“Are you really a fan, or are you just wearing the t-shirt?” Ask any woman who belongs to any faction of geeky fandom if they’ve faced a variation of this question. One is almost guaranteed an affirmative response.
Looking for Leia, a documentary series by Annalise Ophelian, goes deep into the female and non-binary sides of Star Wars fandom. Ophelian’s series counteracts the condescension and disdain that these fans often encounter. In doing so, the doc brings forward all manners and shapes of the passion that engulfs one of the strongest global fan bases.
Partly inspired by the passing of Carrie Fisher on December 27th, 2016, Looking for Leia is a work of love by Ophelian, who began interviewing fans during Star Wars Celebration 2017. The series started out as a personal inquiry into the experiences of women and non-binary fans. It grew into a conduit for these stories to topple the obsolete notion that Star Wars was born and remains a franchise with a male-dominated audience.
Through seven episodes that range from 10 to 15 minutes long, Ophelian opens endearing and compelling conversations on fandom that probes topics such as droid-building, cosplay, and the sense of community. Looking for Leia explores how the participatory fan base of Star Wars has creatively transformed its love for the saga and turned it into something beautiful. It even tells of the significance of the Navajo dubbing of A New Hope as a way of getting younger Indigenous generations closer to their own language.
In the Looking for Leia interviews, Ophelian works across the Star Wars galaxy in terms of representation, showcasing the intergenerational, intersectional, and international scope of fandom. The stories that enrich the documentary come from a range of geeky darlings including Dr. Andrea Letamendi (co-host of the popular podcast Lattes With Leia), Bonnie Burton (of The Star Wars Craft Book fame), and Charlie Jane Anders (other magazine), along with a diverse array of opinionated and enchanting fans.
While Looking for Leia advocates for gender and race representation, it doesn’t fly a combative flag. It doesn’t chastise male fans for existing, nor does it deny that they comprise a good chunk of the fandom. It strives to complement their experience with that of everyone else who happens to love Star Wars and doesn’t identify as a man. As stated within its first episode, “It’s a Whole Galaxy.” The docu-series represents a shift in the narrative of this fandom to a new set of perspectives, ones that have remained in the dark for decades, even if they’ve never stopped flourishing. The series is here to build bridges between Star Wars fans and inspire the next generations. If fandom is what we make of it, wouldn’t we all thrive in a more diverse and richer world?
Looking for Leia premiered on SYFY Wire just before Christmas and is available online.