I recently read an article in Variety, claiming they had sources who confirmed a new Star Wars series is in the works at Disney+. The series is said to be the brainchild of Leslye Headland, the co-creator of Netflix’s critically acclaimed show, Russian Doll. Although there are almost no details, Variety said their sources confirmed the new series will be “female-centric.”
If I were reading that last paragraph to you in person, you would have seen my eyes roll back so far in my head, you’d think they disappeared. No offense to Leslye Headland, but has she actually watched a Star Wars movie? I’m having flashbacks to J.J. Abram’s ridiculous statement on GMA in 2015; “Star Wars was always about — it was always a boys’ thing and a movie that dads take their sons to, and though that’s still very much the case, I was really hoping that this could be a movie that mothers can take their daughters to as well.” Yes, he said that, and I rolled my eyes then too.
Here’s the issue I have with the comment made by Abrams and the need Leslye Headland has to make a “female-centric” Star Wars series, they’re both unnecessary and based entirely on perception vs. reality. Society has this perception that Star Wars is a boys’ club, or that it somehow conveys an anti-feminism message. I just don’t see it that way, and I never have. I acknowledge that compared to their male counterparts, there’s certainly a lack of female lead roles, but I wholeheartedly believe that creating iconic female characters has always been one of the Star Wars franchise’s strong points.
When A New Hope premiered in 1977, women were marching for equality and demanding equal pay, with few onscreen role models. Then came Princess Leia. When the good ol’ boys of Star Wars showed up to save the supposed “damsel in distress,” Leia Organa rolled her eyes, grabbed a blaster, and took over the escape mission. She also had a handful of snarky comments, all of which she so eloquently delivered at a moment’s notice to all men of the galaxy. A girl who could save herself while simultaneously putting a man in his place? That’s my kind of girl.
1990 was a game-changer for me. The Star Wars Trilogy was released on VHS, and my 6-year-old psyche was shaken to its core. Up until then, I had never seen a princess rescue herself. I had never seen a princess be just as tough, if not tougher, than the boys. At 6 years old I had no idea what being a feminist was, but I knew one thing, any girl who wasn’t afraid to call a boy a “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerf herder,” was the kind of girl I wanted to be when I grew up.
Let’s discuss that gold bikini. Looking back on the now infamous scene, it’s important to remember that this is where Leia turns it around and uses her chains as a weapon to kill Jabba. After choking out the giant slug, she emerges on top of that sail barge, shooting a blaster cannon. Leia isn’t a slave, she’s a bonafide warrior. In a 2015 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Carrie Fisher was asked about the constant critique of Leia’s wardrobe. Ever so brilliantly she answered; “To the father who flipped out about it, ‘What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?’ Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage.” If that’s not feminism, I don’t know what is.
Guess who else is handy with a blaster? Queen Padmé Amidala. For just a second, let’s put our feelings about the prequel trilogy aside (which I’m willing to bet, is something we all agree on), and let’s take a serious look at Padmé. Strong, resourceful, quick-witted, and resilient, Padmé proves to be more than capable of taking initiative and is a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention, homegirl was elected Queen of an entire planet at age 14 and serves as the franchise’s resident politician. An expert markswoman, Padmé fights squads of battle droids with hand-to-hand combat and a blaster.
Let’s be real, Episode 1 makes Anakin out to be a whiny child. As a direct result of that, it’s made very clear that Padmé is the rock, the brains, the brawn, and the catalyst for everything that happens. As Obi-Wan would say, “She seems to be on top of things.” Meaning, Padmé had her shit together, even when the men around her didn’t. Her skills and achievements are the reason Anakin falls for her. Unfortunately, to love Padmé, you have to acknowledge her one downfall. She’s only there to fuel Anakin’s transformation. Literally. She dies when she’s no longer needed.
Some of the best and strongest female characters are also the ones who are often physically and emotionally weak. At the same time, characters who have a lot to overcome in order to be seen as a hero are usually the bravest and most inspirational. Padmé Amidala falls into that category. I choose not to let that one fault define her, but rather use it as a teachable moment for young girls. Be like Padmé, be independent and resilient, make decisions, and don’t be afraid to show everyone you’re a leader. Even at a young age, like the Queen of Naboo, girls can run the world. More importantly, do you think Padmé amped herself up by listening to Beyonce’s “Run the World” before going into battle against the Trade Federation?
In 2015’s The Force Awakens, we were introduced to Captian Phasma. A true rarity in Hollywood, Captain Phasma is a female villain who is neither a femme fatale or a female hero. Phasma is the commander of the First Order’s stormtroopers. Wouldn’t you know, it’s not necessarily her actions that define her, it’s her choice of fashion. Like her dark side male predecessors, the cape she wears is meant to show military dominance and provoke fear. A fashion statement as simple as a cape proves Captain Phasma can reach the top military position and be respected among her male counterparts.
As a captain in the villainous First Order army, her role is comparable to a character like Darth Maul. Critics will argue that Phasma isn’t a positive role model for young girls. I disagree. Captain Phasma fought for everything she has, she knows who she is and she not only owns it, she’s proud of it. What’s better than girls knowing who they are, owning it, and being proud of it? On a more basic level, and removing all politics of feminism from the equation, Captian Phasma gives young girls a chance to play someone else on the playground. Feminism 101- girls can play a “bad guy” too.
Rounding out some of the most inspiring women in the Star Wars franchise is none other than, Rey Skywalker. Yes, I’m aware she’s a Palpatine and only adopts the name Skywalker. However, she earned the right to be called a Skywalker. Rey possesses all of the traits my inner fangirl could ever hope or dream for in a Star Wars heroine — including brandishing a lightsaber. Rey defies all gender stereotypes by being the only lead female character in the entire franchise who’s not introduced as a love interest. Rey isn’t just the female leading role, she is the leading role.
Throughout the sequel series, Rey takes on more active roles and oftentimes taking on situations in the movies that would normally be considered something the boys would do. She’s quick to assume the position as pilot of the Millenium Falcon and when Fill says, “we need a pilot,” Rey is quick to say, “We’ve got one.” In a battle worthy enough to be compared to that of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Rey is recognized as a hero rather than a damsel in distress in her final fight with Kylo Ren. If I were to pick a song that would sum up Rey’s character, it would certainly be “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better.”
By never doubting herself, never giving up, and being independently strong, Rey proves she’s a born leader. The force comes so naturally to her that our girl literally requires 20 minutes of lightsaber training. Her path to becoming a Jedi Master wasn’t at all like Luke Skywalker’s, slow and steady. But if she wasn’t a girl, would they even be questioning it? Guess what, sometimes girls pick things up faster than men. Deal with it.
She’s more powerful a Jedi than Luke Skywalker, and we know this because he tells her. In The Last Jedi, Luke tells Rey he’s only ever seen one other person with such power and that’s Kylo Ren. You know, the same Kylo Ren that Rey uses her Jedi mind-trick skills on to not only know his every thought but to actively tap into his abilities. Like the boss she is, she takes that knowledge with her to use against him in the future.
Rey single-handedly awoke the feminist force when she delivered one of the most iconic lines in the entire history of the franchise; “I know how to run without you holding my hand” That one sentence, spoken by a girl who so effortlessly carried all 3 films on her back, spoke volumes. Not just to Finn, Poe, or any other supporting character, but to every little girl watching.
Who knew the phrase “female-centric” would be trigger something in me? It’s just that the thought of someone insinuating the Star Wars franchise essentially lacked female empowerment ignited a spark in me and I used it to light the fire in this article.
My message to Lesly Headland and the J.J. Abram’s of the world would be, despite the times they might have forgotten, female Star Wars fans have been here all along. More importantly, depending on what your definition of a feminist is, one could argue that Star Wars has been “female-centric” since 1977. I’m open to a new series but why can’t it just be a new Star Wars series coming to Disney+? Why is there a need to label it something that Star Wars history proves has been there all along? The women listed above might not be your idea of feminism, but they are certainly some of the strongest women in cinematic history. It’s my personal opinion that Star Wars has always given young female Jedis the opportunity to dream big.