In praise of Star Wars Rebels

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

I spoil it for Siri

Guest Post: How I came back to Star Wars action figures by YASWB

Beatrice and I watch Star Wars together

[Review] William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher 

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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Entries in women and girls (5)


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.


Thoughts on gendered Lego from a woman you should know

Women You Should Know brings us this great piece on the classic 1981 Lego ad and the girl (now a 37-year-old naturopath) who starred in it. You may remember the original ad circulating around the net last year as Lego announced its heavily gendered (and mightily criticized) Friends line, the message of which seemed to many people to be, "This is Lego for girls--and the rest is Lego for boys". 

From the article: 

Something about this piece with the iconic 1981 ad tapped the zeitgeist and it became one of HuffPo’s more viral articles in recent memory, receiving over 60,000 shares. And along the way, the small world of Facebook led to a comment thread on my wall where someone, upon seeing the little red-haired girl holding her LEGOs, wrote, “Hey, I know her!” And now I do too, because that’s the serendipity of social media. Her name is Rachel Giordano, she is 37 years old, and she’s a practicing naturopathic doctor in Seattle, Washington. Giordano agreed to talk to me about her childhood and the ad, and to pose for a new Then & Now photo meme, which you see above in the lead image.

As I was planning my interview with Rachel Giordano, I saw this blog post by Achilles Effect, and knew immediately what Giordano should be holding in the new version of the photo. Enter the Heartlake City rolling beauty salon TV news van, one of the latest additions to the LEGO Friends line. Advertising copy lets us know what being a news anchor involves for minifig Emma:

“Break the big story of the world’s best cake with the Heartlake News Van! Find the cake and film it with the camera and then climb into the editing suite and get it ready for broadcast. Get Emma ready at the makeup table so she looks her best for the camera. Sit her at the news desk as Andrew films her talking about the cake story and then present the weather to the viewers.”

Cake? Seriously? And what-the-what is that when you look inside the news van? Where is the equipment? Is it behind the gigantic makeup vanity?

Follow the link for more.

Women You Should Know: The Little Girl from the 1981 LEGO Ad is All Grown Up, and She’s Got Something to Say


Despite the subtitle, this blog is not just for men

This evening a new Facebook follower posted on my wall, "is this site for men only??? does it count if I think like a guy??? or that I love Star Wars????". 

It's not the first time. The subtitle of this blog, of course, is "STAR WARS for men old enough to know better". That certainly makes it sound like a men-only sort of place. Similarly, in my book, the focus is very much on the boys and men I have shared Star Wars with for the last 35 years (although my sister is important to the story, too).

The truth is that I see Star Wars as largely a boy's interest. But the Star Wars I'm talking about is the old-school Star Wars of the late '70s and early '80s. I don't know much about today's Star Wars and I don't care to. My interest lies almost exclusively in the Star Wars of my youth, and for me that was a very male experience. Most of this blog's followers are men, and I don't think that's a coincidence. One of the ideas behind my book and this blog is that Star Wars was a profoundly important phenomenon for my generation of men. They are who I am chiefly speaking to.

But the answer to my newest Facebook follower is an emphatic No: this site is not for men only. There are women out there whose childhoods were shaped by Star Wars as much as was mine. I know it and I welcome it. I confess you're not my "target market", but I certainly don't mean to exclude you, or anyone. On the contrary, welcome aboard!

See also: Star Wars: not just for boys; Star Wars, bullying and girls

PS: My wife says "For women old enough to know better" is not a good subtitle. Smart enough, perhaps?


Star Wars, bullying and girls

The Official Star Wars Blog has a post from Ashley Eckstein (@ashley_eckstein), a voice actress in the Clone Wars TV show and the founder of Her Universe, about bullying and girls who like Star Wars. Ashley will be interviewing Carrie Goldman (@carriemgoldman), the author of a new book, Bullied, at the upcoming Star Wars Celebration VI convention in Orlando, Florida.

One of the points Ashley makes in her post is that there is a tendancy to market Star Wars only to boys, and that the effect of this can be that girls are teased or made to feel ashamed for being Star Wars fans. The comments below the post confirm this. For instance, a reader named Amanda says: 

My 7 year old daughter loves SW. Last year for her BDay we had a party and we got her lego SW for her DS and a couple lego SW sets. When she opened them, she allowed herself to get embarrassed. We asked her why and she said because her friends think SW is for boys. Well, we keep telling her that she can like whatever she wants to. We keep encouraging her not to be shy about liking SW or anything else that is considered “boyish.” We’ll keep drilling this message into her head.

When I was growing up Star Wars was definitely aimed at boys, and when I meet people my age today the men are almost always former Star Wars fans to one degree or other. The women of my generation tend to be much less familar with Star Wars, but there are certainly exceptions, including my own sister. As I've said before, this blog is aimed at male Star Wars fans from the original trilogy generation, but Star Wars was not exclusively a boy phenomenon even in the 1970s, and it certainly ought not to be treated that way in the 2010s. 

The Official Star Wars Blog: Bullied: Join The Conversation At Celebration VI Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear


Star Wars: not just for boys

Over on LiveJournal (yes, it's still there), author Claudia Gray takes umbrage with a commenter who tells her that, in 1980, girls didn't like Star Wars:

In 1980, EVERYONE EVERYWHERE IN THE WHOLE WORLD LOVED STAR WARS. I cannot emphasize this enough. From 1977 to 1983, Star Wars was basically as popular as Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games, One Direction, American Idol, NASCAR, chocolate, and oxygen, combined. Also, EVERYONE EVERYWHERE IN THE WHOLE WORLD includes girls. I personally built an X-Wing fighter simulator in my closet, owned a “Star Wars Passport” that guaranteed me entry to Mos Eisley Spaceport and Cloud City (have not tested this, more’s the pity), and had collected a group of Star Wars action figures that rivaled my brother’s in quantity and desirability. He really only had the edge because the Millennium Falcon playset was his, though I played with it nearly as much as he did. (Once, when allowed to borrow the Lando Calrissian action figure that was clearly and undeniably my property, said brother traded it to another kid – for a lowly Hoth Ranger, no less! – and that remains a point of contention to this day. Yes, we’re in our 40s. Your point?) 

And no, I was not the only girl out there who felt that way. All my friends loved Star Wars. Lucasfilm made Princess Leia dolls, and Princess Leia bubble bath, and Princess Kneesa stuffed Ewoks with pink headwraps; they knew there were little girls who loved and wanted these things. I’m in a Mardi Gras krewe here in New Orleans called Chewbacchus – cofounded by a woman – in which women and men both dress up in science fiction costumes to parade around. A good friend of mine named Jen Heddle loved Star Wars as a kid, then as an adult, so much and so deeply that she now works for Lucasfilm. Every single one of those women grew up loving Star Wars. No, it wasn’t just me. 

I feel a little admonished by this post, given the subtitle of this blog. But I certainly do not deny that Star Wars swept up little girls along with little boys 35 years ago. My own sister was one of them. I think it fair to say, however, that Star Wars had a more lasting impact on boys than on girls. Looking at the composition of this blog's Facebook followers, they are overwhelmingly men. But never mind. Girls and women, you are most welcome to my blog! 

LiveJournal: Claudia Gray: "I'm not like the other girls."