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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jedi is the most feminist star wars movie yet episode viii proves that women run the galaxy

For nearly 40 years Carrie Fisher's smart, resourceful Princess Leia was the only significant female character in the Star Wars galaxy. George Lucas's original trilogy is many things — wildly imaginative, wonderfully expansive, and endlessly entertaining — but female-driven it is not.

In fact, a revealing supercut from Vulture examined all of the non-Leia speaking parts for women in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi and found that there are only three female characters who have any dialogue: Aunt Beru on Tatooine, former senator and Rebel Alliance leader Mon Mothma, and an unnamed Rebel controller at the Hoth base.

While that doesn't take away from Leia's importance as a Rebel hero and pop culture icon — after all, she was a blaster-firing princess who could save herself long before it was popular — it does make Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi all the more monumental to the canon.

In the days since the anticipated film's release, a lot has been said about Johnson's bold, exciting new entry in the Star Wars franchise. Episode VIII dismantled fan theories, reshaped old mythology, and angered some fans in the process, with A.V. Club's William Hughes calling it the "most political (and populist) Star Wars film ever committed to the screen." But the single-most radical thing about The Last Jedi isn't its story or genre subversions — it's its overt feminism.

The film opens with a blazing act of heroism from Resistance gunner Paige Tico (played by Vietnamese actress Veronica Ngo), who in her final moments took out a First Order Dreadnought with quiet determination. Her gut-wrenching sacrifice weighs heavy on the film and its characters, especially for her little sister Rose (Kelly Marie Tran).

Rose is a delightful addition to the Star Wars universe, a character whose Rebel spirit is unbreakable, as evidenced by the way she stunned would-be deserters on the Raddus mere hours after her sister's death. Not to mention, it was her idea to sneak onto The Supremacy to temporarily turn off the First Order's hyperspace tracking device (and no amount of mansplaining from Finn can take that away).

Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) is a woman put into a position of power following General Leia's near-death on the bridge. Poe Dameron's (Oscar Isaac) immediate mistrust of Holdo's authority has as much to do with her feminine appearance — her amethyst hair, matching dress robes, and ornate space jewelry (at Fisher's request), in particular — as it does his hotshot, male ego. The way he refers to Holdo as "not what I expected" is extremely telling, especially as he proceeds to undermine her at every turn despite her experience and capabilities.

The Last Jedi also gave Billie Lourd's Resistance officer, Kaydel Ko Connix, a more active role, in addition to introducing Amanda Lawrence's steadfast Commander D'Acy, a character who comes off as very even-keeled when compared to her male counterpart Poe. Countless other female Resistance members are also seen piloting X-wings and taking down TIE fighters. Of course the women of the Resistance wouldn't be complete without Rey (Daisy Ridley), a Star Wars heroine and Jedi in the making.

Daisy Ridley as Rey in The Last Jedi.
J.J. Abrams's Star Wars: The Force Awakens established that there was more to Rey, a scrappy young scavenger from Jakku, than meets the eye. She's incredibly powerful, though her relationship with the Force is dangerously unbalanced. The Last Jedi sends her off on her very own hero's journey to Ahch-To, a remote planet where a world-weary Luke Skywalker has been living in self-imposed exile. (On an island maintained by a community of hard-working female creatures called Caretakers, no less.) Leia and Rey believe Luke to be their last great hope against the First Order, but little do they know that it's not Luke who's the "spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down" — it's them.


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