Bold, strong, ambitious. Female characters in Star Wars

According to some Star Wars fans, it is not necessary to watch all the films in chronological order — actually the entire plot is based on the stories of individual characters. Even if you have watched the Jedi saga repeatedly, there is always a new way to “read” it and a new perspective on the confrontation between the two Forces.

After Disney acquired the franchise rights, the Star Wars plots got more complex and epic, the visual design was enriched with new symbols, but the main change is that the heroes’ stories resonate with reality. It is not enough today to present the audience with a beautiful picture and quality drama. If the world revolves again around the spiritual anguish of a young and healthy man who chooses between great achievements and personal happiness, the film is doomed to be berated by critics and audience.

Star Wars bears a special responsibility in this regard, because the saga since the 1970s the saga “provides” the world heroes to grow up with — they actually teach us to distinguish between “good” and “evil”. 10-20 years ago, a male of our species, attractive and athletic, was at the center of the plot, and he usually gained personal happiness at the expense of someone else’s tragedy, shown briefly and without unnecessary sentimentality. Today, this approach fails. For a film to be commercially successful, it needs representation of real-world people, especially women. We suggest watching Star Wars and tracing the evolution of the heroines of the saga and the rights they managed to achieve by the end of the original story about the Skywalkers.

A real princess

Episode II: Attack of the Clones; Episode IV: A New Hope

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope,” Princess Leia sends this message after being captured by Darth Vader. Leia Organa, daughter of Anakin Skywalker and Senator Padmé Amidala, became a princess of Alderaan in her childhood and received an excellent education, including diplomatic training. She is clever, capable of fighting despite growing up on a peaceful planet, and has outstanding leadership qualities. However, her first appearance on screen follows the well-known cliché of the “damsel in distress”: the princess faces difficult circumstances but instead of overcoming them on her own, she calls for some knight to be saved, despite the fact that she even doesn’t even know him personally.

Probably, she inherited this learned helplessness from her mother. Padmé Amidala became the elected queen of her planet at the age of 14. In Attack of the Clones, the young and talented woman becomes a senator after serving her term as a mayor. One might think that only a strong, self-assured person could take such a path, but Padmé is not immune to emotional turmoil, which ultimately breaks her political career and, a little later, her life. A beautiful fairytale for real princesses always ends with the words, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Family is the choice

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Mother archetype is presented poorly in the saga. The short story about Padmé Amidala’s parents from the second episode did not make it into the final film version. Apart from that, the hero’s family only appears on screen for someone to commit patricide or to discover the terrible truth about their parents.

The exception was Shmi Skywalker in the first episode. The future villain Darth Vader had a caring and kind mother who raised him on her own. She has no independent thoughts, as stereotypical mothers should not, and all her expectations for life are focused on her son’s future. Only when Anakin goes to study at the Jedi Academy does Shmi Skywalker allow herself to get married, but she soon falls into captivity with the nomads. It is understandable that her son will sense the trouble, but he is too late to save her.

Further turning of a Jedi into a Sith by the screenwriters is also linked to the fate of his mother: Anakin’s suffering over her death does not motivate him to open a charity fund or buy all the slaves on his home planet. As a reminder of Shmi, the son will slaughter an entire tribe of nomads and turn to the dark side of the Force. So much for choosing your family after that!

Trophy Wife

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

By the third film of the Skywalker saga, its creators realized that Leia Organa not only becomes an idol for millions of girls around the world but also an object of desire for men. However, instead of destroying Leia’s character with rampant objectification and exploitation of her feelings, the screenwriters give us a rebirth of the princess. To highlight the contrast between the fiery, naive girl of the past episodes and the new charismatic person, the leader of the Resistance, they dress her in a golden bikini, put her on a chain, and make her a slave to a disgusting slug. Paradoxical? Let’s figure it out now.

Leia is one of the central heroines of the saga, so the creators of Star Wars repeatedly pay attention to her talents: it is possible that she inherited from her father the ability to use the Force. Leia is a brilliant politician who confidently plays the role of a leader, but this is clearly not enough for respect and worship in a patriarchal galaxy. To raise a rebellion, one must be attractive. And what could be more attractive than a scantily-clad woman on a chain? Only a woman who strangles her oppressor with that same chain. Later, actress Carrie Fisher urged fans to ignore this costume and spoke out against the objectification of her character.


The Last Jedi,  Han Solo

The fate of Han Solo resembles of Anakin Skywalker’s childhood: born in a remote area, miraculously avoiding danger, and leaving behind a vulnerable woman. However, Han left behind not a mother, but a girlfriend — Qi’ra. When the saga’s creators decided to tell this story, the rights to Star Wars had been acquired by Disney, and so Qi’ra’s character became complex, multifaceted, and resonant with modern women. Instead of marrying a farmer, she becomes the right-hand woman of the leader of a criminal syndicate. By the time Han returns, she is adept with weapons, has a stunning appearance, and shines at social events, but remains true to her ideals and is willing to risk everything for justice. Thanks to her, Han is saved once again and even receives his own spaceship. Qi’ra, on the other hand, is left with nothing, but in this game, she is definitely no longer a helpless pawn.

The film The Last Jedi reveals new facets of Leia Organa’s character and introduces several strong female supporting roles. There’s Captain Phasma from The Force Awakens, technician Rose Tico, and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo. Unlike the first films, women in the distant galaxy now have full-fledged roles that don’t revolve around motherhood or romantic relationships, and each is given a chance to shine — on either side of the Force.

I am the Revolution

The Rebellion

Jyn Erso is a key figure representing the new generation of women in the Star Wars universe. After her mother’s death and her father’s abduction, she was taken care of by the freedom fighter Saw Gerrera. They lived together for eight years, but as soon as the enemies learned about the girl’s origin, he left her. Jyn’s father is one of the creators of the Death Star. In a similar situation, Anakin slaughtered innocent crowds and became a Sith Lord, but Jyn is more resilient. She accepts the task set by the rebels, shows herself to be a great team player, and helps to obtain the project documentation of the Death Star, giving the rebels a chance to save the world.

The more complex and multifaceted the heroines of Star Wars become, the less time and desire they have for emotional turmoil and romantic relationships with “the wrong guys.” Neither Jyn nor her colleagues in the Rebellion pay attention to crowds of attractive men around them; they are focused on their mission, and nothing can throw them off course.