Sitting in the movie theater in May 2005, I was convinced that was the last time I would ever see new Star Wars live action material on the big screen. George Lucas was clear that Star Wars was about Anakin Skywalker’s story and thus it was over for him as far as movies were concerned. After leaving the theater I admit to being disappointed for a variety of reasons. The biggest one was the way Padmé was written in the movie and how a strong female character was replaced with someone unrecognizable. Don’t get me wrong, I adored the movie and the action and I classify it as one of my favorites from the series, but it could have been hands down my favorite had Padmé’s storyline been handled a bit differently.
Fast forward to 2012 and the announcement that Disney is buying Star Wars. The news could not have been better for the female Star Wars fan. Over the past few years Disney has been on a woman empowerment kick with their movies. As a nanny I am subjected to seeing Disney movies rather frequently and sometimes repeatedly. For those who haven’t seen some of these movies I would look at the following: Rapunzel in Rapunzel, who throughout most of her journey is the one getting the man out of trouble, The Princess and the Frog which saw Tiana embarking on a journey to save Prince Naveen, and most recently Brave which featured a princess who refuses to be a prize to be won and goes on an adventure with her own skills and bravery. This trend of the Disney princess being more than a damsel in distress is surely going to be carried over into Star Wars.
The current information that we have about Episode VII casting suggests that we will see some strong females.
“Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit.”
“A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit.”
The words “independent” and “tough” are what I like to see when discussions are centering on female choices for a character and I believe these are the types of characters that Disney has been most interested in portraying. These characters might not be the main cast. I get that but I’m hopeful that female fans could finally be getting the story they have been after for a long time.
One can’t discuss Episode VII without also discussing the important figures we already know about who will influence the story and direction of the film. J.J. Abrams has experience in strong female leads. His series Alias, starring Jennifer Garner as a female spy who uses brains and brawn to take down an international spy agency ran for 5 seasons. His series Felicity, which ran for 4 seasons, starring Keri Russell, chronicled the journey of a young woman coming into her own. Both showcase Abrams’ ability to create and use strong females in successful stories.
Michael Arndt’s involvement is also a hopeful sign for female fans looking for a strong heroine. He penned Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games, a story about a strong heroine who believes she is sacrificing herself for her younger sister. In the book by Suzanne Collins, Katniss is written as an unlikeable heroine who believes she can do anything to save someone who is a better person than she is. Katniss drags this person through seemingly impossible situations and is the ultimate survivor. I am optimistic that Arndt will take what he learned from working with Katniss and apply some of that to the females in Episode VII; though I am reserving judgment on Arndt until November when I can see for myself how he handles Katniss and her story.
George Lucas is the third person directly impacting the story for Episode VII and I consider him a bit of a loose cannon. He favors male-centric stories (Star Wars and Indiana Jones are examples) but he has created a strong female character before in Princess Leia. Yes she had to be rescued at one point (what Princess hasn’t?) but it was because of her strength of character and her determination to do what is right even at the risk of personal harm that put her into that spot in the first place. Princess Leia paved the way for the female heroes of today. We see Leia constantly putting herself in danger and using her brains as well as strength to get herself out of danger. She fired blasters, ran with the troops on the front lines during the Battle of Endor and knowingly entered the lair of Jabba the Hutt to rescue her scoundrel.
As a female fan I want to see a heroine that I can point to and say to my niece, “See, you don’t need a prince to come rescue you. You can be strong and do it yourself!” I am optimistic that the stars have aligned and Star Wars Episode VII is going to give me that. Look for a revisit of this topic in November after I get to see how Arndt handles Catching Fire.
5 thoughts to “The Future of the Female Star Wars Fan”
Great article Lisa! I agree with you on Padme’s character being neutered, so to speak, and how Leia was a great example of a strong character. I think Arndt and Abrams will have strong female characters, like you said.
For me I’m not sure Padme ever worked – a 13-year-old elected Queen, who in a bid to sound grown-up, decides to try and sound like she smokes 50-a-day? Nope.
Then AOTC breaks her completely by her response to Anakin’s confession of massacre-conducting being to give him a hug, then later marry him. Girls like bad boys? Perhaps but I’m sceptical of that when they’re clearly homicidal!
In this respect, ROTS simply renders the humiliation and destruction of her character complete.
I have to agree that Abrams has a very good track record on female characters, not only does he create ones that appeal to women, but men too. I’m not sure if Leia ever managed that, as a character, but then, despite what some might claim, the world has changed greatly in the 30 years since ROTJ.
I’m not sure Padmé was attempting to sound grown up, but perhaps merely disguising the sound of her voice so when she removes the costume she can still be a little girl. If she used her own voice others would have a harder time impersonating her, which was a key point in her safety.
The issue with Padmé is not that the progression didn’t make sense. The issue is that it was written that way in the first place. Why did one of the only women in the movie have to be written as a weak character who hugged a man after admitting to massacring the Sand People. Leia would’ve slapped him.
It is hard to believe for you that Naboo could elect a young person or a young woman? The queens following Padme were also young women mistakenly backed by the Imperials who thought they could control them. Apailana was assassinated because she didn’t conform.
Are you implying that Leia didn’t appeal to women or men? I was under the impression that Leia appealed to both but I’d like to know who you were talking about before I respond further.
re: Teenagers in power
It just doesn’t fly for me – there’s this current tendency to treat children and teenagers as young adults, with the emphasis being on adult! Yet they’re not that and any legal system of any worth recognises that by not holding them to the same standard applied to adults. Sure, it’s recognised that girls tend to be a couple of years ahead of boys in terms of maturity but even then, 13-14? Still young, despite likely protests to the contrary. Apparently the EU has Ben Skywalker as a member of Jacen’s SS-type organisation at the same age too, which I don’t care for either.
As to Leia, no – I’m not looking to make some grand generalisation or extrapolate something to absurdity.
No, instead it’s one of those things where what is sparky and funky to one person just comes across adversarially snarky to me, then again have to give her points for consistency, she starts off being snarky to Vader of all people! And I get the notion that she’d need to be pre-emptive to be taken seriously by other senators who likely were a bunch of dismissive sexistbastards, but her character type just irked. Likely due to real-life experience with similar individuals that lacked Leia’s better qualities.
And, now I think of it, do I particularly like Han or Luke in ANH all that much? Again, probably not. Is this a big problem? Don’t think so because ANH whisks along at sufficient speed so I don’t really notice that the characters ain’t all that great. Do they become better? I think so. If you were to ask why I was interested in the EU, the answer would likely be because I wanted to follow those characters from where they were at the end ROTJ – none of them were what they were – Luke was less cocky, Han not a loner and Leia had decided there was more to life than a cause.
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