The Case Against Mara Jade Skywalker

LukeMara_Wedding

When Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire hit the shelves in 1991, it brought us out of a long drought of Star Wars material and gave us an idea of what the post-Return of the Jedi Empire might have looked like. It also gave us two characters that grew very popular over time: Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade.

Mara was introduced as the “Emperor’s Hand”, who could hear his voice anywhere in the galaxy and did his bidding. She was tough, ruthless, one not to be crossed.

This characterization is good. Star Wars has always done well with strong female characters, was in fact one of the first franchises to do so. Lucas took a lot of criticism in 1977 for giving Leia strength, sarcastic wit, a feisty attitude; for making her into a person who would rip the blaster out of her incompetent rescuers’ hands because “someone has to save our skins” instead of just saying “Thank you, you wonderful men, for risking yourselves to rescue me off this battle station.”

But for many of us girls who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, Leia was one of our early role models. She taught us to handle ourselves and not depend on the skills of any “rescuers.”

Mara, as she was introduced, was another strong female role model, albeit not on the “good” side of the story. Her talents as a spy and her lack of mercy in carrying out assassination missions have warranted comparisons to Black Widow of the Marvel Comic Universe, comparisons that are justified. This was Mara at her best; the Mara who, in her first scene in Heir to the Empire, received a promotion from Talon Karrde in his smuggling organization which did covert operations for what remained of the Empire. She was a woman who kept her past so well hidden under her tough-as-nails exterior that Karrde could only wonder why she hated Luke Skywalker so much.

Mara, upon her first meeting with Luke, let him know in no uncertain terms that she was not at all impressed with him and he could shut up or be killed. She told Luke, after they crash-landed and he asked if she were hurt, that it was none of his business. She then held Luke at blaster point as he talked her out of murdering him. He was only able to do by convincing her that he would be of use to her.

Her sardonic wit was hilarious, and her strength and fearsomeness impressive. Any reader who did not know in advance that Luke survives, might wonder how he would come out of such a situation with such a merciless woman who wanted nothing more than to see him dead.

Her expressed reasoning for wanting him dead—that he “ruined her life” by killing the Emperor and taking her from a life of luxury into a life of smuggling with Karrde—left something to be desired, but that can be easily overlooked given the characteristics that made her entertaining.

The Mara of the Heir to the Empire trilogy, the Mara who was so angry at the Rebel Alliance in general and Luke Skywalker in particular, was a fun, respectable, interesting Mara. Had her arc been left there, she would have been a character worthy of praise.

The beginnings of her transformation in The Last Command worked fairly well, with her silencing the Emperor’s voice in her head by killing Luke’s clone, and grudgingly joining the Alliance along with Karrde. Redemption stories have a certain appeal, one of hope, and Star Wars has done such stories well, beginning with Vader’s return to the light at the end of Return of the Jedi.

A newly light-side Mara could keep her feisty personality; in fact, it makes sense that she would. But would she still be calling Luke “pathetic” as he befriended her? Still throw so much animosity in his direction, enough that Luke noted any sign of politeness on her part as being “as polite as Mara got, anyway”? Threaten him if he so much as scratched her ship? That exchange in Vision of the Future was far less friendly than the exchange between Han and Lando on the same subject in Return of the Jedi, and neither of them are exactly even-tempered themselves. Zahn’s books describe Mara as “growling” quite often, usually at Luke.

And in the proposal scene at the end of Vision of the Future, Mara is amused at Luke’s awkwardness prior to saying “yes.” Not exactly romantic on her part. That scene seemed almost like a milder version of the proposal scene from Scarlett O’Hara’s first husband Charles Hamilton in Gone With the Wind, when Scarlett mused that Charles looked like a frog.

Luke Skywalker was always a mild-mannered person, except when he’s in a hurry to pick up power converters or find the “real” Yoda, and Mara took advantage of that mild-mannered personality and made him into her verbal punching bag at many times.

There are people in close relationships who squabble each other without either party taking the verbal umbrage too seriously. Han and Leia are a good example of a couple who have this type of relationship, that of exchanging affectionate insults and recognizing them for what they were. However, as Han and Leia fell in love, the sarcasm and barbed insults on both of their parts were toned down. They treated each other differently in Return of the Jedi than they did in A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back.

Luke was never the type to snark back. He would tolerate Mara’s verbal abrasiveness and rarely respond in kind; he would sometimes even apologize for whatever had put her in such a mood. It seems as if she took advantage of the fact that he would never respond in such a manner towards her.

And the fact that he did tolerate such abrasiveness, from a woman who claimed to love him, weakened his character.

Mara’s attitude had been toned down by the New Jedi Order series; however, Luke was still diminished to a weakling in romance scenes that would make a Harlequin novelist cringe. A prime example of Old Mara mixed with Vong Disease Mara occurred in Balance Point, when Mara’s response to her long-awaited pregnancy was to blame Luke for her symptoms. The old “You did this to me!” joke from a pregnant woman to the man who impregnated her is most likely as old as time, as silly as it is when a woman does have a choice about the pregnancy. But the joke seems much less funny coming from Mara, a middle-aged woman with a disease that she was sure would render her infertile. It seems more ungrateful instead.

Another character in the Star Wars universe who once worked for the “bad” side but became more of a “grey” character, who has an aggressive, sarcastic attitude, is Asajj Ventress. Her trollish flirting with Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars is enjoyable, with Ventress uttering such lines as “Don’t flatter yourself, Kenobi. You’ve never been much to look at.” Or, “I’ve learned from watching you” when asked if she wants to run.

Obi-Wan, with his dry wit, dishes such sarcasm back at Ventress in kind, and it works well when they are fighting.

What if, after Ventress had been rejected by Dooku and the Nightsisters and found herself on the run, she and Obi-Wan had fallen in love—and she had continued to talk to him in such a manner? How would such behavior resonate with the fandom? Would it seem as if Obi-Wan and Ventress had the ideal romantic relationship, or would it seem as if Ventress were being mean-spirited towards the good-natured Kenobi?

A straightforward manner is good, and a snarky, sardonic, even abrasive, attitude has its place. Such traits in a Star Wars character have made for fantastic interactions with other characters and entertainment in general. But even a character who faces the rest of the galaxy that way could be expected to behave differently around the person he or she loves most.

That is what we don’t see in Mara Jade. She treats the man who loves her, who marries her, with the same contempt that she treats the rest of the galaxy, but in the case of Luke, we are supposed to assume that she does not mean to be so contemptuous because she loves him, after all.

But would it be so difficult for her to return his affections in the same manner, to meet him where he is? Would it be so difficult for him to say, “Hey, don’t take your bad mood out on me?”

Their marriage did little to build either of their characters. Her character as a standalone could be, and was for a while, a great addition to the universe.

The mistakes started when she became a love interest for Luke, and ultimately his wife.

Mara should have remained a reformed Imperial spy now working for the Alliance, possibly trained under Luke to use her Force-sensitivity for the good of the galaxy. She could have then kept the sarcastic wit and tough take-no-prisoners nature that made her a great character at her introduction.

Zahn and the other EU authors should have never had her marry Luke Skywalker.

37 comments

  1. I’d always looked at it from the opposite, that his patience with her was a strength and sign of his progression from the rash kid wanting power converters. Mara was good for Luke because she doesn’t mollycoddle him, she forces him to become stronger, learn more, and shows him that he never came back fully from the Emperor’s dark side teachings.

    Similarly I thought he was good for her, because she was written as such a strong, independent character, who needed someone that wouldn’t be pushed away by her prickly personality. That early on he’s able to convince her not to kill him and do things a different way opens her eyes to a different way of doing things and viewing the world she knows and dominates.

    Tracy your article is a really interesting point of view. I hadn’t considered any of it as coming across as weakness on Luke’s part and manipulations on Mara’s. Perhaps marriage to Luke is a final middle finger up to the Emperor as, through her time with Luke and the Alliance, she realises how much he impacted her life making her into something a bit dark, and that the last command was part of what “ruined her life”.

  2. Brian says:

    I suppose I find it odd that the “tolerating Mara’s abrasiveness weakens Luke’s character” argument is never applied to Leia. Because if that weakens his character, Leia’s character is obliterated by Han’s behavior.

    Is it okay for a male character in a heterosexual relationship to be abrasive (and I’m not sure if that’s the word I would use), but not a female character in a heterosexual relationship?

    • Ben Crofts Ben Crofts says:

      I think there’s a subtle but important difference with Han-Leia, namely Leia comes to realise she doesn’t to be as harsh to Han and her acceptance teaches Han that he doesn’t need the snark either. Both of them change across the course of the OT.

      In contrast, Luke and Mara change a bit, but there’s always this notion that Mara needs to retain her “edge”, whatever that may be – often it’s represented as that acerbic, abrasive, even contemptous attitude for others.

      In a way it could be argued that this is the standard feminist attitude for women wishing to lead in a corporate world of alpha arseholes – you have to be one. The problem is that Luke Skywalker is not, nor ever will be, an alpha arsehole, so why the need for Mara to be so snarky or treat him as such? Is it power games? But if so, where’s the need for them? It’s never even so much as looked at.

      Also, if you question the character of Mara, there tends to be a counter-accusation is that you must not like “strong female characters” – but the counter there is to ask what of Mara’s conduct denotes strength and confidence? A mask of bravado to mask insecurity? Probable, but that doesn’t absolve her acting like an ass, it merely explains.

      • Brian says:

        I suppose I’d counter and say that I don’t think we’d be interpreting Mara’s behavior as hyper-alpha if she were male. I do think there is a very real gender double-standard at play here and if she were a male, that alpha-behavior criticism would almost certainly be interpreted as amusing snark.

      • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

        But no one (as far as I know) complains about Leia being mean to Han. I absolutely agree that anti-Mara-ism can be motivated by gender bias, but I also think reasonable criticisms exist.

        It kind of reminds me of the metal bikini topic—for all the fanboy slobber it facilitates, lots of women embrace the scene as empowering. It’s one thing to disagree, but it’s another to dismiss it entirely just because of the idiots out there.

  3. Ben Crofts Ben Crofts says:

    Should have added – no, I think if either partner goes into a relationship retaining a harsh, abrasive, acerbic attitude, the relationship is not going to work, ever.

  4. Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

    I think that ideally, the wedding (and motherhood) would’ve tempered Mara a little, while simultaneously, maturity and experience would’ve made Luke a little more jocular and assertive. But like many things in the NJO and beyond, it didn’t really happen consistently and Luke started to come across more like a weathervane and Mara as the same person she was at 25.

    I do find it interesting that the editorial direction of the NJO, and in particular the post-NJO, is criticized fairly often—but criticizing the way Luke and Mara developed (or didn’t) over that same time seems much more controversial.

    • Ben Crofts Ben Crofts says:

      Would a less snarky Mara have been accepted?

      If you look at Leia, she’s clearly more than just the sarky diplomat and that’s accepted. In contrast where Mara is concerned it’s as if that ‘edge’ to her character has become her personality and there’s nothing else there! I don’t think that’s so, but certainly I think it’s the case that that singular facet has both eclipsed everything else and dominated her portrayal.

    • Ben Crofts Ben Crofts says:

      re: Brian
      April 21, 2014 at 12:46 pm

      Maybe, for some people, if say Han, acted as aggressively towards Leia as Mara does Luke, they’d be fine with it – and even applaud it. Maybe they’d applaud a male version of Mara too. I know I wouldn’t be amongst them in either case.

  5. Graaf says:

    While I think Post-NJO character development in general has been deeply flawed, and I’d love to see just prior to NJO be the divergence point for 7; there are a few points I’d like to make:
    People (writers included) forget that Luke Skywalker is a BAMF. I’ve always gotten the sense that he enjoyed Mara’s barbs (however cruel they may seem to people outside the relationship) with the same sh*t-eating grin he uses on Han so often in the Original Trilogy.
    They’re both deeply traumatized characters who were robbed of any chance for a normal life.
    Luke loves Mara because she’s one of the only people who doesn’t treat him as Hero Grand Master Jedi Luke (or Innocent Little Brother Luke as Han and Leia are prone to). While she initially used “farmboy” as an insult, it became almost a code between them.
    Mara loves Luke because he’s the only man in the galaxy serene and compassionate enough to not be pushed away by the sharp edges that being raised as a psychically-enslaved merciless killer tends to leave you with.

    I don’t believe any character’s flaws should be allowed to fade away when the find “the one”. Rather, “the one” should be the person who can love them for their flaws.
    Your point is good, but I think the answer lies in better writing, not in a different love interest.
    I deeply hope we get to see Mara done justice on the big screen. If not in Episode 7, it’d be perfect for a spin-off.

  6. Tracy says:

    Good discussion everyone, and I appreciate the feedback.

    I’m going to address the “What if Mara were a male?” issue first. I consider myself a feminist, which is one reason I enjoyed her initial character depiction and have a hard time enjoying a meeker character such as Padme in Revenge of the Sith. Speaking only for myself, I definitely do not find it more acceptable for a male character to talk to his wife that way, and my reaction to the wife would be the same as my reaction to Luke is here: I don’t find the tolerance endearing, I find it detrimental to the character. While I understand the point about patience, a meek character is just not to my taste.

    As far as Han and Leia: the difference that I see is that they are both feisty and in the beginning, they snark at each other. But once they acknowledge that they are in love, it stops, on both sides. They might be sarcastic and blunt with other people but with each other, they are different. This is what I don’t see with Mara.

  7. Eric J. Brown says:

    I don’t get the idea of Luke being “meek” a la Padme in how he deals with Mara — nor as Mara as being abusive or something like that. They were comrades first – they engage in old soldiers’ banter, each one sliding into the roles they had. I never read Mara’s banter as being about power or dominance – any more than Luke rolling his eyes at Han is a sign of him being a weak character.

  8. Eric J. Brown says:

    … and let us consider a Ventress-Kenobi relationship where Ventress loses all her edge and becomes… what? Simpering? Meek and Mild?

    Yeah… what would be the reaction there? I mean, are we really upset that Mara doesn’t turn into a Disney princess or something when Luke Skywalker comes and sweeps her away?

    • Eric J. Brown says:

      Let me just add – I do end up doing some marriage counselling as part of my job (although it’s by no means the main focus). One of the big things is people don’t really change that much after marriage — you might get some change, but the idea that “they will be so different” after getting hitched… no. That’s not how things normally happen. They might tone some things down for the sake of the spouse… but people don’t have some sort of magical change.

  9. Tracy says:

    I know about being married, and you’re right, people don’t change their personalities, but that wasn’t the point. The “toning down” is the point. I didn’t see that at all.

  10. Tracy says:

    I’d also add that there’s quite a gap between “simpering, meek and mild” (and no, I personally would not want that in Mara, Ventress or any other character) and what we see in the Luke/Mara relationship.

  11. Val says:

    A character should be sometime, all the things Mara was…the problem is that “sometime”. Is not complety true that people doesn’t change when become a couple, the dynamics also, would be different, a couple must reach a compromise to let the relationship goes on. The impression I’ve got about the Luke/Mara marriage is that there is no compromise at all and I don’t see how, such a union can work. Sorry for my grammar and all, english is not my first language. Btw nice article. :)

  12. CassieS says:

    This feels cribbed from the Callista School of Luke Deserves a Sweet Nice Thing Who Doesn’t Threaten Him (or the Boys Reading This Stuff Because Real Girls Don’t Like Star Wars). I appreciate the flashback to 1997, but Lucasfilm moved on and so did most people who appreciate a well rounded, strong female character.

    Luke and Mara also moved on, in Survivor’s Quest and, as much as the corn makes me cringe at time, Union. Funny how Tracy seems to have conveniently either forgotten or never read either of those. Although I know why she left them out – they completely destroy what little there is to her thesis.

    And actually, even Vision of the Future doesn’t support Tracy’s thesis (yay for copying and pasting from ebooks):

    “Too bad we don’t have a Dark Jedi handy we could kill. Remember that big blast when C’baoth died?”
    “Yes,” Luke said mechanically, staring off into space. The insane Jedi clone Joruus C’baoth, recruited to fight against the New Republic by Grand Admiral Thrawn.
    Thrawn. Clone…
    “Mara, you told me cortosis ore wasn’t structurally very strong. Just how weak is it?”
    “It was flaking off under our boots as we walked through the passage,” she said, throwing him a puzzled look. “Other than that, I haven’t the faintest idea. Why?”
    Luke nodded at the vast pool below them. “We’ve got a lot of water here, and water isn’t compressible the way air is. If we could create a hard enough jolt here in this room, the pressure wave should travel all the way down the tunnel to the passageway. If it’s powerful enough, maybe we can collapse that whole area.”
    “Sounds great,” Mara agreed. “Just one problem how exactly do we engineer this massive jolt of yours?”
    Luke braced himself. “We cut through that transparisteel barrier and flood the cloning alcove.”
    “Oh, my stars,” Mara murmured; and even through his mental exhaustion Luke could feel her ripple of stunned apprehension. “Luke, that’s a Braxxon-Fipps 590 fusion generator in there. You dump water on that and you’re going to have more jolt than you know what to do with.”
    “I know it’s risky,” Luke said. “But I think it’s our only chance.” Letting go of his grip on her, wincing as his wet clothing shifted against his skin, he stood up. “Wait here; I’ll be right back.”
    “No,” she said, standing up beside him and taking hold of his arm. “I’ll do it.”
    “Like blazes you will,” Luke growled. “It’s my crazy idea. I’ll do it.”
    “Okay,” she said, crossing her arms. “Tell me how you do a Paparak cross-cut.”
    He blinked. “A what?”
    “A Paparak cross-cut,” she repeated. “It’s a technique for weakening a stressed wall so that it comes down a minute or so after you’re safely out of the vicinity. Palpatine taught it to me as part of my sabotage training.”
    “Okay,” Luke said. “So give me a fast course.”
    “What, like a fast course in becoming a Jedi?” she countered scornfully. “It’s not that easy.”
    “Mara-”
    “Besides,” she added quietly, “when whichever of us goes down pops up again, the other one’s going to have to get them back up here out of the way of the blast. I don’t think I can lift you that far that fast.” Her lips pressed briefly together. “And frankly, I don’t want to sit here and watch myself fail.”

    First: LUKE is growling, not Mara, and that’s mostly because Zahn has only so many speech tags he likes to use.

    Second: This is what Luke and Mara do best. They acknowledge each other’s strengths and work together to get out of bad situations (which is wonderfully depicted in Survivor’s Quest). THIS is what a healthy relationship look like: respecting one’s partner, supporting one’s partner, and working and communicating together. (And personally, I think Mara admitting that she doesn’t want to fail at saving Luke to be quite the romantic declaration, considering the character.)

    Not convinced? End of VotF – no bitter, acerbic dialogue here at all:
    “Good.” She regarded him thoughtfully. “Now tell me what’s bothering you.”
    “What do you mean?” he asked warily, his thoughts closing in on themselves.
    “Oh, come on, Luke,” she said gently. “I’ve been inside your head and your heart. You can’t keep secrets from me anymore. Something hit you when I mentioned responsibility and commitment a minute ago. What was it?”
    He sighed, and she could sense him give up. “I guess I still have some lingering doubts about why you’d want to marry me,” he said hesitantly. “I mean, I know why I love you and want to marry you. It’s just that it doesn’t seem like you’ll be gaining as much from this as I will.”
    Mara gazed down at the dark liquid in her mug. “I could point out that marriage isn’t a game of profit and loss,” she said. “But I suppose that would just be deflecting the question.”
    She took a deep breath. “The fact is, Luke, that until that mental and emotional melding we had during the battle in Thrawn’s cloning chamber, I didn’t even know myself what it was I wanted. Sure, I had friends and associates; but I’d cut myself off so completely from any real emotional attachments that I didn’t even realize how much a part of life was missing.”
    She shook her head. “I mean, look, I cried when the Jade’s Fire crashed. A ship – a thing; and yet I cried over it. What did that say about my priorities?”
    “It wasn’t just a thing, though,” Luke murmured. “It was your freedom.”
    “Sure,” Mara said. “But that’s part of the point. It represented freedom, but it was freedom to escape from other people if I decided I wanted out.”
    She looked out at the stars. “In many ways, I’m still all closed up emotionally. You, on the other hand, have such an emotional openness it sometimes drives me crazy. That’s what I need to learn; and you’re the one I want to learn it from.”
    She moved closer to him and took his hand. “But that’s just profit and loss games again. The simple, bottom-line fact is that this is the right path for us. Like that Qom Jha proverb Builder With Vines quoted at us in the caverns, the one about many vines woven together being stronger than the same number used separately. We complement each other perfectly, Luke, all the way down the line. In many ways, we’re two halves of a single being.”
    “I know that,” he said. “I guess I just wasn’t sure you did.”
    “I know just about everything you do, now,” Mara reminded him. “Faughn was right – we do make a good team. And we can only get better at it. Give us a few more years, and enemies of the New Republic will be running for cover like crazy.”

    Luke and Mara are two strong individuals who are even stronger together than apart, and that’s why the relationship – aside from those who seem to demand some sort of Harlequin Presents female love interest who swoons into a dead faint at the mere thought of shirtless!Luke – has so many fans.

    Now, I suppose some EU fans could get mad because Mara doesn’t come to this realization until the end of the book. And I understand, because most EU books fail to demonstrate basic fiction writing concepts such as character arc so no wonder those fans might be confused. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for readers who do care about such things, Zahn isn’t one of those authors. Mara does have a character arc, and this is the result of the journey that started in HttE, got badly sidetracked by other writers, and finally was put back on track – only to derail in the most spectacular manner possible in the abysmal train wreck that was the EU under DelRey.

    And in the end, the whole thing will be moot come Christmas 2015 anyway.

    (PS: Karrde didn’t work for the Empire, covertly or otherwise, in HttE. Also, Mara never said, “You did this to me” in Balance Point or otherwise mocked Luke (again, yay for ebooks and search functions – Balance Point in the only NJO book still on my Kindle). I believe the “I’ll vape you where you stand if you do this to me again” came in a book written by a male – as if the majority of the NJO books have any redeeming value in the first place. As to Ben Croft’s comment, I know there were plenty of readers who had enormous problems with Luke’s and Mara’s depiction in the NJO, both singly and together, at the time of publication. The trouble – or not – is that many of the readers who did find it objectionable eventually stopped buying the books and dropped out of fandom.)

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      I recognize that there’s a long history of people trashing Mara for a whole litany of bullshit reasons—as a representative of the entire EU, as a Mary Sue, as a strong-minded woman, as a woman period—but speaking as the Mara fan who commissioned this article, it’s somewhat bothersome to me how quickly some people dismiss any and all criticism as definitionally coming from a place of boorish, or misogynistic, or simply ill-considered intentions. It’s perfectly fine to disagree with this piece’s premise. But Mara Jade is not an infallible character, nor is Zahn an infallible author, and I’d hate to think that reasoned disagreement on either is simply not to be allowed just because it’s been heard before.

      • Tracy says:

        I agree, and I have a hard time taking criticism seriously when it comes from a place of “If you don’t like the Mara/Luke relationship, you just don’t like strong women characters,” especially given everything I already said both in the article and the comments.

      • CassieS says:

        A) Way to deflect my bulk of my comment and my point, which is that Tracy’s assertions are not supported by the text, and in fact are contradicted by the text. Seriously, kudos on skipping right past it. But I guess that means the bulk of my argument can’t be refuted. I’ll take it.

        B) I said Tracy’s argument reminded me of the Callista days, and I stand by that. And if you don’t think the root cause of people’s issue with Mara is that she is an assertive, powerful, independent woman who doesn’t treat Luke Skywalker as a god and has the audacity to instead address as if he is a, gasp, fallible human being – well, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to talk to you about. You seriously can’t expect to publish an article like this and not expect this response. It might be the default, but it’s the default because it’s TRUE.

        C) And Tracy herself falls into the trap, despite her lip service to “strong women.” Take this assertion from her post:

        “But the joke seems much less funny coming from Mara, a middle-aged woman with a disease that she was sure would render her infertile. It seems more ungrateful instead.”

        So women – and double down if you are “middle aged” – are supposed to be grateful to the male who impregnates us? We can’t have complicated feelings about pregnancy? We can’t make jokes about being pregnant? Instead, we are supposed to sit around feeling grateful one hundred percent of the time?! SRSLY?!?! THAT is one of the most sexist things I’ve ever read. Kudos, again.

        Or this: “But would it be so difficult for her to return his affections in the same manner, to meet him where he is? Would it be so difficult for him to say, ‘Hey, don’t take your bad mood out on me?'”

        First, as shown IN THE TEXT, Mara and Luke successfully navigate the give and take of their relationships – unfortunately for Tracy’s thesis. And second: again, Mara – or anyone, male or female – can’t be in a bad mood, ever? Mara – or anyone – must match their demeanor 100% of the time to meet someone else’s arbitrary standard of what a loving female looks like?!? And if they don’t match this standard of prescribed behavior, they are automatically “contemptuous?!”

        Are you kidding me?!?!?!

        And let’s pair it with this from Tracy: “However, Luke was still diminished to a weakling in romance scenes that would make a Harlequin novelist cringe.”

        If you can’t see the sexism inherent is this quote – especially when paired with the criticism of Mara for being abrasive and contemptuous – get yourself to an eye doctor, stat.

        Why do I have more than a sneaking suspicion that Tracy would be perfectly happy if Mara was the “weakling” in the love scenes while Luke was the commanding, abrasive one?

        Tracy is apparently reading the text (a reading that is not supported by the words on the page, I can’t stress that enough) as if the traditional gender roles have been flipped – Luke is weak, Mara stands her ground. And that means Mara is not a worthy romantic interest, and can only serve as a supporting character who walks into a scene, says something cutting, and walks out.

        Again, Tracy’s own words: “Mara should have remained a reformed Imperial spy now working for the Alliance, possibly trained under Luke to use her Force-sensitivity for the good of the galaxy. She could have then kept the sarcastic wit and tough take-no-prisoners nature that made her a great character at her introduction.”

        Because women in a love relationship can’t have sarcastic wit and a tough, take-no-prisoners nature, I guess. Heaven forbid! The pearls, they are so tightly clutched at the thought.

        So, hey, thanks for completely missing my point – and it was probably my fault for leading with the Callista reference – but I do appreciate the opportunity to point out that there is a whole world of sexism going on in Tracy’s post after all.

      • CassieS says:

        Also meant to say:

        Gods, no, Mara is not an infallible character. Criticize away. But for $#@&’s sake, at least base the criticism on the words printed in the books, not on bad fanon or because one belonged to the losing side in an fifteen year old shipping war or one just has a bad personal reaction to the character.

        Hate away on her, be my guest.

        But if one is going to write and/or publish “The Case Against Mara Jade Skywalker,” it might behoove one to actually, y’know, consult the books.

      • Eric J. Brown says:

        I’m going to concur with CassieS – especially with the Zahn material in the Hand of Thrawn Duology. There is a ton of give and take there. What the original article describes isn’t what I saw in Zahn or Stackpole (or even Allston’s) novels.

        Now, what we do have in Mara Jade as a whole is a rather inconsistent character — both “I, Jedi” and Vision of the Future “fix” strange characterizations of Mara.

        So what I see with the OP is a lot of assertion about “this is what a character is like”… but how often do those assertions play out true? Some citation would be good – or even examples, as in “consider scene X in book Y.”

        The only dismissive scene I can really think of the stuff that leads up to the end of Sacrifice – and if we are talking about giving that the boot, I’m totally fine with it.

  13. Val says:

    Yes but you are posting something about the beginning of their life together, the others are talking about the evolution of their relationship as husband and wife, a relationship that seem to lack of something. Obviously Zhan wrote Mara well, she was his character, but unfortunately, others have written about her and Luke, and the sum of the writings is what matter. :)

    • CassieS says:

      No, Tracy specifically mentioned Vision of the Future, which I also did. Her thesis is that the characters should not have been paired, period.

      She’s wrong. Period. The text does not support her assertions at all. Especially when the only text she references after Vision of the Future is Balance Point, and she gets that completely wrong as well.

      • Eric J. Brown says:

        There needs to be citation or example.

        If I want to talk about people writing Luke like he’s a hippie – I point to the end of “The Courtship of Princess Leia”. There’s an example (even if it isn’t the predominate approach).

  14. Val says:

    Now, Tracy talks about votf because is when they were put together, and I’ve got the impression that Tracy wasn’t talking bad about it or the Mara in it, anyway, that book is not the real problem here…the real problem are all the other book, the majority of the njo, with Mara and Luke in, like Eric say: Now, what we do have in Mara Jade as a whole is a rather inconsistent. Another thing about the pregnancy quote, the criticisms are toward the fact that is supposed that she desires a child (maybe I’m wrong here), now she’s got a desease that virtually can make her “sterile”…we assume than, that she would have been double happier she’s not infertile and she even got a child, instead she make a creepy comment about, ok before say something else, I must clarify on what a poor joke it was from the writer, I think we all agreed about it. And no, I don’t see any sexism in the article, just some criticisms about wasted potential. It’s silly for me, bringing back sexual issues here, maybe depends, on the personal views anyone of us have about what it means to be a couple, and if it’s so, I’m worried that we could go on and on forever…hey but at least it’s funny.

    • CassieS says:

      So a woman late in her last month, after a difficult pregnancy, can’t make ONE JOKE about never wanting to be pregnant again? Because the joke is not about the current pregnancy – she’s joking about not wanting to be pregnant AGAIN.

      Is that really what you are trying to say?!?! For your sake, I truly, sincerely hope that isn’t your stance.

      This would be so much easier if people actually, y’know READ THE BOOKS AND CITED THEM APPROPRIATELY instead of making up assertions based solely on personal prejudices with no basis on the printed page.

      And pray, excuse me for being “silly” and referencing sexism. I’m so sorry to bring in real world issues, especially when the thesis of the article is that Mara is not a fitting partner for Luke precisely because she isn’t deferential enough. On second thought, blame Tracy, because if that isn’t bringing sexual politics into conversation, I don’t know what would qualify.

      Also, if Tracy wanted to talk about the whole of their relationship, then she would need to also reference the two texts that focus on Luke and Mara’s relationship: Union and Survivor’s Quest. But she can’t, because they blow her thesis completely to itsy bitsy teeny pieces.

      • Val says:

        I was only trying to explain why other people might have interpreted that joke differently, and I admit at first me too, don’t you think that if other people out there has had this impression there might be a motiv? So don’t worry about me and think about it…I’ve earlier said that that was a bad joke at least for me, now, if you can’t see, how someone else can have an alternative interpretation of a word or a sentence, I can’t do nothing about it, I’m not here to change anyone’s mind, and by the way, sorry if I used a word like silly, that have irritated you, it wasn’t meant to be used in any offensive way, it’s only that I consider futile, maybe it was a better word, bring sexism issues where, I fail to see them, at all, so if you were so gentle to show me exactly what I’m missing here :-)

      • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

        I think this debate’s run its course.

  15. Val says:

    @Eric: it’s complicated to do, maybe because it’s a feeling that someone has had from the reading of the whole material, and being a feeling, it can’t be pointed out only by some paragraph here and there…sorry but it’s difficult for me to express such a concept in english I’m not so expert :) and maybe is for this reason that I can’t fully perceive all the shadows, hints of a phrase both in the books and comments.

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      Just want to add that nothing makes me happier than seeing non-native English speakers making the effort to read our site. Your interest is appreciated.

  16. Val says:

    …fter all we have seen of their marriage?? Where is the rest of the message? I’m a mess! Ok, basically I was saying that Mara didn’t change her behaviours toward Luke in almost 40 years and this can indicate that she wasn’t the best choice for being Luke’s wife, and this has nothing to do with the strength of a character, in fact, we see a strong character in Leia, and so, why we have all that criticism about Mara and not about her? Maybe because we see Leia, tone down when it is necessary and in Mara we don’t? This article is in retrospective, after we all have seen how the L/M dynamics worked out.

    • CassieS says:

      Thanks for proving my point.

      There’s little criticism today of Leia for being a “shrew,” for lack of a better word, precisely because Leia WAS “toned down.”

      On the other hand, there are plenty of people who very much resent that the Princess who told Han Solo – in the middle of her rescue! – “I don’t know who you are or where you came from. But from now on you’ll do what I say” was turned into a character mostly used as a handwringing mother who misplaced her kids on a regular basis – with two ending up dead. And she was so ineffectual at establishing and running a government that the New Republic was no more after a mere two decades. Her Force skills were ignored as much as possible, only coming out, morphed on a whim, to suit the writers’ needs.

      Again, the people who don’t like Mara tend to have a problem with strong women who possess agency and use their voices. Period. They also tend to believe that Luke, as the supposed Jedi ideal, deserves an “ideal” woman: sweet, deferential, lily-handed. Again, I give you Callista. Again, I give you Tracy’s summation: Mara should have stayed a spy, so “She could have then kept the sarcastic wit and tough take-no-prisoners nature.” Because married women can’t have sarcasm or be tough, apparently.

      But these people forget that Luke bonded with and defended Leia to Han from the moment Luke and Leia met as adults – even though at the time he had no idea of their relationship, even though at the time Leia insulted and sniped at him as much as she insulted and sniped at Han.

      Luke Skywalker has no trouble with strong women.

      Too bad his fans do.

      Plus: Now the discussion moot from an “official” POV Which means now I can happily reread my Zahn/Stackpole/Allston universe and forget any of other idiocy ever happened.

  17. Val says:

    Thanks to you :) I always stop, and try to interact when I find something interesting and well done.

  18. Eric J. Brown says:

    Maybe this should be “The Case Against anything New Jedi Order and later…”

  19. […] complaint – one might even say that his wife and son have been unexpectedly well-received (with exceptions) for tie-in characters tacked on to the Skywalker family […]

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