Does My Daughter Love Star Wars Because of Me?

People often wonder why I’m so enthusiastic about sharing my love of Star Wars with my daughter. For the most part, they’re questioning it. Familiar comments are “Why not just let kids be kids?”, “Why not just let her choose herself?”, “Why am I imposing my interests on my daughter?”, or worst of all “Why am I trying to make her into a boy?” (I’m not).

Although I feel it’s no different than a sports fan passing on their love of a favourite team, for me it goes beyond mere parenting nostalgia.

We live in a world where cultural life is formed increasingly by the market, yet only certain brands are actively marketed to girls. If I was to simply “let kids be kids” and merely encourage what my daughter responds to in the pop cultural landscape around her, all I am doing as is relinquishing my parenting influence to that of the marketeers, and beyond that letting them define to her what is and isn’t for girls.

There is nothing inherently male about Star Wars. As a child, I don’t believe I liked it because I was a boy, but because I was a child and it was insanely cool. I don’t remember it being overtly marketed to males, something that changed as I grew older. When I was a kid, the other biggest Star Wars fan I knew was a girl who lived around the corner.

As a giddily excited new dad, I enjoyed buying Star Wars onesies and baby toys, but as she grew up I was happily surprised she continued to enjoy engaging with it. As a toddler, she loved us to read Darth Vader and Son. When I brought home my old Star Wars toys from my parents attic, I assumed I would store them away until she was 6 or 7, and give them a go then. She spotted them, wanted to play with them straight away, and they never made it past our lounge.

So am I imposing what I love on my daughter? You may have read this and other posts and think I am. I disagree. In a way, I am marketing to my daughter. I am trying to give Star Wars, seen widely as a ‘boy’ interest, the same chance of taking hold as the dozens of other ‘girl’ brands being presented to her. I do the same with superheroes. I’m just trying to level the gendered marketing playing field. She’s already accepted that Star Wars is for both boys and girls (and will often tell her friends this). Whether it will stick, I have no idea.

While I admit I will find it slightly sad if she decides that Star Wars isn’t for her when she is older, I will completely respect that choice (and not try to change her mind!)

But in the meantime, Star Wars is something we enjoy together as father and daughter, and today we have a day of Star Wars toys, dress ups, and watching The Empire Strikes Back ahead of us. Fun times that I shall always remember with joy.
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Star Wars: Episodes I-VI, The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels are all available to watch on NOW TV

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Disclosure: I receive free access to NOW TV in exchange for blogging about the service.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Prequel Series You’re Looking For

If like me you’re a Star Wars fan who’s no fan of the prequels, have no fear. There is a series worthy of the saga and much better than Episodes I to III – Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the prequel you’re looking for.

In the original Star Wars trilogy, the hints to what had gone on before were as tantalising as they were brief. One of the key moments was in Star Wars when Obi-Wan tells Luke about his father Anakin, who was “the best star pilot in the galaxy… a cunning warrior, (and) a good friend.”

This enigmatic description set the tone for what I imagined any prequel movies would be like. I saw Anakin as a dashing heroic man, a brash and intelligent Jedi Knight who somehow lost his way, was tempted by the dark side, and became Darth Vader.

This is not the Anakin Skywalker portrayed in the prequel trilogy. A precocious child who becomes a petulant teen, prone to sulking and tantrums, he never grows into the man we believe could potentially be the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, let alone the most feared agent of the Empire, Darth Vader.

By the time I walked out of seeing the third and final prequel movie Revenge of the Sith in 2005, I had had enough of this pre-Imperial galaxy far, far away. My fandom for the original trilogy remained, but I was done with tales of Anakin, the Republic, and the Clone Wars.

Which is how I, and many similar lapsed fans, missed the subsequent prequel series that we had been yearning for – Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars is the prequel series you’re looking for”

Set between Episodes II and III, it centres around the galactic wide conflict that began at the end of II and was wrapped up in III. It takes many familiar concepts and characters from the prequels, but uses them in a way that is a lot more interesting, exciting, and satisfying.

Anakin is the dashing hero,  a cunning warrior, renowned pilot, and good friend of General Kenobi (who’s wry sense of humour is also more evident).

Other characters from the bookend movies also feature. The Jedi council includes the familiar faces of Yoda and Mace Windu. The Chancellor continues to pretend to be nice. Count Dooku (previously Christopher Lee) is the intimidating villain he was supposed to be in the movies, and to a lesser degree the cyborg General Grievous.

The clones that gave the war its name were mostly namelesss copies of New Zealand actor Temuera Morrison in the movies, have distinctive looks and personalities in TCW – most notably Captain Rex (who my daughter identified as a character way before I did).

But the greatest addition to the Star Wars canon, one that changed Star Wars forever and probably the main reason I love this show so much, is Ahsoka Tano.

Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Ahsoka Tano and Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars

A central character, she was introduced from the very beginning of the show. A 14-year-old Padawan to the newly knighted Jedi Anakin, she is a smart, feisty, swift and talented warrior. While learning the ways of the force in the proper way, she is also inspired by Anakin to regularly push the boundaries of expectation and authority.

Before Rey, Ahsoka was the character who demonstrated that the galaxy far, far away was just as much a place for girls as boys. My daughter adored Ahsoka – not just a female Jedi, but a girl – from pretty much the first moment we laid eyes on her, and her love of the young padawan has only grown. She is even her imaginary friend.

Elsewehere, while female characters were often given short shrift in the movie galaxy, they are prominent and well realised in this show. Padme Amidala is more of an intelligent and skilled diplomat than depicted in the movies; Female Jedi Knights feature far more heavily (including some kickass lightsaber battles); the villain/anti-hero Asajj Ventress – who was almost a character in Revenge of the Sith – is a regular guest star, with her distinctive raspy voice, pale bald head, and two red lightsabers. Plenty of other female characters ranging from bounty hunters to heads of state, witches, and military leaders are also featured.

While ostensively a kids show, the long story arcs of 4 or 5 episodes, often involve a sophisticated range of political and and emotional depth. Some are also downright scary, such as a story involving Jedi children being hunted to death for sport, or the return of Darth Maul (yeah, the guy who was chopped in half in The Phantom Menace), though I should point out that my 3-4 year-old daughter was fine with them – and she tells me when something scares her.

One of the good things about getting my daughter into this now, is that there is so much tie-in merchandise available second hand. We have found everything from figures, puzzles, books, model kits, and my daughter’s prized Captain Rex computer (which can double as a mask 😉 )

Captain Rex reporting for duty. #clonewars #clonetrooper

A post shared by Man vs. Pink (@manvspink) on

This is a great show if you’re a Star Wars fan, and almost justifies the existence of the prequels – and while those are only 3 movies amounting to about 7 hours, Star Wars: The Clone Wars has over 120 episodes for a whopping 45 hours of content!

If you’re currently watching Star Wars Rebels and haven’t seen this, then you really need to check it out. Ashoka and Captain Rex – key characters in Rebels – both have history that can only be understood from watching this show.

And just in case you haven’t got the message, let me be clear Star Wars: The Clone Wars is better than prequels. Now all we need an animated remake of Revenge of the Sith for the circle to be well and truly complete…

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Our Star Wars Cartoon Family Portrait

We had a lovely surprise gift during a recent holiday to New Zealand – this great Star Wars inspired cartoon family portrait.

Our cousin Vaitoa (the family tree connection is more complex than that but cousin is fine) is a commercial artist, and while as far as I know not particularly a Star Wars fan himself, he knew of my love of the galaxy far, far away… and how I’m sharing it with my daughter.

He browsed our Facebook photos for reference – the one here is just to show you what we all look like normally – and then created our likenesses for this picture.

We first saw it when he gifted us with a framed print, while he and his awesome family came round to see us for an all too fleeting visit while we were in New Zealand (where my wife is from and we lived together for 4 years).

We love this picture, and now back in the UK we proudly have it hanging in our home.

Cartoon Jedi Family
Mummy, daddy, and youngling

What’s happening in this illustration? Well, Jedi are not allowed to have relationships, so I reckon my wife and I look like a couple of Jedi Knights who fell in love and decided to leave the Jedi Order to be together. We then had a child, and we are bringing up our youngling to learn the ways of the force. And we look very happy about it.

My wife – also not particularity a Star Wars fan – is stoked to have this portrait of us.

The point of the post is to share something we think is really cool, but it would be remiss of me not to pay it forward and promote my cousin’s services. So, if you want your own version, drop our cousin Vaitoa a line at vaicreative01@gmail.com. Tell him cuzzy Simon sent you, and said you’d give a good rate 😉

Ponies, Princesses, and Finding a Place in the Pack

This is a crucial year for our daughter. She turned 4 in January, and that means she will be starting school in September.

For her birthday this year, one of the presents I chose for her was the anime Wolf Children. From director Mamoru Hosoda (who also made Summer Wars, The Girl Who Lept Through Time, and the forthcoming The Boy and the Beast), it’s a wonderful fantastical coming of age tale, that has become one of our daughter’s favourite films.

Thematically, it has much in common with our Studio Ghibli favourite, My Neighbour Totoro. But the tone is skewed older as the plot progresses into more challenging areas.

One of them is the way the children of the title – a pair of half wolf/human siblings – find their place in the world, making choices based on their background of mixed heritage. For the sister, she becomes focussed on the need to fit in with her female peers.

Her struggle is whether to adopt more traditionally ‘girly’ interests, in order to fit it – because she has a fundamental instinct driven desire to find her own ‘pack’.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m troubled by the marketing directed towards girls. That it focuses on appearance over achievement, that topics become gendered at a very young age so the likes of STEM are seen as masculine pursuits before they even start school. That passive princesses rather than active adventure heroes are seen by everyone from parents to retailers as default role models for girls.

But most of our daughter’s female peers engage with these brands, compared to the handful of girls we have encountered who like Star Wars or superheroes.

While I advocate for non-traditionally ‘girly’ media and merchandise, I also don’t want to overly restrict my daughter’s ability to socialise with other children. She needs to feel confident in her choices, to give her the ability to find her own way in the mass of messaging directed at her. To find her own pack.

We’re currently on a big trip, involving multiple long haul flights, and we’ve relied on the vast library of inflight entertainment available for a 4-year-old to watch on 12 hour flights.

Browsing the kids section, our daughter chose the Disney cartoon Sofia the First. She had never seen it before. I took some heart in this choice. I had read that the creators were looking to make a show with a more progressive princess.

This is true to a certain extent, but it still has the same sparkles, colours, and royalism – as well as frequent guest stars of familiar (to her) Disney Princesses – such as Ariel, Merida, and Cinderella. She quickly became a bit obsessed, and watched dozens of shows on flights & 2am jet lag induced Netflix sessions. I have since characterised it as a bit of a Disney Princess gateway drug.

Ever since she has been much more interested in looking ‘pretty’. This used to be countered by saying whatever she was wearing was pretty – while also stressing that being pretty isn’t important. Well, that’s not working as well anymore, as she has a clear idea that a) it is important, and b) of what she thinks is pretty – and it generally doesn’t involves leggings and a t-shirt.

So in the spirit of letting her choose what she wants to wear, I just had to suck it up. As we’re travelling, the options were limited, and it seems to be wearing off a little. We’ll see how that develops when we return home.

On one of the flights, I was happily surprised to find The Force Awakens available, and I admit I was slightly  disappointed that she had no interest in watching it. Despite my thinking that perhaps a 5th viewing (for me) might be excessive, I simply couldn’t resist, while my daughter continued on with her viewing.

Part way through, my daughter tapped on my arm. “Daddy, I want to watch The Force Awakens like you”. Yes, there was a geek dad surge of joy in my heart, so I put the movie on for her.

As we’d started the movie at different times, our viewing was out of sync with each other. At the same moment I was watching THE scene between Han and Kylo Ren, while on my daughter’s screen Han’s ship was being piloted in spectacular fashion by the new young female hero, Rey. Out with the old, in with the new.

I can’t force my daughter to like Star Wars, nor do I wish to. I know she loves it for now, but that could easily change and I have to be ok with that. I’ve done my best to offer up alternatives to the usual content directed at girls, but by the time she gets to school she needs to find her own way. I have to be ok if she chooses Princesses and ponies over Jedi and superheroes.

Actually, I have no issue with ponies any more. After many followers recommendations, we have just started watching My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic on Netflix – and I agree, it’s really good.

On this trip, she has met her slightly older cousin for the first time (well, since she was a baby). They have got on great, and our daughter looks up to her already. Her cousin is very into princesses, and my daughter is already asking for a pink tiara like she has. However, they have also bonded over a shared interested in My Little Pony.  But we’ve also introduced lightsabers into her playtime repertoire. Pony Princesses with lightsabers sounds pretty cool to me.

So in conclusion, here’s Star Wars reenacted by MLP 🙂

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Main picture by “rainbowdashjedi’ by roguedarkjedi

Cute Alert! Itty Bittys Star Wars Plush Toys Hit the UK

We probably didn’t need any more Star Wars plush toys, but when Hallmark offered us some Star Wars Itty Bittys, I couldn’t resist.

We’ve been admiring this range of soft toys from afar as they’ve been out in the US for some time, but this month they’re finally out in the UK.

These Star Wars cuddly toys have been a big hit with my daughter. There are various characters in the range, but we received C-3PO, Yoda, and Darth Vader.

My daughter has been especially taken with her Yoda soft toy, who has always been a favourite character of hers anyway (green is her favourite colour).

The C-3PO plush is made of a very bright gold covering, that looks especially dazzling in the light, while even Darth Vader looks rather sweet as a cuddly toy.

As is the way with Star Wars toys, there will be many adult collectors who will want to buy the set to add to the exhaustive collection. But the Itty Bitty Star Wars plush toys range are the perfect size for little hands, and the cute style of design is suits these character designs, making for some very cuddly Star Wars toys.

Star Wars Cuddly Toys, Yoda cuddly toy, Darth Vader cuddly toy, C-3PO cuddly toy

Star Wars Itty Bitty plush toys have an RRP of £6.
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Family Fever