On Star Wars

Stop Her, She's Got a Gun!

How the Rebel Princess and the Virgin Queen Became Marginalized and Powerless in George Lucas's Fairy Tale
By Jeanne Cavelos

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  …

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