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The Women of Star Wars

The Women of Star Wars

| On 03, Jun 2014

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…there was only one woman in the Star Wars universe. Not really, but it certainly felt that way.
The original trilogy had the tough, independent Princess Leia and the prequels had the soulless, vapid Padme. Conceived by a man who thought there were no bras in space and decided duct tape would work best to keep the breasts under control, Star Wars still appealed to young girls for decades despite the absence of more strong female role models.
Star Wars Tonnika Sisters
Blink and you will miss them. The Tonnika sisters in the Star Wars cantina.
Sure, there were other women that could be spotted from time to time, but their onscreen presence was fleeting for all except the more devoted fanboy. There were the braid-wearing Tonnika twin sisters (yes, they had a name) and their few seconds in the cantina; the female rebel officer on Hoth with the immortal line “Stand by, Ion Control…fire,” and one Rebel fighter pilot on the second Death Star. By the time of Return of the Jedi, Rebel Alliance leader Mon Mothma was inserted into one scene for the Death Star attack planning meeting, a character so pivotal she came back in Episode III only to be edited out of the final cut. More importantly, there was Luke’s Aunt Beru’s brief screen time serving blue milk and making some type of lettuce juice and her even shorter screen-time in the prequels.
The Empire Strikes Back
“Stand by, Ion Control..fire!”
Outside of the listless, multiple wardrobe-wearing Padme, the prequels had Shmi Skywalker, “virgin” mother of the galaxy’s future evil henchman Anakin/Darth Vader and actress in one of the worst death scenes committed to film, but we’ll blame Lucas on  the poor direction.There was also a group of handmaidens and a couple of different queens from Naboo, but you get the idea.
Star Wars Mon Mothma
Rebel leader Mon Mothma in Episode VI and the younger, deleted version from Episode III
This is all about to change with Star Wars: Episode VII, the first film under the ownership of Walt Disney, a corporation all too familiar with a female fan-base and how important princess’s are for a franchise. The new film will have four…count them…four female characters that will have significant parts in the franchise. That is 4 times the number of female roles in either sequel, and already twice as many in all of the previous six films.
Shmi Skywalker
“Make sure you bundle your cloak up before you annihilate the younglings. Mommy loves you!”
Reprising her role as Leia Organa, Carrie Fisher may be too old to play a princess, but she can be a formidable leader of the New Republic after the collapse of the Galactic Empire. She is also the twin sister of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker and may have some force sensitive abilities after 30+ years since Return of the Jedi. Recent pictures of her after losing some excessive weight leads to the theory that we may finally see Leia wield a light saber.
 
Not much is known about 20-something brunette beauty Daisy Ridley, but she does resemble Natalie Portman from the prequels. It is a good bet she will be the daughter of Leia and Han Solo and could be the first major female Jedi character with actual lines. The granddaughter of Darth Vader may have some excess baggage, and could be a driving force for the entire new trilogy.
 
Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o was a complete unknown until her star making turn in last year’s 12 Years a Slave. Her casting was the worst kept secret from the new films, surprising many that she wasn’t named in the first casting announcement. Rumors speculate that she will be the granddaughter of Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi or Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress from the Clone Wars animated series. Two granddaughters fighting it out sounds too coincidental and will lead into the “neat” connections from the prequels that alienated many loyal and casual fans. Remember the Anakin/Vader built C-3PO fiasco? Although the Dark Jedi character is certainly intriguing, it would be 50 years since the Clone Wars, making it unlikely a young Lupita will portray the fan favorite. My best guess is to remain in the dark for this interesting part and go in blindly into Episode VII.
 
The big surprise is Gwendoline Christie, best known as Brienne of Tarth from HBO’s Game of Thrones. For those not familiar with her, she is a very tall, masculine blond that matches brawn and wit among the best knights of George R.R. Martin’s fictional world. Her demeanor lends to the idea of a conflicted Jedi battling against the quicker path of the dark side of the Force, a tormented soul similar to her independent but loyal part on Game of Thrones.
 
Will the female-centric cast of Episode VII may finally break the glass ceiling for powerful women role models in science fiction films? Marvel may finally address why Black Widow is merely a supporting character, or how DC Comics will handle the upcoming introduction of Wonder Woman in their cinematic universe. Sure Hermione Granger was one of the best female leads of the past 20 years and the Milla Jovovich Resident Evil franchise has a great run, but there are too few female heroes compared to their spandex wearing men counterparts. Not since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the Alien films has women stepped up in a heroic starring role.
 
The damsel in distress era may now finally be officially over.
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