Return of the Nerdy Girl

Did you miss me?

On Saturday night, I returned home from a blissful 10-day vacation in Disney World. I’m hoping to have all of my pictures uploaded tonight so I can write a couple of fun trip recaps for you over the next few days, including one devoted to the perfection that was my Star Wars Weekend experience (Three words: Darth Vader Cupcake). All I’ll say for now is that if you’re a Star Wars fan, you should try to get down to Disney World at least once in your lifetime for one of those weekends.

I have to say a special thanks to both Heather and Leah for keeping NGN running smoothly while I was away. And thanks to all of you who read and commented even though I was so distracted by all of the fun (and all of the food) in Disney World that I am criminally behind on replying.

Here’s a little taste of the fun I had to tide you over until I have time to write something longer. Disney + Star Wars + dancing = the best party ever. I can’t think of any better way to spend a weekend.

Let the Wookie Win: Ranking the Star Wars Films

I’m a Star Wars nerd. I’ve watched the original trilogy more times than I can count. I own an encyclopedia of characters and multiple Expanded Universe novels. I’ve idolized Princess Leia since I was a little girl. And I freaked out when I discovered my family’s trip to Disney World was going to coincide with the annual Star Wars Weekends held at Hollywood Studios.

Star Wars has been a part of my life for almost 20 years. It was my first real foray into fandom, my first real taste of the nerdy life I so proudly live today. There’s something special about your first love, and that’s what Star Wars was for me. From pretending to be Princess Leia on the playground with my cousins as a kid to writing about its mythology as a college student, Star Wars has always had a presence in my life—and I hope it always will.

To celebrate my Star Wars Weekend adventures (and because it’s never a bad time to talk about Han Solo), I thought it would be fun to rank the six Star Wars films from worst to best.

phantom menace poster

6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Yes, there are some really cool things about this movie. As an original trilogy fan, it was fascinating to watch Palpatine’s rise and to see a younger Yoda on the Jedi Council. Darth Maul and his double-sided lightsaber are the epitome of badass. And any movie featuring both Samuel L. Jackson, Liam Neeson, and Ewan McGregor as Jedi Knights can’t be a total loss. However, this movie takes those strong points and dilutes them with a story that’s incredibly boring. Who cares about the Trade Federation? (Answer: NO ONE) It also takes one of the great mysteries of the Star Wars universe (the Force) and turns it into something that can be analyzed in blood tests (and can apparently impregnate women—or at least Anakin’s mom—in the most ridiculous “WTF?!” moment in the whole series). Finally, no mention of The Phantom Menace is complete without a mention of its enduring legacy: Jar Jar Binks. Meesa wishing he was never created.

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A Distressing Damsel: An Open Letter to Princess Leia

“I was not a damsel in distress. I was a distressing damsel.” – Carrie Fisher, on playing Princess Leia

Dear Princess Leia,

For as long as I can remember, you’ve been a part of my life. I was introduced to you when I was around five or six years old (definitely before I was seven because I have memories of watching A New Hope in the first house I lived in), and it was love at first sight. You had brown hair like I did, you were small like I was, and—most importantly—you were a girl like me. When I played Star Wars with my cousins on the playground near our grandparents’ house, I didn’t have to just watch while they played heroes like Luke and Han. Thanks to you, I got to play a hero, too, every time I pretended to be you (which was often).

You were the first female hero I met through the media, the first in a long line that took me past Sydney Bristow and Hermione Granger on the way to Zoe Washburne, Katniss Everdeen, and Kate Beckett. I may have had many fictional role models along the way as I grew up, but you never forget your first.

I was born at a time when Disney princesses were experiencing a renaissance, when Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine started showing some smarts and spark that were missing from their earlier counterparts. I loved and still love Belle with the fervor of a three-year-old watching her sing about the “great, wide somewhere” for the first time, but pretending to be Belle was never as much fun as pretending to be you.

When I pretended to be you, I got to run and climb and boss people around. I got to play a game with higher stakes than just finding a prince; I got to fight Darth Vader for the freedom of an entire galaxy.

I learned so much from you without even realizing it until much later. I learned about passion, courage, and fighting for what you believe in. I learned that women can be political leaders and military strategists. I learned that smart women are the ones who get to do all of the cool stuff, like leading attacks on the Death Star (and capturing the heart of Han Solo). I learned that there are times when even strong women need rescuing, but then there are times when they get to do the rescuing, too.

I’ve always been a tiny girl with a big mouth, and with the memory of you etched in my brain from early childhood, I’ve always felt like those things are a pretty great combination. You spoke your mind, so I grew up believing it was okay to do the same. You never let the men around you keep you from voicing your opinions; being a woman never meant you had to be silent. You were just as good a leader and a shot as the men around you, so I grew up believing I could do anything boys could do. That’s a belief that fades for a lot of girls as they grow up, but I’m so thankful that I had a fictional role model like you (in addition to the great role models I’ve had in my everyday life) to show me that women are in no way “the weaker sex.”

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