Fan Spotlight: “What Does Star Wars Mean to You?” (2023)

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In honor of Star Wars Day, we recently asked some fans who attended Star Wars Celebration Europe what Star Wars stories mean to them.

While Star Wars fans are united in their love for the galaxy far, far away, a hallmark of Star Wars fandom is that no fan is the same as the next. Your first introduction to Star Wars, your favorite film or character, or how old you were when you fell in love with Star Wars makes your story different and unique. To celebrate May the 4th, spoke to several Star Wars Celebration Europe to answer just one question: “What does Star Wars mean to you?” Here are their responses in their own words.

Fan Spotlight: “What Does Star Wars Mean to You?” (1)

Liv Peltier, fan and GirlBossk cosplayer

As cliché as it may sound, to me, Star Wars is about hope. In my own Star Warsjourney, I became a fan after binge-watching the original trilogy so I could see The Force Awakens in theaters. I loved it, but it didn’t quite stick with me until the release of The Last Jedi. In December of 2017, I was living 10 hours from home for my first year of university and had only one or two friends; to say I was lonely would be an understatement. I went to see The Last Jedi on opening night by myself and it changed my life. Though the movie ended and the Resistance was all but defeated, they remained hopeful, which in turn gave me hope to carry on.

A few months later, I moved home feeling a similar sort of defeat as the Resistance and I wasn’t sure what the future had in store for me. Shortly afterwards, I went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story. Han had always been my favorite character, but this time I was introduced to someone who still impacts me to this day: Qi’ra. I saw myself in Qi’ra left behind on Corellia; I also saw her making the best out of her situation, rising up the ranks of Crimson Dawn and exuding such confidence no one would think to question her. Years later, her return in the comics as the leader of the syndicate felt almost reflective of my own journey to confidence and self-acceptance.

In the times when I thought I had nothing, I had Star Wars; it gave me the hope to continue and aim for better and bigger things. There’s a reason why Leia’s only line in Rogue One is the simple utterance of “hope,” and it’s because one word can and does encapsulate Star Wars as we know it. Yes, it’s about a galactic struggle, but more importantly, it’s about the hope that is passed down from person to person as a promise of the better days that will come, someday.

Fan Spotlight: “What Does Star Wars Mean to You?” (2)

Hayden Kirkeide, fan and Beilert Valance cosplayer

My earliest memory is sitting on the couch watching Revenge of the Sith drinking a purple Gatorade. Apparently, I had heard what was going on in the living room, crawled downstairs, and was standing at the doorway in awe; my father noticed and invited me onto the couch to let me watch with him (and my mother got mad at him, of course). He is the person who shared his love with me and has granted me passage into this wonderful world he grew up in. Star Wars has always been a huge part of my life; our tradition of watching the movies over the holidays began with him taking me to see The Force Awakens opening weekend in 2015. I was invited to watch The Last Jedi on opening night and The Rise of Skywalker on its preview night after pulling an all-nighter to rewatch every single movie that came before with all of my closest friends. At its core, Star Wars is about family, regardless of whether you’re related by blood or by choice. But even deeper, Star Wars is about love. Love for a Master or Padawan; love for your partner; love for your cause; love for your friends; love for your family. It’s about holding those you love close and fighting to keep them closer. For me, Star Wars is the love I have for my father, my brothers, my friends, and my partner, whom I met through our shared love for Solo: A Star Wars Story. My life would not be the same were it not for its influence and lessons I carry with me in everything I do. To me, Star Wars means love.

Fan Spotlight: “What Does Star Wars Mean to You?” (3)

Dimitri Beauchamp, fan and influencer

There are certain things in this world that, when you hear it, when you think about it, when you see it, it gives you immediate gratification, and Star Wars has always been one of those things for me. It was one of the first things in the pop culture space that I got into. I was trying to remember exactly when I fully got into this world, and then I unlocked a memory of this old Millennium Falcon computer game that my parents bought for my brother and I when we were younger.

It will always be a euphoric feeling, seeing new projects announced, playing the video games, getting lucky enough to meet the actors and actresses, watching new movies and shows, re-watching the movies. As someone who has struggled in the past with their mental health, and still does struggle at times, Star Wars (among other things) remains one of the constants that I know I can always count on to bring me joy. It means happiness, it means excitement, it means something to look forward to.

One of my favorite things about Star Wars is talking to other fans about Star Wars. The community that it's brought together is seriously like no other. I was lucky enough to go to my first Star Wars Celebration in London this year, and being around so many fans of Star Wars, so many different creators all under the same roof was just so memorable, and an awesome feeling.

Fan Spotlight: “What Does Star Wars Mean to You?” (4)

Mira, fan and Asajj Ventress cosplayer

As a little kid, everything began with my love for the Clone Wars series. It gave me characters to look up to, worlds to daydream about, and motivation to be a good student just like all the Padawans. When I became older and I started to feel lonely, the German Garrison, part of the official 501st Legion, crossed my path. They gave me a family full of nerds who all lived for Star Wars and a reason to start cosplaying. Through all of that I fell in love with costume-making.

But that’s not all. Star Wars also awakened my interest in astrophysics so I started [working toward] my master's degree in astrophysics. Every day, every week, and every year I am doing the things I love, studying the things I am the most interested in, talking to my dearest friends and even decorating my home the way it is because of Star Wars. I met awesome friends because of Star Wars. I dream of becoming an astrophysicist because of Star Wars. I developed my hobbies because of Star Wars. I am motivated to become the strongest and best version of myself because I grew up seeing strong, smart, and independent women from Star Wars.

Star Wars is a part of me and I have no idea who I would be without it.

Lisa, fan and Nightsister cosplayer

Ever since the cute Ewoks in Episode VI, the first movie I got to see when I was a kid, I liked Star Wars, but I became a real fan at about 13 when The Clone Wars aired. Ahsoka was with me day after day, giving me support when I needed it and teaching me so much about friendship and life. Those years when The Clone Wars came out week after week have stayed with me so strongly. The series has shaped me like no other. Years later, the Star Wars galaxy is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. Not a month goes by without creating something new for a costume. I especially love that this universe is so big that somehow there is something for everyone and I have met so many great people through Star Wars and cosplay.

Everyone can find their place if they want, and you can take from it whatever you need at the moment. Be it inspiration, a refuge to briefly escape the daily grind, or just a place to meet your friends, chat about the latest outfits of Senators and Jedi, or even plan your costumes for the Nightsister group photo shoot at the next convention. From the bottom of my heart: I love Star Wars and I can't wait to see what else is coming.

Sawnsae, fan and Nightsister cosplayer

Star Wars means to me, above all, making friends and diving into another world together. Very early in my childhood I discovered the world of Star Wars together with my older brother when Battlefront 2 came out in 2005. Because of my love for this game, I made friends very quickly in my school class, where I didn't know anyone before. We would meet in the afternoons and make our own lightsabers and practice lightsaber battles. My favorite character at the time was the Twi'lek Aayla Secura, who inspired me not only with her extraordinary design, but also with her strong personality. In 2018, my active cosplay time began, during which I got to know more and more like-minded people. Of course, Aayla could not be missing as the first costume and accompany me to my first conventions. My interpretation of Aayla quickly seemed to attract attention and I was invited to appear on the German podcast - Inside the Armor (a Star Wars cosplay podcast). Here again I made new acquaintances rather quickly, some of whom I now count as my closest friends.

We meet several times a year, plan photoshoots together, dress up as our favorite Star Wars characters, and create our own characters to add to our Star Wars world. Support and encouragement are given from all sides. In London at Star Wars Celebration I was joined by my Nightsister group.

I find it impressive that everyone in this community, as different as they may be, finds a place in the Star Wars universe and can identify with it in a certain way. No matter what age, what background or what you believe in, you meet and talk about THE one topic STAR WARS. And that unites us all.

Fan Spotlight: “What Does Star Wars Mean to You?” (5)

Chase aka That Gay Jedi, fan and podcaster

Always in motion is the meaning of Star Wars. Like most fans, the myriad of meanings Star Wars has held for me has been ever-changing. And I'm pleased to report that, since attending Star Wars Celebration in London, Star Wars' meaning has transformed for me once again — only this time, it doesn't seem to want to settle.

If I had to put words on it, I'd say that today, Star Wars means connection. And, from a certain point of view, it always has. As a young, Queer kid, Star Wars was a lifeline that allowed me to relate to and make friends with boys in my class when doing so felt impossible. The films and video games all created deeper connections between my siblings and me. And during the COVID-19 lockdown, my return to Star Wars provided entertainment, inspiration, and a way for me to connect with friends and fans across the world.

After my time in London, I started to view the relationships I've developed through Star Wars like stars in a galaxy — stars that are all reaching out to each other through the Force and fusing to create an invisible, magical, ineffable feeling — a feeling that has made answering this prompt nothing short of unthinkable! But, you know, do or do not, there is no try, yada, yada–we get it, Yoda!

Star Wars is vigorously becoming a much deeper, more complex framework for how I navigate my life. Both Star Wars and the friends I have made because of it have proven to be effective motivators for connecting with myself, others, and, perhaps most surprisingly, with Forces bigger than all of us. Happy May the 4th and Gay the Force be with you all, always.

Rebecca McGovern, fan and panelist

Star Wars to me is defined by community. Throughout the series and associated stories, there’s such an emphasis put on the relationships we have with one another. Whether it’s watching the Resistance grow from the hope of just a few people, or seeing a ragtag group of misfits find family in each other, or even just watching the Ewoks form a culture-wide infatuation with C-3PO, there’s this consistent togetherness that is so integral to the story. Then, in the real world, I think of the films in relation to the people around me. I think of watching A New Hope for the first time with my brothers, all huddled together on our couch; or our mom picking us up early from school to see Revenge of the Sith on opening day at our local, one-screen theater in small town New Jersey.

Now, I associate Star Wars with the wonderful people I’ve met through the fandom and the innumerable ways they have changed me. Some of the most meaningful people in my life, I have met through this community and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Star Wars has given me a lot, but the most important thing it has given me is the knowledge that while our experiences may define us, it's the people we go through them with that give us value.

Fan Spotlight: “What Does Star Wars Mean to You?” (6)

Marietta Ivanova, fan and nexu cosplayer

To me Star Wars means hope and inspiration: stay on target, chase your dream, and on the way there you will meet the most warm and inspiring community there is.

I’m a 3D modeler and artist by education. However, I wasn’t confident enough to trust that I could apply art usefully in life, so I drifted away from my passion and opted for another career. I experienced a period of seven uninspired years when I didn’t create a single piece of art.

Seeing Rogue One in the theaters gave me so much excitement that I wanted to connect with those who shared the feeling. I decided to read a Star Wars short story written by a fan, and their creativity encouraged me. After seven years I picked up a pencil again and doodled Darth Vader. When I published the art online, the positive feedback from the community was overwhelming — I realized that there is still hope for me as an artist, and maybe I can be part of this community.

In the coming years Star Wars held my excitement and has given me inspiration and reasons to take on even bigger creative challenges, like bringing parts of the galaxy far, far away into our world through prop making. I’ve had to learn new skills to reach new goals. I re-learned what I had forgotten in 3D design, and modeled and 3D printed a life-size Geonosian costume and other creatures. Right now, I’m learning more about silicone molding in order to expand the types of props I can create with my team. Star Wars connected me with my original passion and led me to pursue things that make me happy.

Star Wars is part of our cultural history by bringing innovation and imagination to the movie screens. However, it means to me also that I’m part of a global community that can connect over differences and distances for a shared interest. One of the best parts is gathering at events like Star Wars Celebration and meeting inspirational people: creative minds who bring us the stories, prop builders who give us the chance to marvel at breath-taking builds, talented writers, hosts who interview our heroes, cosplayers, and fellow fans with whom we can share the fun. Star Wars means I have a constant source of inspiration and joy through its adventurous stories, artistic brilliance, and the people it brings together. I couldn’t be more thankful, and it feels that this is only the beginning.

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