When you think of main male Star Wars movie characters, a host of people come to mind within seconds. You have Darth Vadar, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Obi Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, Emperor Palpatine, Yoda, Mace Windu, Boba Fett, Qui-Gon Jinn, Owen Lars, Grand Moff Tarkin, and so many others.
On the other hand when you think of main female star Wars characters you think of Leia Skywalker, Padme Amidala, and…um…ummmmmmmm…
Oh dear, we seem to have a problem.
In the entire Star Wars live action movie franchise, there have only been eight named female characters with speaking roles. Let me repeat that: In the span of the SIX movies that make up the main canon of the franchise, there have only been eight named female characters that have speaking roles. That is beyond sad. Especially when you consider only two of those women were main characters. The eight female characters in the franchise are: Leia Skywalker, Padme Amidala, Beru Lars, Sabe, Shmi Skywalker, Zam Wesell, Mon Mothma, and Dorme. Not exactly a strong showing for the ladies.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing all of the female characters we managed to get in the first six movies. Leia is beyond iconic and is one of the most memorable heroines in cinematic history. She paved the way for a lot of the amazing female characters you see today. Still, the other women in the Star Wars films have been found wanting. Padme was an interesting character when involved in politics and the like, but her role as a heroine (not to mention an interesting and female positive character) was tarnished when she became just the love interest not to mention the whole, “She has lost the will to live.” (Which I won’t go into deeper due to my wish to preserve my sanity.) Furthermore, Beru and Shmi only exist to be mercilessly slaughtered and spur the leading male to action.
When the new trilogy of live action Star Wars films was announced, my hopes were high. I kept thinking that we were finally going to see more badass female characters for the Star Wars movie franchise. Then the casting list came out and the disappointment set in immediately. True, the cast list is in no way complete, but it is safe to say we know who will portray the main characters. Out of the six new cast members only one of them was a woman. Daisy Ridley is the only woman besides Carrie Fisher who is lined up for the new trilogy. When you consider Carrie Fisher’s role is likely to be minor at best this is depressing as hell.
It is rumored that there is still one more main female cast member left to be announced, but until we hear an official statement I will only treat it as a rumor. Even if said rumor is true, that would still only leave us with two main female characters. This is the year 2014. One would think we might be able to get a bit more equal representation. After all this takes place in a galaxy far far away full of diverse alien creatures. You can’t tell me there aren’t plenty of women out there.
When I discussed my concern over the casting with friends, I got two types of answers. One was agreement with my concerns over the lack of female representation. The other was disagreement saying that I was concerned for no reason. Responses included, “This isn’t the full cast list,” “This is how it is in sci-fi franchises,” and “Hey, at least we got one female character.” To say I was a bit perplexed would be an understatement. I will agree that there is plenty of opportunity for the announcement of more female cast members, but going on the past history of the franchise, the director’s history, and the writers’ history with female characters, there is plenty of evidence that says we should be concerned.
In the Star Wars film history only two of the six movies passed the Bechdel Test. For those of you needing a refresher, the Bechdel Test was invented in 1985 by Alison Bechdel, which interestingly enough first appeared in a comic strip called Dykes to Watch Out For. To pass the Bechdel Test, the media in question must only meet three qualifications.
- It has to have two named women in it,
- Who talk to each other,
- About something other than a man.
You’d think with those three simple qualifications, most films would be able to pass the Bechdel Test. Sadly, you’d be wrong. An overwhelming majority of the films released do not pass the Bechdel Test fully. For goodness sake, The Avengers and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II failed the Bechdel Test. Please keep in mind that even if a film does pass the Bechdel Test that does not automatically make it a feminist film. This test only serves to measure the bare minimum of female representation.
The two Star Wars films that passed the Bechdel Test were Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. Episodes 3, 4, and 6 failed the Bechdel Test because even though there are at least two named female characters in the films, they never hold a conversation. Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back failed the Bechdel Test on all counts. That’s right, it didn’t even manage to have two named female characters in it.
Out of director and script writer J.J. Abrams’ film list, of which I only counted the movies that he either wrote or directed and were listed on the Bechdel Test site, only two of those films managed to pass the Bechdel Test and only by the skin of their teeth. Star Trek passed the Bechdel Test because of the scene where Uhura and and her roommate Gaila have a conversation in their room while in their underwear with Kirk hiding under the bed. Super 8 managed to pass the Bechdel Test because of a five second conversation between Jen Kaznyk and Mrs. Kaznyk. In both films, two named females hold a conversation exactly one time.
Out of fellow script writer Lawrence Kasden’s film list, of which again I only counted the movies that he either wrote or directed and were listed on the Bechdel Test site, only one film passed the Bechdel Test. Most of Lawrence Kasden’s fims failed the Bechdel Test on all levels. I Love You to Death was the only film of his to pass the Bechdel Test. To give credit where credit is due, the scene that got I Love You to Death to pass the Bechdel Test lasted twice as long as the scenes in J.J. Abrams’ films.
Now before anyone in the comments brings up J.J. Abrams’ television career I want you to keep in mind that his television career has been far different from his film career and has limited bearing on his film career.
Hopefully it’s now a bit more clear why I’m concerned about female representation in the new trilogy. The sad thing is Star Wars had some amazing female characters in their Expanded Universe. Unfortunately, the EU was never considered canon, but will start being considered canon as of this month. There is no excuse for there to be a lack of great female characters in the new trilogy considering the previous EU managed to balanced several amazing main female characters at once. Heck, even the animated Clone Wars series, which is considered canon, had better representation of females then the six live action movies combined. They have the opportunity to make sci-fi history here and they are letting it slip through their fingers.
There are plenty of female actresses of various ages and ethnicities that would be a great fit for the Star Wars franchise. To prove this I came up with a list of 21 actresses just to prove they have no excuse for only having so few female characters.
1. Gina Torres
Now if you don’t know this name I’d suggest handing in your geek card at the front desk. She’s played Nebula in Hercules, Jasmine in Angel, Anna Espinosa in Alias, Helen Carter in Cleopatra 2525, Jessica Pearson in Suits, Phyllis Crawford in Hannibal, and most importantly one of the sci-fi queens Zoe Washburne from Firefly. So it is safe to say this remarkable actress has the skill acting wise and physically to handle being in a Star Wars movie. I would kill to see her as a Jedi, bounty hunter, or even as a bad guy. She could pull off any role they gave her.
2. America Ferrera
She is best known for her role as Betty Suarez in Ugly Betty. She’s won countless awards and while I don’t see her playing a more physical role of say a Jedi, I could easily see her being a politician or a leader of an alien planet. Not to mention it would be interesting to see her step out of her usual genres and take on a role in a sci-fi movie.
3. Priyanka Chopra
A former Miss World pageant winner that has since managed to go on become one of Bollywood’s most talented and highest paid actresses. She speaks English fluently and can dance and sing. This woman can handle whatever you throw at her. She’s also been in several action packed roles where she kicked some major butt. She could play anything from an action packed role as a Jedi or a fighter pilot to a politician or an alien queen.
4. Lucy Liu
A woman who needs no introduction. She played O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill and Joan Watson in Elementary who in my opinion is one of the best female characters on TV right now. She’s another actress that could play any type of role you throw at her.
5. Gina Carano
A former MMA fighter who is best known for her role as Mallory Kane in Haywire. While I believe she could handle a less action packed role I’ll be fully honest in saying I would kill to see this woman kick some ass in a Star Wars movie. Villain, hero, or just morally ambiguous. It would not matter to me as long as I had the chance to see this woman hand some people their asses.
6. Rachel Weisz
Best known for her role in The Mummy series as Evelyn Carnahan. She is a supremely versatile actress. She is another actress that could handle any role although I’d personally love to see her play a evil politician.
7. Michelle Rodriguez
While not exactly known for her stellar acting ability when you think of action actresses she is one of the first ones to pop into your mind. She’d be perfect for any of the action roles. While I’m usually against typecasting I have to admit she plays the action heroine with snark and sass phenomenally well.
8. Lupita Nyong’o
This woman’s name has been on everyone’s tongue lately and she’s the one who is most likely to actually join the Star Wars cast if any of the rumors that have been floating around are true. Her first big movie role was as Patsey in 12 Years a Slave for which she one many awards including the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She’s rumored to be playing Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress. I pay now heed to this rumor as Asajj Ventress was around in Obi Wan’s younger days. This is canon as she appeared in the Star Wars Clone Wars cartoon series. It’s doubtful she would still be alive during the time period of the seventh movie. Especially since their life span is supposedly the same as a humans. This could be changed but it is doubtful. Which is sad cause I’d love to see Lupita play the role. Still I’m positive if she were to join the Star Wars cast she could play any role assigned to her.
9. Angel Coulby
She’s best known for playing Queen Guinevere on BBC’s Merlin. As this actress ages her acting skills jump in leaps and bounds. It’s amazing to see how far she’s come skill wise. Unfortunately I’m not sure how she’d really handle a more action packed role so with her I see her playing more of a politician or a some other type of less physically demanding role.
10. Antonia Thomas
Best known for her role as Alisha Daniels on Misfits. She’s one of the few Misfits actors who hasn’t really been in a big mainstream project since the end of her role on the show which is immensely surprising as she was one of the most talented actors on the show. Again she’s one where I’m not so certain how she’d handle a physically demanding role.
11. Danai Gurira
Better known as Michonne from The Walking Dead. She’s an actress that can play the action role while also delivering a depth most others can not. She’s had a few film roles but most of her acting experience lies in television. It would be good to see her on the big screen once more.
12. Jamie Chung
Now before you all start tossing tomatoes at me for naming an actress from Sucker Punch let me plead my case. Jamie Chung is a highly underestimated actress. Anyone who has seen her play Mulan on Once Upon a Time can tell you the same. She is capable of playing the action roles but like Danai Gurira she has the ability to bring depth to the role that most actors and actresses can’t.
13. Maggie Q
Maggie Q is very much like Michelle Rodriguez to me. She’s another one of those actresses that while she doesn’t bring as much to the table acting skill wise she can kick some serious butt. She is often casted for action roles though she doesn’t get typecasted nearly as much as Michelle does. Her best known role being Nikita in CW’s Nikita television series.
14. Grace Park
Another actress like Maggie Q and Michelle Rodriguez though of the three I do believe Grace Park has the better acting skills. She’s known for her roles as Lt. Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii on Battlestar Galactica and Kono Kalakaua on Hawaii Five-0.
15. Bipasha Basu
An Indian actress that has finally managed to make it to some English language films. Like Priyanka she is fluent in English and has had several action roles. With Bipasha I see her playing more of a villainess role.Though she’s versatile enough to play just about any role.
16. Emmy Rossum
Best known for her role as Fiona Gallagher on Showtime’s Shameless. Emmy is an amazing actress that is underrated by anyone who hasn’t watched Shameless. I don’t really see her playing a physically demanding role. I’d love to see her in a role that would demand a lot of different emotions from her as she is able to make you really feel for the characters she plays.
17. India Eisley
She’s a bit of a newbie when it comes to film roles. She’s best known for her role as Eve in Underworld Awakening. To me though she really grabbed my attention with both herphysical acting skills and her emotional range. I’d love to see her as a padawan.
18. Quvenzhané Wallis
An amazingly talented young actress that is best known for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild and Margaret Northup in 12 Years a Slave. I think she’d make a great actress to play a padawan.
19. Chloe Grace Moretz
Another young actress you has phenomenal acting skills. Most know her as Hit-Girl from the Kick Ass franchise. She’s the experience with physical roles that most actresses her age don’t. She also very versatile. I’d like to be surprised and have her not be in the more physical role as we’ve seen her in that role so much now.
20. Q’orianka Kilcher
Now this is an actress that isn’t as well known as most of the others on my list which is honestly a tragedy. She’s has one of the most versatile ranges I’ve seen in a young actress. I haven’t really seen her in anything too physically demanding but I’d love to see her in that type of a role as she’s handled every other type of role thrown her way. I want to see how she’d handle a more action filled role. She’s best known for playing Pocahontas in A New World.
21. Jamie Alexander
Lady Sif. She can obviously handle action type roles. I’d love to see her as a jedi. I could see her playing Luke or Leia’s daughter easily.
That’s 21 actresses that would be perfect for the Star Wars movie franchise. There are various ages and ethnicities throughout the list. You can’t tell me that they’d have problems casting female characters and more importantly females of various ethnicities. I would love to see more women of color involved in the franchise. In this day and age there is no excuse to have only one or two white females be the only main female cast members you have.
The most important thing though is not only to get more female representation in the Star Wars live action movies, but GOOD female representation. No more having a character just be a love interest or die because she lost the will to live after her lover joined the dark side. I don’t want more little girls growing up with a lack of females to look up to in geek culture especially when we’re talking on the big screen.
The world is 51% women. It’s sad that even though we make up such a large portion of the world that we have little representation in the film industry especially women of color. A large percentage of the Star Wars fanbase is women, so please give us more female characters. At the very least pass the Bechdel Test. It’s really not as hard as it seems.
Movies that have female leads sell incredibly well. Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Frozen, and Gravity being just a few examples from the last year alone. I fully admit J.J, Abbrams may surprise me yet. For all we know this trilogy may focus on a woman instead of a man, or the next casting announcement might be all women. I don’t know for sure. All I know is that right now I’m very concerned with female roles in Star Wars. I hope to be proven wrong.