This is a delicious and simple gingerbread Death Stars recipe, a cookie with added technological terror.
Makes: 16+ Death Stars
350g (12 oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 heaped tsp all spice
115g (4 oz) butter, cubed
175g (6 oz) soft light brown sugar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 190 C.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, and spice into a bowl.
Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs; stir in sugar. Beat syrup into egg then stir into flour mixture.Knead the dough until smooth (or user mixer).
Roll out into a cylinder about 30cm long, wrap in clingfilm, and place in freezer for about 20-25mins. This will make the dough more solid work work with.
Divide dough into 3 equal parts, and roll out each one between clingfilm (will prevent it sticking to pin) to about 1cm thick.
Place on a lightly floured surface to cut shapes. I used a 7.5cm circular cookie cutter.
Decorate as per photo. Use the end of a teaspoon or similar to create the curved equator, and the find an appropriate sized circle shape to create the dish. Use spoon handle again to create the ‘spokes’ of the dish, and then gently smooth out the centre of the dish with your little finger. When making impressions, make sure they’re deep but not to cut through the entire cookie.
Bake on lined trays in the preheated oven until golden and puffed, about 10-12 minutes. Let them sit on the tray for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack.
This Death Star Cookies recipe is taken from the Star Wars: Darth Vader’s Activity Book, originally published in 1979 by Random House (I have the UK Armada reprint).
Death Star Cookies
Yield: 2 Large Death Stars
There’s nothing evil about these delicious shortbread Death Star cookies. They’re quick and easy to make, especially if you have an adult to help.
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat in Egg well. Gradually stir in flour. Gather into a ball. Divide into two equal halves. Roll each half into a ball.
Place one ball in the centre of one cookie sheet and flatten out to a circle about 6″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick as shown in the accompanying figure. Repeat with remaining dough on second cookie sheet.
For decorating, follow the steps below.
Then bake 25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Cool slightly. Remove and cool completely.
Now be a hero and destroy the Death Star – by eating it!
It’s fancy dress week at my daughter’s preschool. So what should she go as? The question I should have asked my daughter was “What fancy dress would you like to wear?”. However, what we actually asked was “Would you like to wear your Darth Vader costume?” I just couldn’t let this opportunity to enlighten her peers slip by.
A local mum recently made a good point to me that I had never considered. Many of the children my daughter goes to preschool with will be at the same primary school, in the same year, maybe even the same class. They may continue to be her closest peers until adulthood. The same goes for lots of the children we see at playgroup, at the local park, soft play, the library, or even just the high street. What these children think, how they perceive the world, how they treat my daughter, will have a massively influential impact on the woman she becomes.
Part of my approach to parenting is to constantly refer back to my memories of growing up, and use that to positively inform my approach. The fantastical worlds of comic books and Star Wars loom large in my childhood (and adulthood too). They fired my imagination, but perhaps more importantly provided both escapism and inspiration to make sense of the world in the darkest times of my youth.
I want my daughter to have access to all of this too. Luckily, superheroes and Star Wars are still very much in vogue. Raising a Star Wars girl isn’t an anachronism.
It’s also fair to say that I’m not a fan of Disney Princesses, and pinkification in general. So as well as simply sharing my enthusiasm for Star Wars with my daughter (she has all my old toys), this is also about me offering her an alternative to girly girl culture before she heads into the school system, and peer group pressure becomes a driving force in her development.
So far, my daughter is a real Star Wars girl and enjoys it all. So do all the little girls who come over for playdates – they always love to play with our Star Wars and superhero toys.
However, so far it seems very clear that to the likes of Hasbro and Disney (who own Marvel and Star Wars) these brands are just for boys. That’s another battle being fought by myself and others, but in the meantime, here in the trenches, our kids are forming opinions on what is and isn’t for boys or girls, based on the way these brands are marketed.
As our Star Wars girl grows older, I worry she might be singled out for displaying an interest in this geek stuff, simply because she’s a girl. I don’t want her to be perceived as ‘weird’ because she’s a geek. Perhaps even teased, ostracised, or bullied.
This mentality starts young. One time, a little boy saw me with my daughter, looked unsure, then asked me: “Is she a boy or a girl?”. When I confirmed ‘she’ was in fact a girl, he countered “Then why is she wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt?”. “Because she likes Spider-Man.” I replied. The boy’s older sister then chimed in, “Yeah, girls can like Spider-Man too y’know!”. The boy went away with a new concept to contemplate, while hopefully this exchange supported his sister’s seemingly healthy outlook on gender.
It also exists in adults who should know better. A friend who recently became a dad asked me ‘Why are you trying to make your daughter into a boy?’. Grasping for a calm answer, I replied ‘I’m not. There’s nothing inherently male about any of this stuff. I think whatever she wears are girl’s clothes, her toys are girl’s toys, her books are girl’s books. Because she’s a girl.’ After mulling it for a moment, he agreed with me. I think this had never occurred to him before, but now it makes sense.
My daughter & I get so many positive comments from parents when we’re out and about. I often then hear them telling their son or daughter how cool my daughter looks. So perhaps we are influencing some parents too.
I am confident I am doing right by my daughter, that these things are a positive influence on her developing personality. But in order for her to not be socially excluded because of it, I also need her peers and their parents to accept girls can be just as engaged with these things as boys.
So I feel that each time she runs around with a cape, carries her cuddly Spidey to the playground, wears her beloved Batgirl dress yet again, or goes out dressed as Darth Vader, she is doing her part to challenge (some) people’s idea of what it is to be a girl.
My hope is that by the time she gets to school, and her attire will switch from geek chic to school uniform, her fellow pupils will be so used to the idea that girls can like this stuff too, that it won’t be weird at all.
And while Darth Vader didn’t wear pink – he does have a pink lightsaber…
Needing to kill an hour or so, I took a stroll around the Westfield London shopping centre this week. I naturally gravitated towards the toy shops, and I decided to amuse myself by indulging in a spot of gendered toys mystery shopping.
The first shop I went into was The Entertainer. They are a large independent toy retailer, and I have a particular soft spot for them as they began with one shop in my home town neighbour of Amersham, Bucks. But sentimentality aside, I had no idea what they were like as a toy shop these days.
I was pleasantly surprised and really impressed with the way they categorise their toys – eg. ‘Action & Adventure’, ‘Arts & Creative’, ‘Cars, trains, and planes’ etc – not by gender. This seemed like such progressive (and logical) way to sort toys, that doesn’t exclude on the basis of gender – at least in how product is grouped. Bravo Entertainer!
What I didn’t realise (until I tweeted about it) was that this came about because of a campaign by Let Toys Be Toys (we were living outside of UK when this happened). So bravo to them too. 🙂
I didn’t buy anything, but I will definitely be back to shop here, another branch, or online.
I was expecting the worst with the next shop I visited. I have written about the divisive way LEGO creates and markets its product before. The beloved Universal toy of my youth is no more. I have resigned myself to not buying any new LEGO, that in all likelihood my daughter will be playing with our ample hand-me-down supply throughout her childhood. So I went to the LEGO shop all prepared for their gendered marketing tricks.
But then I spotted this.
The female scientists minifigure set, that I had in my own little way campaigned so furiously for, that had finally been released only to be sold out everywhere… It was back! I stopped looking around the store, grabbed the set, and headed straight for the counter.
As I paid, I asked the staff about it. They told me they had only been delivered a small number of sets in the original release, and everyone in the company was surprised how popular it had been. The staff were keen to point out that they now have a much healthier stock of it. So if you’re thinking of buying some LEGO for your child (or you!), then I would strongly suggest that you get this one. I’m intending on saving it until Christmas day. Hopefully I can resist the urge to put it together it until then.
That’s all I can say about the LEGO shop. They could have had an entire wall of pink Friends sets, with a sparkling sign proclaiming ‘LEGO FOR GIRLS’, and I wouldn’t have noticed. That’s how chuffed I was to finally have this awesome set in my hands.
So it had been a really positive experience so far. My final stop was The Disney Store, which I entered with trepidation. I love Star Wars & Marvel (both acquired by Disney) as much as I do not love princess culture (pretty much created by Disney).
Given that Disney & gendered marketing to kids go together like the Empire & the Death Star, I tend to browse Disney’s virtual and actual aisles with frustration. This occasion was no exception.
Starting with Marvel, there was nothing in the store featuring a female character. No Black Widow in the Avengers line, no Gamora or Nebula in the Guardians of the Galaxy stuff, no additional female superheroes, nothing. *sigh
On to Star Wars.
There’s large section of the store devoted to movie merchandise, primarily the original trilogy. The lack of Leia merchandise was an early issue on this blog, so I was keen to see if things had improved at all. At first glance, it hadn’t. There was a prominent display featuring Han Solo, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and a Stormtrooper – but no Princess Leia.
I scanned the large selection of Star Wars stuff here, and eventually found a Leia. In fact I found a couple. They were each part of different play-sets figures. One set was Jabba’s palace, which of course means one thing – Slave Leia.
An eagle eyed fan on Twitter also spotted a Torryn Farr figure. Who is she? The blink and you’ll miss her Rebel Comms officer from The Empire Strikes Back. She may not be the most active character in the trilogy (she sits in a chair and relays orders), but I guess at least she’s a female Star Wars character figure.
That’s not all the Star Wars gear the shop has now though. There’s a big display of merchandise from the brand new TV show Star Wars Rebels. It’s early days for the show, but it has TWO major female characters that are prominently featured in the artwork of the toy display. So I was curious about what the the product would be like.
Product? What product?
That’s right. There was nothing, nothing, featuring either of the female characters of Sabine or Hera. Not an action figure, not a t-shirt, nothing. I asked a member of staff about this. She looked surprised, had a glance at the section, and then kind of shrugged “No, there’s nothing with any of the women”.
So in this flagship Disney Store, in one of the premier shopping centres in Britain, there were just three items including any female characters in the whole of their Marvel & Star Wars sections – nothing in Marvel, and Star Wars had a classic Princess Leia (as part of a set), Slave girl Leia (as part of a set), and an individual figure of a rebel who says “Stand by ion control…Fire!” and nothing else.
Apparently, Sabine & Hera will be included in the second wave of Star Wars Rebels figures being released by licensee Hasbro. Staff also told me “We’re going to get Princess Leia stuff soon. But they keep saying that”. They had no idea about female Marvel characters.
I didn’t buy anything, and I’m not planning on going back. I left the shop more frustrated than ever about the fact that The House Of Mouse now own Marvel & Star Wars. I really hope things change for the better, and they embrace the female – and girl – market for these brands.
I reflected that my previous positive toyshop experiences were both due to the willingness of brands/retailers to engage with feedback, listen to those seeking change, and take a good look at their offering.
In conclusion, in terms of gendered marketing and division of toys: The Entertainer good, The Disney Store sadly not, and the LEGO shop? Well, they had me at female scientist minifigure set and was the only shop I spent money in.
So while this may have been an unscientific survey, in the end it was all about science.
Not only does the Disney Store have Star Wars pigeon-holed as a boys only brand, it seems that main toy licensee Hasbro does too.
In this job ad (courtesy of Natalie Wreyford and ta-dala), Hasbro states it has “immediate need for a detail-oriented, brand developer… for Star Wars” their “Boys Licensed brand”.
The ad lists seven key aspects of the job, but reading them it seems to me that a plucky applicant could successfully address each of these bullet points by addressing the gendered marketing issue too.
So, if you’re a detail-oriented, brand developer candidate – who is “proactive”, “responsive”, “creative”, and with “analytic based judgement” – looking to make a name for yourself, you could try this approach. I am after all a marketing guru (:s).
Primary Duties & Responsibilities of Star Wars Brand Development role:
1. Lead cross-functional teams to execute key brand initiatives, including finding innovative ways to grow higher margin businesses. A: An innovative way to grow higher margin businesses should involve marketing Star Wars to girls as well as boys.
2. Drive product innovations through the system to better meet consumer demands. A: Innovate by creating Star Wars products intended for girls, meeting their additional consumer demand, and market the entire brand to both girls and boys.
3. Develop overall go-to-market product strategy. A: Create product and market the whole brand to both boys and girls.
4. Partner with global supply chain to identify programs to decrease development costs and gain efficiencies where applicable. A: Market existing products to girls as well as boys. Efficiencies gained by selling an existing product to a new market with minimal cost.
5. Maintain current knowledge of modern manufacturing trends, technologies and competitive practices. A: Be competitive by marketing Star Wars to girls as well as boys.
6. Collaborate with global brand strategy and marketing team in the development of all special and exclusive products. A: Suggest the global brand strategy includes marketing Star Wars brand to girls as well as boys.
7. Become the global insights expert and leverage learning across product lines. A: Your insight should involve the need for marketing Star Wars to girls as well as boys. If not, this should be learned.
So there you go. You’ve got that application nailed! Why not apply using this as your template? If you can’t beat them, join them. Then beat them.
Failing that, tweet them at @HasbroNews, or email them at email@example.com, and let them know that Star Wars is a galaxy for girls too – because they obviously didn’t get the #WeWantLeia memo.