The fan petition has become a potent—or at least a very loud—tool of audience expression in recent years, as it’s become easier and easier for vocal advocates for this or that pop culture stance to make those feelings known with little more effort than signing their name to an online form. (Or someone else’s name. Or Big Bird’s.) The actual efficacy of these campaigns is much more murky, though; for every petition that can be linked to a series getting a surprise revival from a network impressed by a groundswell of fan devotion, there are hundreds more that are promptly ignored.
Or maybe, even, actively harmful to the cause. Take the case of Lucy Lawless, who gave an interview to Metro this week in which she briefly touched upon a petition that circulated earlier this year, asking Disney to replace Gina Carano—who tweeted herself right out of a job back in February—on Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian with the beloved New Zealand actress.
Now, there’s probably no chance in hell that that exact scenario was actually going to happen—among other things, Carano’s character Cara Dune isn’t so vital to the series that they couldn’t just pair up Mando with a different space badass if they wanted to get Lawless into the fold. But Lawless speculates that it might have had a different effect: Screwing her out of a separate Star Wars job.
“Well to be honest with you, I was already in discussions about something on – it wasn’t The Mandalorian – something Star Wars-affiliated,” Lawless said in the interview. And while she makes it clear that she has no actual information that the petition impacted anything, she notes that, “It might have hurt me in some way, because then they couldn’t hire me because it would seem to be pandering” to fan demands. “I became political,” she noted, regardless of anything she or Disney had chosen to do.
Now, Lawless also makes it very clear that she’s grateful to her fans, remarking that she knows “they meant it out of love, and I thank the fans for their fealty to me.” (Excellent use of “fealty” there from the Xena star.) But the psychology of giving in to, defying, or just ignoring online fan demands is clearly only going to get more complicated as the years go on.