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Looking For Leia Shows Women Aren’t “New” to Star Wars Fandom—They’ve Always Been There

One of the reasons why it’s so important to look at systemic societal problems through a pop culture lens (or vice-versa) is that it allows us to  see a problem like, say, sexism, in a new way and think about ways of dismantling it by examining it in microcosm. Filmmaker Annalise Ophelian is doing just that with her upcoming documentary Looking For Leia, which takes us into the lives of the women in Star Wars fandom.

As reported by The Verge, Ophelian is a “Class of ’77” Star Wars fan, having been four years old when the first film came out. She’s but one of many young girls who loved Star Wars from the very beginning, disproving the notion that the franchise was ever only a “boy” thing. And yet that’s the accepted wisdom: Star Wars is for boys. The more progressive among us tend to think that Star Wars “used” to be for boys, but that now girls are a part of the fandom, and that’s great, right?

What tends to be forgotten, erased, or dismissed is that there have always been female Star Wars fans. They didn’t just get invented. They aren’t a product of the fight against sexism. If anything, they’ve been instrumental in it.

As you can see in the beautiful trailer above, Ophelian has taken to several Star Wars Celebrations (the project started when she attended the one in Anaheim, CA in 2015) to interview female Star Wars fans from all walks of life. There are those who were there from the beginning, those that were introduced to it by male friends and relatives only to become the bigger fans themselves, and there are new, young fans who embrace things like The Prequels, and Star Wars Rebels as fervently as older fans embrace Luke, Leia, and Han.

rebels

Originally, her plan was to end with interviewing Carrie Fisher. Sadly, Fisher passed away last year, so she never got that opportunity. Fisher’s death, however, did light a fire under Ophelian and make her mission clear. She wants to make clear that women have always been a part of Star Wars fandom. She also wants to use the state of women in this particular fandom as a way of looking at the lives of women in a broader context.

“The perception of male dominance in fandom is, I think, accurate, and a reflection of how sexism functions in the world,” she says. “I think women’s fandom is in many ways a reflection of how women have always navigated that sexism. I’m challenging the cultural assumptions made of Star Wars fans in the same way I want cultural assumptions about women to be challenged in general.”

Do you want to share your story with Ophelian? She’s continually looking for more women and girls to share their experiences, and you can contact her through the Looking For Leia website. Here’s the deal:

LOOKING FOR LEIA is on an epic search across the galaxy (or at least this system) to interview girls and women who are passionate about Star Wars and have a story to tell. Girls & Women = anyone who identifies as such. Women of cisgender experience, women of transgender experience, masculine of center/butch women, queer women, straight women, people who identify as gender non-binary or gender nonconforming and feel that their story belongs in a film about fangirls. Gender is a big, complex concept: For this project, the shorthand “women” and “female” includes ALL the kinds of women described above.

Because this project is particularly interested in how the experience of marginalization influences our methods of resilience, we’re highlighting the voices of women of color, immigrant women, Muslim women, queer and trans women, youth and elders, disabled women, poor women, Deaf women, and women who live at the intersections of one or more these experiences. We want to talk to women who work in STEM, women in the 501st, teachers, podcasters, authors, bloggers, cosplayers, artists, community leaders, multi-generational fans, rebels, scoundrels, bounty hunters… you get the idea.

So, what’s your Star Wars story?

(via The Verge, image: screencap)

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