(Editor’s note: We’re very excited to have Drew Kaplan posting here on GrokNation today: he’s passionate about Star Wars, which you know we LOVE, and he’s got three young daughters. And now, as of literally yesterday, he’s the father of a newborn baby boy! Since the Force is strong with him – all of this Star Wars geekery is just his hobby…he’s actually a rabbi! – we know there’s enough fandom in his family to go around. Read all about how Drew has been introducing Star Wars to his daughters, and discuss the “Grok With Us” questions that follow the piece! – EK)

May the Force Be With Her: A New Hope for a Star Wars Fan Father

By Drew Kaplan

Whether it be clothing, action figures, or books, one of the oldest traditions of Star Wars is that of merchandising. And that has certainly exploded with the release of the newest cinematic installment in the series, “The Force Awakens.”

Save for the occasional sweatshirt or numerous books, I have seldom purchased Star Wars merchandise. But because people know that I like Star Wars – not just the movies (seven so far), but the entire Star Wars Universe – I end up with Star Wars paraphernalia as gifts. Catching glimpses of these items – clothing, a BB-8 water bottle, a C-3PO Pez dispenser and even a 3-foot tall First Order Stormtrooper – visitors to our house can tell that there is at least one Star Wars fan in the house, me. But, there is more than just one. There is another…actually, there are several other fans-in-the-making.

My three daughters ask me about the different Star Wars characters – even my two-year old can say “Chewbacca” and “Wookiee.” They want to know more, as well as to take part in my Star Wars fandom, which I gather from their questions and general curiosity.

This interest is not an obvious one for girls; Star Wars has largely been perceived as the provenance of boys/men, perhaps, in part, due to the more traditionally masculine elements of battles and wars taking place in the movies. Indeed, beyond Princess Leia, women did not have many speaking parts in the original trilogy. (Someone compiled women’s lines into a video you can watch – it’s 24 seconds long.) However, with the 21st century, the rise of women in Star Wars is unmistakable.

But I know that there are more female characters in other parts of the Star Wars universe. I turn on Netflix to show my daughters “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, which features certain female characters in significant roles. Or continue to connect them with female characters, in “Star Wars Rebels,” featuring episodes which are already more kid-friendly. Yes, this is explicitly looking to show them episodes in which female characters take more of a central role. This isn’t as hard as you might think – while there was  the #wheresRey controversy, in which action figures of Rey, the central female character (or, some might say, the central character, period) of “The Force Awakens” were difficult to find because they had been under-produced, the Star Wars of the 21st century has noticeably integrated more female characters than the Star Wars of the 20th century.

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” features Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, and dozens more, while “Star Wars Rebels” features Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren. With these shows, there are a lot more featured female characters on-screen than have been in Episodes I-VI. Showing my daughters these characters has, I hope, enabled them to connect more closely with them, as it shows them that women can be a part of Star Wars, as well.

This interest in Star Wars, whether in seeing the advertisements around or hearing about “The Force Awakens,” led my six-year old daughter to request that we go see the new movie.  While she had never seen a Star Wars movie, I knew that the opportunity to take my daughter when she was interested was special and not one to miss. Furthermore, it struck me as somewhat peculiar, since she is more of the girl to engage in princess-style play rather than in Star Wars fantasy. Also, I know that boys in her class had seen it, but I am actually pretty sure very few girls had, so, it was probably not due to peer pressure from them.

I knew, however, that the real reason she wanted to see it was because she knew I had seen it (a few times already) and she wanted to share that experience with her Star Wars-loving father. Even before she had seen the movie, my daughter’s favorite characters were Rey and BB-8, the latter owing to the awesome cuteness of this little astromech droid. After having seen the movie, though, she greatly enjoyed Rey, although I do wonder how much of the movie she fully comprehended. However, Rey’s emergence as a central character – indeed, as the primary protagonist by movie’s end – was an exciting development, since there had never been such a central heroine in a Star Wars cinematic release.

In the Star Wars universe, the Jedi take on apprentices and train young children in the ways of the Force. These young children are known as Younglings. While Jedi are not supposed to have offspring (looking at you, Anakin), I do. While I am not going to force Star Wars onto my daughters, if they would like to take part in my favored geekdom, I am not going to discourage them. I don’t know exactly why or wherefore my eldest daughter greatly enjoys Rey – whether because of her gender, indiscriminate of her gender, or any other reasons – but, as a Star Wars-loving father, I am certainly glad that she very much is a fan of her, in particular, and “The Force Awakens,” in general. It seems that my little youngling daughter will hopefully continue to share her love of Star Wars with her father.

Grok With Us:

  • Do you encourage or discourage your children towards or away from certain geekdoms due to their gender? If so, why?
  • Has “The Force Awakens” (or any other of the Star Wars films) created any conversations with people (friends, children, etc.) about Star Wars, gender, and who can be fans?

Drew Kaplan is an avid Star Wars fan, as well as a fan of beer and Talmud. He regularly writes at MattersOfInterest.info, and occasionally writes about Star Wars at StarWarsMaven.info. He also has three daughters who he is raising to be knowledgeable about Star Wars, while his wife tolerates it; their son was just born yesterday! Just for fun, he recut Star Wars: Episodes 1 and 2 into a megacut that offers a shorter and more exciting look at the prequel trilogy.