I became a Star Wars fan after seeing The Phantom Menace when I was in high school as part of a friend’s birthday celebration. The Jedi entered the scene, the lightsabers came out, and there was no going back. Years later, my friend joked that my Star Wars obsession was all her fault.
I’m well aware most people fell in love with Star Wars via the original trilogy. I had seen it once as a kid (I remember the Ewoks, I still love them today, and I will not apologize for it either), but we weren’t a go to the movies kind of family so I didn’t catch the rereleased trilogy in theaters. I did borrow the VHS copies from a neighbor after the Jedi bug bit me. Return of the Jedi will always be my favorite Star Wars movie and Luke Skywalker my favorite Jedi.
I had friends that were geeks, but none loved Star Wars the way I did. Then we finally got internet in my house my senior year of high school (I graduated in 2001), and the online community of Star Wars was opened for me.
I did not jump in halfway. I very soon discovered the magical world of fan fiction and got my start as as a writer. As part of this, I ended up becoming part of the message board community of a pretty decent sized fan website. We had avatars of characters and names that were not our own. We were spread in ages between the high schoolers to those in their early thirties, but the big thing was we all loved Star Wars. Even if the prequels weren’t quite what the original trilogy was, we eagerly awaited casting announcements, set pictures, and trailers. We seemed to focus mostly on what we loved although Jar-Jar and young Anakin was universally panned (I feel for Ahmed Best and Jake Lloyd). It feels different than the way fandom reacts to new offerings that they find imperfect now. Maybe it’s the ability to attack directors, writers, and actors directly via social media, but the level of fan outrage feels different to me. Fan fiction wasn’t enough for me though, I eventually taught myself HTML and ran my own website too (it was much easier to get free webspace back then, oh I miss those days). Learning a certain amount of Photoshop also came into play as I learned to make graphics for my site and wallpapers to share. Hours were spent discussing fandom and what was happening in my “real life” offline with the other fandom participants that were close to my age via message board and AIM, those friends were huge part of my late high school to early college days.
One of the coolest things I came across were other girls into Star Wars. We weren’t so rare online, but offline we were still seen a rarity. The internet fandom had given us a place to congregate and encourage our mutual love for Star Wars which spilled into other fandoms like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings as we awaited new Star Wars movies to come out. I really feel like a generation of fangirls was born at that time. One of my proudest fangirl moments was when my college roommate was listening to a local radio station discussing Star Wars fanboys and wondered if they could find a girl who was really into Star Wars. My roommate gave me to “do it” look, I was trying to put off homework I hated, and the next thing I knew I was being pitted against a guy the radio station had gotten to legally change his name to that of a Star Wars character. I beat him and as Attack of the Clones neared, I was even brought into the radio station for a trivia challenge for people who had to try to beat me for advanced screening tickets. I was given tickets myself for being part of things and it took really obscure you had to catch some minor detail in a scene questions to trip me up.
By the time Revenge of the Sith came out, I had my own Jedi costume I had even made, but the fandom community had shifted a touch. The website space wasn’t as free and accessible as it once had been, so my site and many others closed down. RPG groups dissipated over time as well. Real life obligations pulled some people from being part of fandom the way they once had. Some friendships drifted as people grew apart. Of those online friends I made in the Star Wars community in high school, I am still in touch with one of them.
Sometimes I really do miss those fandom days, and I have accepted the fact that the way fandoms congregate has shifted. Message boards were replaced with LiveJournal where I met the two women I consider my best friends today. LiveJournal has faded to be replaced with other things like Tumblr , Twitter, and Facebook Groups. I probably couldn’t tell you the biggest source anymore as it’s been two decades since I entered fandom and my own adult obligations don’t give me the time to participate in fandom things in the same ways I once did. As fandom evolved, the generation of fangirls I belong to evolved as well. I’m married with kids of my own who are discovering fun things to be fan of and more of my participation comes from exploring fandoms with my boys. I was so thrilled when Disney bought Lucasfilm and I realized I was going to get to experience seeing a brand-new Star Wars movie in theaters with my own kids. I write about binge-able shows for GeekMom, and I often discuss fun new releases in our GeekMom group with other GeekMoms. My budget for collectibles has also improved in nearly two decades. The action figures I collected are being played with my my kids and no longer placed in compromising positions by college roommates that could have been prompts for naughty fan-fics. Our house is also home base for a decently collection of Porgs (the boys and I love Porgs, no we will not apologize for it either) and I expect we will soon host a solid collection of “Baby Yodas.” We’re ready for the final installment of the sequel trilogy, the tickets having been bought the day they came available. My next big fandom goal is to get to take part in something that would have felt like an impossible dream to high school me: I want to go to Galaxy’s Edge and fly on the Millennium Falcon (you know, after I completely freak out about seeing it in person).
Star Wars has been part of my life for nearly two decades now, and I know that the Force will be with me in the decades to come as well.