My friend Jason called me a paradox. By definition, a paradox is, “any person, thing, or situation exhibiting an apparently contradictory nature” (dictionary.com). I’ve known Jason a pretty long time. I met him and his family in the same way that I’ve met quite a few of the people who have become important to me: through Star Wars. It is in this context that he called me a paradox, and I wondered why. His exact comment: “Is there an issue with demographics? Are there a whole lot of sappy women like you that also like Star Wars? That’s always perplexed me about you. Most softies like the movie where the young starlet chooses happiness over her parents’ wishes and runs away with George Clooney instead of the young, up-and-coming (but jerk) stud. I’d like to hear about the thing that tugs you that way.” It’s an interesting subject, so I did some research among my female friends.
Sixteen strong, wonderful women rose to the occasion and answered my simple question: “What one aspect of Star Wars do you like most?” It would have been easy to stick with the Star Wars fans in my address book, but I chose to query a variety of friends, some whose interests have nothing to do with the galaxy far, far, away. The group’s ages range from early twenties to mid-sixties, and their lives create a colorful tapestry of careers, families and backgrounds. What all of these women have in common, however, is intelligence, indomitable spirit, and emotional strength. I loved each and every response, even the ones that had little to do with my favorite saga.
Two of my respondents, A and B, have never even seen Star Wars, as difficult as that is for me to wrap my brain around. A is among the youngest in my group, but B recently passed the half-century mark. I actually chose B for my research because I expected as much but was no less interested in her answer. C, D, E, and F have all seen at least one episode of the saga, and they are either casual or passing fans or non-fans. They all have strong memories or associations with Star Wars for specific reasons, some positive and some negative. G, H, I, J, K, L, and M are certifiable fans, but even so, they were able to give relatively succinct answers. It took a couple of them some time to think, but each was able to hone in on one, distinct aspect that they love most. Among those, I did ask Respondent I to expand upon her answer, but that was more for my clarity than hers. Finally, N, O, and P were unable to give quick answers, and their lengthy responses make me smile. N and P lovingly chastised me for asking something so difficult, narrowing down their passions for Star Wars to just one. I hope I’ve been forgiven.
The purpose in doing this research was to discover anything paradoxical about Star Wars fandom amongst my “sappy” girlfriends, but what I discovered is both congruent and contradictory. Family experiences as mothers, wives, and daughters surfaced several times. Respondent F said, “I loved it so much when I was 9 that I went to see it in the theatres 8 times with my dad,” and C echoed that. “I can remember watching with each of my kids at different ages, watching with my Dad, my husband, all at different times and different ages,” she said. And Respondent M pulled those thoughts together with hers. “Although the saga remains the same its message evolves with the evolution of oneself…as I get older, as I became a mom. There are scenes I never would have thought twice about that are now some of my favorites.”
The various aspects of characterization and the ties between characters were also popular responses. “The relationships of the characters. Not necessarily the lovey-dovey relationships…the community the characters create. They form a group a viewer instantly wants to be part of,” responded L. “Intriguing, fun characters,” said D. “The characters are portrayed in such a way that there’s no mistaking which are good and which are evil,” said E. Good vs. Evil was mentioned in several responses as were specific Star Wars characters’ storylines. For H, it’s all about Anakin, and Respondent O mentioned both Anakin’s fall and Luke’s journey. Luke is also the favorite of Respondent P who wrote in-depth about George Lucas’ brilliant storytelling. D loved Anakin’s Force ghost appearance at the end of Return of the Jedi, and Respondent I loved the compassionate connections between Shmi and Anakin as well as between Luke and Anakin and Padme and Anakin. Respondent N loves that it is, “not just Luke’s story but Anakins’ and Padme’s,” as well.
Other aspects of Star Wars that appeal to my insightful female friends include the “sense of adventure – the group together in a ship, flying through space, doing things! Like a road trip,” the fact that, “their cause becomes one we all want to fight for,” the “mythological connection…George Lucas intentionally crafted a story that taps into the world’s archetypal bloodstream,” “The expanse of the world that is created and how completely it is created,” and the “spirituality that surrounds the Jedi.”
I am overwhelmed at the scope of my friends’ astute analysis of something that I love so much. Compassion and adventure and family and characters. People. Respondents L and C both stated it well: There’s something for everyone.
But why do I love it? Isn’t that what Jason asked me? What tugs at me as a woman? With a smile I must tell you that Respondent B, one of the two who has never actually seen Star Wars, summed it up best. “What could be better than following a series of characters throughout the years and experiencing their journeys, their pain, their growth and understanding, and sometimes even relating to them? It’s like standing by a loved one and being a witness to their life.” Wow. Star Wars endures. Its characters grow and change, triumph and fall, hope and despair, and I can relate to every heartache, every failure, every celebration. When Luke whines about wanting to escape his aunt and uncle’s moisture farm, I remember when I yearned for similar emancipation. When Leia searches for “her only hope,” I recall those who have been my “only hope” at times. Han initially eschews involvement with the rebels, and I know I, too, have avoided doing the right thing more than once. Obi-Wan tries so hard but sometimes fails anyway as he watches those he loves fall around him, and I empathize. Padme loves wholly and completely, and I know I do, too. And Anakin wants more, does more, needs more, requires more, all while hiding his real self. All he wants is the unconditional love that he knew as a small boy, and my heart clicks. I get it. I always have. I can relate almost every nook and cranny of my life to something in Star Wars.
I love a good Rom Com as much as the next sappy girl, but my heart soars in the galaxy far, far away.
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