MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU: the ladies of Star Wars and why we should be furious with The Force
I have to be honest with you all: I am by no means a Star Wars fan. In any shape or form. I saw the original films when I was young but was completely unimpressed by them. To me, they seemed super-lame and corny to the degree that I was laughing almost the entire way through, which was probably not George Lucas’ original intention.
But when it was announced that J.J. Abrams was going to direct a reboot of the Star Wars franchise, to tell the truth, I was a little bit excited. Abrams is the guy you go to in order to make lame things cool again. His imaginative remake of the Star Trek series in 2009 has already spawned a sequel, which was released last year. He took Star Trek, a quintessentially nerdy piece of TV-and-cinema history, and transformed it into something sleek, super cool; an accessible film – with some kickass female characters to boot – that even non-sci-fi nerds like myself could thoroughly enjoy
But when the cast list for Abrams’ reboot was released last week I was shocked by its contents. At first I was excited to see that original cast members like the totes babin’ Harrison Ford and the awesome Carrie Fisher are reprising their roles of Han Solo and Princess Leia. But on further inspection, I noticed that this new list of cast members featured a hell of a lot of testosterone and not so many ladies. Well, actually, the list had only one new female cast member and six new male characters. Amongst big names like Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow and Oscar Isaac, there was only the unfamiliar name of Daisy Ridley representing the ladies in this new Star Wars instalment.
It is uncertain who Ridley will play in the new films, although some are speculating that she may be the daughter of Han Solo and Princess Leia. So great: according to Abrams’ Star Wars reboot, women can only be in sci-fi films if they’re a damsel-in-distress princess or the daughter of a damsel-in-distress princess. Okay, that’s unfair to say Leia is purely a “damsel in distress,” she does kick some serious ass in the original films, made in a time where women in action films were purely there for aesthetic purposes. But the point still remains that the range of women’s roles in sci-fi films is very narrow compared to their male counter-parts.
I think what has angered people the most about this casting decision is that Abrams had the chance to make a change. He had the opportunity to create numerous complex female characters from scratch. He could have used already existing female characters in the Star Wars universe, like Luke Skywalker’s assassin-turned-Jedi-Master wife, Mara Jade (who I am thrilled shares part of my name). Most importantly, he could have removed stereotypes of male-dominated geek and sci-fi culture, which only uses female characters as love interests or highly sexualised objects of lust for teenage boys to jerk off to in their parent’s basement. (Yay! Stereotypes.)
However, it must be added that Abrams has responded to this criticism claiming that he is still auditioning actors for a substantial female role. Okay, whatever you say J.J. But two female characters against six male characters is still ridiculously unbalanced if you ask me.
So on this day, May the 4th 2014, whilst your friends are all excessively making Star Wars jokes on Facebook, Twitter and in real life to the point where you want to hit them with a goddamn lightsaber, remember that the sci-fi universe is still largely a boys-only club. Unless you can rock a gold-plated metal bikini, of course.