Monday, September 14, 2015

When The Force Is Finally With You

I get it. I truly do. I fully understand if you cannot bear to hear, see, or speak the words "Star Wars" again. I fully understand how the unstoppable juggernaut that is the promotional push for "The Force Awakens" feels less like ballyhoo for a movie and more like a Biblical judgement out of Revelation. I get how exhausting it is. And how mordantly hilarious all this hype is going to turn out to be if the film is a swing and a miss like the calamitous prequels. And yet.

I thought I was out. I really did. I thought I didn't care anymore about "Star Wars" and I would go see "The Force Awakens" out of mild curiosity and not be bothered by it's quality or lack thereof. But my determined efforts to not to take any interest began to dangerously weaken when I saw a Star Destroyer lying in ruins in a strange desert landscape in the second trailer. My indifference was nearly fatally routed when they got Drew Struzan out of retirement to do the poser art. Death of pretending not to care was officially declared when I saw John Boyega holding a light saber. And all throughout, I couldn't deny how much it moved me to finally see girls and women included in the promotion.

It's one of those little things that means a whole hell of a lot to see yourself, or a younger version of yourself, in something you loved. To not have to crane your neck or squint or pretend, "well maybe there could be a lot of girl characters we just don't see." My earliest attempt at writing fanfic at the age of twelve, thankfully lost to the mists of time, was creating a plucky teen who rode shotgun with Han and helped out as much as she got into trouble. I remember that she always wore red, and I remember I ultimately couldn't decide what to do with her. I thought about making her a Jedi but I didn't because it didn't feel like Jedis were something girls could be. But at the least in my mind that made one more major female part besides Princess Leia. Leia was a great character, but watching the films growing up I couldn't help but wish for more. And at school Star Wars was strictly boy stuff. I had no interest in Barbies and wanted stories about girls who were brave, girls who flew space ships, girls who could summon and control powerful space magic.

My introduction to the original trilogy was on home video so I was greatly excited that "The Phantom Menace" would be my first "Star Wars" film in a theater. Well it was...disappointing to put it mildly. Natalie Portman's performance appearing embalmed by her makeup and dozens of costume changes, showing none of Carrie Fisher's wonderful spark in nearly rebelling against the script. And the pulpy energy of the originals was completely gone. But at least there were female Jedis this time. Who we never spent anytime with. And then were killed off wordlessly in "Revenge of the Sith". I suppose I could have consoled myself with the Expanded Universe novels. To their credit they were overflowing with female characters. But there was a feeling they didn't really "count" as canon. A feeling confirmed when Disney bought Lucasfilm and promptly banished them to the phantom zone of the used bookstore and licensed it's own line of tie-in novels. And so I thought the twin suns had set on my affection for a universe set a long time ago, in a a galaxy far, far, away.

And then things like this started happening:

And this:

And this too:
And I didn't know what it would do to me, to finally see girls who love "Star Wars" included in the run up to "The Force Awakens". It's smart business to be sure, but then again just because something is smart business doesn't mean Hollywood will give up its deeply held misconceptions on who watches certain types of movies. But it feels wonderful to feel counted, it feels wonderful to not be treated as an afterthought, a begrudging "well your money is as good as any I suppose." To see lots of women characters in the "The Force Awakens", as heroes, as villains, as leads and supporting parts. And especially to see young girls have a place in the fandom. To be told you can be brave, and you can fly on the wings of your imagination to a story that has a place waiting for you. Because that's the thing, female fans of "Star Wars" have always been here, it's our galaxy too. And now, there is a generation of girls being explicitly told how much it is their galaxy, and how very welcome they are to drop by whenever they like. It's heartening to say the least. And I can only hope they get a movie worthy of their dreams.

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