Females & Their Fandoms: Celeste & Star Wars
If you are a geek girl you are probably all too familiar with the question “but are you REALLY into INSERT GEEKY INTEREST HERE?” Most often, the person asking this identifies with the male gender. Now, I am not saying every geeky man participates in the gatekeeping culture that men have around anything deemed “geeky” but if you are a female, and outwardly geeky, then you have probably dealt with the sexism that is all too common and associated with a large variety of fandoms. Why does it have to be so hard to believe that a woman likes something because she naturally loves it and not for attention or because its popular or, and this is my favorite because she want’s men to like her for liking it. Some of the most die-hard fans I can think of are proud vagina owners and while they keep on being themselves, they still have to encounter the constant bombardment of inane ideas of gender normalcy dependant on personal interest, such as Star Wars.
As my computer screen lights up from the facetime call picking up, I am immediately drawn to the vast display of Star Wars artwork proudly hung on the wall behind my interviewee, Celeste Proudfoot. “Wow, that is a lot of Star Wars” as I begin to realize every inch of the wall behind her is covered to the point of not being able to notice what the wall color is. She turns and seems almost unimpressed. “Yea, I do have a lot. You should see my other walls.” I have known Celeste since we were 14 and there isn’t a time where I don’t remember her love for Star Wars (or geeky things in general). As she has gotten older, and as more movies and storylines have been released, her passion has only grown to new obsessive heights. But as power and responsibility come together, so does being yourself and naysayers.
SA: How old were you when you really discovered your love for Star Wars?
CP: I was just talking to my parents about this the other day. They believe I was seven when they first showed me Star Wars. It fits in with the things I was just drawn too. I liked scary and fantasy movies, just way more mature stories, when I was a kid. In kindergarten when I was asked what my favorite film was I said The Poltergeist, which ended up getting my dad in trouble with my mom because she had no idea he had shown me it. So they think I was seven but they know for sure it was by the time I was eight because that was when I had my first official sleepover party for my birthday and I made everyone watch the Star Wars movies all night. So I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a very long time now.
SA: Did you get into the lore?
CP: I didn’t start getting into the expanded universe until Middle School, and I had moved away from California. I was about thirteen, literally had no friends because I had just moved to a new city and while I was in the school library I saw a Star Wars book and I was like “wait a second, this is before everything, ” and that is when I got into reading past the movies.
SA: So it's not considered lore, its 'expanded universe?’
CP: Yes, its the expanded universe and now you know all of that isn’t canon anymore. Once Disney bought Lucas Films, all the expanded universe became “Star Wars Legends.” So now, everything that is coming out with the LucasFilm+Disney rebranding is considered the new expanded universe.
SA: Do you prefer the expanded universe or the movies?
CP: I like both! My favorite character is Poe Dameron, and everyone always asks me why since he only has 7 minutes of on-screen time and we don’t know much about him as a character from the movies. The reason why is because of the series of comic books that have come out that have gone deep into his personality so if you read them, you know a lot more about Poe and who he is. Personally, I relate to Poe so much and how I am in the sense of being reckless and want’s to do what is right but wants to do it his way. He doesn’t want to listen to the rules, and I would never have known that about him if I hadn't delved into the comic books about him. But then..there are the movies. Where I get to see them, and that is a love I just can't describe.
SA: So spoiler question - is Poe gay in the comic books?
CP: NOT YET! There is actually a short story written about Poe, Finn and Rey that happens before the Force Awakens where the reader is led to believe that his partner was another pilot who was shot down on a patrol they were doing together and ambushed by the First Order. Nothing has been confirmed or denied, but it is under heavy speculation in the fandom community.
SA: How has Star Wars shaped you as an adult?
CP: I think a lot of women, older and younger, would agree that Leia was a role model as a strong independent woman. She was running the rebellion, primarily on her own, at such a young age, so she was one of my heroes growing up and inspired me to take no shit from other people and stay true to myself and what I wanted. I wanted to be myself, regardless of what other people told me and to be someone who didn’t need saving, which feels good. My favorite character from the original trilogy is Han Solo, and I always loved that rogue, nonconformist attitude. I think it’s fair to say a lot of my traits are mirrored from these characters I admired like Leia and Han. Looking back I can see a lot of decisions I've made and things I’ve said could be traced back to Star Wars.
SA: I know we have slightly covered this, but you consider Poe to be your favorite character?
CP: I actually have a three-part answer to this. Old Obi-Wan Kenobi is my favorite, as well as Han Solo for my original trilogy favorite and for the new trilogy, my favorite is Poe Dameron. Kylo Ren is a close second, but Poe is my number one.
SA: Is it just cause he's so good looking?
CP: Gosh he really is. Normally I root for the villain, but Poe is just a rebel without a cause and a beautiful face. Oscar Isaac, man.
SA: What does being a die-hard Star Wars fan mean to you? Is it about the lore and the characters or the movies themselves?
CP: Not being a dick, first of all. There are a lot of people in the Star Wars fandom who can have a bad attitude. I will be the first to admit that I do not know all of the expanded universes but I am continually reading and learning about it. I consider myself a die-hard fan but willing to help others. I am more interested in sharing my life and knowledge for those who are interested. It’s not about taking a “better than thou” stance just because you know more than others. Its about being passionate and kind when it comes to others and the subject.
SA: Do you think Star Wars Fandom is a boys club?
CP: It is a boys club. I am always wearing merchandise like shirts and jewelry. Everything I like to wear currently is Star Wars related, I’m even wearing Star Wars earrings right now that I didn’t even notice until right now. Since I am a walking billboard essentially, I am constantly being harassed that I am just wearing this stuff because “it’s cool” or “you don’t even like Star Wars, you’ve probably only seen the Force Awakens.” Which is not true. It’s sadly one of those things where people don't believe you are actually into the fandom. They see me wearing a shirt and assume I'm doing so to be cool or it's a phase because now Star Wars is cool. What they don’t realize is to me, Star Wars has always been cool. It has been cool since 1977. I do think it is getting better! I am seeing more women voice their love for the fandom. I love the weekly Star Wars show that Disney puts out and that one of the hosts is a woman. It’s refreshing.
SA: What is the best way to handle the fandom-related sexism you encounter?
CP: Going back to what I said before, I try really hard to keep my cool and not have a rude reaction. I try to explain myself and if they still question me then I can be a dick. I pull out my blaster and shoot them in the face with all my Star Wars knowledge.
SA: What is your favorite Star Wars related experience you've had?
CP: I have had so many. One of them was when I went and saw my first Star Wars movie in the theater, The Phantom Menace. My mom took us to Hollywood so we could see it in the El Capitan theater and watch it from the balcony. I remember the cosplayers and everyone outside who was dressed up which was phenomenal to me because I thought the movie had come to life. Even though I was already in love with the original trilogy by that point, being a kid and seeing it on the big screen took my love for Star Wars to a whole new level of obsession. I also really love meeting the characters in the Disney Parks now. While I was at Disney World, I was dressed like BB8, and Kylo Ren just got right up in my face. He kept accusing me of being part of the resistance, and when he said that I could go, I naturally sassed him back. He turned around and CHASED me out of the room, through the exit and out the Star Wars launch bay until I got outside. He ran after me with his lightsaber up through the audience and lines of people waiting to meet other characters so there was some confusion when they saw a grown woman running through the crowd but then it made sense because it was just Kylo chasing BB8. I ended up leaving my backpack, my wallet, and even my husband back at the meeting station. Once he started chasing me, I was gone.
SA: Isn't there a part of you that wonders what would happen if you had stopped?
CP: Sure, "is this going to be the end?"
SA: How much would you say you spend on Star Wars every year?
CP: Hundreds, if not in the thousands. I’ve spent a lot of Star Wars. For example, on just this cosplay that I am working on, I’ve already paid $200 to $250. That is with me doing everything on sale, with coupons and discounts. I want this to be movie accurate though so I am using higher quality fabrics and materials. But that isn’t even including my official merchandise like my helmet which I need to spend time modding to make it more movie accurate.
SA: Whats wrong with the helmet?
CP: Well it has a voice changer on the inside and buttons on the out that looks awful. So I need to take the boxes and buttons out then reseal the seam and redo the chrome. All of this needs to be done perfectly, or else I risk screwing up a $100 official Kylo helmet, which funnily enough, isn’t even movie accurate.
CP: How much time do you think you spend on Star Wars?
CP: Oh, um. The entire year probably.
SA: Ok, let's make it easier. How about a weekly average?
CP: On a weekly basis I would guestimate I am easily spending 20 - 30 hours on Star Wars.
SA: That's a part-time job!
CP: It is! I need to start getting paid for this.
SA: Is that possible?
CP: I would love to. Hopefully, with this cosplay, I would love to start a related blog and youtube channel. Now I am thinking after Kylo I will move onto another character to start from scratch and I don’t think its impossible to make money off of Youtube videos. If I could do that, it would be amazing.
SA: Why do you think Klyo is so unhappy?
CP: I think it was poor parenting. As much as I love Han Solo, I dont think he was the fatherly type and even though he probably tried, but he probably sucked which would have been damaging. On the flip side, his mother Leia was busy working in politics and most likely didn't have a lot of time for him either so when he started showing signs of the dark side like Anakin, he could have really used his parent's guidance instead of being trained by his uncle. I think he thought he was being abandoned.
SA: So Kylo was an avoidable mistake
CP: I think so, yes.
SA: What makes Star Wars so unique to you?
CP: This is a loaded question. I can personally relate to so many characters which I love in a series. I like being able to imagine myself in a universe if it were real. I like seeing the same talents and even flaws in the characters. They can become heroes or villains, but they are still inspiring me to be better and do better. Characters like Poe can do whatever he needs to to get the job done. On the flip side with a character like Kylo, he knows he isn't perfect and that he is far from it but he wants to be, but he just doesn't know how to or even what his end goal is. That I can relate to on many different levels. There have been plenty of times where I don’t know how to proceed with a major life decision or even what my end goal is. I mean, who really knows that? I may not go and kill my father over these inner battles, but in a way, I have been self-destructive on different occasions, and because of that I can relate to Kylo in that way. I think it is great to be able to connect to the hero and the villain in the same series. That's why it is so special to me. Other series, a character might be too perfect or too evil which creates a disconnect, but with Star Wars, I don't have that.
SA: What is the weirdest thing you have done related to your Star Wars obsession?
CP: Poorly written erotic fan fiction.
SA: Enough said. Do you feel like men don't take you serious as a fan because you are a woman or is it more of an elitist role?
CP: That depends entirely on the person. My brother in law is the absolute lore expert. You could ask him anything and he will know the answer and then some. He is also utterly elitist about it. He could care less if I am a woman. He just knows more, and he knows that he knows more so he can be high and mighty about it. The elitists are real, but there are so many men out there who think and treat me like they know more simply because they are a man. I have run into that so much more than the high and mighties. It is common to encounter the mentality “you’re a girl, you can’t be into Star Wars that much” and it’s sad because it isn’t segregated to just Star Wars. It is so exhausting to be asked “really? You’re into that?” because they are only asking based on my gender.
SA: That has to be really frustrating not to be taken seriously for something that you love based on your gender so how do you cope with it? I would think a lot of people would be turned off of a fandom if they had to face that constant sexism?
CP: Very much so, I’ve actually stopped playing certain games because I just don’t want to deal with the constant bombardment. When it comes to Star Wars though, it has motivated me to be better, know more and not roll over. I’m here too, and I love it as much as any other fan. When talking to people about my Kylo cosplay, I am always asked if I am doing a “fem-Kylo.” No. I am elevating my cosplay to another level to be Kylo. I have a chest binder and measurements as if I had a man. I am learning new makeup skills so that I can transform myself to be more masculine. I am trying to become better and in the process, proving them wrong. I take the saying “you’re just a girl” as a challenge to be better. They don’t even know what being “just a girl” means.
Females & Their Fandoms is a new recurring interview series I am conducting to spotlight the constant sexism that geeky women encounter from their male counterparts. If you know a die-hard female fan or are one yourself and have dealt with a prevalent gatekeeping culture and want to talk, please leave a comment or send me an email.