MORE POSTS 
 

Star Wars oil painting exhibit "Sandstorm" opens

Breakneck boredom: an old time Star Wars fan's thoughts on Star Trek Into Darkness

They put me on the news to talk about Star Wars

More from Steve Sansweet on Star Wars and gay marriage

Carmine Infantio has died

I can die happy: I've been interviewed by Dungeons & Dragons

Star Wars Episode 7: All My Children?

What JJ Abrams needs to really succeed with Star Wars 7

Star Wars: The Old Republic is gay--on one planet at least

Tongal and Pringles bring us DYI desecration of Star Wars

Reminiscences about West End Games' Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Here's the biggest Star Wars news of 2012

Stephen Quinn interviews me about Star Wars on CBC Vancouver

Star Wars: modern myth or global franchise?

Parents turn child's 1st birthday into extended Lucasfilm/Hasbro advert

Me reading from A Long Time Ago

Highlights and lowlights of the upcoming Star Wars Celebration VI

Grown men (mostly) dressed up as Lando Calrissian

Beggar's Canyon Toys offer Star Wars toy "restoration" service

Blog's t-shirts banned by Zazzle

Will the real David Prowse please stand up?

LaserSaber: Unlicensed, dangerous and yours for only $99

Is this the future of Star Wars?

Is Star Wars link bait?

Dissent not tolerated at the Prequel Appreciation Society

TSOT discovers its nemesis

Comme des idiots: Star Wars teams up with poncy fashion house

US Christian activist attacks SWTOR for being gay

Yodaphone--the latest product pitch from Star Wars Inc.

Attention tortoise-fanciers: do you like Star Wars?

History of Star Wars as related by a bot

Is Star Wars a travesty of science fiction?

Luke Skywalker and company on the Muppet Show

Yoda now shilling instant soup in Japan

Commander who?

$6000 for a toy you can't even play with

Star Wars underwear

Retro Star Wars decor in my son's bedroom

Phantom Menace 3D: Now With Plot

Star Wars and disco: the forgotten love affair

Will Muschamp: What a guy!

Oi, fanboy: grow up! A reply to Darren Franich

 

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Wednesday
Jun042014

I'm changing the name of this blog, and #WeWantLeia is why

Image credit: RebelScum.comFor some time now I've been increasingly uncomfortable with the original name of this blog, "This Sort of Thing: Star Wars for men old enough to know better". The subtitle was intended to emphasize my experience with men of my generation--men in the their late 30s to mid 40s who, like me, grew up as devoted Star Wars fans. My book, A Long Time Ago: Growing Up with and Out of Star Wars, was intended to speak mainly to that audience. It came of my experience with men of my age. Throughout my adulthood, I have been repeatedly struck by how easily I can talk about Star Wars with men who grew up in the late 1970s, whether I have anything else in common with them or not. As I say in the prologue to my book, 

Star Wars—the movie, the sequels, the toys, the books, the trading cards, the comics, the arcade games, the galaxy of myths and merchandise—dominated my youth. In this I am the same as so many other boys I knew then, and so many men I know today. It is a common reference point for my gender and generation. 

Not long after my book was published, however, I started getting feedback from women of the same generation. They mostly liked my book, but some were annoyed by the male focus. Star Wars wasn't just a boy thing, they said, and I knew they were right. When I first unwrapped Kenner Star Wars figures on Christmas morning, 1978, my four-year-old sister was there doing the same. I would call her my first Star Wars playmate, if the original meaning of that word had not been so totally corrupted. 

I was sensitive to these readers' criticisms from the outset. In fact I revised my book a few months after first publishing it to add more inclusive language, although I left the male focus largely in place. As the book became better known, I got more traffic to this blog. Again the (entirely fair) question arose, based on the blog's subtitle: Is this blog just for men? My answer was no, as I tried to explain in this post. But was it enough?

On 19 May, this happened:

Disney's answer was surprising and disappointing to Natalie, a mum and PhD student at King's College, London. She wasn't the only one who felt that way. The hashtag #WeWantLeia quickly became the latest Twitter phenomenon. The Daily Dot explains: 

Star Wars fans come in all shapes and sizes, in every gender and race, and are found in all corners of the world. The diversity of the fanbase is one of the most exciting aspects of being a part of the Star Wars fandom. Unfortunately the Star Wars films have never really reflected that diversity and while hopes were high that things may change with new movies and TV show being released under Disney, signs keep leading fans to believe they’ll be disappointed.

Female fans in particular have been consistently let down by recent news—especially the lack of women in the new Star Wars: Episode VII cast. That disappointment continued this week when it was revealed the Disney Store has no plans to create products inspired by Princess Leia. The revelation came last Tuesday when King’s College London graduate student Natalie Wreyford asked the Disney Store why there weren’t any Princess Leia products in the store. The store responded on Twitter with a cheery signoff that has done little to pacify fans.

Jezebel adds: 

This comes on the heels of a disappointing initial casting announcement—six new male characters, and just one woman. When the Internet raised hue and cry, J.J. Abrams rushed to say that the casting wasn't over, and he's totally adding one more "substantial" female role. Oh, well, in THAT case. As our pals at io9 put it: "Are we seriously still pretending that the universe is comprised almost entirely of men (and mostly white men at that)?"

Reading all this on Twitter and the web, I found myself strongly on the pro-Leia side. She is one of the leading (and best) characters in Star Wars.

But this isn't just about toys. As has so often happened in the course of the Star Wars franchise, a story about space heroes has again become a story about what we want to be. George Lucas first encountered this (likely very surprising) phenomenon in the aftermath of the first film, when he faced criticism for not featuring blacks and other minorities in his film. He responded with Lando Calrissian--another great Star Wars character who often does not get the attention he deserves. (In fact it seems to me that very few of the human-played characters of the original Star Wars trilogy are featured in the prequel and post-prequel era of Star Wars content and merchandise. Lucasfilm seems to prefer to let the faces of its franchise be the easily CGI'd characters: Vader, Yoda, Artoo, Threepio, Boba Fett, etc.) 

As I retweeted supportive and insightful #WeWantLeia tweets and blog posts (like this one from Natacha Guyot), the old embarrassment about this blog's subtitle hit me again. Yes, my experience of Star Wars in the 1970s and '80s was boy-focussed. But it wasn't boy-only even then, and it certainly is not now. Like so many Twitter users and Star Wars fans, I want Leia. To be clear, it's not more Disney toys I want--I stopped collecting toys at about 13. What I want is a world that isn't subjected to outmoded notions of what boys and girls are supposed to be. 

All of which is to say that I've changed the name of this blog--for the better.

Tuesday
May132014

Is Frozen really the new Star Wars?

The Guardian has an excellent long piece by Dorian Lynskey on the phenomenon that is Frozen. If you have young children, especially but not necessarily daughters, you'll recognize instantly the obsession that Lynskey is describing:

Frozen-mania bypasses logic. It's a compulsion. Friends have told me about their daughters playing the soundtrack on a loop, reliving the movie as they go; watching the DVD at least once a day; turning each bedtime into a climb up "the north mountain"; renaming their old toys Anna, Elsa and Olaf; loving it so much that they'll even watch a dodgy download in Cantonese because they know the words anyway. One mother said there should be a support group, Frozen Anonymous.

Watching all this unfold in my household over the last few months, I have had a distinct sense of deja vu: Frozen seems to be to Beatrice what Star Wars (the original 1977 movie and its two sequels) was to me. Lysnkey makes the same comparison in passing, and perhaps it's too soon to be emphatic about it, but the parallels are certainly there. It has been widely reported, for instance, that Disney did not anticipate Frozen being such a phenomenon and, as a result, has so far failed fully to capitalize on the market for Frozen-related merchandise. Perhaps they should offer an Early Bird Certificate Package.

We're always being told of course, that [Movie Title Here] is the new Star Wars. But maybe for once that claim is justified.

The Guardian: Frozen-mania: how Else, Anna, and Olaf conquered the world

Saturday
May102014

Go support Elstree 1976 documentary on Star Wars extras

Elstree 1976 is a Kickstarter-funded documentary about Star Wars extras. From the documentary's Kickstarter site: 

In 1976, during the hottest summer on record, Star Wars was shot in suburban North London. Nobody involved had any idea how big the film would become, many couldn't even remember the title.

Yet, for the extras and actors in smaller roles, their faces hidden in masks and helmets, this seemingly insignificant job would go on to colour their lives even four decades later.

ELSTREE 1976 is a portrait of a cross-section of these people; from the man inside the most iconic villain in film history to the guy whose character was completely cut from the final film. It tells the stories of their lives and explores the eccentric community they have formed, traveling the world, signing autographs for fans.

The trailer is very good. Please consider backing this project. The filmmakers are looking for £30,000 (US$50,000) and are £7,000 of the way there. 

Kickstarter: Elstree 1976

Twitter: @elsetree1976

Thursday
May082014

Honest Trailers attacks Attack of the Clones

"Ewan A Bad Movie" indeed.

Sunday
Apr272014

I spoil it for Siri

Tuesday
Apr222014

Cyndi Lauper with TIE fighters, obviously

Today I bring you yet another Toronto-based geek band singing about Star Wars. This time, however, it's not Tatooine but TIE fighters.

Debs & Errol wrote "TIE After TIE" to the tune of (and borrowing a few lyrics from) Cyndi Lauper's beautiful "Time After Time". Errol then made this terrific video out of it. 

How does this video have only 9000 views on YouTube? Debs & Errol have many other tracks, plus a webcomic.

Debs & Errol

@debsanderrol

Sunday
Apr202014

Two odes to Tatooine by Copy Red Leader and Kari Maaren

Thanks to @mspratt for letting me know about Toronto geek band Copy Red Leader. They don't just sing about Star Wars--for instance their WHOLE ALBUM on The Princess Bride--but when they do turn their talents to Star Wars it sounds a bit like this...

This track is actually off of an album CRL made with a certain Kari Maaren. This amuses me to no end because Kari and I were at Massey College, University of Toronto together in 1999-2001. As I was struggling to forget The Phantom Menace, she was all worked up about something new called Harry Potter.

Since then Kari has become a geek musician (and cartoonist and blogger). Like CRL, her interests range well beyond Star Wars (for instance, Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off). Curiously she, too, has chosen Tatooine as the location of her Star Wars ode: 

Copy Red Leader has a new album out on 26 April 2014. I'm told it will have six more Star Wars songs--stay tuned. ("Tuned" like "tunes", i.e., music, but also like "stay tuned" as in...never mind.) Meanwhile Kari has a new web comic, It Never Rains

Copy Red Leader

Pirate Elves in Space

Kari Maaren

YouTube: Kari Maaren's channel

Thursday
Apr172014

Denial is the only reasonable reaction

Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

Cartoonist Stephan Pastis (@stephanpastis) nails it. Go check out his comic, Pearls Before Swine.

Go Comics: Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis

Sunday
Mar232014

Taunton Gazette reports on Star-Wars-themed Purim celebrations 

From the Taunton Daily Gazette:

Purim is celebrated by observing five religious obligations: The Book of Esther is read aloud from a scroll, charity is given to the poor, gifts of food are sent to friends and neighbors, a certain amount of drinking is encouraged, and naturally there is a Purim Feast.

There is also the Purim skit, or Purimshpiel.

This year, the youth group marked this humorous and festive day with a Star Wars-inspired skit: “Star Wars 5774: The Revenge of Shushan.” The title plays on the Jewish year of 5774, the number of sequels/prequels in the Star Wars series, and Shushan, the town in Persia where the action takes place.

I know, I know, it's "tauntaun" not "Taunton". But still...

Taunton Daily Gazette: Temple Beth El youth group marks Purim with a Star Wars-inspired skit

Tuesday
Mar112014

In case you think Disney paid too much for Star Wars...

Check out this photo of my son's preschool class. Three of the sixteen children (and three of the eight boys) wore Star Wars t-shirts for the photo.  

My son, Zach, is in the front row middle, obviously. I've obscured the other faces out of respect for privacy.