HOTPRESS – The women of Star Wars: The Force Awakens tell Roe McDermott why J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi instalment is a cultural game-changer in its portrayal of strong, complex women
You may have heard of this little film the came to cinemas this Christmas. Just a quiet, subdued indie drama… Oh, who are we kidding. JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an epic space opera that is set to not only add to the iconic Star Wars franchise, but reignite it for a new generation. Set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the Rebel Alliance and the Empire have become Resistance and the First Order, respectively. The film sees Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reprise their roles as Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia – but the cast is also brimming with the best and brightest of Hollywood’s new stars. Featuring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, Girls star Adam Driver, Inside Llewyn Davis’ Oscar Isaac and our own Domhnall Gleeson, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is dragging the franchise into the 21st century at light speed.
With this update comes new societal rules, and in a meta exploration of gender equality, Star Wars: The Force Awakens not only addresses the progress made in the Star Wars universe, but in the film industry. The upcoming instalment is thus filled with interesting, multi-faceted female characters – and it’s about time.
Princess Leia Organa, Star Wars’ leading lady, is one of sci-fi’s most adored heroines; a smart, fearless and capable leader whose strength is fuelled by her unwavering sense of moral and political conviction and personal empowerment.
A cinematic favourite turned feminist hero, Leia’s defiant warrior spirit and unapologetic femininity made her a cultural icon. And yes, the image of a kidnapped Leia in a gold metal bikini may have made an entire generation of young men sweaty and lightheaded with feverish desire, but this was not a woman who was just a sexualised slave – here was someone who used the chains that enslaved her as instruments of power, using them to destroy her captor.
However, Leia sadly proves to be an anomaly in the original Star Wars franchise, where women are seldom seen and almost never heard. In the beloved trinity of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, the only other female characters allowed to speak are Aunt Beru, Mon Mothma, and an unnamed Rebel functionary at the Hoth base. And the combined running time of these lines uttered by women? An almost unbelievably pitiful 63 seconds. To clarify, the total series runtime is 23,160 seconds. It seems that even in a galaxy far, far away, sexism still reigns supreme.
Until now, that is. In J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the director has infused the film with his trademark appreciation for strong female characters. Though now known for lens-flare fuelled action movies, Abrams got his start with the female-led teen drama Felicity, and thanks to characters like Lost’s Kate Austen, Alias’ Sydney Bristow and Fringe’s Olivia Dunham, Abrams’ career has been marked by his commitment to bringing fully-rounded and aspirational female characters to the screen. (We’re chalking the disappointing and objectifying portrayal of Alice Eve’s character in Star Trek Into Darkness as an uncharacteristic slip on an otherwise impressive resume).
Continue reading “An Interview With The Women of Star Wars: Daisy Ridley and Gwendoline Christie Talk!”