Actor, Writer, Jedi, Singer,

Actor, Writer, Jedi, Singer,
You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Feminist's Defense of the Star Wars Expanded Universe (and why it's superior to Disney Wars' "The Force Awakens")

(picture not created by me).

If you are a geek- and even if you aren't- you've most likely heard about The Force Awakens (who am I kidding, everyone knows about it :p). It's, sadly, everywhere you look. And, if you are a feminist, you've most likely seen pretty much all the pages on Facebook going ON and ON about how WONDERFUL and DIVERSE it is.
I'm a Star Wars fan and a huge intersectional feminist and I'm here to say that, while I can logically see where they are coming from, they are plain wrong. Star Wars is, and always has been, diverse. And, since the feminist geeks and Star Wars fan communities are so over-saturated with pro-TFA and pro-Disney Wars messages, I thought I'd offer a different perspective from that of a feminist Star Wars fan who doesn't like the Disney's take on Star Wars.
I'd like to share that with you now. 

Before I begin, I want to make a few things clear. First, Yes I AM A STAR WARS fan. A hardcore one, in fact. I've watched all six films, I've read over 100 books and comics, I've watched both Clone Wars tv shows, and I've played several of the video games. I've even read the reference guides and many Wookiepedia articles many times. I loved and obsessed over Star Wars when most people didn't care anymore. I liked it even though I got picked on for it (heck, it's popular again and I STILL get picked on :P). I liked it when there was no new movie coming out. I liked it through the "drought" and if that doesn't convince you I'm a real fan, then I don't know what will. 
Also, I have not seen "The Force Awakens" so all of the critiques I make are based what I've heard from others second hand (and I trust these sources). I would see it so I could critique it more thoroughly, but I'd rather get the stomach flu than watch it, sooo....
Understand? Okay, let's proceed. 

People have always claimed that Star Wars was problematic. That it had sexist stuff in it, that it didn't have enough racial diversity, and that it lacked in LGBTQA+ diversity. And while there is definitely truth to if you just look at the movies (especially the Originals, but seriously those movies are GOOD for being made in the 70s/80s), if you look at Star Wars overall, it's definitely one of the better fandoms out there. The EU, for example, gave me awesome female role models when so many stories out there had none. Many of the books, comics, and games give us a plethora of varied and complex women. From Jedi like Siri Tachi, Jaina Solo, Nomi Sunrider, and Meetra Surick, to Sith like Darth Zannah and Darth Cognus, to Senators like Padme and women who are from all walks of life like Astri, Cerasi, and even Mara Jade who goes through an amazing transformation. We have bisexual women like Juhani and disabled women like the Jedi Tahl (who is also a woman of color) and the warrior princess Jedi Tenel Ka Chume Ta' Djo. There are also many characters of color who play important roles, such as Mace Windu, Jan Ors, Jolee Bindo, Bultar Swan, Depa Billiba, etc. 
And, while I can see the wish for more LGBTQA+ diversity (since there is no where near enough), the EU actually DID have some and, I'm certain, we would have gotten LOADS more had the now "Legends" timeline been allowed to continue. We already had characters, for example, like Ferus Olin (who is gay), who were leads of an entire series and had major roles in other works of the canon. Another thing that Star Wars always had was disabled characters. Unlike many works of fiction, the Star Wars EU was never afraid to talk and discuss these issues, which was a nice change. 

And, as a feminist, the fact that they threw out all of these amazing women, people of color, LGBTQA+ characters, disabled characters, etc is a definite crime and one I'm surprised so few feminists are actually angry about. 

As to why I think the EU (Legends) is superior as an intersectioanl feminist to The Force Awakens? Well, I have yet to see the film (and I never well because- being autistic- I can't handle it as it would cause me to have a melt down and make my angry rants about it worse and my parents don't need to deal with that) but from reviews that I have listened to about the movie (and from people I know that have seen it) it seems that it fails especially in the female character department. 

For one, Rey doesn't come across as much of a character. Unlike Luke and Anakin, who had to work to improve (or, at least had the skills previously, such as both being experienced pilots) she seems to do things effortlessly. As a reviewer said, she does a mind-trick easily without any prior training while it took Luke a while to master; also, she apparently pilots the Millennium Falcon better than Han Solo, even though- according to the novelization- her only experience piloting comes from video games....yeah.....right... I can tell you, driving cars on video games did NOT make me a good driver when I started learning. She is also somehow is able to stand against a HIGHLY TRAINED fighter when she's had NO training WHATSOEVER. As someone who is training to be a fighter and has for five (ish) years now, I don't want this being portrayed in this way, since it gives people the wrong impression about fighting (no, you are not going to bust out awesome moves immediately, sorry, it takes time). I've been trained to fight and even I can't beat up a black belt yet (I'll get there :P Still a Red Stripe and I haven't fought black belts all that much yet). The Revan rip off (the WORST thing about TFA, in my opinion since he's a rip off of three characters) would have beaten her, full stop, no argument. And again, if this had been the case with Anakin and Luke, it wouldn't have been as much of a problem. But both Anakin and Luke lost BIG time when they first tried to take on a superior fighter. Both lost something (Luke's hand, Anakin's arm). As a feminist, I don't want women characters who are perfect and infallible. I want women who are people and are treated the same way as the men (and to be clear, I hate when male characters are overpowered as well; it was the exact reason I detested Nathan in Half Bad so much). That's why I liked the EU- we got to see the various women grow and change and become better over time (sure, some men and women were able to do great feats without much prior training, but they were POWERFUL individuals and usually were up against someone who wasn't well trained either OR they were tapping into the darkside/had been tapping into the Force a lot at a young age). Basically, Rey is the 'strong female character' (not really a good character, but what Hollywood thinks we want) many feminists (and myself) have complained about. Not sure why people don't see that.
Other female characters that suffer with this film are Captain Phasma and, especially, Leia. From what I've heard from others, apparently she was built up as an 'awesome villain' but in reality just barks orders, falls down into something, and isn't seen much. When compared to the amazing female villains of the EU, this really falls short. 
Leia also gets the short end of the stick. In the EU she's the Chancellor of the galaxy for a time, becomes a Jedi, and stays married to Han and raises three awesome Jedi children, two who become great heroes (the third was also a hero til he fell to the darkside); she is also very involved in whatever crisis the galaxy is facing and is a great woman to look up to and admire. In TFA, she's just a general who had a failed marriage and a failed child. She never trains to be a Jedi, ignoring the hints in ROTJ that hinted that she would eventually, and just...bleh :P (also, Han's death was just blah compared to Chewbacca's brave and badass death in the EU. Like, it took a moon to take him down. That's badass. Han gets stabbed by his emo, whiny 'son'....not so much). And, sure the films do have some racial diversity but it's equal to what we get in the EU (and the ones in the EU are better developed). And as I said above, yes, the EU needed more LGBTQA+ characters but, as we are getting more and more each year, I'm sure it would have become more and more common place. And, really, as of now, there ARE no LGBTQA+ characters in The Force Awakens or all that many in Disney's other work (only a few in the novel Aftermath). 

Also, on a side note, when Disney cancelled EU, threw it out, and declared it non-canon/Legends, they cancelled many stories that had female leads, including the much anticipated Sword of the Jedi trilogy, starring the amazing and badass Jaina Solo (who is a very well written character, I might add). I honestly don't understand why other feminists aren't more angry about this? 

And as I wrap this, I want to leave you to read the below and ponder this. Which really is more diverse?

(Thanks to my friend, Covert Knight, for making this list.)

Media: The Feminist Force Awakens passes the Bechdel Test!  

My friend, Covert Knight: Pff. Bechdel Test. We've not only passed it, but... Ahem. (And these are just examples) Lost Tribe of the Sith: Spiral - Female MC (Takara), female secondary MC (Sith Princess), the MC's mother who does all the fighting for the father (Takara's mom), and reference to a powerful ancient female Sith scientist (Sorzus Syn). Knight Errant (novel + comics) Female titular character (Kerra the Knight Errant, duh), female scheming villain (Arkadia), female lesser villain (Dromika), female past villain (Xelian), female ultimate schemer not-quite-villain (Villia), female pilot secondary MC (Jenn), lil' sis figure (Tan Tengo) Knights of the Old Republic II (both content restoration mods included + canon companions) Female leading character struggling to overcome her dark past (Meetra Surik/Jedi Exile), female scheming ultimate villain with LOTS of depth (Kreia/Traya), female misguided villain (Atris), female supportive mentor figure (Vash); a blind seer who helps defeat one of the villains (Visas), an ex-assistant of the misguided villain who kicks ass (Brianna), a clever, deadly huntress that's likely aromantic (Mira); a just and fair and BADASS ruling queen supporting character (Talia), another competent female government leader (Terena).

And I know that myself and many could add even more people to this awesome list.

And on a final note, I'd like to add. You can say what you want about some of the 'weirder' aspects of the EU. But you can't say it wasn't original (unlike TFA). Because, without the EU, Star Wars is just empty and not nearly as awe-inspiring or beautiful. And, to me, that includes the wonderful diversity we had within it.
So thanks Disney, for nothing.


  1. Nice post, very thorough. Though I disagree on some stuff about TFA, the EU definitely had a lot of great female (Siri, Tahl, Jaina, and many others are so important) and diverse characters, and it's really a bummer that the Jaina Solo series was cancelled.

    1. Thank you, glad you liked the post :) The EU definitely did and I wish we'd gotten that series :/

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  3. YES! It makes me SO sad how people overlook the EU's progressiveness and diversity.
    I mean, we dared to fridge a male character so his WIFE could be a Jedi Knight like, two decades ago?

    Also, thanks for using my list! :D I'm glad to help.

    1. Definitely, it's so frustrating! Thank you! :)
      Exactly, that's pretty revolutionary, especially back then! No other story I can think of has done that.
      You're welcome! :D An Thanks! :D

  4. Fantastic essay. Couldn't agree more.