How Padme Amidala, Yoda, and the Internet are standing up to bullies for a Star Wars-loving mini-geekette

Katie and Catherine Taber are proud that they love Star Wars (c) Carrie Goldman and Dana Patrick

No matter what kind of geek you are, there’s something that all of us share in common which makes us different from aficionados, hobbyists, and dabblers.

When we were younger, we got teased and bullied. A lot.

In his book The Happiest Days of Our Lives, writer/actor Wil Wheaton wrote extensively of how being a little smarter and a little more shy than other kids in his elementary school classes lead to his taking one in the face during an “innocent” game of dodgeball. The fact that Wheaton went on to star as an actor in such geek-centric TV series like “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Eureka” doesn’t completely obscure the fact that he still feels and remembers that pain from over 25 years ago.

Katie, a first-grader in the metro Chicago area, had her own “dodgeball moment” recently. See, Katie really loves the Star Wars franchise. In fact, she loves it so much that according to her mother Carrie Goldman, a blogger at ChicagoNow.com, she asked for a Star Wars water bottle to go with her backpack when they went shopping for school supplies at the beginning of this school year. However, four days ago, Katie changed her mind about her special find:

Katie loves Star Wars, and she was very excited about her new items. For the first few months of school, she proudly filled her water bottle herself and helped me pack her lunch each morning.

But a week ago, as we were packing her lunch, Katie said, “My Star Wars water bottle is too small. It doesn’t hold enough water. Can I take a different one?” She searched through the cupboard until she found a pink water bottle and said, “I’ll bring this.”

I was perplexed. “Katie, that water bottle is no bigger than your Star Wars one. I think it is actually smaller.”

“It’s fine, I’ll just take it,” she insisted.

I kept pushing the issue, because it didn’t make sense to me. Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.

She wailed, “The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle. They say it’s only for boys. Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it. I want them to stop, so I’ll just bring a pink water bottle.”

And that’s how it begins.

The feeling that you’re different, and that if you want to be liked by the other kids in your class, you have to step in line with what they think you should do and who they think you should be. It’s the kind of feeling which, if left unchecked or unacknowledged, could cause a lot of damage to a growing kid’s psyche.

When faced with this kind of bullying, Goldman did what any caring parent should do. She spoke to her daughter about how it was okay to be a little different, and encouraged her to be brave enough to continue bringing the water bottle to school. She then went a step further and asked her readers—and especially her female Star Wars-loving readers—to chime in to let Katie know that it was okay to be female and to like Star Wars

The response was overwhelming, and tons of female Star Wars fans braved the login requirements to write to Katie about how much they like the franchise and—more importantly, that she shouldn’t be ashamed of liking it, too.

Just yesterday, it went viral, thanks to Twitter updates from folks like Alyssa Milano and Felicia Day. In the 30 minutes it took me to take the subway home from downtown Manhattan to my apartment in Brooklyn, the number of people who commented on the original story went from about 150 to 584 (and counting). Earlier in the day, Cake Wrecks and Epbot blogger Jen re-broadcast the story and invited those who didn’t want to subscribe to leave comments in her blog post, and there are currently over 1,700 over there as well, up from the 600 or so I saw earlier.

My favorite response on the original post, though, comes from another “Katie” — Catherine Taber, the voice of Padme Amidala in the CG-animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”:

I am an actress who has the great honor of being Padme Amidala on “Star Wars: the Clone Wars”! I just wanted to tell Katie that she is in VERY good company being a female Star Wars fan! I get to meet the coolest girls from all over the WORLD who love Star Wars — and they are the smartest, most creative, beautiful and nicest people you will ever meet!

Not to mention I am a big Star Wars fan myself and have quite a nice collection — including 2 water bottles that I proudly carry!

I am so sorry you had a bad experience with some of the boys at school. They are truthfully probably jealous of your cool water bottle, but there is no excuse for not being kind and it is not a good representation of a Star Wars fan!!

I know that Padme would tell you to be proud of who YOU are and know that you are not ALONE!
Please have your mom get in touch with me so I can send you something for YOUR Star Wars collection!

Much Love and Admiration — and THE FORCE is with you Katie!
Catherine, Padme

When I reached out to Goldman last night, she and her husband were still amazed by the overwhelming response from the Star Wars fans all over the world as well as from other people associated with the franchise.

“Katie has not yet reacted because she goes to bed at 7 pm, and we had not yet read the comment by Catherine! But when my husband and I found out, we were amazed,” she wrote in an email. “We kept looking at each other and laughing and saying, ‘Oh My God!’ We were also contacted by Tom Kane, who voices Yoda, and Katie does not know about that yet either! He invited us to be his guests at a Clone Wars movie premiere in Chicago. Scott Zirkel, who is an artist for Star Wars sketch cards, drew Katie her own card tonight with a picture of her holding a light saber.”

Goldman added, “Many people have offered to send Katie Star Wars toys. Since it is the holiday season, please suggest that they donate toys in her honor to local shelters and hospitals instead of sending them to us. The positive comments are gift enough.”

Taber found out about Katie from the Epbot.com post, and immediately took action. “I felt I had to comment and try to reach out to the family,” she wrote by email. “The story really touched me for a lot of reasons. I felt for Katie’s mom and wanted to make sure she had support in teaching Katie it is okay to be a little different. And the thought of this lovely little Star Wars fan having the wind and the joy taken out of her sails, just made me mad! If I had lived in her area, I probably would have tried to show up and give her a hug—dressed as Padme no less.”

Taber’s responsible for having reached out to Kane and other “Clone Wars” cast and crew members, and she did it for a very important reason. “Maybe it’s because I play one of the good guys,” she said, “but to me Star Wars is about good conquering out over evil in the end, and the inherent power of good in general. The fact that so many people from all over, immediately came together to support Katie is proof of that power and just made me so happy.”

Not a bad way to end Anti-Bullying Week, eh?

Posted on November 19, 2010 at 00:00 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Around the Intertubes · Tagged with: , , , ,
  • http://twitter.com/Conan776 Conan776

    Dawwww

    • http://trishalynn77.wordpress.com/ Trisha Lynn

      I know. Reading the comments in both blog posts made me tear up, as well as the emails I saw back and forth between Ms. Goldman and Ms. Taber.

  • michael

    Not bad? Fantastic! I hope it keeps going because we should not participate in just a “Anti-Bullying Week”. Ours should be a “Anit-Bullying Life”.

  • Anonymous

    It’s rather awesome when the Internet is used for good instead of evil.

  • http://geekosity.blogspot.com Dan Wallace

    Great article and thanks for posting the update after talking with Katie’s mom. I was wondering about their reaction after seeing this go viral yesterday!

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  • Anditron

    Katie – I’m 37 and I got to see the first Star Wars movie in the theatre when it first came out. I was just 3 years old then and I don’t remember much, but I remembered enough to become a fan forever after. The theatres then, and now when it airs are full of wonderful smart girls and women who love good storytelling and great sci-fi artistry, so don’t let anyone, anyone tell you what you can or can’t like.

    I’ve grown to be a geek that loves Harry Potter, Tron, Lord of the Rings, and much, much, more “boy sci-fi” stuff. I now have a little girl, just 10 months old and you know what, I hope when she’s older, she can look up to you and be a strong, smart, beautiful, brainy, clever, precocious (you might have to look that one up) young lady who has the belief in herself that she can walk around with a Star Wars backpack and water bottle if she wants to.

    So thank you, Katie, for daring to speak up and tell your mom about what happened at school, because by doing so, you’re being a real life Jedi!

    • http://trishalynn77.wordpress.com/ Trisha Lynn

      Anditron: Thank you for the nice thoughts, and I made sure to forward them to Katie’s mom so that Katie could read it.

  • chocomento

    Aww, this is the best thing I’ve seen all year. :)

  • guest

    for katie: I am a mother of three girls, grandmother to 6, director of a small private school, and a former La Leche Leader. In my guest room I have a 4 foot cardboard cutout figure of Yoda, a Yoda toy that comes with a laser that makes Yoda talk, and I just purchase a book by Tony Pacitti titled “My Best Friend is a Wookie”. I am partial to Chewbaca. In my older elementary classroom I have a container of approx. $2000 worth of Star War Lego pieces, which my students are eager to play with every day. Even my middle and high school students will frequently drop by to build with the Star War pieces. My school has zero tolerance of teasing and belittling. We teach tolerance and the importance of diversity. Each student is valued for who she/he is. The students at my school often say, “We are weird.” and they are proud of it. (No, we are not a special needs school.) So, Katie, continue to help make a difference in our world by teaching others it is okay to like different things. ` Terry Wiggins

  • Dawn

    I have a daughter of my own named Katie. And? I am a HUGE Star Wars fan and have been ever since I saw the first movie in the theaters when I was about your age. I LOVED it right away. In fact, for years after that, I used to watch those movies when I was home from school sick. I would have a Star Wars marathon and watch New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. How I would have loved a show like Clone Wars when I was your age! You have inspired me to look for my own super cool Star Wars water bottle (and I am 39 years old)!

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  • Luckycharm_56

    The woman does not live in CHICAGO. She lives in EVANSTON (those dangerous suburbs!). According to blockshopper.com she and her husband purchased a house there in 2007 for $857,000. Most likely the kid is in Washington School. The mom is a former banking exec and list prices for her paintings in the thousands of dollars (really?). She’s writing a book about her adoption and evidently getting a lot of attention to build a future market with her blog.

    Too bad all the celebrities and energy poured into commenting on her blog’s “baby-done-fell-down-the-well-soon-to-be-featured-on-the-cover-of-People-magazine” story couldn’t be channeled into outrage on more important / constructive issue. I’m just sayin.

    Read more: http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/district-299/2010/11/parents-mystery-school-bullying-story-goes-viral.html#ixzz15phsmQFz

    • http://www.geekingoutabout.com Trisha Lynn

      Considering that Evanston is close to a Metro line, I definitely consider it to be Chicago-area and will update the post to reflect that. Also, one of the things that characterize geeks is that we are generally concerned about issues and are generally very knowledgeable about them.

      I believe that if you asked the individual respondents if they had charities to which they donate, causes for which they stump, and issues for which they proudly support and educate, the list would be long and varied. I personally am a fan of marriage equality for homosexual and am against the enhanced pat-down procedures that the U.S. TSA is trying to get us to accept.

      However, that’s a subject for a completely different post. But bless your heart for being so concerned.

    • Karyn Bowman

      And pray tell, what is more important than stopping bullying? The battle ground known as school is filled with this stuff every day. What our kids learn here will effect them the rest of their lives and that includes the social bs that happens everyday. I have dealt with grown up bullies who still pretend that they are in high school and need to bring you to your knees to feel better about themselves. And then there are the slew of stories we are seeing about bullying and how it leads to suicide. Luckycharm, who are you crapping?

    • Adanemom

      You come off as a nasty person and seem to be promoting more negativity and judgement instead of channeling your energy into stopping the unnecessary meaness in the world. Really what did your comment have to do with the bullying of a small child and how we as human beings need to start caring about each other. Regardless of what monetary things her parents do or do not have, this little girl was still hurt because someone did not live the meaning of the golden rule. Shame on you, there is enough hate in this world to last many, many lifetimes you don’t need to supply more.

  • Joecool

    I hope this shuts up the bullies and teaches them a lesson!

  • Stephen

    Katie: I may be a guy, but I have had a girlfriend who was almost as obsessed with Star Wars as me (That’s A LOT, by the way), just thought I’d put that on the floor.

  • Iwasonreach

    she deserves her own parade!!!

  • Bocusjai

    Katie, it saddened me to hear about your bad experience with the boys in your school. Forget them. I was overwelmed reading this story with how kind people can be afterwards. I love star wars to no end, even though I’m a guy I say do whatever makes you happy. If you love star wars then you never mind what other people think. We are on this earth to have a good time and enjoy life. I hope you enjoy yours

  • Sanguine

    Star Wars fangirls have to stick together! I got made fun of a lot in school too, as I had a Boba Fett lunchbox, and often wore Star Wars shirts to school, both of which were considered boy’s stuff in elementary, and geekish in middle and high school. So going to school was hard sometimes, but now I’m proudly married to a man who loves Star Wars just as much. Let the boys talk, some of the toughest Mandalorians are girls.

    Also, I have to say, its cool that Catherine Taber spoke up! Maybe in the future Katie can get some Padme toys and stuff, so she can be girly and Star Wars at the same time.

  • Peeves1234

    Love to you, Katie!
    I’m a 15 year old girl; supposedly at the age where girls should be interested in guys and clothes. I am proud to call myself a full-fledged geek; I watch Star Trek, I obsess over Lord of the Rings, of course I love Star Wars and frequently quote it, I was at the bookstore all day before the last Harry Potter book came out, and I’d rather stay up all night reading or discussing plot points of favorite books and movies than be out on the town. And I have loads of fun, and have made the most fun and interesting friends. Geeks just have more fun. Don’t let anyone get you down; I think you’re wonderful and beautiful and will be great some day. And I’m very jealous of your water bottle. Can I have it?
    :)

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  • http://www.moldremoval.net/ Mold Removal Antioch

    Fantastic!

  • Annie Sisk

    This is just the most awesome thing ever. It’s the Light side of the (Internet) Force at work: massing up a fabulous army to do some rockin’ good deeds in the world, and change specific lives, thereby changing *everything.*