The Last Jedi‘s “Off-Kilter” Admiral Holdo Will Fight Both the First Order and Stereotypes About Female Leadership
We’re finally hearing some more details about Laura Dern’s Last Jedi character, the purple-haired Admiral Amilyn Holdo. She’ll reportedly butt heads with Poe Dameron as she takes the helm of a fractured Resistance and comes up against the expectation for female bosses. With a “pleasant but weird” personality that’s drawn comparisons to Luna Lovegood, Holdo will offer a quirkier, less red-blooded version of leadership that women aren’t often allowed to present.
Some of the hints about Holdo’s personality comes from the extended universe novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan, where a young Holdo appears alongside Leia. The author, Claudia Gray, spoke about her characterization in a StarWars.com interview back in September. “Some people have compared her to Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter,” she said, “which is both kind of true and kind of awesome. (I love Luna.) She’s somebody who’s a bit off-kilter, who sees the world through a prism most others don’t understand. At first Leia thinks she’s pleasant but weird, but as time goes on, it becomes apparent that there’s much more to Holdo than you might guess when you first met her. We don’t really have a lot of true oddballs in Star Wars, so it was fun to introduce one!”
However loveable Leia might find her “oddball” friend, it sounds like the adult Holdo of The Last Jedi will struggle in her new role as the leader of the Resistance. Not only is she a bit off-kilter, she also lacks “Leia’s everyman (or everywoman) touch,” and that puts her and Poe Dameron at odds. For example, where Leia is dressed (in Carrie Fisher’s words) “like a fancy gas station attendant,” Holdo walks through the base in a regal gown.
“A lot of the friction and conflict comes between Poe and that relationship with Admiral Holdo,” said Oscar Isaac. “She doesn’t particularly look like your typical military leader, and so I think there’s a bit of distrust for Poe. He’s not sure what to make of her, and then the way she speaks, the things she says.”
Laura Dern said this part of Holdo’s storyline deals with “stereotypes about women bosses,” and how sexism affects female leaders who don’t fit a particular mold. “Like, if she looks a certain way,” Dern said to Entertainment Weekly, “she can’t achieve the job, or she must be brazen. You know, all the different versions of what we label someone. I mean, there are reasons why I might look the way I look.”
Poe and Holdo’s friction is also tactical. Whereas Holdo is more a strategist and a diplomat, Poe often wants to charge in and do the “heroic” thing. “[He] doesn’t want to just wait and let things happen,” Isaac explained. “He doesn’t necessarily agree with the way Holdo sees the role of the Resistance in this particular moment.”
Honestly, I love the idea of a woman getting to be a powerful leader who’s a bit of a weirdo. The biographies of difficult or unconventional men practically revel in the details of their oddity or coldness, as if that’s somehow proof of genius, and Lord knows we still get plenty of puff pieces about the “charming” quirks of tech bros and plenty of anti-hero shows about wannabe Sherlocks. I mean, Peter Thiel literally wants to inject himself with young people’s blood in order to live longer, and he still gets to be treated as a serious and consequential thought leader. That would just never fly with a woman CEO. She’d be called a vain, youth-obsessed “crackpot” and dismissed.
So it’d be awesome to see a woman who has to balance the pressure of expectation against her own unconventional leadership style, and to get an odd, off-putting, but still competent female boss on-screen. (Though, like, no injecting yourself with young blood.) Holdo could turn out to be some secret agent of the First Order, but I’m tentatively excited to see a strange, sharp picture of female leadership. With the loss of our General, Carrie Fisher, I hope we get to see a compelling arc for the Admiral.
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