Post by Amy Richau
I am ridiculously jealous of my next door neighbor. Her seven-year-old daughter can’t get enough of Star Wars. She grabs a Star Wars book first thing in the morning, and reportedly that book needs to be ripped from her hands as she is dropped off at school.
I have an eight-year-old daughter – and she is having none of Star Wars. Which makes this fangirl’s heart sink.
Like so many of us out there, I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. I saw A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back when I was four and seven years old. I only remember a flash of a Death Star trooper from A New Hope and remember being very concerned Yoda was going to hurt Luke in Empire. It was Return of the Jedi that really hooked me. At ten years old I was looking for a great adventure and that’s exactly what it delivered to me.
I continued to love Star Wars all my life. I can basically estimate when I hit puberty from the time my young romantic emotions moved from Luke Skywalker to Han Solo. Many years – okay, about 2 decade – after I first saw Jedi, Star Wars even snuck into my husband’s wedding vows.
When my husband and I had kids we were so excited to show our daughter A New Hope that we made a classic mistake. We showed it way too early. “But we were four when we saw it!” both my husband and I declared. But my daughter wasn’t staring at the screen in wide-eyed delight, she was at a stage in her childhood where anything in a movie that involved tension freaked her out. And it turns out every darn scene in A New Hope involves some kind of tension. We decided to table the Star Wars matter until a later date and try again.
We ended up trying again a few years later when we had a son. Looking back, I’m not sure if my daughter ever actually re-watched A New Hope; she was pretty much dead set against the idea. And when her brother – whose age I’m not certain of, because you know, second kid and all – loved A New Hope and Episodes V and VI, my daughter declared Star Wars was a “boy thing.” Even though it was her mother who took this Star Wars rejection the hardest, my daughter had made her disinterest in Star Wars made known loud and clear. She has since similarly rejected anything with superheroes in it, and if I circle back to Star Wars she states that she simply doesn’t like “all the fighting” – which is a fair statement from some of the clips she has seen from the films.
So as the years went by Mommy dressed up as Princess Leia and Daddy a Dagobah Luke Skywalker with a young baby brother Yoda in a backpack (really, baby carrier), and our daughter dressed up as Tinkerbell for Halloween. And there’s obviously nothing wrong with Tinkerbell – she is in fact quite delightful. But I wanted to share with my daughter the joys of wearing ridiculous side hair buns and chat about the Force.
For a short time my daughter appeared to enjoy watching the Star Wars film “with the Queen in it,” which worked out quite well because my son – who loved all the films we would show him – loved the one “with the monster fish in it.” Episode I really does appeal to kids. My son eventually decided that he liked Return of the Jedi the best, mostly because of the rancor, which is totally understandable for a kid his age. He likes Star Wars, but he is more aligned with Marvel superheroes smashing things than with the Force. So he was not interested in The Clone Wars and has only a passing interest in Rebels. But he seems open to the idea of watching future Star Wars movies. Not so for my daughter.
She has been patient with her Mom and Dad and has agreed to see The Force Awakens in the theater with the family. She loves the Rey Funko Pop! vinyl figure I bought myself a month ago and the idea that the film has a young woman in it. She is also a big fan of Star Tours in Disneyland, which makes ride logistics a lot easier for the whole family. She also has some amazing Darth Vader leggings that she picked out because they were black and shiny. So perhaps not all is lost. But she is adamant that there will be no future viewings of The Force Awakens after the initial screening, and she has no interest in seeing the other Star Wars movies before the 18th, even though they would probably increase her (potential) enjoyment of the new film.
My daughter’s rejection of Star Wars irks me. I’ll admit it. But I also have decided I need to embrace it. Sure, she’s rejecting it in part because she doesn’t like things pushed on her – if you suggest a book to read to her at night, she will reject that too – but there are worse things for kids to be than strongly opinionated about their entertainment tastes. In fact I want her to be strongly opinionated about these things.
Even though my daughter has shown no affinity for her mother’s childhood hero, Princess Leia, she has a lot of Leia’s positive qualities. She’s strong willed, knows what she wants, and doesn’t give up in a fight. In the end, she will be served better in life for being contrary to her mother’s interests rather than simply joining in because she is expected to. Did I mention her favorite emotion in Inside Out is Disgust? I’m convinced you can tell a lot of your child by asking them what their favorite emotion is after viewing that film.
After thinking about my childhood hero, admittedly from a slightly older age than she is right now, I decided to ask my daughter who her female heroes are right now from any film or TV show she has seen. I first asked her what makes someone a hero to her. She responded “a girl who can do very cool stuff.” It’s hard to argue with that one, really.
So who made her list? She went for all television characters, which is not surprising to me. She’s a bit young to go beyond what she’s watching right now, but I still thought it was an interesting question to ask. Here are the girls she listed and why she listed them.
- Kim Crawford from Kickin’ It because she is “good at karate.”
- Allie Brooks from Life with Boys and Emma Ross from Jessie because they are both “good with fashion styles.” This one made me cringe a bit, I admit.
- Li Rooney from Liv and Maddie for being “good at fashion, she’s a singer and a dancer, and I like that.”
- And finally Skylar Storm from Mighty Med because she “can do these awesome flips and cartwheels.”
It was the last selection that really threw me for a loop. Because Skylar Storm is a superhero. But importantly, a superhero that my daughter discovered on her own. Skylar is an interesting character. A superhero who lost her powers. Later on in the series Skylar gets her powers back and becomes a bit of a villain, but my daughter hasn’t made it that far into the series yet. I’m curious how she’ll take that storyline. But for now, I’m happy that my eight-year-old has someone to look up to for things beyond their fashion sense.
If nothing else, this exercise was a good reminder to pay attention to the media she is watching – and of course books offer an entirely other avenue for finding potential heroines; I only asked her about visual media.
So here we are, right at the doorway of a new Star Wars film with more female characters than ever before. I know my daughter might hate it, and that’s okay. She will of course be just fine if she never becomes a Star Wars fan. And so will her Mom. But she’s getting a copy of Lost Stars at some point in the future – you can count on that.
Amy Richau is a Star Wars fangirl, wife and mother of two young kids, freelance writer, and Denver Broncos fan (not necessarily always in that order). Amy grew up with the Star Wars original trilogy and spent more time and money than she would like to admit tracking down Star Wars collectibles. Before motherhood in Colorado, Amy worked in several film archives and labs working as a film archivist/preservationist – including a ‘dream come true’ stint at Skywalker Ranch at the LucasFilm Archives. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follower her on Twitter @amyrichau.