It’s OK to Criticize the Original Star Wars Trilogy’s Female Representation (Or Lack Thereof)
Poor Aunt Beru.
Here’s a supercut of all the lines spoken by a female character other than Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. Spoiler alert: It’s really, really short.
Aside from Leia, the only female characters with dialogue in the original trilogy are Aunt Beru, Rebel Alliance chief communications officer Toryn Farr, and Mon Mothma; in total, the speaking time of women other than Leia in the first three films amounts to just sixty-three seconds. A large portion of that run time is taken up by Aunt Beru, in the galaxy’s most thankless role, talking exclusively about Luke in the few scenes before she gets unceremoniously fridged (or Fett’d, as the case may be).
Although the video doesn’t editorialize at all about its findings, it still comes across as critical of the original trilogy’s depiction of women. Because of that, many of the comments I’ve seen in response argue that it’s “too late” for anyone to take issue with representation in the first three films, but here’s the thing: there’s no statute of limitations on pointing out sexism, especially for media that’s still iconic and influential.
It’s obviously not new information that the original trilogy didn’t pass the Bechdel Test, didn’t offer a lot in the way of female characters, or that the creators even went out of their way to downplay tangential female representation by dubbing over the voices of female fighter pilots with male actors, but “newness” is besides the point. Despite bringing us an awesome role model like Leia, the first three Star Wars films were overall not great in terms of representing women and people of color, and it’s okay to wish that movies that have become so definitive were also a little more diverse.
Obviously, The Force Awakens seems like it will offer far more thoughtful representation than previous installments in the franchise, but that doesn’t negate the value of pointing out the extent to which we have historically accepted white male characters as default—especially since The Force Awakens is still the exception in Hollywood, rather than the rule. For more evidence that straight white men are still seen as objective representation, head over to Every Single Word, a Tumblr created by Welcome to Night Vale‘s Dylan Marron to showcase the speaking lines of people of color in mainstream movies.
So no, it’s not blasphemy to say that Leia alone can’t excuse the original trilogy’s dude saturation—not when women are still so often excluded in media. I’m beyond excited for Force Awakens‘ ladies, but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to look back and resent that even one of the world’s most celebrated trilogies couldn’t see outside society’s defaults.
—Please make note of The Mary Sue’s general comment policy.—
Have a tip we should know? email@example.com