The Future of Women in Star Wars

If there’s one thing I love unabashedly above all else, it’s women in my sci-fi—specifically, women in Star Wars. My utter adoration of Rey Last-Name-Unknown is no secret, even though I know essentially nothing about her. She, like Captain Phasma, (or Padme, or Leia,) ticks every box: she’s a girl, she’s in Star Wars. Hey, I’m easy. Sometimes all some people want is a scrawny dude in black. Different strokes, folks.

This week has been Women of Star Wars appreciation week on Tumblr, which means that there’s even more positivity about the ladies on that blue site than usual. I don’t do gifs anymore, nor do I even spend much time on that timesink of a hellhole once I discovered the joys of productivity after escaping; that doesn’t mean I don’t want to participate somehow.

One of the prompts (the first one, which leaves me anything but prompt) is Don’t Look Back, which is a great one since I’d love to look forward to the women who will soon be gracing our screens, pages, and shelves in the years to come. The women of The Force Awakens, the woman of Rogue One (an apt name, considering there is only one woman so far), the ladies in the upcoming books Aftermath and Lost Stars, and even the ladies of the comics. Why not appreciate the women who will soon be leading our stories?

The Force Awakens is introducing quite a few new ladies (as well as bringing back my eternal love, Leia, who is probably no longer a princess.) Rey, Phasma and motion capture secret, Maz, are all characters we know of, but don’t yet know. There are a million theories on Rey’s surname, and I’m never one to speculate. Whether she’s a Skywalker, a Solo, or something else, she’s already set to be one hell of a lead. In both teasers and promo art she looks like she could seriously kick some ass.

I wouldn't mess with this girl. Photo: Lucasfilm
I wouldn’t mess with this girl. Photo: Lucasfilm.

Phasma, too, looks like she could deal some major damage. She’s got Gwendoline Christie’s height going for her, though probably not her adorable, dorky charm. After so many years it’s great to see a female stormtrooper, especially one with armour as cool as Phasma’s. Big female villains have been lacking in the films—though really, women in general have been lacking from the main saga.

As for Maz—well, so far we’ve only officially seen her hand in the second teaser, but could a character played by Lupita Nyong’o not be amazing? I doubt it.

If this doesn’t get your heart pumping I don’t know what will. Photo: Vanity Fair.

What I want to see is these characters become as well-rounded as any other main character in the saga. I want to see them as merchandise, I want a million tiny Reys to cover my desk. She seems to be The Hero of the new trilogy—or so i desperately hope—and there’s nothing I want more than to see her journey through the films, from young Jakku scavenger to potential galactic hero. Will she wield a lightsaber? Will she be a Jedi? Will she fall in love? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.

In a similar vein, Felicity Jones’ character from Rogue One is most likely the lady lead of her own film. To see more main women in lead roles is a great thing, and while we don’t know much, if anything, about Jones’ character she sure looks fantastic in the cast photo released at D23. I’m not saying I want to cosplay her already, but… I want to cosplay her already.

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I love the touch of the dirt under her fingernails. Photo: Lucasfilm.

The silver screen isn’t the only place we’re going to be meeting new characters over the next year and beyond. Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath and Claudia Grey’s Lost Stars will both feature main female characters Norra Wexley and Ciena Ree respectively.

Meanwhile, on the planet’s surface, former Rebel fighter Norra Wexley has returned to her native world — war weary, ready to reunite with her estranged son, and eager to build a new life in some distant place. But when Norra intercepts Wedge Antilles’s urgent distress call, she realizes her time as a freedom fighter is not yet over. What she doesn’t know is just how close the enemy is—or how decisive and dangerous her new mission will be.

– Official synopsis via StarWars.com.

Other than Shmi and Padmé, there haven’t been many mother characters with main roles throughout the canon. Lots of fatherly figures and daddy issues, though. I have utter faith in Wendig to creative Norra as a well-rounded character, who will take names while also being a mom. It’s no secret that I am seriously over the father as the main character in basically every creative work ever—I say that every movie you watch has a “I love you, Dad!” moment, and I’m never completely joking. Mothers are awesome, and they are amazingly strong. We should see more of them leading stories.

While not a mother, Rae Sloane will also feature in Aftermath. Rae was first introduced in John Jackson Miller’s, A New Dawn. When last we saw her she was just an Imperial captain, now she’s an admiral in control of her own Star Destroyer, the Vigilance. Just like Phasma she’s on the side of evil, which just goes to show that even if you’re a girl you can be anything you want. You can even be an admiral in the navy that destroyed a world.

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The coolest Imperial in my books. Source: Iledra’s Fanworks.

Rae, like the lead gal of Grey’s Lost Stars is a black woman. Star Wars, and science fiction in general, is generally pretty bad at featuring non-white characters (I mean, have you seen the main trio of the first two trilogies?) Slowly the tides are turning, and these women are leading the way into a more diverse and realistic galaxy far, far away.

If you want a sneak peek of Aftermath, there’s an excerpt up on the official site. You can see Rae being the powerful and intelligent women she is.

As for Ciena Ree, Lost Stars is the book I am the most excited for come Force Friday. Sure, Aftermath is probably going to blow our collective minds, but I adore young adult fiction, and I’m a sucker for star-crossed lovers (as long as there are no love triangles!)

The reign of the Galactic Empire has reached the Outer Rim planet of Jelucan, where aristocratic Thane Kyrell and rural villager Ciena Ree bond over their love of flying. Enrolling at the Imperial Academy together to become fighter pilots for the glorious Empire is nothing less than a dream come true for the both of them. But Thane sours on the dream when he sees firsthand the horrific tactics the Empire uses to maintain its ironclad rule.

Bitter and disillusioned, Thane joins the fledgling Rebellion — putting Ciena in an unbearable position to choose between her loyalty to the Empire and her love for the man she’s known since childhood.

Now on opposite sides of the war, will these friends turned foes find a way to be together, or will duty tear them — and the galaxy — apart?

– Official synopsis via StarWars.com.

Ciena’s already shaping up to be an interesting character given her love of flying and her loyalty to the Empire. I’m hoping we get to see why she loves the Empire so much, and what could tie her to it despite her love for Thane. Why does Ciena stay while Thane leaves? Perhaps we’ll see a more sympathetic side of the Empire through her eyes, or we’ll understand why good people do such evil things in the call of duty.

Photo: Broadway.
Claudia Grey mentally casts Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ciena, according to her Pinterest. Photo: Broadway.

As for comics, we’ve recently been introduced to Evaan Verlaine (potential Queen of the Alderaanians), Sana Solo (potential wife of Han Solo), and Aphra (definite pain in Vader’s butt). There’s also that Old Republic-looking twin, whose name I assume is Aiolin, and her fellow cyborg teammate, Tulon, from the Darth Vader comics. I very much want to cosplay Aiolin, so watch this space.

But we’re getting even more! The four-issue series that picks up right after the Battle of Endor, Shattered Empire‘s protagonist is Shara Bey with her husband, Kes Bey.

“When you’re young and you see Jedi,” series writer Greg Rucka tells StarWars.com, “you can look at the happy ending and go, ‘Hey, it’s over!’ But you get older and you start to think about it, and you realize, no it’s not. It’s not over at all.” That’s the basis of Shattered Empire, which follows new characters Kes and main protagonist Shara Bey — husband and wife Rebels — as the struggle for freedom continues.

“Shara flies, Kes is a ground-pounder, and a very experienced one,” says Rucka. “So, they have spent more time apart than together, and they’re in the Outer Rim world where the Imperial presence is felt, and they’re hoping that they can bring an end to this. But they’re both very tired veterans, and they come out of [the Battle of] Endor with the elation that we see in [Return of theJedi]. ‘We’ve won. It’s over.’ — only to discover that, no it’s not. The Empire was huge.”

– Greg Rucka via StarWars.com.

Protagonist! That is a such a good word, and it’s my favourite word when applied to ladies. I love the veteran type characters in science fiction, so I have no doubt Shara will be a character I enjoy.

The Chewbacca miniseries will also feature a new character, though her name is so far unknown. Apparently she’s “fiesty,” which, like sassy, is a word I’m mostly over. Still, I’m not letting anything get me down, not with all these characters to get excited about.

“Chewbacca is on his own when he crash lands his ship on an Imperial occupied planet,” Marvel explained. “Now stranded, Chewie finds himself caught in the middle of trying to return to the rebellion and helping a young and feisty girl in need.”

– Marvel via IGN.

Look at all those ladies we have to look forward to! They’re from so many different backgrounds with so many different motivations, and each and every one of them has the potential to be something amazing. Every single one of these girls has a unique story to tell, and I can’t wait to hear them all. Call me over-enthusiastic, but this is what I want from my Star Wars experience.

I’ll always adore all the women that came before, but I have no doubt I will also love all the women—good, evil, and in-between—who are yet to come. Look to the future, for it is glorious.

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