Let me explain…
When the cast of the new J. J. Abrams’ set of Star Wars films was announced, there was a notable lack of female names on the list. Here’s my radical response to the problem: Maybe there shouldn’t be more women added to the Star Wars cast.
Let me explain.
A long time ago,1 I dressed up as Qui-Gon Jinn for a kid’s Episode 1 birthday party, complete with a beard. I wasn’t going to dress up as Shmi, and Padme was boring.2 When I talk about this topic, remember: I’m a lady who literally preferred wearing a fake beard over going as a female Star Wars film character. I have beard cred!
Continuing the Star Wars film legacy of having too few women is an unnecessary shame. It’s vital we see more women in equally badass roles in movies–roles in which they do not need saving, roles in which they can make the crackerjack comments and be just as much a Han Solo type as Han Solo. Joss Whedon roles, in other words. And roles which pass the Bechdel Test. Girls deserve to see characters on the screen they can connect with in some way without having to try too damn hard by, say, donning fake beards. The expanded universe doesn’t ignore women. In addition to Jaina Solo,3 there are characters like Tenel Ka, Mara Jade, and Winter. They are there if you look for them, which means it’s not asking too much for those roles to appear on screen. Girls deserve to be treated as equal constituents of the franchise.
Would I have preferred to go to a party sans beard? Yes, no doubt. But I didn’t want to be lame.4
But if some extra Strong Female Characters are added in now to appease people, I worry we’re going to end up with Mace Windu women. Remember how everyone was so excited to have THE Samuel L. Jackson cast as the fierce Jedi Master for the prequels? Then remember how Windu was basically stoic the whole time and was, frankly, boring? So much emphasis can be put on bringing diversity to the cast, but the hard work of making these diverse characters awesome can easily be ignored–if they can’t5 make Samuel L. Jackson’s character kick ass, can I have faith in a cocky Mara Jade?
So I don’t want to keep asking for more women in Star Wars. This isn’t fair, you might say. Girls deserve fair treatment. I agree.
But women have historically faced unfairness, whether it’s pay or workload or screentime. It’s nice to see Joss Whedon characters, and it’s nice to see myself reflected in characters on the screen. I appreciate when something passes the Bechdel test. I’m not asking for these things to stop; when these things happen without being forced at PR gunpoint, it’s great. But I don’t want stock Strong Female Characters if they’re going to get the Mace Windu treatment after springing forth out of hangdog duty. I’d rather they not be cast at all.
Perhaps the occasional experience of unequal screen-time is good to have around as a reminder of the inequality women face off-screen. Girls deserve plenty of things beyond more female appearances in Star Wars–things like more female STEM mentors in their lives. I’d rather focus on those things than fight for forced characters who will disappoint me in the end. It’s like fighting for a cake on your birthday after someone’s forgotten your birthday–you can, but it feels a little like fighting for someone to care about you when they already demonstrated they don’t. The cake, if given after all that cajoling, ends up tasting less sweet.
The Star Wars lady-cake just seems less enticing to me at this point.
I love Star Wars. Having more than one female cast member would be great, but I don’t want to have to act grateful for Strong Female Characters on screen after cajoling and begging. And I refuse to beg and plead for these characters any longer. If they aren’t there, that’s OK. I’ll just spend my time and money elsewhere. Like rooting for more Firefly.6