A Goodbye to Clone Wars: My Star Wars Story

Happy Star Wars Day!

Not only is it May the Fourth, but today was the final episode of Clone Wars. The finale was perfect. It felt right. I’m so happy the show got to complete what it started. The final moments of the show are one of my new favorite moments in all of Star Wars.

Clone Wars is the most important part of my Star Wars story. It’s the reason I’m a fan, the reason I have a podcast, and the reason you’re reading this on my website. It was the catalyst to make me rethink my views of animation. It was how I found my voice to discuss topics I’m passionate about. It helped me discover myself in my own journey as a queer woman. I owe everything to Clone Wars.

 

My Star Wars story begins with my mom. She showed me the Original Trilogy when I was young, since she’s a big Sci-Fi fan. She grew up as a Trekkie, and her greatest disappointment in me is I never got into Star Trek (sorry Mom).

The thing about the Original Trilogy is that I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Nothing about it really hooked me in. What really helps me fall in love with media is how I connect with the characters. I do appreciate story and plot, but good character work can carry an entire piece of media for me.

I wasn’t a big fan of Luke. He was cool, but he never did anything for me. Han was funny, but just fine. I didn’t learn to appreciate Lando until I was older and could really understand his motivations. Of course everyone loved Chewbacca, because how could you not love him?

And then there was Leia. All my life, I’ve always been jealous of stories when other women were inspired by Leia or they could see themselves in Leia.

Don’t get me wrong, because Leia and Carrie Fisher are both amazing. But when I was growing up, Leia so was perfect. She was awesome. She kicked butt, took names, and didn’t let anyone tell her what to do.

And that wasn’t me. Leia made me look at myself, and I saw how flawed I was. I mentally saw my mistakes more. I could never be as awesome as Princess Leia. I was a weird kid in school with few friends who got bullied for liking Pokémon and anime.

 

Dragon Con Parade. Photo from AJC.com

So I went through early life mildly liking Star Wars. The Phantom Menace came out, my first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters, and I felt the same way about Padmé. She was awesome, amazing, perfect, and she could do no wrong. She was a fourteen-year-old telling invaders to screw off and fought beside her people. And again, that wasn’t me.

In high school, my mom took me to my first DragonCon. At the time, it was in two hotels which I thought was huge. Now, the convention spans five hotels and the AmericasMart in Atlanta, Georgia. For the first time, I got to see fandom as a community. There were more nerds than I could ever imagine. Fandom was bigger than just me and my friends. It was part of life, and it was to be celebrated.

Going into college, I continued to go to conventions when I could. Of course being a poor college student limited it to some degree. Conventions became a safe haven from life. Again, I was the weird kid. I had my friends, but I had no idea how to connect with people if they weren’t nerds. I didn’t know how to be cool or normal. I struggled at college parties. I had difficulty finding a place in my Theatre group. I could only be me which often made me feel like I wasn’t good enough.

But college also was a time I discovered something new.

I truly fell in love with Star Wars.

 

In 2008, I heard that there would be a new Star Wars show with a movie to kick it off. I dragged my boyfriend to the theater so I could see what this whole Clone Wars thing was about.

That’s when I was introduced to Ahsoka Tano.

Ahsoka was so different from Leia or Padmé. She was a student like I was. She was flawed and made mistakes, like how I felt a lot of the time. As the series progressed, she had PTSD, talking with Barriss on Geonosis that she didn’t know what to do with silence. I was struggling to overcome my own trauma from an abusive high school relationship that was affecting my relationships in college. I also didn’t realize at the time I was on the Asexual spectrum. I felt like a failure as a girlfriend for not understanding why I didn’t want to be intimate. Ahsoka was allowed to fail which made her so relatable to me.

But Ahsoka always got back up. She always learned from her mistakes. She stood her ground even when she felt weak. And Ahsoka taught me how to do the same.

I realized, for the first time in Star Wars, there was a character like me. Ahsoka was me. I connected with her on a deep level that I had never done before in Star Wars, and I fell in love with her. She became my everything.

 

My love for Ahsoka and Clone Wars led me to Dragon Con 2009 where I heard there would be a Clone Wars panel. I went into the room on my own, none of my friends had watched the show. On the panel were two guys named Chris and Scott who had a podcast called Two True Freaks.

The panel had been a mixed bag of either fanboys griping about Clone Wars being a kiddy show or actual children asking ADORABLE questions.

Nervously, I finally raised my hand and asked if the panelist believed that Clone Wars mimicked real world events. Since I had been working at the time with a group called The Harry Potter Alliance to collect books for Rwanda, I compared the genocide in Rwanda with the episode “Innocents of Ryloth” (we have it on audio somewhere in the depths of the Two True Freaks archives, because Scott and Chris were recording the panel).

They thoughtfully answered my question and continued with the panel like normal. But afterward, they came up to me and asked me to be on their show.

My love of Clone Wars led me to joining their podcast network. That was the beginning of my life as a podcaster over a decade ago.

 

Then about a year after I graduated college, I arrived home from a weekend trip visiting my best friend. I found my dad in tears. We were losing my childhood home to foreclosure. It was the only house I had ever known since my father and grandfather had built it. The real fear of being homeless set in as I didn’t have anywhere to go.

As the weeks passed and I packed up my life, making choices whether to keep or sell items, I turned to Star Wars.

I would put on Clone Wars, specifically Ahsoka episodes, to have her push me through it. I would watch Ahsoka fall only to get back up. I had more seasons now and more of her story to help me move on. It was like Ahsoka and the rest of the Clone Wars gang were there cheering me on, telling me that it wasn’t the end.

It’s where I also learned that a home is not a house. A house is just a building. But seeing the little family that Ahsoka, Rex, Anakin, and Obi-Wan made, a little found family in the midst of a devastating time period for the galaxy showed me there was still love and light to fight for. And that a real home is the people in your life.

 

I ended up moving in with my sister and brother-in-law when they took me in. It was a very hard two years. For one, my other two sisters, and four of their children lived there too. There were nine of us in a three-bedroom house. I lived in an office just big enough to fit my bed and a dresser.

I also lost a really great job as a nanny when my kids grew up on me and got an awful job at Hot Topic.

Hot Topic was mentally abusive. My boss was manipulative, like when she held my time off for my sister’s wedding over my head to make me work harder. I wish I knew what quid pro quo harassment was when I was younger. It was physically demanding, working late hours sometimes until 3-4am on top of my regular shifts. We would be exhausted to the point of falling off ladders. The entire time, we were ignored by corporate who only cared about money, never caring for the well being of its employees. It was so bad that other stores around ours would approach us on our breaks to offer us jobs. They saw how badly we were treated and wanted to save us. It’s the worst job I’ve ever had. My time working there is why I will only buy Her Universe items straight from the website, because I will never support Hot Topic again.

And as I was pretty much Harry Potter living in a tiny office with an abusive job, I really fell for the first time into depression, feeling stuck, and at times, thinking much, much worse things to do to myself.

What got me through it was podcasting and fandom. Along with Clone Wars, I found new fandoms with Once Upon A Time, BBC Sherlock, and I really got into the Marvel movies. I started getting more into Tumblr and meeting new Star Wars friends. It was an outlet that allowed me to push through that terrible time.

Then, my online friend Angel started watching Clone Wars. I rediscovered the series I loved as she witnessed it for the first time. We started a written Star Wars online role play, so I had a creative outlet. Finding Clone Wars again is what helped me. I watched as Ahsoka chose her own path and walked away from her own terrible situation with the Jedi Order. She showed me the way.

 

Luckily, I got out of Hot Topic and living in my sister’s office. I moved in with my dad and stepmom. I became a manager for a comic book store which was a dream job that I loved. I got into the new Marvel Star Wars comics meeting great new characters like Doctor Aphra. But it was the first time I came across the negative side of the Star Wars fandom in person.

It was like they just kept cloning the same guy over and over, because I kept having the same debates with different disgruntled fans. We would talk about Star Wars and have a light debate about the movies. This was right around the time The Force Awakens came out so there was a lot of excitement. Also, Star Wars Rebels had started, and I was super excited about the return of Ahsoka. Because now Ahsoka was back, she was an adult like me. I had never grown up with a character before.

With these comic bros, we would have a nice chat about Star Wars. But the moment I would bring up Star Wars animation, they would tell me that wasn’t “REAL” Star Wars, because it wasn’t on the movie screens. Which baffled me because I would say that Clone Wars and Rebels were canon. The comics coming out were canon. But these guys would say movies and the EU were the only things that actually mattered. If I pushed back, they would berate me and my merit as a fan. Some would say I wasn’t a real fan since I was a woman.

Which was crushing. I loved the shows so much. Because now to go along with Clone Wars, I had Rebels too. I was introduced to the Ghost crew. Each of them were inspiring in their own ways. Kanan was an amazing unconventional Jedi who survived his own trauma of Order 66. Hera and Sabine were amazing women who were equals to the men on the crew. Ezra was a bright ray of sunlight to make me smile. Zeb was honorable and brave. Heck, I named my cat Zeb, because I love that character so much. The Ghost crew was becoming just as important to me as any Clone Wars character.

But because they weren’t on a movie screen, they apparently didn’t count to some people.

And then, a miracle happened. One marvelous day, a bunch of articles suddenly dropped on the internet. In the new anthology movie, Rogue One, Forest Whittaker was revealed to play Saw Gerrera, a Clone Wars character.

I cried. I sobbed in my store as I read article after article to make sure it was real.

And you better believe I WELL ACTUALLY’d those guys when they came back into my store. Because now, Clone Wars had been validated in the movies. They couldn’t say anymore that if it wasn’t on the big screens, then Clone Wars and Rebels didn’t count. Because now we had Saw, we had the Ghost in the battle of Scarrif, we had General Syndulla called over the intercom, and we had Chopper rolling around on screen. It was validation and a way to stand against the harassment I had received. The television shows I loved, my bread and butter of the Star Wars fandom, was now in the movies and part of the mainstream universe.

 

Around this time, I was talking with my friend Chris from Two True Freaks. We were just chatting about Star Wars in general. He used to do a show with Scott called Star Wars Monthly Mondays, but schedules kept them from doing it anymore. He wished we still had a Star Wars show on the network.

I offhandedly went, “I’d love to talk about Clone Wars.”

And Chris paused before saying, “Hope… why don’t you and I do a Clone Wars show?”

Which is how Jaig Eyes and Jedi was born. As we went through all the episodes of Clone Wars, every week making it a staple in my life, we found ourselves talking more and more about new episodes of Rebels. Then when Resistance and The Mandalorian came along, we couldn’t contain our excitement to discuss those too.

And Chris and I made a decision. We decided that we would cover every episode of the Filoniverse as long as Dave Filoni was either putting out or overseeing the animated shows.

We’ve been doing that now for four years. As I’m writing this, we’re finishing up season three of Rebels.

It became a platform for me to start writing again, because I would create humorous recaps and character nicknames like calling Palpatine by “Papa Palps,” calling Maul and his brother “The Super Maulio Brothers: Maulio and Savagi,” and writing in lines for Chris to read Anakin’s dialogue in a Napoleon Dynamite voice.

 

I’ve always been a writer, but I had a lot of trouble throughout the years that really kept me from it. I had tried to write when I lived with my sister, but I had lost my fanfic notebook in all the moves. That had been a big mental and creative blow to me that I hadn’t recovered from (sorry to my fanfics that will never be finished). My podcasting, as well as inspiration from Star Wars Rebels, led me to writing my first fanfiction in over eight years.

Podcasting with Star Wars also helped me overcome a lot of the mental self-deprecation I used to have when I was younger. I found my voice. It has also helped me embrace my sexuality as a proud bi/pan woman. I live in the south, and my family is very religious. I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy too, but I’m expected to be more traditionally feminine. But those two hours a week on my podcast is where I can be myself, the raunchy, swearing, bi/pan woman talking about how I ship Ahsoka with Trace Martez and where I go into details about what I think Thrawn’s man parts look like.

Through the Star Wars fandom, I finally discovered who I really am, and I’m finally starting to embrace it.

 

I know this is really long, but the Filoniverse really impacted my life. Clone Wars started me on a journey to truly discover who I am. It saved my life at my worst moments helping me overcome abuse and depression. It helped shape my career through writing and podcasting letting me launch this very site, Geeky Girl Experience. It’s made me proud to be queer. Meeting people in the fandom has been so wonderful, and I’ve made so many wonderful relationships. I proudly wear a Fulcrum tattoo on my arm for Ahsoka (and I have Jaig Eyes on my ankle for Rex and my podcast).

I love Star Wars. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t talk about it. I can’t begin to put into words what Clone Wars and all of Star Wars animation means to me. It put me on a path of discovery. It made me realize what I’m made to do in my life. It’s saved me time and time again.

Now that Clone Wars has completed, I look forward to whatever is next for Star Wars animation. But for now, I tip my cap and say:

Thank you, Clone Wars cast and crew. Thank you Dave Filoni and George Lucas.

Thank you for everything.

With the greatest love,

-Hope

 

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