling people it's not ok to have emotions about the work your company produces, and you make fun of them for crying? Not ok. pic.twitter.com/aIfU2SigIy
— Star Wars Theory (@SWTheory66) December 28, 2020
Roughly 20 hours later, the executive apologized. “I wish to clarify that my post that ’emotions are not to be shared’ was sarcastic self-mockery and was certainly not intended to be hurtful to anyone and I’m deeply sorry that it was,” Hidalgo posted to his Twitter account, which he made public. (Since Hidalgo’s account is unverified, Variety has confirmed the authenticity of his tweets.) “As a lifelong fan, I appreciate fans expressing how they feel – it’s what being a fan is about!”
I wish to clarify that my post that "emotions are not to be shared” was sarcastic self-mockery and was certainly not intended to be hurtful to anyone and I'm deeply sorry that it was. As a lifelong fan, I appreciate fans expressing how they feel – it's what being a fan is about!
— Pablo Hidalgo (@pablohidalgo) December 28, 2020
Hidalgo did not address placing the offending tweet as the banner over his account, but a source close to him says he did so briefly not out of malice, but after people began asking his private followers for screenshots of the deleted tweet. The damage, meanwhile, had been done. By the time Hidalgo apologized, Toos’ YouTube reaction video about Hidalgo’s tweet — in which Toos discusses how much Luke Skywalker had helped him when he battled cancer — had already amassed half a million views and was trending on Twitter. Toos’ reaction had itself inspired its own backlash, with several posters suggesting his outrage was a willful misreading of Hidalgo’s intentions — a good way to generate more traffic to his channel and revenue into his pockets. And once more, Star Wars fans were fighting, with Lucasfilm and with each other. (Toos did not respond to multiple requests for comment; a spokesperson for Lucasfilm declined to comment.)
All of this comes just weeks after Disney announced the most aggressive expansion of the Star Wars franchise in its history, with 10 new Disney Plus series along with “The Mandalorian” in various stages of development, in addition to feature films from directors Patty Jenkins and Taika Waititi. The news was meant to capitalize on the near-universal goodwill engendered by “The Mandalorian,” which has single-handedly helped to soothe the profoundly fraught and virulent fan reactions to the most recent Star Wars feature films, especially “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
To discuss “The Last Jedi” in any context, let alone the fandom reaction to it, is to risk flying into an asteroid field from which the odds of successfully escaping are 3,720 to 1. In the context of Star Wars Theory and Lucasfilm, however, it’s worth knowing that with over 2.7 million subscribers to his channel, Toos is one of the most visible and popular figures in what is essentially the professional class of Star Wars fandom, who have monetized their love for Star Wars into full-blown careers. He’s also among the Star Wars fans who have been vocally critical of “The Last Jedi,” especially how writer-director Rian Johnson chose to reimagine Luke Skywalker as an embittered recluse who’s renounced the ways of the Jedi.
That criticism is but one star in a tangled constellation of turbulent fan discourse over “The Last Jedi”; one of the most lasting effects of all of it has been to erode the confidence a large sector of fandom has in Disney’s stewardship of the Star Wars franchise. By the time “The Rise of Skywalker” debuted last year to a (relatively) tepid box office and terrible reviews, Disney’s entire Star Wars endeavor had been so freighted by controversy that it was beginning to feel like a Millennium Falcon robbed of its hyperdrive.
For many fans — including Toos — “The Mandalorian” had appeared to be the spark that finally got Star Wars back into fighting shape. Executive producer Dave Filoni was mentored by George Lucas himself. Executive producer and showrunner Jon Favreau cut his franchise-building teeth at Marvel Studios, and had an uncanny instinct for weaving fan-service arcana into a story accessible to the widest possible audience. By resurrecting Luke Skywalker in the season finale — with Mark Hamill’s involvement, no less — Favreau and Filoni had managed to rehabilitate not only that particular hero’s journey for unhappy fans, but the very idea that Lucasfilm knows what they’re doing with Star Wars.
But then Hidalgo’s tweet — and Toos’ reaction to it — reopened all those wounds. Toos even referenced his displeasure for “The Last Jedi” in his reaction video to Hidalgo’s tweet, strongly implying that it was a form of sour grapes. Hidalgo’s apology, meanwhile, points to common sense and Toos’ own incredulous initial response: Why on earth would anyone at Lucasfilm mock a fan for crying over a deliberately meaningful scene on a Star Wars show? And yet, here we are again, blasters raised and lightsabers unsheathed, all over a poorly worded private tweet.