The Luke and Han War

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Event: The Luke and Han War
Date(s): early to mid-1980s
Fandom: Star Wars
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While fans often have a favorite character or pairing, Star Wars is a fandom that included fans who took it to an extreme, and often an acrimonious one. See Character Bashing.

The letterzines Southern Enclave and Jundland Wastes are full of letters lauding Luke Skywalker over Han Solo or the other way around. This, in turn, increased the heat to support the favorite characters. Letters became very angry and inflamed, often with people saying they would refuse to have further communication with other people over this matter. The editor and some readers would frequently step in and ask folks to calm down.

Some examples:

The Church of Ford debates weren't friendly... Trust me, it was a dark time for SW fandom, when people tried to shove their opinions down other people's throats. I temporarily ducked out of the kitchen myself, because I certainly couldn't take the heat. [1]
What was the Great Church of Ford/Cathedral of Luke controversy? Why/how did it start? -- It came out after a fierce debate arose in SW fandom between a group of fans, who were rabidly devoted to Harrison Ford and thought Han was the real hero of the trilogy and that Luke had fallen to the Dark, and another group of fans who were just as passionately putting forth Luke Skywalker's cause. It descended rapidly into full-scale war and turned very ugly. SW fandom is still suffering the repercussions of it. Let's leave it dead and buried - where it belongs!") [2]
...the discussion quickly began to sound like a religious war of a certain kind, one which assumes that if you are not OF the godly, you must be AGAINST the godly. In private conversations, some fans began to talk about the "Church of Ford." I know that when I first heard the term, I thought it appropriate. It's known followers were absolute in their beliefs and swift and fierce in their attacks on those who did not accept the faith or who questioned the dogma. Unfortunately, the appellation only inspired the Ford faithful to claim that their efforts were necessary to defend Han’s reputation against the “Cathedral of Luke. [3]
Return of the Jedi had debuted just a few months earlier and there was a hot and heavy debate raging in fandom primarily between two groups of fans, one of which was made up of ardent Harrison Ford/Han Solo supporters and the other of which felt just as strongly about Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker. It became known as the Church of Ford/Cathedral of Luke War... The whole incident came about because, between TESB and ROTJ, a lot of fans had decided exactly how the story should end, who 'The Other' was, whether the Empire would fall or not, etc. When ROTJ didn't follow their plotlines exactly, they reacted by protesting loudly and vociferously. [4]

When and Why the War Started to Heat Up

After the release of Return of the Jedi, many fans began to choose camps.

Maggie Nowakowska wrote: "In 1982, the admiration for Capt. Solo took an ominous turn. Appreciation turned into ultra-devotion for a group of articulate Han fans who appeared unwilling to tolerate any fannish opinion of the Corellian smuggler other than their own. Starting in issue 8 with a sharply aggressive response to the above mentioned letter, the battle was joined. The core of this group of Han fans were post-TESB SW fans; what Han had done in ANH was either ignored or dismissed as having been superceded by his behavior in TESB. To cite ANH behavior was to risk being declared a "TESB-hater." Before long, if a LoC simply pointed out that arguing over favorite characters was profitless, the writer was accused of being a "Luke-lover," (yes, these “-lover,” “-hater” terms were actually used on a regular basis) and assumed to be actively anti-Han." [5]

One fan wrote in Southern Enclave #9, "I think that this whole anti-Luke campaign came because of the disappointment and betrayal some people felt when things did not turn out in ROTJ the way that they had anticipated that they would."

cartoon from Jundland Wastes #3 by an unknown artist that shows some fan's dissatisfaction with Han "getting the girl" in the end

"I'd been strictly a Hanfan. But when I saw the the ROTJ trailer and had seen 'the kid' grown up to be a Jedi Knight. my glands cried out for a strong rivalry between Luke and Han over Leia. I'd hoped Leia would mirror my own sudden attraction to Luke and have love scenes with both guys!" [6]

"[I am] upset with GL [George Lucas] because of his treatment of Han! I had no problem with Luke in ROTJ (he was the best part of the movie), but I Han was shortchanged. I wanted this to be the perfect movie and how could that be if Luke is the only one with anything interesting to do. Han is important to the Saga, too." [7]

Some Anecdotal Examples of Factional Opinions

  • "I have heard rumors of a movement afoot in Star Wars fandom that has me very concerned. It seems there is a group of people trying to force all fans to follow their particular line on the development of the characters." [8]
  • "I think that the whole matter [Han – Luke supremacy] has gotten out of hand and escalated into pure silliness. It's like having two people declare, 'I like hot fudge sundaes,' and then all but come to blows over whether it is the hot fudge or the vanilla ice cream that 'make' the sundae! (Ah- you say, but ~ is the ice cream? I hear stirrings from the whipped cream and nuts factions, too ... ) But, seriously, folks, isn't enough enough? I am and always have been a fan of the trilogy I like the characters and situations created by George Lucas. All the characters! It's the interplay of personalities and action that "makes" SW for me not exclusive devotion to just one of the characters. 'Nuff said." [9]
  • "I don't think that the Han/Luke debate will ever settle down. There are just too many strong feelings on each side of the issue. I, for one, do not want to see the debate end but would like to see it grow to examine the characteristics of each individual and discuss their possible motivations for their actions. I do not care for the 'my hero is better than your hero' arguments, though I may have been guilty of this in a past letter of mine to Scoundrel." [10]
  • "Fortunately, from all the letters I've read in SE and personal letters I've received, it seems that their attempts to assassinate Luke's character have backfired on them. During the past two years, Luke Skywalker seems to have gained far more fans and admirers than he has lost because of the relentless efforts by a few to convince others of his immorality, and to diminish his importance in the SW saga." [11]
  • "The tactic [of some LoCers] irritated me then and it still does. Just as there was no group of “Han-haters,” nor was there any proselytizing group of “Luke fans." The tactic was simply one that avoided the issue of absolutism by claiming the same offense of one's "opposition." For me, the idiocy of the arguments – and the destructive aspect – was revealed when the editor who had published my stories on the life and times of Han Solo, and who had known me since my own “Hanatic” days, called to say that she had received a LoC from a fan who wanted to know why Maggie “hated” Han — presumably because the Han Solo I presented in my stories was not the same sort of Han that the “Church of Ford” insisted upon (i.e., post-TESB and their interpretation of TESB to boot). All those pages of text had come to naught; for the rest of the time that the CoF participated in SW letterzines, I was reacted to by them as — horror of horrors – a “Luke lover.” [12]
  • "I do want to state that am a Luke fan. and a George Lucas fan. and a Han Solo fan. From my correspondence and discussions at cons. I find that there are a lot of Luke fans who like Han, and Han fans who like Luke. I resent the assumption that if you like one, you can't appreciate the other." ref> from Southern Enclave #9 </ref>
  • "Too bad the Church of Ford and Cathedral of Luke devotees don't have your sense of humor. I've got nothing against having a favorite character or Side, but being too serious without any humorous relief is ... well, boring!" [13]
  • "Okay, I'm going to ask all you Han haters right out. Why do you feel you can rip Han apart the way you do and not expect a rebuttal? What is it about Han that scares you so? Me thinks many of you protest too much, calling him avaracious, braggart, verbal coward, etc." [14]
  • "Uh, [name redacted] thinks people are jumping on Han? I had the impression that it was Luke and Luke fen who were getting stomped!" [15]
  • "...a Star Wars fanzine for all faiths." [16]
  • "One thing bathers me in many fan stories: That the Jedi are such supermen that no one else (literally) seems to count for anything. I would think that would cause a revolt among the common people in short order. Besides which...I'm one of those who (with Cheree) went through the Church of Ford/Cathedral of Luke times (those were the dark days, etc.). And sometimes I sort of wonder if other Han fans (I'm a Han fan, but not CoF) saw more clearly than I did: that unless Han turned out to be Jedi...he was no one, zero, useless. And that' s why the fight got so nasty. Dr at least one of the reasons. I don't know, but I do think it's a valid theory." [17]

A Fan Looks Back

In 1995, a fan who had been away from the fandom for a while commented about The Incomparable Jundland Wastes and comments on the hurt and division it documented after she'd attended MediaWest*Con:
I also am amused at myself that one of the major sources of wonder and astonishment to me at MWC was that all over the place I saw Impies and Rebels, Church of Fordies and Luke sites, Leia-lovers and Vader-vamps, sitting together, talking, and even during or after the Great Blaster Battle smiling and joking with each other and not just their "own", as it were. And it wasn't just the new Fen either: I saw several old "enemies" sitting in quiet conversation — together! — over a meal or two at the Hummingbird. Almost more than seeing my own old buddies, seeing these "old" antagonists being friendly and intermingling like the adults they finally are moved me greatly for reasons I have no words to explain, except that it always hurt me to be held at arms' length by several people I wanted very much to get to know better, solely because I was notoriously — and erroneously — relegated to the Imperial Vader camp, when in fact my friends and I were very fond of all the characters — except the Ewoks, I admit. We always wondered whether those involved in the all-too-real hostilities were aware that this was, after all, fiction. Carol Hines-Stroede once remarked that she was always on the brink of telling these parties to get a life. SW was and still is one of the centers of my real (as opposed to Mundane) life, but I am not about to denigrate anyone over their preferences, since there are better things to fight for (and about). Actually, I wonder how much of it started out as pretend teasing, and turned ugly when it got out of hand...? It does happen: people become oversensitive to teasing — especially when it's somewhat rough or repetitive — and the surly or defiant pretend response becomes more and more real? Whatever went before, I'm glad it seems to be over this time around, but not surprised: 18 years of life can tend to mature some of us into sadder but wiser — and more tolerant — individuals. Pity it doesn't work that way for everyone. [18]

Examples of Character Favoritism/Character Bashing in Other Fandoms

External Links

Southern Enclave is one place to see this debate unfold.


  1. from Southern Enclave #39
  2. from a 1995 letter to Southern Enclave #43
  3. from Maggie Nowakowska's 38-page history of Jundland Wastes
  4. from an editorial in the 50th edition of Southern Enclave (Autumn 1998)
  5. from Maggie Nowakowska's 38-page history of Jundland Wastes
  6. From Southern Enclave #9
  7. from Southern Enclave #9
  8. from Southern Enclave #4
  9. from Southern Enclave December 1985. issue 10
  10. from Southern Enclave December 1985. issue 10
  11. from Southern Enclave #9
  12. from Maggie Nowakowska's 38-page history of Jundland Wastes
  13. from Southern Enclave #10
  14. From Jundland Wastes #13
  15. from Jundland Wastes #14
  16. an ad in Datazine #34 for Circle of Light
  17. from Southern Enclave #22 (1989)
  18. from Southern Enclave #42