I try not to be one of those types who explodes in rage at things people say. Most of the time they’re just doing marketing stuff, answering questions in a casual way, not giving their words much thought. But this one really stung. Hard. JJ Abrams is quoted in the Guardian about Star Wars:
“Star Wars was always a boys’ thing, and a movie that dads could take their sons to,” Abrams said. “And although that is still very much the case, I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well.”
His intentions are good, of course. What they mean to say is that they’re making an effort to bring the franchise to girls and women — and that’s great. The new movie boasts more female leads, the article says, than any film in the franchise. It’s just that I took mild offense at his quote AS A LIFELONG STAR WARS FAN.
Star Wars changed my life back in 1977. My sister and I were kicked around from house to house as my mother evolved from being a single mother of four to a realtor and she did this by buying and selling cheap homes around California. There wasn’t much of a childhood homebase that I remember all that well because we were never in one place for very long. But there was always a movie theater. We loved Jaws first, standing in line to see that movie maybe 10 times when it first opened. When Star Wars came along, though, my sister and I lived in the movie theater. We weren’t the only girls who loved it either – then or now. Star Wars fans have always been half female, just like the rest of the world.
The way JJ Abrams sees things is the warped way Hollywood sees things and why so many movies have been increasingly aimed at men and boys – their most reliable demographic (they think – in truth, women make up more than half of the ticket buying population) and so they make movies with men at the center. That is true of blockbusters, it is true of “serious” films, and it will be true of the Oscar race going forward, despite the higher than usual number of female driven films this year. Films featuring women don’t appeal as strongly to most people who cover the Oscars, nor do they appeal as strongly to those who vote on the Oscars.
What Hollywood has become between Star Wars and now is shameful in its treatment of its most faithful movie goers. After all, women are mostly interested in films that star both men and women. It’s men who are only interested (for the most part) in films starring men. The original Star Wars, like the original Raiders of the Lost Ark, had female characters worth writing home about. But honestly? We would have loved Star Wars anyway. That Carrie Fisher was such a funny, smart wise-cracking character was just gravy. But it was also how women were thought of back then. We went to the movies. A lot. For decades and decades prior. It wasn’t that women ever stopped buying tickets — it was that Hollywood stopped caring about women and began helping to firm up the idea that only men mattered.
To this day, I can quote Star Wars from start to finish. I know every cell and fiber in that film. I grew up as a girl thinking it was okay to play in the boys club. I never thought twice about it. After all, look at the role models I had on film. It never occurred to me that women would become as marginalized as they have been over the past twenty years — at the hands of fanboy culture. Now, I see more clearly than ever that Star Wars and other fanboy franchises have signs up on the door, “No Girls Allowed,” but such was not the case back then. And even now — if you go to Comic-Con you can see for yourself how many women are into comic book culture like the new Star Wars. So really, it’s a false perception overall that only boys are into Star Wars. Maybe they’re just the ones people see.
So bravo to JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy for trying to turn things back around to the way they used to be. I just wish JJ Abrams knew — and that everyone knew — what Star Wars meant to us girls back then.