When news broke about a young girl named Katie who was bullied for liking Star Wars, it captured the sympathies of Star Wars fans everywhere. But this bullying incident actually proves that Star Wars has become synonymous with popular-kid cool.
Here's what Carrie Goldman said about her daughter Katie in the article that started the uproar: said about her daughter:
She wailed, "The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle. They say it's only for boys. Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it. I want them to stop, so I'll just bring a pink water bottle."
I hugged her hard and felt my heart sink. Such a tender young age, and already she is embarrassed about the water bottle that brought her so much excitement and joy a few months ago.
Is this how it starts? Do kids find someone who does something differently and start to beat it out of her, first with words and sneers? Must my daughter conform to be accepted?
Though the greater Star Wars geek community has rushed to defend Katie, this bullying doesn't sound to me like nerd-hating. These boys didn't have a problem with Star Wars geeks. They had a problem with a girl presuming to be part of the coolness that is Star Wars (and by extension, boyhood). StarWars.com's Bonnie Burton saw this too, and responded by writing an excellent post about all the women who love Star Wars, including Lady Gaga.
Earlier this year, a study showed that "nerdy" kids get bullied because they're unable to recognize social cues. They have very little practice with social interactions and so they don't know how to attract friends. But that's not what we saw in Katie's case. The only "social cue" she'd gotten wrong was an unfair and ugly one: That girls shouldn't be in love with one of the most awesome, moving space operas of the past 4 decades. The boys wanted to keep Katie out of their clubhouse.
But this scenario actually goes beyond gender. Years ago when the so-called Star Wars Kid ripped across YouTube, kids weren't laughing at him not because he liked Star Wars. They laughed at how incompetently he embodied those action-packed Jedi moves. Like Katie, this poor kid was deemed unworthy of association with a pop culture phenomenon that still rules the brains of adolescent America.
And Star Wars fans who came to the Star Wars Kid's defense by responding with altered videos that proclaim, in images, that he does merit Jedi status. He looks great with a double-sided light saber:
What I'm trying to say here is that Star Wars doesn't belong to geeks, and hasn't for a long time. It belongs to the mainstream, which includes the popular kids who want to claim it for themselves. This isn't a war between Star Wars geeks and the bullies - it's a war over who gets to lay claim to Star Wars. As both Katie and the Star Wars Kid learned, bullies love Star Wars too. And they want the geeks to stop trying to pretend that they're cool enough to be part of what was once, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, something just for the nerds.