Ben Mack writes an article at Villainesse entitled, Is ‘The Last Jedi’ the most feminist ‘Star Wars’ film?
Well, let’s find out. He writes:
Simply put, the eighth episode of the Star Wars saga is a tour de force of girl power – and is absolutely the movie we need right now in a real world that seems just as hell-bent on destroying freedom and equality as the villainous First Order.
Are you talking about Venezuela?
Or taken seriously.
Many of us were, in fact, expecting it to be.
But many people keep telling me that seeing feminist messaging in the film is looking into the film too deeply.
Anything at all can be contrived into a screenplay. Even depictions of the imaginary “toxic masculinity” bugaboo.
Simply put, the evil First Order is led basically entirely by men – and white, presumably cisgender men in particular. The First Order refers to Rey as “the girl” (instead of, you know, her name – Darth Vader and the wicked Empire at least always used Luke Skywalker’s name when talking about him), controls the government of the galaxy after usurping power from an unsuspecting populace, has seemingly unlimited military resources, and is even led by a vaguely humanoid creature that has a fondness for gold and shiny things. Sound uncomfortably like a certain current leader?
No. It sounds like an SNL caricature of a certain current leader.
The one exception to the cis-male sausage-fest of villainous toxic masculinity is Gwendoline Christie’s evil Captain Phasma. Phasma commands the First Order’s huge number of stormtroopers, and to say she’s fully dedicated to wiping out Rey and her friends would be an understatement.
How did you get all of that from the 5 minutes Phasma appears on screen?
She wears the same full suit of shiny armour as she did in The Force Awakens, meaning that, once again, nothing about her character is sexualised (a refreshing change in how female villains are often depicted in Hollywood that we at Villainesse have raged about before).
What is there to sexualize?
And that’s not all. At one point (minor spoiler!), she gets into a fight with John Boyega’s Finn, and in the course of their mano a mano showdown we get a glimpse of part of her face – a face the audience can very clearly tell is a woman’s.
How dare you sexualize her.
During the fight, it’s clear Phasma is a lot stronger physically (not to mention much bigger – the armoured Christie towers over Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran, the first Asian woman with a leading role in a Star Wars film, like Darth Vader did over his subordinates in the original Star Wars trilogy) and more skilled than Finn, forcing him to get creative and outwit Phasma if he’s to have any hope of defeating her; it’s a satisfying role reversal compared to what we see so often in Hollywood where a larger male character throws around or otherwise physically beats up smaller women.
What scenes do we see where larger male characters throw around or otherwise beat up smaller women? What movies specifically are you talking about here?
Well, what if she’s so more powerful than her fellow male characters because she’s been hanging out with the toxic masculinity of the First Order all this time?
That explains the plot’s deep stupidity.
Take, for example, the actions of Luke Skywalker. It would be a m-a-s-s-i-v-e spoiler to give away exactly what it is he does, but it’s one of the most obviously feminist moments not just of the film, but in all of Star Wars; you’ll know it when you see it. Fair warning though: I bawled my eyes out in the theatre like no movie I’ve ever seen before. That’s all I’ll say.
Are you talking about the alien nipple milking sequence?
It’s also important to talk about the lack of sexualisation in the film. Not once are any of the many female characters shown in a state of undress. Not once is there a lingering shot of breasts or derrieres. Male characters do not comment on the attractiveness of female characters. And in the only kiss we see in the entire movie, it’s a woman who initiates it – and ends it. It’s light-years ahead of how sexualised women were in previous Star Wars movies, be it Carrie Fisher’s infamous metal bikini in Return of the Jedi or Natalie Portman’s many pointlessly midriff-bearing outfits in Attack of the Clones.
So like just about every other feminist on the planet, you’re basing your opinions on Star Wars Burlesque, and cosplayers at Star Wars conventions rather than the actual movies, which you’ve likely never watched.
If you had watched them, then you’d know that Carrie Fisher’s infamous metal bikini was a reflection of the gangster Jabba the Hutt who forced her to wear it while he had her in captivity.
Amidala’s bare midriff was a popular female fashion of the time. See Britney Spears.
And it’s worth mentioning how the women in the film do the things they do – and, more importantly, how they shatter misogynist stereotypes. One of the best examples is Rey and her self-confidence and willingness to stand up for herself. “Kylo failed you. I won’t,” she tells Luke Skywalker at one point when arguing why he needs to take her on as his Jedi apprentice after his last pupil (Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver) turned evil and joined the First Order. The implication is simple: a man failed, but she – a woman – will do better. Not “might not fail” or “I’ll try not to fail” – but won’t fail. No passiveness, or softening her words to appear less threatening, at all. Later on, when a character refuses to lend a helping hand in the fight against the First Order, Rey basically says “fine,” and goes off to save the galaxy by herself. Oh, and (potential spoiler!) she saves everyone at one point in the film with her Jedi powers after her arrival turns the tide in a climactic battle.
This doesn’t shatter any purely imaginary misogyny. Rather it shatters basic suspension of disbelief. It was moronic to watch this young girl lecture Luke about what he’s done and why he did it as though she were there, or had lived long enough to gain any real wisdom. It was eye-rolling stuff.
But so many people keep telling me that citing feminism in The Last Jedi amounts to nothing more than a conspiracy theory.
Partially because Star Wars is huge, and an awful lot of young people see it. By showing audiences that women can be just as capable as men, that they’re not sex objects, that women can even be strong and wise leaders, and that toxic masculinity is bad, audiences are influenced by that.
Hence the backlash. There were no wise leaders here. All the lessons were moronic. Star Wars has always shown that women can be just as capable as men from the very beginning. There’s nothing new here in that regard. You would know that if you didn’t let the past just die.
She was talking about something else, but there’s a line from Rey that describes the feminism in The Last Jedi – and its wider implications – perfectly: “Something inside me has always been there, but now it’s awake.”
Go ahead and clutch those pearls, men who may also be half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herders (to quote Leia) – thanks to Star Wars, diversity in films is bound to increase. And the entire galaxy… er, world… is better for it.
But, Star Wars has always been diverse. What are you smoking?
But it may be futile.