I’ve been a Star Wars fan for 40 years (yes I am that old). That fandom was unwavering pretty much up until my mid-twenties. However, at some point during the prequels – I think between Episodes II (2002) and III (2005), my fandom waned.
This was not because of growing up. Or maybe it was. Firstly, I realised that the power of the story unfolding on-screen was not even close to what I imagined when I first read about Anakin and Obi-Wan duelling over lava in the Return of the Jedi novelisation in 1983.
In addition to this, I met George Lucas. I used to produce movie related TV shows, and I interviewed him for one of those for the release of one of the prequels. Let’s just say, I’ve filed that under ‘Never meet your heroes as they can only disappoint’.
But while I stopped actively engaging in new Star Wars content, largely ignoring the Extended Universe novels and comics, I never stopped loving the original movies – and they were always a part of my life.
I became a father – of a daughter – in 2012. This was also the year that Disney purchased Lucasfilm, and when Kathleen Kennedy became the company’s president.
I couldn’t help but want to share my childhood love of Star Wars with my new child. However, I had been away from Star Wars for a while, and I was unhappy with what I found – merchandise was being created largely for the adult male collectors market.
But this didn’t stop me sharing my love of Star Wars with my daughter. I showed her the movies, and dusted off my old toys from my parent’s attic. She loved it from the start, and my frustration grew at the attitude of the Star Wars powers that be.
I had hoped that the Disney purchase might have led to a flood of child friendly merchandise, this was true to a point – but something was missing. Princess Leia merchandise was barely visible. Other female characters were routinely erased from products. Disney and their licensees were still relying on the same old trope: Star Wars is for boys.
This frustration is in a large part why I started this blog. This is one of my first posts, from 2014, reflecting this.
But five years later – how much things have changed.
Since the release The Force Awakens, and the realisation that Rey was focus of the new movies, there has been a great – and wonderful – disturbance in the force.
We have had not just one – but two, TWO – Star Wars movies with female leads. The Star Wars: Rebels cartoon (which predates The Force Awakens) has added dozens of female characters to the canon. When any of these characters are excluded from merchandise, there is an outcry – and apologies from those responsible, with the main culprits such as Hasbro changing the way they operate.
And now we have Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, a new line of animation, doll-like toys, and books focusing on the most well-known female characters of the current Star Wars canon. The intention is clear. It has finally been recognised.
Star Wars is for girls too.
The seeds were sewn for this in the time that I disengaged from Star Wars. The Clone Wars cartoon introduced us to many more female characters – none as important to female fandom as Ahsoka. The actor who played her in the show, Ashley Eckstein, spotted a gap in the market for fangirl merchandise and started the Her Universe brand to tap into this. The novels also had female fan favourite characters such as Mara Jade and Janina Solo.
But all of this was largely for the adult market. What is so great about the current state of mainstream Star Wars merchandise is that it is aimed at children – and with Star Wars: Forces of Destiny something that is aimed directly at little girls, much in the same way that DC Super Hero Girls does the same for their characters.
This has shown my faith in Star Wars was justified. I knew that it would be something that my little girl loved, and couldn’t understand why those in charge of the Star Wars brand didn’t see this. Now they do, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
And so will this little girl when she sees these toys 🙂