Updated: Aug 12, 2020
I have been a Star Wars fan for as long as I can remember. As a child I wanted to be a Jedi, I spent my time watching the films on loop and obsessing over the games and TV Shows. In the playground at school, I would play Star Wars games with the boys in my class. As a six-year-old, it had already become evident to me that my experience with loving Star Wars was very different from the boys I would play with. During our lunchtimes, we would run around the playground pretending to destroy stormtroopers. At first, I remember it being difficult to convince the boys to let me play and when I did, I had to be the damsel in distress, defenceless and afraid. I quickly got sick of this and decided I was going to be a Jedi who saved the day. After a few arguments and pretend lightsaber duels, I was the one saving the damsels in distress.
I loved so many different parts of Star Wars. I loved the spaceships, I loved aliens and I loved the dresses Padme would wear. I thought being a Queen who could shoot down her enemies was awesome and for a lot of my childhood, Padme was my favourite character. She was a lot of what I wanted to be when I grew up. She was beautiful, clever and strong. She didn't let people tell her what to do and was brave in the face of danger.
Of course, I can't write this article without talking about the amazing Princess Leia. Whilst Padme was my favourite, Leia was a close second and definitely someone I admired and looked up to. I remember loving Leia's hair growing up. My Mum would replicate the styles and I would wear them to school, my favourite being her braid crown from the Empire Strikes Back.
It wasn't long before I heard comments. As a child, I would be told that I couldn't like Star Wars because I was a girl. I thought that was silly and mostly ignored them, deciding they were just jealous because I knew more about it than they did. But the comments were always there, I didn't let it stop me of course. Growing up I watched the films with my Dad and played the video games with my Mum. My brother did the same, I couldn't see any reason why I shouldn't like the films of experience them in the same way he did.
When The Force Awakens came out, I was so excited. Watching it in the cinema was like a dream, and I couldn't believe I was seeing it on the big screen. I loved Rey. She was becoming the Jedi I wanted to be growing up. She wielded the Skywalker saber with such strength and determination that I was immediately hooked and wanted to know more about her and her story.
It was at this point where I began to share my love for Star Wars on the internet. This began with my interest in Reylo, the still quite small and at the time unlikely relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren. When I saw that there were people online who loved and thought the same as me, I was so excited to make new friends and share my love for the saga. However, I quickly learnt that it wasn't always sunshine and rainbows, and I certainly learnt the hard way.
I found myself receiving abuse over Twitter, messages from people I didn't know who would make me feel miserable. Sharing what I loved wasn't fun anymore and I found myself slipping away from Star Wars because of how much pain and hurt it was causing in my life. It was no longer about me wanting to be a Jedi or drawing my own dresses to match Padme's, it was constant abuse and negativity that was affecting my mental wellbeing. I never told anyone in my real life about these messages and grew a thicker skin, blocking, reporting and sometimes fighting back.
After a while, it did become too much and I deleted my social media accounts, deciding to ignore it completely. When The Last Jedi came out, I found myself coming back to Star Wars and it was my favourite thing again. I watched the films, read the books and even made a new Twitter account after The Rise of Skywalker with a new username for a fresh start. I chose a writer's name to hide my identity and the name Hope Wilson became who I was online, who I was excited to write as. It felt nice to be able to love Star Wars again without being afraid of the consequences.
I still receive hurtful messages, people insulting me and sending me abuse as well as reminding me that Star Wars is not for girls. But over the years, I have learnt not to care. These people would never say these things to my face, at the end of the day they are just a coward hiding behind a computer screen. It's all around me, all over the internet, the backward idea that Star Wars is made only for a certain group of people. Things are slowly changing and most people are ignoring the idea that Star Wars is just for boys. So many of the friends I have made through the Star Wars community could not be more welcoming, kind and inclusive. Star Wars is for EVERYONE. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, it is universal and everyone who chooses to can be part of it.
That being said, I do believe there is still a long way to go both in the fanbase and in Star Wars itself. In my last article, I spoke about the possibility of Disney creating more female-oriented shows, something that would make the franchise far more inclusive. Star Wars have an important role to play, they need to make women feel more welcomed in the community, this means having more content that focuses on women, having more content with characters that women can relate to. This does not mean that Disney can never again have a male hero or male-oriented story, of course not, it is simply building a more level playing field and giving everyone a chance, an equal chance to have their story told.
I love Star Wars, I always have and I believe I always will. I have had a rocky journey with it, but from it, I have grown significantly as a person. I hope that one day, I will be able to introduce my own children to it, whether they are a boy or a girl doesn't matter. I look forward to the future with hopefully more content featuring characters like Padme, Leia and Rey that I can relate to but for now, I guess I will go and watch the Phantom Menace again because the little girl inside me still loves the dresses and the spaceships...