In 2008, The Clone Wars animated movie and series introduced Star Wars fans to Ahsoka Tano, the Togruta Padawan learner to Anakin Skywalker. Over the course of the show, she evolved from headstrong student to fierce Jedi who would one day challenge Vader himself.
Although some fans were initially skeptical about the sassy, young upstart Anakin affectionately dubbed “Snips,” a decade later, Ahsoka has become one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, inspiring intense devotion, not to mention fan art and fan fic, cosplays, fashion, essays, memes, social media chatter, a novel by E.K. Johnston, and other creative expressions of adoration. As the first official lead female Jedi in the canon Star Wars Universe, it’s no surprise Ahsoka especially resonates with women.
Translator and editor Kelly McGuire didn’t always love Ahsoka. At first, she suspected the introduction of this newcomer was simply a ploy — Lucasfilm pandering to female fans. After one season of Clone Wars, she began to feel differently and found herself relating to the Padawan turned Jedi in unexpected ways.
So when Kelly decided it was time to launch her Star Wars-themed website, Ahsoka became her muse. Thus, Team Ahsoka was born, and it’s so much more than just an online space for Snips devotees. With its mix of news, information, analysis, fan art, cosplay pics, and merchandise, it’s a great resource for absolutely anyone who’s into Star Wars.
Kelly kindly agreed to chat with me about Team Ahsoka, what it’s like to be a Star Wars fan who lives in the Netherlands, 2019’s packed slated of highly anticipated Star Wars debuts, the franchise’s complicated, sometimes toxic, fandom and, of course, her feelings about the return of Clone Wars.
You’re the admin and chief content creator of team-ahsoka.com, a website dedicated to Ahsoka Tano, the first lead female Jedi in the canon Star Wars Universe. I have to start with the question: Why a site specifically devoted to Ahsoka?
Well, I’ve been a Star Wars fan for the better part of three decades and had always wanted to try my hand at running a website devoted to my favorite fictional universe but, as anyone can tell you, there’s absolutely no shortage of Star Wars fan sites or blogs. Seriously, there are thousands.
I did a little research and it felt like the best way to stand out from the crowd was to create a niche website and zoom in on one very specific topic … and I decided that that topic should be my favorite female Star Wars character, Ahsoka Tano, and her fanbase. At the time, there didn’t seem to be many sites dedicated to her and I wanted to create a site that could serve as both a repository of news and information about Ahsoka and a place where I could showcase cosplay photos, fan art, and other fan creations.
And so Team Ahsoka was born.
What are your memories of first watching The Clone Wars. How and why did Ahsoka become special to you?
People might assume that I’ve been an Ahsoka fan from day one but, actually, it took some time for me to fully warm up to her, as I explained in this article. When the Clone Wars film was announced, I was skeptical — and maybe a tad cynical — about Ahsoka’s very existence. Anakin Skywalker had never mentioned having an apprentice and they had already explored the Clone Wars in the popular Genndy Tartakovsky series, so I just couldn’t understand why George Lucas and his team had decided to produce yet another animated series set in that era. Perhaps Ahsoka was just a heavy-handed attempt to get more girls interested in Star Wars, I thought. She’ll probably be written off, possibly even killed off, before the first season was over. Boy, was I proven wrong.
I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment I became an Ahsoka “stan” (as the kids say) but I soon grew to like the snippy, young Togruta. It took me at least a season to feel emotionally invested in her but by the time she walked down the Jedi Temple steps at the end of the show’s fifth season, I knew that she had earned a special place in my heart.
This was a young woman who had turned her back on the only life she had ever known and walked off into the great unknown to forge her own path. I may not have been the show’s target audience but her journey was one that spoke to me, especially several years later when I decided to quit my job and set up my own business. Sometimes, one just has to take that leap of faith and pray that the odds will work in their favor.
Why do you thinks she’s so beloved, especially by a younger generation of female fans?
It’s hard to say but I think it’s probably a combination of factors.
One, she was a teenager who was still training to be a Jedi and, therefore, a perfect point-of-view character for those who were taking their first steps into a larger world. The Clone Wars was an entry point for an entire generation of fans, many of whom grew up alongside Ahsoka and saw themselves reflected in the series’ young protagonist. Her growing pains were theirs and her victories helped guide their own.
Two, she showed young girls — and women — that they too could be Jedi Knights. There had already been a number of female Force users in the “Legends” Expanded Universe and Prequel Trilogy but Ahsoka was the franchise’s first female Jedi in a leading on-screen role. Not only did she have a speaking part (unlike many of her prequel predecessors), she was a co-protagonist in a series starring some of the saga’s most iconic figures. One could even argue that she boosted female engagement with the franchise and helped pave the way for Disney-era heroines Rey and Jyn Erso.
And three, she owes a lot of her success to her voice actress. Ashley Eckstein has long been a leading voice for female fandom and an absolute sweetheart towards her fans. The “Ahsoka Lives” events at Star Wars Celebration are a testament to Ahsoka’s widespread popularity and the fans’ love for Ashley. It’s hard to believe that a character that was almost universally hated back in 2008 could end up rivaling the Original Trilogy heroes in terms of popularity … but there you have it.
I assume you’re a big fan of Ashley Eckstein?
I haven’t had the chance to meet Ashley yet and while I’m not one for celebrity worship, it’s clear that she’s a talented voice actress, a savvy entrepreneur, and truly appreciative of her fans. Her company, Her Universe, was founded as a way of filling a gap in the market — that is, geek fashion for women and girls — and challenging the outdated perception that fantasy and science fiction were just for boys.
Ever since she took on the role of Ahsoka Tano, Ashley has been something of an ambassador for female fandom and has inspired countless others — young and old — to pursue their dreams. She has also been an advocate for mental health awareness and has spoken out against bullying on many occasions. Even a cynic like me can’t help but admire her and her work.
Above, Kelly’s cats Rico, left, and Juno love Ahsoka too.
If you had to pick one favorite episode of Clone Wars featuring Ahsoka, what would you choose?
Wow, that’s a tough one, especially since most of my favorite episodes are part of multi-episode story arcs. The two-part arc “Padawan Lost/Wookie Hunt,” the Onderon arc, and Ahsoka’s final arc in season five are among my favorites; each of these showcase Ahsoka’s resilience, resourcefulness, and leadership skills.
But if we’re talking about standalone episodes, I’d probably choose “Heroes on Both Sides,” which explores Ahsoka’s friendship with Padmé Amidala and the blurred concepts of good and evil. The episode gave us a much-needed look at the war from the Separatists’ point of view and marked a pivotal point in Anakin and Ahsoka’s relationship.
Anakin viewed the war in black-and-white terms while Ahsoka’s brief sojourn among the Separatists had given her a new perspective on war and politics, one that was far more nuanced than that of her master and one that would guide her actions as a rebel leader and intelligence operative in later years.
What did you think about her character arc from Clone Wars to Rebels?
Bringing her into Star Wars Rebels was a bold move on Lucasfilm’s part and although I still have some reservations about their decision, I thought her role within the fledgling rebellion was a natural progression of her character arc. After all, she had played a vital role in training one of the first rebel cells during her time on Onderon in the fifth season of The Clone Wars. And even though she had left the Jedi Order, she continued to fight for social justice and serve the Light Side on her own terms.
However, I do feel that they didn’t really use her to her full potential. We barely got to see her working alongside Hera, even though Hera had been the Spectres’ direct link to the Fulcrum network, and I would have liked to have seen her interact more with the show’s Force users.
There were times where it felt like her only purpose was to reel in the Clone Wars fanbase and give fans the emotional Vader-Ahsoka showdown they were yearning for. Opportunities were missed and we’ve yet to find out why she sat out the Galactic Civil War, but her triumphant return to Lothal after the Battle of Endor hints at stories yet to be told. So let’s see where her journey takes her next.
What was your reaction to the announcement of a new season of Clone Wars?
Ecstatic, to say the least. I was heartbroken when I learnt that the series had been cancelled following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and, at the time, I felt that the series’ fans had been robbed of a proper series finale. In fact, I resented the Disney acquisition so much that it took me well over a year before I could bring myself to watch their new animated series, Star Wars Rebels.
So when Lucasfilm announced that it would revive the series for one final season and give our beloved characters the closure they deserved, it was like a dream come true. I can’t wait to see my favorite Star Wars trio back on our screens in the not-too-distant future!
Let’s talk about your Star Wars origin story. You saw A New Hope in the late 1980s. What are your memories of that and how did the film impact you?
It’s tough to pin down how old I was when I first watched Star Wars. I must have been about nine or ten and it was my mother that introduced me to that galaxy far, far away. She had seen A New Hope (then simply titled Star Wars) at the cinema back in 1977 and I knew that it must have made a huge impact on her because she’s never been fond of science fiction/fantasy.
To be honest, I can’t remember whether I saw the Original Trilogy on VHS or on television but I instantly fell in love with George Lucas’ fictional universe, no mean feat for a young girl who struggled to sit still long enough to watch a two-hour film.
I was hooked from the moment the Tantive IV and Star Destroyer flew across the screen. This galaxy populated by exotic aliens, peculiar droids, and mystical space wizards was like nothing I had ever seen before. To my young imagination, the Force was a new form of magic and it had cast its spell on me.
And now that I think about it, I’m possibly one of the few female fans who grew up with the Original Trilogy and preferred Darth Vader to Leia Organa. The no-nonsense rebel princess may have been a groundbreaking heroine for my generation but I found myself rooting for her father instead. What can I say? I was an odd kid.
You’ve said the prequels were responsible for the “blossoming of your love” for Star Wars. In what way?
Perhaps it was just the timing of their release but the prequels, specifically Attack of the Clones, pushed me into the deep end of Star Wars fandom. Up until that point, I had been something of a “casual” fan of the franchise. I had watched and enjoyed the Original Trilogy but that was about it. There were no new Star Wars films to talk about and the Expanded Universe was a complete mystery to me, so video games, archaeology books, and Star Trek filled that void. And then the prequel trilogy was announced.
The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars film I watched at the cinema but, sadly, my opinion of it was rapidly swayed by those around me. Any enthusiasm I had for the film was soon crushed thanks to friends and relatives complaining incessantly about midichlorians and Jar Jar Binks. It took well over a decade for me to rewatch the film and see it in a whole new light. People like to blame the press and internet for souring people’s views of the film but that wasn’t the case for me; I didn’t even have regular access to the internet back then.
It might be hard for younger fans to imagine what online fandom was like back in the mid to late 1990s but, well, there was barely an online fanbase to speak of, especially back home in Gibraltar, where even a basic dial-up connection was beyond most families’ budgets. And social media hadn’t been invented yet. Sure, there were message boards and discussion forums but I didn’t have the means to access them.
So once I moved over to the United Kingdom in the autumn of 1999 to attend university, I suddenly had regular internet access at my fingertips and was finally able to engage with a much larger fanbase. Thanks to the internet, I was able to connect with fans across the world, access Star Wars databanks, and read up on all the latest developments, gossip, rumors, and fan theories. I devoured any piece of information I came across and over-analyzed every behind-the-scenes photo or video I could find. It was then that I realized Star Wars had sunk its talons deep into me.
And on a more personal note, I had just started dating my now-husband a few months before Attack of the Clones was released. This much-mocked and, I’d argue, underappreciated film was the first Star Wars film we watched together as a couple and our relationship blossomed thanks to our shared love for this fictional universe. People can joke about the sand monologue and hokey love scenes all they like but Attack of the Clones will always have a special place in our hearts.
You were born and raised in Gibraltar, which is a pretty tiny place. Did that affect your Star Wars fandom at all?
Well, for a start, Star Wars toys and merchandise were pretty hard to come by. I didn’t even know that Star Wars comics and novels were a thing until I moved to the United Kingdom in the late 1990s and Star Wars-branded clothing for women was virtually non-existent.
And back then, Star Wars wasn’t just a niche interest, it was also considered a “boy’s thing.” Girls who liked Star Wars were often mocked and labelled “nerds,” and I found it hard to find peers who shared my love for that galaxy far, far away, especially in an all-girl comprehensive school.
But times have changed. Gibraltar now has its first official member of the 501st Legion; it hosts its own, albeit tiny, Comic Con; girls and women openly embrace their love for geek franchises; and one of our newest tourist attractions, Skywalk, was opened by none other than Mark Hamill himself in March 2018. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that Luke Skywalker would one day set foot in my homeland. It’s just a shame that I wasn’t there to witness it.
What motivated you to start a Star Wars-themed website? Do you have a background in writing?
I started a Star Wars-themed website because The Force Awakens had rekindled my passion for this fictional universe and I needed a new project to channel my energy and creativity into. I was between jobs at the time and reading and writing about Star Wars was a welcome distraction from the stresses of job-hunting and Brexit.
Ever since I’ve had regular access to the internet, I’ve felt this overwhelming urge to make my voice heard and connect with like-minded individuals across the world. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I haven’t been working on at least one website, online diary, or blog at any given moment.
But despite this, I’ve always been reluctant to call myself a writer, even though I spend much of my day writing or editing documents for my clients or pet projects. Perhaps it’s just imposter syndrome but I tend to view myself as more of a curator than a writer or creator. In-depth analyses and think pieces terrify me so I tend to focus on compiling lists, sharing franchise news, transcribing podcasts or panel recordings, and conducting interviews with fan community members.
But I guess it doesn’t matter what label I choose to describe myself. All I know is that I want Ahsoka fans to feel that they can visit the Team Ahsoka site and find the information — or inspiration — they’re looking for.
You’re a freelance translator. Does your work intersect at all with your passion for Star Wars?
Translation has taken a bit of backseat lately. My main language pair, Chinese-English, isn’t in high demand in the Netherlands and rates are extremely competitive, so most of my freelance projects these days involve editing and performing quality checks on English-language subtitles for Netflix and other clients.
I’m not at leisure to go into much detail about the projects I’ve worked on but I’ve performed quality checks on subtitles for the director’s commentary of a recent Star Wars film and bonus material for Revenge of the Sith. With Disney Plus on the horizon, I hope I’ll get the chance to take on more Star Wars-related projects in future.
Team Ahsoka is an excellent and detailed resource for Star Wars fans. You create most of the content for the site and manage its social media accounts. That sounds like a lot! What kind of time and work goes into that?
It is! When I first launched the site back in April 2016, I was between jobs, so I spent dozens of hours a week writing articles and curating content for the site and its social media accounts as a way of honing my writing and other marketable skills.
Now that I run my own business and work as a freelancer, my priorities have shifted somewhat. I still try to update the site a couple of times a month but I channel most of my free time and energy into promoting my work and engaging with fellow fans on Twitter. Researching and writing articles is all well and good (and I do enjoy it) but I’ve found that meeting new people online and chatting about our shared interests is a far more rewarding experience.
Your website isn’t affiliated with Lucasfilm or Disney, but have your paths crossed with these corporations in any way? Do you know if they’re aware of you?
I don’t know if these corporations are aware of me or the site but I have interacted with Star Wars cast and Lucasfilm employees on Twitter on a number of occasions and I’ve spent countless hours chatting with Lucasfilm publicist Tracy Cannobbio about the animated series, Dave Filoni’s art, and our shared appreciation of Anakin Skywalker. As far as I’m aware, there is no official fansite program that I can apply for, but I’m happy to continue promoting the Star Wars brand in my own little way.
You live in the Netherlands. Are there a lot of Star Wars fans there?
I have to admit that I don’t know many personally aside from a few close friends and relatives, most of whom actually prefer Star Trek. But the Dutch branches of the 501st Legion, Mandalorian Mercs, and Rebel Legion seem to be very active and I’ve run into them at a number of events, including the Galactic Empire concert in Haarlem back in 2017.
It’s shocking that I’ve never gotten involved with any of these fan groups, despite having lived here for almost thirteen years and being able to speak Dutch with a reasonable degree of fluency. So my goal for 2019 is to meet some of the Dutch Star Wars fans I’ve befriended via Twitter and attend at least one convention or fan event (free time and finances permitting).
You describe Star Wars as an “integral part” of your life. What does that currently look like?
At the moment, it consists of spending a lot of time — perhaps too much time — keeping up with all the latest Star Wars news and chatting with fellow fans on Twitter. There’s always a new topic to discuss, fan art and cosplay photos to share, and articles to brainstorm. My ever-growing collection of Funko Pop! figures and my penchant for using Star Wars quotes in everyday conversation are subtle reminders that I might be slightly obsessed with this fictional galaxy and the characters that populate it …
And since Star Wars is special to both me and my husband, we paid homage to our favorite space-fantasy franchise by using John Williams’ “Throne Room” track at our wedding and celebrating our third wedding anniversary (that year’s Force Friday) with a visit to Villa del Balbianello, which served as the Naberrie’s lake retreat in Attack of the Clones.
What are some of your other favorite fandoms?
Star Wars eats up most of my free time these days but I’m also a Trekkie and a huge fan of the Indiana Jones film series. I was also quite active within the Tomb Raider fan community until relatively recently; my old fansite, Tomb Raider Horizons, is still online but is no longer being updated (I just don’t have the time for it anymore).
And although it isn’t really a fandom, per se, I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with the polyglot/language learning community. Most of my early blogging efforts took the form of language diaries and while I no longer blog about my linguistic endeavors, I still follow a number of language bloggers on Twitter and often toy with the idea of jumping back into the fray. But, alas, there are only so many hours in the day.
You’re a gamer, too. You like to spend time on your PS4 and Xbox 360. What are you currently playing?
I’m currently working my way through Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey on the PS4 (seventy hours and counting!) and plan to jump back into Star Wars Battlefront II now that they’ve added Anakin Skywalker to the roster.
Third-person action-adventure games are my genre of choice; I’ve been a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series since the 1990s and enjoyed The Force Unleashed games immensely, so I’m looking forward to learning more about Respawn Entertainment’s Jedi: Fallen Order in the coming months. Battlefront II’s campaign mode was a welcome addition to the series but, from what I’ve gathered, Fallen Order will finally offer me the single-player Star Wars gaming experience I’ve been waiting years for.
The Star Wars franchise is rapidly expanding with more movies planned, as well as TV series, books, games, and Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge theme park addition. 2019 is going to be a huge year for Star Wars fans. How are you feeling about all this? What are you anticipating the most?
This should come as no surprise but the thing I’m most looking forward to is the new season of The Clone Wars. I can’t wait to see my favorite Star Wars trio back on our screens, even though I know that Dave Filoni and his team will be pulling out all the stops to tug at our heartstrings.
Of course, that’s not the only thing I’m looking forward to this year. I am first and foremost a Prequelist, so I’m aching to get my hands on Claudia Gray’s novel, Master and Apprentice, and E.K. Johnston’s young adult novel, Queen’s Shadow.
One of my biggest worries when they first announced the Disney takeover was that the prequel era would be forgotten, that they’d try to appease disillusioned fans by sweeping the much-maligned prequel trilogy under the rug, so I’m thrilled to see that we’re continuing to get so much new content set in that era.
And, last but not least, I’m super excited to see what new projects will be announced at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Sadly, I couldn’t afford to attend the convention this year so I’ll be living vicariously through attendees’ Twitter feeds and following all the latest developments via the live streams and social media. Hopefully we’ll get our first glimpses of Episode IX, The Mandalorian, and The Clone Wars’ seventh season in a few weeks’ time.
Cynics may say that Star Wars is dead but, in truth, there’s never been a better time to be a fan.
The last couple of years have been tough in some ways for the fandom with a lot of controversy, trolling, and toxic behavior online. You don’t seem to be afraid to wade in to the debate when fans get out of line. What are your thoughts about the state of Star Wars fandom?
Star Wars fandom is … messy, to put it mildly. It’s always been cliquey and tricky to navigate but social media and YouTube have fractured the fanbase further and amplified the voices of a toxic subset of fandom. It was easy enough to avoid these people in the past but it’s become increasingly tough to avoid thanks to call-out culture and people using YouTube recommendation algorithms to their advantage.
I try to avoid fandom squabbles as much as possible but I won’t hesitate to call out hateful behavior or abuse, especially if it’s being directed towards a friend or acquaintance. Differences of opinion are one thing but I have zero time and patience for those who resort to insults or targeted harassment. Needless to say, I’ve become a lot more liberal with my use of Twitter’s mute and block features and I encourage others to do the same.
Don’t be afraid to curate your own social media experience. Follow those who bring you joy and ditch those who don’t. You’ll feel a lot better for it!
Would you like to see Ahsoka in future additions to the Star Wars saga? Do you like to speculate at all as to what she might show up in?
Absolutely! While I would like to see her make the leap to live action sooner rather than later, a cameo appearance in Episode IX seems highly unlikely, though not impossible. Personally, I would love to see her make a guest appearance or have a recurring role in the new Cassian Andor show. After all, she was the original Fulcrum agent and may even have recruited Cassian herself.
And let’s not forget Star Wars Rebels’ closing scenes, which saw Ahsoka and Sabine Wren set off in search of the missing Ezra Bridger. Dave Filoni and his team have clearly left the door open for future adventures and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucasfilm Animation’s next major project turns out to be a series or TV movie about Ahsoka and Sabine’s quest to find Ezra. No matter where Ahsoka turns up next, I’m pretty confident that we haven’t seen the last of her just yet.
Do you think you’ll ever run out of things to talk about when it comes to Ahsoka Tano?
Anything is possible, but it seems unlikely for now. With a brand new season of The Clone Wars on the way and the possibility of more Ahsoka stories in the future, I have a feeling that she will continue to be a talking point for years to come. And as long as there’s a vibrant fan community, there will never be a shortage of topics to discuss or fan creations to share and admire. After all, if we’re still talking about the Original Trilogy and its themes and characters four decades on, who’s to say we’ll ever get bored of talking about Snips?
If readers would like to support Team Ahsoka, what’s the best way they can do that?
I don’t have a Patreon account or anything like that so readers are welcome to show their support for Team Ahsoka by sharing my articles on social media, following me on Twitter (@teamahsoka), or making a small donation via the Team Ahsoka Ko-fi page. Donations go towards covering the site’s domain name renewals and other running costs.
Ahsoka Tano photo: StarWars.com.