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I clearly recall the moment I became a fangirl. It was 1977, in a dark movie theater. After waiting in line for the one movie showing near my home, Grandma fell asleep during the opening scroll and Grandpa was not too far behind. I, on the other hand, sat slack-jawed as a small, funny-shaped spaceship raced across a star-filled screen, then swallowed by the overwhelming presence of an imposing wedge-shaped vessel. A medium shot shifted the focus to a futuristic corridor; laserbolts richoceted between troopers armored in uncomfortable white plastoid and soldiers dressed like a rag-tag, low-budget army. Amid this smoke-filled chaos emerged a young woman, blaster in hand, bent on saving not herself, but the galaxy.
The movie, of course, was Star Wars, known now as Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Its epic tale of good versus evil, right versus wrong, reached into the depths of my very being and woke the sleeping beast of my dreams. Star Wars was bigger than our collective imaginations. It remains as limitless as each person’s fantasies, in which we each wonder what more lies out there in any number of galaxies far, far away.
While Star Wars is a hero’s journey, the tale of Luke Skywalker, it always left me dreaming in another direction – What about the princess? Who was she? What makes her so tough?
Even at a very young age, it didn’t escape this girl that Princess Leia Organa called the shots.
On that day in 1977, I started a love affair with any tale that wandered into the past, present, or future of fantastical adventures. Space: 1999, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica (1978 version, 2003 reimagining, and hopefully beyond)… I’d better stop meandering down memory lane before I start feeling old, because honestly what concerns me the most is the future.
Why is it that, even after 33 years of proven success for a fantastical imaginative genre, we have so few stories driven by iconic journeys for heroines? Rachel is the go-to-diva when impending peril befalls the ill-fated Glee Club. But does she really have the character to sport those infamous cinnamon-roll buns and insult the personal hygiene of one of cruelest dudes in the galaxy while standing in handcuffs next to a mass murderer? Next to Princess Leia, catfighting cheerleaders and gossiping girls can never really satisfy my craving for a well-crafted heroic adventure where the lady kicks some butt.
So I’m left to wonder – in this age of spreadsheets, market share indicators, and instant feedback, do the captains of the scifi and fantasy franchises not realize the infinite possibilities of exploring new quadrants of this universe-sized genre? The biggest untapped quadrant by far is the ever-growing base of female fans. Wander through the stacks of a bookstore, peruse online message boards, go to a con, and it’s quite evident that women aren’t just tagging along with the men in their lives. Women are fans too. Here was my profound moment from Star Wars Celebration V: I am not the only person who feels the heroines aren’t getting a fair opportunity to carry the title of protagonist.
My mission – and I have chosen to accept it – is to seek out those gems of scifi and fantasy that shine like a glorious prize for one seemingly forgotten group: the fangirls. And hopefully make some new friends along the way.
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