Some Great Star Wars Roller Derby Names

 

Some Star Wars-themed roller derby skate names from our “Graphical Taxonomy of Science Fiction Skate Names.” See a complete, high resolution version here

 

MODERN roller derby, a truly twenty-first century sport with over two thousand leagues worldwide, is typically played by women, most of whom use pseudonyms called “skate names” or “derby names.” (See more about the origins of skate names here.)

Skate names reveal a lot about the culture of the sport, and the women who play it, including the fact that a lot of them are geeks, and many are science fiction fans.

“A lot of the women who play roller derby are geeks, and many are science fiction fans.”

Earlier this year, when we created a taxonomy of several thousand skate names—which represents only about two percent of all the skate names in the world—around one in ten had a science fiction theme, and more than half of those were inspired by Star Wars.

“Sith Lords are an over-represented group among skaters.”

Which character from the Star Wars fictional universe is the popular in the real universe of roller derby? Based on our taxonomy, that’s easy: Darth Vader, who has inspired more skate names than anyone else, ranging from the relatively straightforward “Darth Skater” and “Darth Evader,” to the truly brilliant “Ruthless Vader Ginsburg,” the derby name of a skater with New York’s Ithaca League of Women Rollers, who, appropriately, has a secret identity as a lawyer by day.

One of the best Star Wars-themed skate names around: Ruthless Vader Ginsburg of the Ithaca League of Women Rollers.

Sith Lords are an over-represented group among skaters: there are 32 Sith on our list, versus only 27 Jedi. Darth Maul is especially popular, with names including “Darth Brawl,” “Darth Small,” and “Darth Mauler,” as are general Sith references, which include the excellent “Sith Happens,” the name of an official with the Orange County Roller Girls, and “Sith Vicious,” a skater with San Diego’s Renegade Rollergirls.

“The second most popular Star Wars character in roller derby is Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

And the 27 Jedi? Most of the are inspired by the second most popular Star Wars character in roller derby, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Some of the best tributes to “old Ben”: “Obi-Quad Kenobi”, “Obi-Quiet,” and our personal favorite, “Obi-Wan Kenosebleed.” Other representatives of the light side of the Force include 5 Luke Skywalker variants (“Juke Skywalker” and “Puke Skywalker” among them), as well as “Mace Hindu” and “Qui-Gon Jenn.”

Obi-Wan Kenosebleed of Salisbury Rollergirls & Princess Sleia of Southern Maryland Roller Derby. Pictures: Joshua Hoover.

The next three most popular characters, each with 10 skate names each on our list, are all rebels of one kind or another: R2-D2, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia. Great examples include “R2-Beat U,” “R2-KO,” “Chewie Tabacca,” and, best of all, “Princess Lay-Ya-Ass-Out.”

Han Solo takes sixth place, inspiring some of the best names on the list, including “Hannah Shot First,” “Hung Solo,” and the wonderful “Han YOLO.” We’ll also give a dishonorable mention to Han’s nemesis, the perhaps inevitable “Jabba the Butt.”

 

It’s not just names: one of many brilliant Star Wars bout posters, this one from Rochester’s ROC City Roller Derby, 2011

And it’s not just the obvious characters that get the derby treatment: among the brilliant, geeky others are “Crashing Wookiee, Broken Zebra,” “May The Force,” “Nerd Herder” and “Nerf Hurt-her,” “Oreo Wookiee,” “Wookiee Mistake,” “Ringo Death Starr,” “Barbie Fett,” and “Admiral Snackbar.”

Why all the love between roller derby and Star Wars? Well, one is some kick ass women leading a rebellion against an empire of evil clones. The other is Star Wars.

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You can see our complete Star Wars skate name taxonomy, which is part of our Graphical Taxonomy of Science Fiction Skate Names, here. A poster of the taxonomy is available here

 

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Our taxonomy is based on a selection of names from the brilliant, free online database at www.derbyrollcall.com, created by the very talented Sausage Roller, as at May 2015. If you play roller derby and have not entered your skate name into derby roll call yet, we highly recommend it. Please like Ithaca League of Women Rollers, Salisbury Rollergirls, Southern Maryland Roller Derby, and ROC City on Facebook. Images of Ruthless Vader Ginsburg, Obi-Wan Kenosebleed, Princess Sleia, and ROC City’s poster used by kind permission of Ruthless Vader Ginsburg, Joshua M. Hoover, and ROC City Roller Derby.

 

 

December 17, 2015 by Regina Lampert

The World Map of Roller Derby Leagues

Our map of roller derby leagues. Get a poster here; see it in high-resolution here. 

 

ROLLER DERBY has roots in the 1900s, but it is a twenty-first century sport in every way that matters. The first “roller derby” was held in Chicago in 1935 — a weeks long endurance race, where skaters lapped a banked, oval track. The event gradually transformed into full-contact, semi-scripted televised sports entertainment, where teams of men and women fought to lap one another for points. Through the 1970s and 80s, roller derby became ever more preposterous — in one incarnation, the track made a figure 8 around alligator pits — until its popularity faded.

Then, in 2001, a group of women in Austin, Texas reinvented roller derby. They kept the retro kitsch and the outright rebellion of women playing a full-contact team sport, repurposed skateboarding safety gear, threw out scripts and remade roller derby as a competitive sport. They gave themselves aggressive, risqué, punk rock-inspired skater names, and drew large crowds to underground roller derby bouts. They eventually formed two leagues, the Lonestar Rollergirls, which played on a banked track, and the Texas Rollergirls, which played on a flat track.

2002 Roller Derby Poster from Austin, Texas

A poster for one of the first modern roller derby bouts, played in Austin on August 4, 2002

They used the newly popular Internet to help spread the word about roller derby, and soon other women started leagues of their own, most with flat tracks, some with banked tracks. As leagues multiplied, skaters formed associations to promote the sport, develop new leagues, organize competitions, and standardize rules. In 2009, Whip It, a movie about roller derby directed by Drew Barrymore, helped accelerate the sport’s growth.

 Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, and Kristen Wiig in the 2009 movie “Whip It.”

Today, fewer than 15 years after roller derby’s reinvention, there are nearly 2000 roller derby leagues, spread across 53 countries, and 100,000 women play the sport regularly, as do many men.

One reason for roller derby’s rapid expansion is that, while older sports and the powerful corporate-style organizations that run them have been getting into trouble — members of the International Olympic Committee stand accused of corruption, officials from soccer’s governing body FIFA have been arrested and charged with accepting bribes, and America’s National Football League faces controversies about player safety, cheating, and its disciplinary procedures, for example — roller derby remains a player-owned and operated grassroots movement. Roller derby’s athletes don’t just play their sport; they run it too.

“Roller derby’s athletes don’t just play their sport; they run it too.”

Then there’s the fact that roller derby is a women’s sport first. Sport, like society, has always been patriarchal and patronizing towards women. There’s soccer and women’s soccer; tennis and women’s tennis; basketball and women’s basketball; but there’s roller derby and men’s roller derby. When used without a modifier, the term “roller derby” means a sport played by women. Roller derby is unique in this regard, as is the fact that it is a full contact team sport, every bit as hard-hitting as rugby or American football, yet played by women.

The equality does not stop there. Most sports invented in previous centuries only accepted black players a few decades ago (and some, such as soccer and baseball, still have problems with racism), women even more recently, gay players in the last few years, if at all, and still struggle to include players with physical differences, even if they don’t affect performance. But the twenty-first century sport of roller derby, like the twenty-first century itself, is more welcoming of humanity’s diversity. Roller derby has always embraced players from the full spectrum of human sexuality, gender identity, physical ability, and body type. Some skaters are big, some are small, some are transgender or genderqueer, a significant number are deaf or hard of hearing. This culture of acceptance extends to roller derby’s junior leagues, which, for example, welcome children who are transgender, are typically barred from all other school and junior sports, and have few competitive outlets for their athleticism.

Crystal, a 10-year-old trans girl who plays roller derby; she appears in a movie called "In The Turn"

The map of roller derby’s diffusion is about more than roller derby, because roller derby is about more than roller derby. It shows seeds of freedom and equality being sown around the world; a network of women reaching out to discover themselves and one another; the transmission of a sport that does not defy gender stereotypes but rather exposes them as lies.

Everywhere there is a roller derby league, there is a safe place for women to become who they really are — a diverse group of limitless, powerful people united by their sense of self worth — and an arena where everyone else, and perhaps most importantly young girls, can see everything women can be. At most roller derby bouts, young girls shyly pose for pictures with skaters, and it is clear that their understanding of femininity is being transformed. Rollergirls are role models for a new generation of women.

Young girls taking pictures with roller derby athletes. Pictures on white backdrop © TXRD / Michelle Hale; picture far right © Thomas Bressie

It can be surprising to see all the places this big idea is taking hold. The United States, where roller derby started, has the most roller derby leagues; its biggest roller derby state is Wyoming, with an incredible 24 leagues per million people, followed by Alaska (20.3 leagues per million people), North Dakota (10.8 leagues per million people), and Vermont (9.6 leagues per million people). Texas, where the modern sport originated, and California, which was one of the first states to import it, come twenty-ninth and thirtieth, with 2.5 and 2.3 leagues per million people respectively.

  

Roller derby leagues in Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand (left), and in North America (right). For a high-resolution map, click here 

But the United States is not where roller derby is most popular. The U.S. has 848 leagues for its population of 322 million, or 2.6 leagues per million people. But New Zealand has 29 roller derby leagues for its population of fewer than 5 million— 6.3 leagues for every million people. By this measure, roller derby is more popular in New Zealand than in any other nation in the world, followed by Australia (4.9 leagues per million people), and Canada (4.6 leagues per million people.)

“Roller derby is more popular in New Zealand than in any other nation in the world.”

The U.S. comes seventh behind Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. And many other countries play too. For example, France has 116 leagues, Argentina has 65, Spain has 33, and roller derby is also played in non-western nations including Latvia, Lebanon, South Africa, and Japan. This is remarkable, not only because roller derby is such a young sport, but also because the United States has had so little success exporting its other sports around the world. America’s two most popular sports, American football and baseball, are played in very few countries, with only basketball having any real international presence. This is yet another way in which roller derby is exceptional.

The secret of this success suggests there is more to come: roller derby is growing quickly because it is the sport of a new and better age, and it is helping to make a new and better world — a world that is more communal, more inclusive, and more empowering, especially for women.

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To get a 26”x 39” poster of the map of roller derby leagues, click here.

To get a roller derby tank feature a league map for your region of the world, click here.

 

 

October 01, 2015 by Regina Lampert

A Graphical Taxonomy of Roller Derby Skate Names

 

Our taxonomy of skate names. Get a poster here; see it in high-resolution here.

 

MOST WOMEN who play roller derby use pseudonyms, or “skate names.” They are not the only athletes to assume alternate identities. Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali, Magic Johnson, Dr. J, Sugar Ray Leonard, and even chess champion Garry Kasparov, among others, competed using names they were not born with. And the world’s most famous athlete, footballer Edson Arantes do Nascimento, played under a nonsense name from his childhood: Pelé. But roller derby players go further. Almost all skaters, as well as many coaches and officials, use pseudonyms, and the names they choose are seldom nicknames. Skate names are like noms de guerre — the names warriors once used to feel more ferocious in battle—or alter egos.

Why do rollergirls use skate names?

One reason is tradition. Modern roller derby — a competitive, full contact, all-woman sport, not the scripted entertainment of America’s disco-era — was born in 2001 as part of punk rock counter-culture in Austin, Texas. The first derby teams had names like rock bands — “Cherry Bombs,” “Holy Rollers,” “Hellcats” — and early skaters either took names like rockstars — “Cherry Chainsaw,” for example, is a bit like “Sid Vicious” — or the masked Lucha Libre wrestlers from neighboring Mexico — “La Muerta” and “Lo Loca,” both names of early skaters, have echoes of famous Luchadores like “El Santo” and “Rey Misterio.”

“Skate names are like alter egos”

Many things changed as roller derby expanded from Austin to the rest of the world, but skate names stayed, and became an integral part of derby culture. Today, over 100,000 women (plus many men) play roller derby worldwide, and more than 90,000 names have been registered with online skate name services.

Early Roller Derby Skate Names

Early skate names on the wall of the Texas Roller Derby Thunderdome in Austin, Texas.

 

Another reason for skate names is transformation. For many of the women who play it, roller derby is about becoming — escaping from society’s confining generalizations to become who they truly are. Not weak, but strong. Not helpless, but powerful. Not followers, but leaders. Assuming a new name is an important part of this transition. Names have power. The effects of names are not subtle: they can be measured, especially the effects of names given to women. In one study — there are many like it — economists Bentley Coffey and Patrick McLaughlin analyzed the careers of female lawyers and found that women with "gender neutral" names like “Casey” or “Morgan” were far more likely to be promoted than women with "feminine" names like “Susan” or “Jennifer.”

“Roller derby is about becoming”

Coffey and McLaughlin called this phenomenon “the Portia effect,” after the character in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice who disguises herself as a man so she can be a lawyer. The Portia effect is not restricted to women or lawyers: names always affect how we are seen — by ourselves, as well as others — and therefore what we might achieve. A strong, inspiring pseudonym helps create a strong, inspired identity. Put simply, skate names are a source of power.

Skate names on the lockers of Polly Urethane, Rocky Casbah, Tear-a-Wrist (“T-Dubs”), Rasta Fury, Smarty Pants, and Ally Bamazon.

 

Skate names are also a means of self-expression, and therefore a window on the dynamic and diverse culture of the world’s roller derby community. And so, partly to celebrate the tenth annual “Rollercon” roller derby convention in Las Vegas in July 2015, we looked at over twenty thousand skate names, organized about three thousand of them into a taxonomy, and then put a thousand of those into an infographic. (A limited edition 26” x 39” poster of this graphical taxonomy will be free with every purchase at our Rollercon booth, or you can buy one for $20 here.)

“Put simply, skate names are a source of power”

Some skate names are puns and innuendos, like the names Bart Simpson uses when he prank calls Moe’s Tavern in The Simpsons. Bart’s prank names include “Oliver Klozoff,” “I.P. Freely,” and “Homer Sexual”; similar skate names are “Asonya Face,” “Poly Amorous,” and “Jackie Lation.” Other suggestive names refer to body parts, especially — and not surprisingly — vaginas (39 names on our list), breasts (27 names), and buttocks (19).

But many skate names in our taxonomy are geekier, or deeper, or both.

Nearly 20% are inspired by books. A third of these are Harry Potter-related, including 18 variations of Hermione Granger, 13 of Bellatrix Lestrange, and 6 of Luna Lovegood; others are literary, like “Tess of the Derbywheels,” “Jane Ire,” and “Grace of Wrath,” or geeky, such as the four names inspired by The Call of Cthulhu, a gothic horror story written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1926.

 

Skate names inspired by Harry Potter (left) and Star Wars (right).

 

15% are based on movies, and more than a third of those, 108 names, are connected to Star Wars. But, as with books, there are also older, less mainstream inspirations — for example, “Grief Encounter,” “Das Booty,” and “Rebel Without A Corset.”

“Skate names are also a window on roller derby culture”

Some other things we noticed: 10% of the list falls into the “Tech & Geek” category, which includes names inspired by computing (“Paige Not Found,” “Syntax Terror,” “Ctrl Alt Defeat”), fonts (“Crimes New Roman,” “Give ‘Em Hell Vetica”), chemistry (“Carmen Die Oxide,” “ChLauraform”), and philosophy (“Blockem’s Razor”); DC Comics are more popular than Marvel Comics (63 vs 37), and this is driven by just two characters, Harley Quinn (18 names) and Poison Ivy (17 names); women from history provide inspiration (“Emmeline Pancakehurst,” “Rolla Parks,” “Crusin’ B. Anthony”) as do iconic present-day women (there are 13 variants of Dita Von Teese and 8 of Taylor Swift, for example) and female fictional characters from both childhood (such as the 12 Pippy Longstockings, 11 Alice in Wonderlands, 10 Cruella De Villes, and 9 Punky Brewsters) and adulthood (14 Katniss Everdeens, 6 Buffy Summers, 5 Holly Golightlys).

 

Skate names inspired by Videogames (left) and Rappers (right).

 

The taxonomy is fun to explore, and, taken as a whole, shows that the roller derby world is diverse, informed, and creative: a global group of women drawing power and inspiration from everywhere — and especially from other powerful, inspiring women, both real and imagined.

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To get a limited edition 26”x 39” poster of the skate name taxonomy, click here.

 

 

July 13, 2015 by Regina Lampert

Roller Derbyʼs Favorite Superhero

 

Who is roller derbyʼs favorite superhero? There can only be one, and the master list we made for our taxonomy of skate names may provide a clue.

 

ON SUPERHERO day at the 2015 Rollercon roller derby convention in Las Vegas, we looked at our master taxonomy of skate names to see which comic book hero—or villain—is the most popular. (Our master taxonomy does not include every skate name out there, nor do we claim it represents the best names—just the ones on Derby Roll Call that leapt out at us as we did the research for our 2015 Graphical Taxonomy of Skate Names poster.) Counting down from ten:

10—Flash Gordon

Our master taxonomy includes three names inspired by the 1930's space opera hero: Flash Gorgeous, Flash Gorgon, and Flash Nordin.

=9—Wonder Woman

Five names for Princess Diana of Themyscira, and the first entry for DC Comics—more about that later. Step forward, Wound-Her Woman, Wounda Woman, Wounder Woman, Chunder Woman, and Blunder Woman.

=9—Lex Luthor


More popular than his nemesis, Superman, Alexander Joseph ‟Lex” Luthor is the first supervillain in our top ten. He won’t be the last. Lex inspired five names on our list: Lens Luthor, Lex Loser, Lex Lucy, Lexxie Luthor, and Lux Luthor.

=9—The Incredible Hulk


Trouble managing your ref-related anger? You’re not the only one. Marvel enters the list with Bruce Banner and his super pissed-off alter ago, the source of five names on our master taxonomy: Hulk Hellelujah, Clark... SMASH!, Hulk Smash-Her, The Incredible Sulk, and Bruise Banner.

=6—Ramona Flowers

 

We all know who the real star of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series is, and it ain’t Scott. Ramona Victoria ‟Rammy” Flowers can travel through subspace and has amazing, ever-changing hair. She’s definitely a rollergirl, just like Ramona D’Flowers, Ramona D. Flowers, Ramona Flowers, Ramona Glowers, Ramona Sours, and RamOnYa Flowers.

 

=6—Sailor Moon

Of course manga made the list, and of course derby’s most-beloved manga superhero is Usagi Tsukino, the Soldier of Love and Justice, best known as Sailor Moon, inspiration for Sailor Boom, Sailor Doom, Sailor MoonHer, Sailor MoonMoon, Sailor Swoon, and Skayter Moon.

4—Batman

He’s a billionaire, a badass, and he has mommy and daddy issues. Every rollergirl can relate to at least one of those, and so Bruce Wayne and his black and sometimes very, very dark gray alter-ego makes our list eight times: Bruise R. Wayne, Bruise Payne, Bruise Wayne, Cake Crusader, Caped Crusk8ter, Dark Knight, Deuce Payne, and Striped Crusader. Score one more for DC Comics.

3—Iron Man

Another Marvel superhero: Donald Trump-like playboy billionaire Tony Stark and his high-tech supersuit inspired Iron Clam, Iron Dan, Iron Fran, IRON MA’AM, Iron maam, Iron Mantis, Iron Megan, Iron Mädchen, and Tonya Stark—nine names in all.


2—Poison Ivy


There’s a big gap between the top two and everybody else. DC's beautiful arch-villain and master botanist Pamela Lillian Isley, better known as Poison Ivy, is the second most referenced superhero on our master list, with an amazing twenty entries: Poison Harley, Poise N Ivy, Poison Enfy, Poison Envy, Poison EV, Poison Eva, Poison Evie, Poison Eye V, Poison IV, Poison Ivers, poison ivory, Poison Ivy, Poison Lilly, Poison NV, Poison Oakley, Poison Sevy, Poison Viney, Poison Violet, PoisonIvory, and Poizon Envy.

1—Harley Quinn


Poison Ivy is popular, but even she cannot beat her sometime lover, another DC Comics arch-villain, the truly amazing Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, M.D., who often appears dressed as a roller girl in DC's ‟New 52” Harley Quinn series, and inspired twenty-five names on our master list: Gnarley Quinn, Gnarlie Quinn, Gnarly Quin, Gnarly Quinzel, Harleelee Quinn, Harleen BringsHell, Harlequim, Harley Grim, HarlequInsane, Harley Kwin, Harley Kwinn, Harley Quadzel, Harley Queen, Harley Quinn, Harley Scrimm, Harley Sin, Harley Spinn, Harley Spins, Harley Syn, Harleyquinn Davidson, Hurly Quinn, Poison Harley, Scarleigh Quinn, Scarley Quinn, and Snarley Quinn.

 

Some conclusions, even though this ain’t science: first, DC has been kicking Marvel’s ass when it comes to strong superwomen. Second, all the best women in comic books are ‟villains.” What's with that? We’ll have to see if characters like Carol Danvers, now Captain Marvel (written by our favorite comic book writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick, creator of Bitch Planet); Kamala Khan, now Ms. Marvel; and Jane Foster, now Thor, can change either of those things anytime soon. And, last and most, big ups to Australian skater Poison Harley, who manages to be both of roller derby’s favorite superheroes at the same time. Poison Harley, if you’re reading this, drop us a line; we’d like to give you a little something, in honor of your awesome. 

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Like skate names? Check out our Graphic Taxonomy of Skate Names poster here.

 

 

July 08, 2015 by Regina Lampert