Friday, December 14, 2012

Opinion: This Is A Man’s Galaxy

 By: David Gremillion

“I believe that if you have problems, as a woman you deal with them, you don't play victim, you don't make yourself look pitiful, you don't point fingers. You stand and you deal. You face the world with a head held high and you carry the universe in your heart.” –C. JoyBell

Women in Star Wars is a fascinating subject. Women are strong, independent, and fiercely ambitious when focusing in on their goals. They are incredible and greatly under-utilized in a society that values Kim Kardashian over Maya Angelou. (I hope my wife is reading this.) But what many of us forget is that strong women are to be admired, nay celebrated. Before Catwoman, before Aeon Flux, before Ripley, there was Princess Leia.

So the big question I have is why Lucas decided that these women weren’t worthy of the role he created. Why were they cut down in their prime? Why did he remove women from the climactic conclusions of Star Wars?

In Episode IV, Princess Leia bucked the trend by shooting at stormtroopers, barking at Tarkin and at Vader himself, and famously rescuing the boys by coming up with the only way out of the detention center. “Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” became a rallying cry to the modern woman of the 1970s. This wasn’t a damsel in distress; this was a distressed damsel who has been described by Ashley Eckstein as a “self-rescuing” princess. How did she react to a stormtrooper walking into her jail cell, holding a rifle? She scoffed and called him short.

In Episode V, we start to witness her decline. Sure, she’s still shooting up troopers with the greatest of ease, but events are clearly out of her hand. She was no longer a pro-active character, she was a re-active character. While on the run from the Empire, she offered zero solutions to their numerous problems. She did, however, nag Han Solo to no end when he ran around the Falcon, trying to save their lives. When Lando betrayed them on Bespin, she never attempted an escape. She never tried to send out a distress signal or contact the rebellion in any way. True, Vader was around, but that didn’t stop her from practically spitting in his face (er, mask) aboard the Tantive IV.

By the time Episode VI (aka Episode V Part II) rolls around, Leia is now clearly a “back seat” character. She’s following through on Luke’s plan in Jabba’s Palace. Lando becomes a general, Han becomes a general, Leia, who risked her life for the rebellion before Han was even a member…gets ignored. Her role on Endor is questionable. It seems she is just there to follow the man she loves instead of leading him. When they are separated on the Forest Moon, she used the Ewoks to locate the shield generator, run estimates of enemy strengths, and find her friends before something happens to them. Oh wait, no, instead of doing those things, she’s off braiding her hair.

In 1999, we met Padme Amidala. In Episode I, she was a tour de force. Qui-Gon has no idea what she intends to do by returning to Naboo, but Padme has it all figured out. She brokers a treaty with an adversary with a long history of isolationism. She organizes the Gungan army and plans the attack on the capital. The men are clueless without a woman there. At the end, she was the one holding a gun at Viceroy Gunray’s head, demanding a “new treaty” be signed.

Episode II shows Padme’s wisdom and toughness. She never shrinks from danger, despite her ship being blown up within the first sixty seconds of the movie. Padme charges boldly onward while others hesitate. Get blown off of Anakin’s shuttle? No big deal, just get me to that hangar. She conducts “aggressive negotiations” (the most memorable line from all of Episode II) with a smile on her face. Fanboys drooled over Padme’s ripped top in the arena. The girls remember Anakin and Obi-Wan trying to figure out how to escape while Padme was already picking the locks on her chains.

Episode III is where Padme is betrayed by the writers. She’s brushing her hair, fretting over her wardrobe, worrying about where the baby will be born, all while the Republic implodes around her. Only once do we see her in the Senate, and that is when she simply watches democracy die with thunderous applause. How did she fight back? What was her plan for saving the Republic? Did she take Anakin’s advice and “make a motion in the Senate” to save her beloved civilization? While the Jedi Temple burned, knowing full well Anakin was there, all she did was sit in her apartment and cry. Having a strong female character is critical to our stories. They add an element that turns good movies into great ones. Compare Bella Swan (Twilight) to Ripley (Aliens). Compare Willie Scott (Temple of Doom) to Lara Croft (Tomb Raider). Compare Buttercup (Princess Bride) to Starbuck (Battlestar Galactica). Stronger women make for a stronger movie every single time.

James Brown sang: “This is a Man’s World”, but I think we can all agree that the world can only be better with a woman singing that song on the silver screen.

This article is an opinion piece and represents the views of the writer, and not the entire Star Wars Underworld organization.


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