When you were 12 years old — awkwardly and uncomfortably wedged somewhere between child and teenager, maybe with braces, definitely stuck regularly doing some kind of chore you hated — did you have a secret dream? A hidden ambition you were afraid to reveal to the masses?
When I was 12, I wanted to make a Star Wars movie.
I’d never made a movie before, hadn’t even technically written a full-length anything for that matter. So even a rough draft beginning of a screenplay wasn’t much more than a concept in the back of my mind for a while.
But this was the height of my childhood obsession with a galaxy far, far away — it would dip and peak often after that, until my mid-20s, when I became, as you might guess, eternally hooked.
I spent an embarrassing amount of time reading through the Star Wars databank, learning all I could about the universe. I started collecting books and re-watching the movies to pick up every detail I could find.There weren’t shows to binge then (we are so LUCKY now).
Naturally, I wanted to take my obsession and make something out of it. It’s kind of what I do. I get bored watching. I’m an imitator until I figure out how to become an innovator.
I sat down and started writing a Star Wars … something? I filled the lines of my notebooks with post-ROTJ adventures of Leia, I told stories of my own version of Winter before I knew who Winter was, I wrote about Mara and Jaina and Mon Mothma… at the time, there weren’t a lot of women to choose from, so I wrote about all of them.
It was quite possibly the most fun I’d ever had. I was, after all, 12 years old with braces, writing about Star Wars to avoid math homework.
I was so proud of what I’d made. It wasn’t finished, it certainly wasn’t good. But it was a start.
Then I made the mistake of bringing my notebooks to school.
This was an obsession, after all. I couldn’t part with it.
By now, I’ve managed to block out most of seventh grade because… middle school. But I’ll never forget the day a kid in my class “outed” my biggest secret. I’d taken one of my notebooks out in the last few minutes before the class period ended, and he’d read over my shoulder. Why do people do that?
“Are you writing a Star Wars movie?”
He said it like I’d been writing something scandalous.
He was a nice guy. A fellow nerd. He’d understand — right?
“But –” here it comes — “you’re a girl.”
Yes, this really happened. And yes, I left my secret nerdy notebooks at home, hidden in a drawer, from that point forward. While there was never a specific moment in which I declared, “I’m never looking at that screenplay ever again!” I did eventually stop opening up that drawer.
In the years that followed, I’d learn that trying to jump into conversations about Star Wars rarely worked out. Guys always made up the circles that were available, and I rarely found girls who shared an interest in Star Wars in order to create a circle of my own back then — Inevitably, I would always be met with the same skeptical look and remarks I’d gotten when I was 12.
The message usually boiled down the same: Girls write romance novels. Boys write about laser swords and space monks. Boys get to run around with their video cameras and pretend to battle oncoming starfighters. Boys get to go to school to learn how movies are made. Boys get to make the movies. Girls don’t.
I’m not sure I ever fully believed any of this to be true — I hate romance novels, for starters. But I did get tired of the resistance I always encountered whenever I so much as mentioned I liked Star Wars. So I just sort of stopped mentioning it. I kept my screenplays and my videos and my pages upon pages of notes about film and television to myself. It became a battle that I grew tired of fighting, especially when no one else seemed to see it as a battle. They were just following the same expectations that I was expected to follow.
And I’m just one person. Imagine how many other young girls just like me did the exact same thing. Imagine how many other young girls are still doing it now. (I see you.)
One of the most important things a young, aspiring creator can have is a mentor, and the second most important is a positive role model — someone who is already succeeding in the thing they want to do. Someone whose achievements can show them what’s possible and motivate them to pursue their passions regardless of the obstacles. To show them that this is a battle that can be won, no matter how impossible it seems.
Women weren’t making Star Wars movies then. In fact, women weren’t making Star Wars movies — officially — until December of 2020.
Patty Jenkins is making a Star Wars movie.
A woman is making a Star Wars movie.
A woman gets to make the creative decisions. Gets to call the shots. Gets to decide how the story plays out from concept to big screen. A woman gets to create a Star Wars story from the ground up, scribbled in notebooks and translated into film.This realization of a dream is beyond cool for me, a late 20-something Star Wars fan who publicly rejoices every time women are given creative control over… anything.
But do you know who it’s even cooler for? 12-year-old girls. Girls with braces who dream of making movies someday. Girls with notes in notebooks, not tucked away in drawers, who want to make more Star Wars happen. Girls with stories to tell and creativity in their hearts.
Patty Jenkins may be the first, but she will not be the last.
Disney and Lucasfilm have made it clear in these past few days alone that Star Wars isn’t slowing down — in fact, we’re getting more of it in the next few years, volume-wise, than we have in the past decade. The recent investors meeting has promised Star Wars fans almost a dozen new stories on Disney+ alone. And in the decades to come, who’s going to step up to meet the high demands of this rapidly expanding fandom?
Women. Women who were once 12-year-old girls with secret dreams that don’t have to be secret anymore.
And the wider these doors open for women, the more the same doors will open for other underrepresented storytellers who want to leave their mark on Star Wars. Black directors. Non-binary producers. Indigenous artists. LGBTQIA+ writers. Who’s more qualified to hire a more diverse crew than someone who once feared they’d never get hired because of their gender identity or race or sexual orientation?
Star Wars is only just beginning. Patty Jenkins, and those who will follow in her footsteps, are here to lay the foundation for all that’s to come. And we get to be part of it. We get to be part of the story. Some of us might even still get to be the ones to bring more Star Wars stories to life. Behind the camera, on the page, and across the galaxy, there are going to be more of us.
How cool is that?