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.