Can't please everybody

Disney tries to figure out how to navigate the superfan problem with Star Wars. And 2 people unsubscribed from my newsletter! Also 7 other things worth a click.

If you’re a parent my age, you probably know at least one fellow parent who has a strong opinion about how to introduce your kids to the Star Wars movies.

It comes down to what order to watch them in. There are eight films now, spanning a 67 year saga, 10 films if you count the two stand-alone movies, with the final installment coming December 20.

The problem is that they're not in chronological order. Also, some are much better than others.

I’m Bill Murphy Jr. Welcome to Understandably, my daily email newsletter. If you’re new, please sign up here. Also, please share this and let other people know that they should sign up too.

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We won’t solve this question here, and that’s good news. Because even as I write this, I can feel the readership of this newsletter splitting into three camps:

  1. Diehard Star Wars fans, who are likely the smallest group, yet bigger than you think, and who have intense feelings about the franchise.

  2. A second group that could hardly care less, which maybe has seen a couple of the movies at most, and has no clue why some people are so into it.

  3. The rest of us, who are casually interested, mainly because it's like a bit of cultural glue that holds America together. Perhaps our kids or even grandkids are kind of engrossed in it.

That split is a cocktail conversation for most of us. But it’s also a big problem for Disney, which owns the franchise after paying $4 billion to buy Lucasfilm in 2012.

Now, Disney has to navigate between the core superfans, and a much bigger audience of people who weren’t even born when Star Wars began, and that it hopes will become fans for life.

‘Any whiff of marketing…’

The Wall Street Journal dug into this over the weekend, describing a big meeting a few months after the acquisition, when Disney execs got their first look at how the Lucasfilm team planned to continue the story.

Their brief was simple, and hilariously counterintuitive:

While Disney wanted to sell millions of toys [based on the movies], fans could never [be allowed to] sense that any character or plot point was conceived as a business decision ...

Any whiff of marketing imperatives driving the creative decisions on the Star Wars franchise would immediately, in the eyes of devoted fans, cast Disney as the evil empire that had gobbled up their beloved modern-day myth.

So: make movies with lots of opportunity for merchandise and profit — but don’t look like you’re driven by merchandise and profit.

(As Han Solo would say, “Fly casual.”)

Snowflakes and apologists

I was very happy with how the open comment thread went Friday, and one very short comment in particular stuck with me.

As it happens, it drives home a different facet of the same problem Disney now faces:

“I learned not everybody will like me and what I have to contribute. And this is ok.”

I needed to be reminded of that myself last week. I read it not long after I had two people unsubscribe from this newsletter in pretty quick succession.

Both sent me “Goodbye Cruel World!” emails explaining why. They each had the exact opposite criticism.

  • One said she found me to be too conservative, and an “apologist” for President Trump.

  • The other called me “left-wing,” and said that something I wrote make me seem like a “triggered snowflake.”

I don’t think either is right, but it threw me a bit to hear these opposite takes.

Asking for feedback is double edged. I want to hear it, but I know I shouldn’t let myself get too concerned with it.

Still, I can’t help my nature. I care what people think.

Heck, even now, I’m thinking about what people will think of the fact that I just admitted that I’m prone to caring too much about what other people think.

OK. That’s it. Too exhausting.

As much as I love my readers, and as addicted as I am to writing, I keep having to learn and relearn this lesson: You really can’t please everybody.

I’m just glad I didn’t pay anything like $4 billion for the opportunity to try.

7 other things worth a click today:

  1. Carol Spinney, who played Big Bird for almost 50 years, has died. I read his short 2003 memoir Sunday, in which he talked about how a tiny television screen inside his costume gave him a different perspective. (Me, on Inc.)

  2. On the one hand, Elizabeth Warren made $1.9 million as a bankruptcy lawyer. On the other hand, that’s over 30 years (about $63,000 a year). (Bloomberg, ironically)

  3. The NYT has a story about a man and woman who became lovers while they were inmates at Auschwitz, and who found each other 72 years later. It's emotional, to say the least. (The New York Times)

  4. It seems kind of odd that Netflix apparently hasn't said how many people have watched The Irishman, right? (The Verge)

  5. Since I wrote about the Peloton ad, I have to provide a link to how the 'Peloton Girl' used her notoriety to do a sequel. (AdWeek)

  6. Former Vice President Biden says stuttering isn't to blame for his verbal stumbles. (Axios)

  7. Finland has a new prime minister, and the fact that she's just 34 years old is attracting attention. (Associated Press)

Ideas and feedback actively solicited. Find me anytime on LinkedInFacebook, or Twitter or via email at

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