Hey. You know who did like the Star Wars prequels?
I can tell you this because I was one of those teenage girls. For quite a long portion of my adolescence I lived, breathed and loved Star Wars, and it wasn’t always an easy experience. It was a very male-dominated fandom, probably still is, but we carved out spaces of our own. Websites dedicated to Padme’s costumes, for example, or to the Anakin/Padme relationship. (I have no doubt in my mind that there were many problematic things about that ship, but it absolutely seemed to appeal to young women.) At age sixteen I was privileged to be a part of the prequel-friendly (prequel-loving!) Saga Journal when it first started up, and you know what? That was mostly (if not all?) women. Likewise, the fanfiction section on theforce.net was mostly women, young women, teenage girls, sharing stories about young Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon and Padme and Anakin. The all-female Handmaiden group brought in with The Phantom Menace were hugely popular, too. Livejournal had a blossoming ‘pretty’ community centering around Star Wars (think what today’s graphic makers are doing on Tumblr, just…on Livejournal) – icons, banners, wallpapers of the prequel characters. This was almost all teenage girls, making their pretty space opera even prettier.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I wasn’t interested in Star Wars before the prequels came out. I was about 12 when they did, and I definitely remember saying to my dad as he handed me the tie-in sticker book, “But I don’t LIKE Star Wars. The girls don’t DO anything.” “Princess Leia does!” Dad said. “She definitely gets more heroic as the movies go on.”
As an adult I adore Leia, but as a kid she wasn’t enough to get me to watch the movies. And yet, I went with everyone else to see The Phantom Menace – how could I avoid it? It was everywhere! – and I definitely remember feeling like I’d been introduced to a whole new amazing world. I watched all the originals and loved them too. As more movies came out I loved the women more and more. Padme was younger than me and she was a queen. Naboo was a hugely female-centric society doing hugely well. The handmaidens were basically a girl gang with gorgeous costumes and guns. And there were female Jedi! Who had names! And lightsabres! And women were friends with each other and talked about politics!
Obviously that should be the bare minimum a female viewer should expect from a cinematic saga, but…well, it’s not something many movies achieve even now. So you can see, I hope, how it’d appeal to me and many others. And of course the attractive men – who appeared with their shirts off every now and again – were a factor too. Which still isn’t a reason to diminish teenage girl’s participation in fandom, believe it or not….
I’m not saying that the reason the Star Wars prequels are so disliked is because they appealed to teenage girls. But considering that “MALE COMEDIAN DISLIKES STAR WARS PREQUELS” is apparently news now, a view from the other side can’t hurt. I’d be really interested to hear of any other ex-teenage girl’s stories from Star Wars fandom around that time, actually. I remember feeling like a Fake Fan a lot, but I also remember the careful, brilliant analysis I saw another girl do of Revenge of the Sith’s colour palette, and the carefully maintained archives of Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan fanfiction, and the blogs dedicated to celebrating the sheer prettiness (the guys would call it ‘cinematography’) of the prequels.
I’d go as far to say, in all honesty, that teenage girls were the Prequel fandom. We did the fanfiction, the fanart, the graphics, the character analysis, the essays about what that one lighting effect in that one scene meant, the advice on how to sew that costume – the work, you could almost say, because we really loved those movies and the universe within them. That won’t get a single mention in the runup to The Force Awakens, but happen it did.
Hey! (again) I’m now rewriting this post as an actual article, rather than the jumbled assortment of thoughts it started off as. If you were one of the teenage girls who like me found their feet in Star Wars fandom, let me know!