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'Star Wars' Fans and the Media: It's a Trap!

LOS ANGELES - For "Star Wars" fans, the long wait for the next movie in the franchise is almost over, and the media frenzy surrounding its arrival is steadily building. Still, in terms of media outlets that might come knocking in the days and wee...

LOS ANGELES - For "Star Wars" fans, the long wait for the next movie in the franchise is almost over, and the media frenzy surrounding its arrival is steadily building. Still, in terms of media outlets that might come knocking in the days and weeks ahead, here's a warning that should sound familiar: It's a trap!

Yes, everyone is going to want a piece of "The Force Awakens" action, and that includes news organizations (among them, needless to say, this one), who are eagerly riding the tail of that anticipation to boost ratings and Web traffic. But despite the increased hipness of geek culture thanks to the ascent of movies predicated on comic books and science-fiction or fantasy properties at the box office and on TV, there is still a temptation to mock those who invest so strongly in such fare - people who have taken their "Star Wars" ardor to there's-no-room-left-in-the-garage extremes.

For the media, it is useless to resist this impulse. A small preview of the phenomenon has reared its head already even in reputable sources, such a Wall Street Journal piece titled "The Agony and the Ecstasy of the 'Star Wars' Fanatic." The article detailed how die-hards were understandably let down by the most recent trilogy and waffling on how much to get their hopes up for the new J.J. Abrams-directed addition.

Fans also face a reputation -- in some cases hard earned -- that they can be a little humorless in their zealotry, as evidenced by the reaction to Fox News contributor Katherine Timpf essentially baiting them on the network's "Red Eye" program, which elicited alleged threats. A certain amount of trolling is to be expected with any phenomenon this big, and not all of it is going to be as clever as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's classic (and hilarious) lampooning of fans back when "Attack of the Clones" was released in 2002.

Television, however, poses the most serious threat to the reputations of fans. And while producers -- from local and national news to latenight TV -- will attempt to capitalize on enthusiasm regarding the movie, being a medium devoted to pictures and personalities, they won't be able to help themselves when it comes to finding grown men and women outfitted as droids, Wookiees or Jedi, while adorning their kids in similar attire, down to toddlers in big-eared Yoda garb.

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Moreover, because the filmmakers have kept such a tight lid on the movie's details, the pressure to keep unearthing new angles in the run-up to "Star Wars" is only going to mount. About the only mitigating factor is that the round-the-block lines associated with past releases of such films will be partially offset by the tidal wave of advanced ticket sales, meaning if you show up to the theater 12 hours before seeing it, that's because you either wanted desperately to be a part of the scene or didn't have anywhere else to go.

Events like Comic-Con have always exhibited a strong sense of allowing fans to achieve a kind of immersion in their preferred fantasy worlds. In that respect, the release of "The Force Awakens" might come right before to Christmas but, in terms of holidays, owes a stronger debt to Halloween. And this isn't intended in any way to dampen that joy or enthusiasm.

But a property like "Star Wars" is certainly as much about commerce and culture as it is art, and that extends well beyond the tentacles of its parent company, Disney. While millions will flock to the movie, the most committed subset of those fans are not only a part of the story but represent the sort of colorful characters that lend themselves to human-interest features and the third and fourth hours of the "Today" show.

So if you happen to be modeling a Stormtrooper outfit and some genial-looking reporter or producer pushes a microphone or camera in front of you, think twice before responding. At the very least, an unseen voice should tell you to have a bad feeling about this.

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