Remember back at Star Wars Celebration when the first “Star Wars” teaser trailer was released? When Kathleen Kennedy talked about how important it was to her that there were more women in the “Star Wars” universe? That moment had me standing up and applauding along with thousands of other women in the audience and around the world. Princess Leia was a groundbreaking character, but she was largely alone in terms of her sex. The prequels didn’t really do much better, with a single lead female, a few handmaidens and a female on the Jedi council who didn’t really speak. The prospect of my beloved franchise with more women sounded amazing.
When the original casting announcement came out for “The Force Awakens,” the single female actor caused a backlash, but since then we’ve seen announcements for quite a number of female cast members, including Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), a military leader. We know that “Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One” has a number of female characters, including the lead. It looks like the promise is being kept.
What actually makes me more excited is that this promise is part of the new canon's extended universe as well. I’ve spent the past few weeks marathoning “Star Wars Rebels” and reading the new “Journey to the Force Awakens” books, where that promise was even more well represented than in the casting announcements. In “Star Wars Rebels,” which is canon, we not only got the return of “The Clone Wars” star Ahsoka Tano, but we have Hera and Sabine, the pilot and the warrior whose origins will be revealed in depth in Season 2.
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I recently spoke to director Dave Filoni about female characters in the show. He said, “We have a very strong female representation in the story department because of the Story Group at Lucasfilm. It’s just very important that when we tell these stories. We have that perspective. It’s important for me to have that perspective. I rely on it when we’re doing things. It just leads to great perspectives about maybe they wouldn’t think this way or that. You just always want to make the characters as true as they can be. It’s collaboration that’s key in this.”
Where I’ve seen it done best is in the books, “Moving Target” which is a Princess Leia adventure set between Episodes V and VI, “Lost Stars,” which covers the entirety of the six existing films and beyond, and “Aftermath,” which takes place after “Return of the Jedi.” These books finally — finally — give us the 50/50 split between male and female characters that not even our modern day TV shows and films can manage. It’s like there is an even gender split in real life or something! Imagine that!
Even better? In those books, women are equally represented as people of power, rogues, characters both strong and weak, bounty hunters, government officials, military commanders. There is even a mention of gender reassignment. No one seems to have any issue with women in power. The issues people have are with each person as an individual. It’s almost jarring in its unfamiliarity.
It’s been said many times that it’s always easiest to tackle issues in the world through science fiction before it is in reality. Thank you, “Star Wars,” for taking this on.