A Feminist Love Letter To The Last Jedi

Kelly Lawler of USA Today slathers the feminist pandering in The Last Jedi with a gushing love letter.

There seemingly aren’t enough superlatives to describe the experience of seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Seemingly.

The galaxy is, at long last, populated by women who are complicated, strong, weak, loyal, daring, young, old and everything in between.

The galaxy was always populated by women.  It’s just that the stories focused on wars in the stars.  Hence Star Wars rather than Star Population.

But what The Last Jedi does, and what it is uniquely positioned to do as the middle chapter of the new trilogy, is take something that felt revolutionary two years ago and make it feel happily average, just another part of the saga we love.

Some feel that it’s less than average.

In doing so, the film finds room, alongside Rey’s epic hero’s journey, for subplots about the bonds of sisterhood or female authority figures dealing with hot-headed male underlings. 

Because this happens so often in wartime scenarios.

Although Leia has long been a feminist icon, Star Wars hasn’t always had the best track record with its portrayal of women. Both its original and prequel trilogies had few speaking female roles and only one female lead each.

Probably because wars are predominately fought by men.  Again, hence the war in Star Wars.

Those female roles were often overly sexualized (like Leia in the metal bikini)…

Leia’s gold bikini was a reflection on the intergalactic gangster, Jabba the Hutt, who forced her to wear it.  Feminists are just jealous when there’s another woman in the room who looks better than they do.  Maybe in Episode IX Abrams can replace the gold bikini with something a bit more drab in order to satisfy your Bolshevik sensibilities:

I’m sure Rose would look fabulous in one of those.

…or criminally underdeveloped (that Natalie Portman’s Padmé dies of a “broken heart” at the end of Revenge of the Sith is a sin on par with Jar Jar Binks).

But not worse than “saving the things we love.”

Both women could hold their own on the battlefield, sure, but one woman among dozens of male characters is limiting at best and outright tokenism at worst.

Tell that to the Armed Forces.

The women of the film embody a spectrum of femininity, and they can be a part of the saga in long dresses or a maintenance uniform or with a lightsaber.

That’s what makes it so silly.  The women that we do find in the military wear uniforms rather than cocktail dresses on the battlefield.

The most surprising form this takes in The Last Jedi is in the relationship between new character Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), which is inevitably a story about a young, brash male employee who can’t quite follow the instructions of an older female boss.

It’s not all that surprising when you come to realize that the writing was informed by the trials of motherhood rather than the trials of warfare.

It’s such a specific story with real-world implications that I never thought I’d see something like it in a Star Wars film.

You must live in an alternate real-world.

Holdo’s role suggests that The Last Jedi endeavors not just to tell stories about women, but about womanhood.

And that womanhood leads all but a dozen or so Resistance soldiers to their deaths.

HanSolo

“If we just avoid any more female advice, we ought to be able to get out of here.” ~Han Solo: sexist and/or misogynist.

That expands to Rose Tico, a character type the franchise has had little time for in the past. 

Probably because the franchise has focused on the soldiers who fight the wars in the stars (you know, Star Wars), rather than on mechanics and janitors who clean up the mess.

Not only is she a woman of color (and, unlike Lupita Nyong’o’s motion-capture performance as Maz Kanata, audiences can see her) but she is a rather unremarkable person in the galaxy, not a chosen one nor a storied smuggler nor royalty.

And therein lies the problem.  Why pay absurd admission prices to watch a character on screen that embodies someone you probably have working right next to you in your own workplace?  If you see her every day, why do you want to spend 2.5 hours watching her on screen in your off-time too?

Still, Rose’s unique perspective and Tran’s innate charm make her a worthy part of the story…

So worthy that the DVD trailer doesn’t show the Canto Bight scenes or Rose Tico.

…and she teams up with Finn (John Boyega) for a side adventure that offers a slightly political point of view about economic inequality. 

I’m not sure that Rose’s on-the-nose lecturing would qualify as only slightly political.

The list of moments, big and small, that express the depth of the film’s female characters goes on.  They aren’t defined by stereotypes or by how well they hew to the male point of view.

What female characters in Star Wars ever were?

2 thoughts on “A Feminist Love Letter To The Last Jedi

  1. Pingback: Is Disney/Lucasfilm Slut Shaming Princess Leia? | Disney Star Wars is Dumb

  2. Pingback: 20 Points That Slumming Through SJW “Think” Pieces Teaches Us | Disney Star Wars is Dumb

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