The Rise of Skywalker will be doing double duty as a franchise wrap up. Not only will it be closing the door on the Skywalker saga, but it should also be attempting to set up elements that will keep fans interested in the series in the future, both in terms of mythology and in brand building.
Since Finn’s head popped up in the trailer for The Force Awakens, the series has been working to be more inclusive in terms of having multiple important characters of color and more roles for women without hyper-sexualization (sans Emilia Clarke, whose only note was to be a femme fatale). Some of the new women that’ll be joining the series will be continuing that legacy.
One of the new additions to the series is Naomi Ackie as Jannah, the leader of a warrior tribe on the moon Kef Bir, where the remains of the Death Star destroyed at the end of Return Of The Jedi crashed. We got some more hints in an interview with Empire magazine about what her role will be in linking up two parts of the series:
“Jannah’s story links her up with the characters in a really interesting way,” Ackie teases to Empire in the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker issue. “She has her own backstory, which makes her very invested in the fight. She has this fierce warrior nature, but a soft centre. There’s a part of her that is seeking connection with people, trying to build a family.”
I’m really interested in Jannah and also hoping that she is not related to Finn, because that would be … so cliché. It’s great that we’re going to see a dark-skinned Black woman playing a major in Star Wars. Afros in space! While the “warrior race” cliché is overdone when it comes to fictional POC or POC coded races (Klingons), the representation does seem promising, and I’m looking forward to seeing Jannah.
But we can’t forget the brunette representation, with Keri Russel playing Zorii Bliss, a Spice Runner from the ice planet Kijimi. She’s morally ambiguous:
“There was this female character when J.J. was young – I think it was in Speed Racer or something,” Russell tells Empire. “She rode a motorbike and had this helmet. He goes, ‘I could never see her face and I was always obsessed with what she looked like.’ That was the genesis of this character, because he always wanted to know who she was.”
Despite the pushback against more diversity in Star Wars by a loud minority, it’s clear that the team at Lucasfilm does not want to give in to that sort of mentality and is pushing forward with adding more interesting and dynamic female characters to the canon.
Now, that means nothing unless the writing and stories for them are as good as their male and white counterparts. As the Rose/Finn adventure showed, it’s great that you want to have plots solely to explore those characters, but if you don’t link it up with the main storyline, it just makes those characters feel like add-ons rather than carefully constructed and cared for characters.
(via Empire, image: Lucasfilm)
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