I just finished watching the May 6 episode of “The Goldbergs”. I know – a bit late to the party … but better late than never. One of the storylines of the installment was the youngest son’s desire to see “Return of the Jedi” when it premiered in 1983. Adam blackmails his teenage sister, Erica, to accompany him, to wait in line for the theater box office to open. She is reluctant to do so – she is a teenage girl afterall – but agrees.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but consider how difficult it must have been for girls to be Star Wars fans during that era. Would my own girls have embraced George Lucas’ space fantasy with the same ardor back then as they did during their formative years of the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century? True, I’m a girl, and I have been a Star Wars Fan since 1977. However, I was in college when Episode IV hit theaters. I was at a point in my life when I really didn’t care if someone thought I was odd to like “a boy’s movie”. As my parents always said, “I walk to the beat of my own drum.”
So there I was … in the mid-1990s, married with two little girls of my own. Would Erin and Caitlin take a shine to Star Wars as their dad and I had? Would they share a passion for the space fantasy, too? We were going to make sure our girls grew up with a strong sense of who they were and not to let anything – especially their sex – stand in their way of doing what they wanted to do. Be respectful. Be considerate. Be curious. Be honest and trustworthy. Be true to yourself. These were attributes their dad and I told them would hold them in good stead as they made their respective ways in life. We have not been disappointed.
So, what does this have to do with raising girls in the realm of Star Wars? Everything!
Star Wars never has been about gender. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t understand one of the strongest messages George Lucas was trying to get across in the saga. Look at the slew of characters, creatures and aliens who figure prominently – and even not so prominently – in the telling of his story. True, the prinicpal characters happen to be human, but the fact that so many of the characters are not says a great deal. It is the individual that matters. Even the most seemingly insignificant being can make a difference. If it’s necessary to bring gender into the equation, I’d just like to point out that it is the lead female character in each trilogy who truly is the strongest individual. Both Princess Leia and Padmé remain level-headed, are resourceful, provide the beacon to lead their respective galaxies (I’m talking different eras here), and exude a quiet inner strength that (in my opinion) only the most seasoned Jedi can lay claim to. In addition, the leader of the entire Rebellion happens to be of the female gender (Mon Mothma). For once, female characters were not being relegated to small supporting roles, left to cower in the corner while their supposed stronger male counterparts “saved the day”! I said it Part 1 (you read that, didn’t you?) of this two-part blog, and I’ll say it again – it isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. (By the way, as characters like Padmé and Leia provide strong role models for girls, they do so for boys, too, showing the male populace that females are just as strong as their male counterparts when it comes to getting the job done. Let’s face it, much of what life throws at you takes ingenuity, not brute force, when it comes to survival.)
Although Caitlin’s cadre of favorite Star Wars characters has changed over the years, a female character has been firmly ensconced in the top ranking place for quite some time – Bastila Shan. She is a Jedi who plays a key role during the Jedi Civil War Era in the award-winning video game, Knights of the Old Republic. “She has a very interesting story,” Caitlin explains, hinting at the basis for my daughter’s affinity for the character. Caitlin prefers not to reveal any further information about Bastila nor her choosing Bastila – not to be coy, but because Caitlin “doesn’t want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t played the game, and would like to.” To this day, KOTOR ranks as Caitlin’s all-time favorite video game.
Erin, on the other hand, has three favorite characters. Garnering spot number 3 is Obi-Wan. “He is very loyal, and really cares about others. He takes their interests to heart. He always tries to do the right thing,” she notes. Erin’s second favorite character – Princess Leia: “She is a strong female character who is not afraid to assert her independence, and step in front of the guys to get the job done. The cinematic world could use more characters like her!” And who captures the top spot in Erin’s heart? Why, not even a human character! It’s Wicket “because he is just so cute!”
It wasn’t just about opening up Erin’s and Caitlin’s minds to the adventures of Luke, Han and Leia, the theme of good vs. evil and using Star Wars to illustrate the notion that everyone can make a difference no matter what his/her size or status in life is. Yes, it was about all that. However, that was not my main reason for introducing Star Wars to my two girls. It had more to do with opening their imaginations, to introducing them to the idea that they could dream of more than what they see right in front of them. “See how George Lucas opened up his imagination to create the fantastical worlds? Let your imaginations be your guide. It can take you on all kinds of adventures – and lead you to where you want to go in life!” That is what I told them throughout their growing up years. Maybe repetition pays off … since both Erin and Caitlin have developed pretty healthy imaginations. And those healthy imaginations have led them to develop rather adventurous spirits. Their paths have taken them very far away from home. I miss them terribly, but I certainly cannot fault them for continuing on the journey they began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
[Sometimes it isn’t always best that folks know you’re a Star Wars fan. lol They assume you have everything on hand. One day, Erin, 10, and Caitlin, 6, came home from school, and exclaimed: “Tomorrow is Star Wars Day! We get to wear costumes!” Guess what? We didn’t have a single one on hand! How could I send my girls to school the next day when everyone at school knew what big fans all of us were? I worked well into the night to come up with something passable. Maybe the costumes weren’t canon, but the girls had fun wearing them!]
My girls have had their share of lightsaber battles over the years; have gone on their share of adventures across the Star Wars galaxy. They have accompanied their dad and me to Celebrations, and they have watched all six of the films more times than I care to count. They do not get tired of riding the Star Tours rides at the Disney Parks over and over again. They’ve amassed quite impressive collections of their own, and I’ve shared much of mine to help round out their dioramas (yes, we actually open our toys!). They have experienced almost every Star Wars-themed museum exhibit and concert that has made its way to our corner of the country. Had either or both of them been born boys, I would have raised them exactly the same – introducing them to the galaxy far, far away … and letting them choose to immerse themselves in it. Isn’t that what parents really want to do – share their passions with their children, and hope their offspring will pick up the mantle? It can be disappointing if they don’t, but it really isn’t fair to force them. Remember the friend I mentioned in Part 1 who questioned whether I was forcing my girls to like Star Wars? Well, downhill skiing is a passion of her husband’s, and it was important to him to introduce their two children to the sport. As it turned out, both their son and daughter took to skiing like a mynock takes to the sky. Is it any different for those of us who are Star Wars fans who want to share our passion with our children – girl or boy?
I don’t know if the girls will love – or even like – Star Wars for the rest of their lives. I’d like to think there always will be at least a corner of their souls reserved for the Saga – a place where memories reside to conjure warm reflections of a happy childhood.
Yes, passing on what one has learned … a mighty tall order it is. One I gladly accepted to keep the spirit of Star Wars burning bright in our family. It has been my pleasure to watch my girls take to the Saga with relish. How have you passed on your affinity for Star Wars? I’d love to know.
Until next time, MTFBWY! 🙂Powered by Sidelines