A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… People are dicks. Not for the first time, a young girl has been bullied for liking Star Wars, because – wait of it – Star Wars is for boys. Hm. Let’s tell that to all the ladies you passionately wrote opinion pieces about the casting of Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it looked like there was only one new female character. But this isn’t a story about complaining. No, this is the story about the real heroes, the men and the women of the 501st Legion. Star Wars fans par excellence, the Legion took it upon themselves to remind girls everywhere that Star Wars is for everyone.
Like many Star Wars fans, eight-year-old Layla Murphy liked watching Star Wars movies, playing with Star Wars toys and wearing her R2-D2 jacket to school. But then her mom noticed a changed. “At this new school, Layla started coming home more quiet and less of herself, and started asking not to wear her shirts or R2-D2 jacket,” Layla’s mom Nicolette Molina told CNN.
It turned out that the girls at Layla’s new school were of the mean variety. Seeing Layla’s unabashed love for Star Wars made many of the girls in her class ask if, “she was turning into a boy.” It’s a repeat of what happened to young Katie Goldman in 2010, who was also bullied for being a Star Wars fan, and although they both share the same sad story, Katie and Layla also have in common an happy ending to their tale of being bullied.
The Garrison Tyranus division of the 501st Legion, a group that supports charities and special events dressed as Star Wars characters, sent Layla a custom suit of Stormtrooper armor, and then she dressed up, and was spirited away to a Weird Al Yankovic concert where members of the Legion were providing back-up. In the end, it may not stop the bullies of the world from bullying, but the kindness of fellow Star Wars fans will hopefully give Layla the strength and confidence to be herself again.
This very personal tale is actually part of ongoing discussion about what constitutes boys toys and girls toys, or even if there is any difference anymore. Earlier this week, Target announced that they would no longer be organizing their toy department on a gender-bias basis, and that the move would extend to their bedding department too, where all sheets and pillow cases, regardless of the color or pattern, will simply be labelled “kids bedding.” It’s a good move that recognizes that times have changed, and no kid, no matter their gender, should be afraid to like what they like for fear of persecution from their peers. A message that’s at the very heart of fandom.
May the Force be with you, Layla.
Category: Nerd Culture