Star Wars, Gender and Kids

Now that my troublesome class decided to behave for once, one of my not-troublesome classes decided to act up instead. I guess just one relatively quiet week is too much to hope for.

What is more, tonight was the monthly translator meet-up at Leo’s restaurant in Bremen. I had pasta with spicy tuna sauce and warm apple pie as a dessert. I probably should’ve forgone the apple pie, but it was tasty.

Finally, here are some interesting observations from Tor.com about how children today relate to Star Wars. This meshes very much with what I have observed in 10 to 14-year-old Star Wars fans. And no, I don’t get the Clone Wars love either – to me it’s the only part of the Star Wars franchise that’s actively unwatchable. I don’t hate the prequels like many others and usually include them in my annual rewatch, but my main love is still reserved for the original trilogy.

One thing the Tor.com post does not mention – and I’m not sure if it’s because it doesn’t match the poster’s experience or because he just never thought about it – is that this kid Star Wars fandom these days is almost 100 percent male. Go into any class between 5th and 8th grade (probably younger as well, but I don’t teach elementary school) and ask the kids what they think about Star Wars. All of the boys will have at least seen some of the various films and/or TV shows and most of them will like it. Whereas many of the girls will not have seen any Star Wars at all and those that have seen the films usually think it’s boring. Even the girls who are into geeky stuff (yes, I have geek girl students, hurray!) are more into manga and anime and Twilight than into Star Wars.

Now Star Wars fandom – like SFF fandom in general – was always male dominated even in the old days, but there used to be a lot more female Star Wars fans in the 1970s and 1980s than there are now. Back when I was at the age my students are now, we had a handful of male Star Wars fans and two and a half female fans (the half was my then best friend whom I infected with the Star Wars virus, though she was never into it like I was). And loving Star Wars was as much of a gendered interest back then as it is now. As a teen, I largely kept my Star Wars fandom secret even from my family, because girls were not supposed to enjoy SF. The other girl fan wasn’t much more open about her fandom either – we had known each other and been friends for ages before we discovered that we both liked Star Wars. And the other girl definitely was a geek, she even ended up marrying a bloke she’d met at the weekly afterschool RPG session in tenth grade.

It’s sad that Star Wars no longer speaks to today’s girls the way it spoke to my generation. And I definitely blame that on the shortcomings of the newer parts of the franchise. Star Wars was never great about gender, but we original fangirls at least had Princess Leia to look up to and Han Solo to drool over. Leia was one of my big role models, I wanted to be her when I grew up, and I had a mayor crush on Harrison Ford.

As for the prequel trilogy and the Clone Wars, the good news is that girls can finally be Jedi now. Because as a teenager, I always assumed based on the evidence in the original Star Wars trilogy that girls couldn’t be Jedi. After all, no one ever tried to train Leia, even though she was awesome, and neither Obi Wan nor Yoda particularly cared about what happened to her. For me, the biggest revelation about the prequels was that there were female Jedi! But even though the prequels and the Clone Wars have girl Jedi, they don’t actually have any good female characters. Padme shows some potential in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, but Princess Leia she’s not. And she’s pretty much useless in Revenge of the Sith – obviously pregnancy does not become her. Shmi Skywalker, whom I liked, dies much too soon. I cannot comment about the Ahsoka girl Jedi character in The Clone Wars, because I haven’t been able to watch that. As for the drool factor, none of the men in the prequels or the Clone Wars can hold a candle to Han Solo.

Still – and this is something that many grouchy old-time fans forget – it’s great that Star Wars is still loved and appreciated by a whole new generation of fans, though I wish it would be fans of both gendes. How many kids these days even remember, let alone love E.T – The Extraterrestrial? Yet in its day, E.T. was bigger than Star Wars.

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