Jeanne Cavelos on Gender in "Star Wars"

SF writer and astrophysicist Jeanne Cavelos writes:

"Against a background of stars and X-wing fighters, Luke holds his
lightsaber aloft while Leia crouches below him, brandishing a gun: two
tough heroes ready to fight the evil Empire. In my love of Star Wars, I
spent endless hours longing for 'a galaxy far, far away,' replaying the
movie in my head, studying every detail of the poster on my wall. It seemed
to embody the excitement of the movie and its strong heroes, Luke and Leia.
But as the Star Wars saga unfolded, I became troubled. While George Lucas
brilliantly combined diverse ideas and influences to create something
startling and inspiring, one aspect of the movies didn't live up to the
rest. I began to notice something new about the poster on my wall. Luke
above, superior; Leia below, inferior. It seemed to reflect the treatment
of the characters in the movies. The problem is not that the women are
supporting characters, though they are. Even a supporting character can be
striking and compelling. Han Solo is such a powerful, heroic figure, he
nearly eclipses Luke. But the women in Star Wars are not the memorable
figures they could be. Compared to their male counterparts, they are
inconsistent and underdeveloped. There is a clear lack of focus on these
characters on the part of George Lucas and the other writers, a tendency to
sacrifice the female characters to make the males look better, and a decided
inclination to reduce initially powerful women to inaction and irrelevance.
Leia and Amidala, as the two most prominent female figures in the films,
exemplify these weaknesses."

- "Stop Her, She's Got a Gun! How the Rebel Princess and the Virgin Queen
Became Marginalized and Powerless in George Lucas' Fairy Tale"
essay in STAR WARS ON TRIAL edited by David Brin and Matthew Woodring Stover
BenBella Books--FORTHCOMING June 2006
US $17.95/Canada $24.95
ISBN 1-932100-89-X

Jeanne Cavelos is the author of (inter alia) the Techno-Mage books, based on the Babylon 5 TV series. These are among my favorite works of recent science fiction: dramatically and morally complex, and very disturbing, but ultimately hopeful. I'll be looking forward to reading Cavelos' essay in the book when it comes out.
  • Jeanne Cavelos homepage

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