When I was just a kid, we had all three Star Wars movies on video. (So that is episodes 4, 5 and 6.) Yes, video. Apparently, I’m old.
Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi.
I watched the original three movies incessantly because they had everything a kid could want: action, villians, lasers, robots, ewoks, aliens, heroes and a kick arse princess.
Princess Leia was awesome. Gentle and smart but also fierce and strong and a force to be reckoned with. I remember talking about the movies at school and saying that Han Solo was my favourite male character and Leia was my favourite female character. Years later, I realised that Leia was pretty much the only significant female character. In fact, a video has been made, combining all the lines spoken by female characters except Leia in the original trilogy. The three films combined total running time is 386 minutes. Female characters other than Leia speak for a grand total of 63 seconds. Not surprisingly, none of these films pass the Bechdel test.
The Bechdel Test?
Just a quick refresher on the Bechdel Test before we carry on:
The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones & Revenge of the Sith.
When the (numerically) first three films were made, years after the original installments, I watched them all. The first two installments do actually pass the Bechdel Test, which is a good starting point. Padme Amidala is a great female character- resourceful, strong, an elected queen at 14 years old and on a path she chose. She later sits on a council and she’s pretty handy with a blaster. The third installment kinda sucks for her character, though, and it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
I was pretty interested in the latest installment, directed by J. J. Abrahams. I had heard it passed the Bechdel test but I wanted to see if it could surpass that bare minimum for female inclusion and representation. And I wanted to know what had happened since the (numerically) last film, of course. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was SO GOOD. Just the right mixture of nostalgic references, new adventures, much loved characters and exciting new ones. Plus action, adventure and possibly a bit of budding romance. In no particular order and also with no major spoilers, here are some of the stand-out highlights for me:
What a great character she is! Portrayed by Daisy Ridley, she is plucky and whip smart; a scavenger with a mechanical knowledge and piloting skills to rival Solo himself. She is brave and tough as nails but longs to be reunited with her family. She proves herself to be a loyal friend as well as a survivor. There are some serious questions about Rey’s back story that have yet to be answered. It’s fair to say the film makers have ensured themselves an audience for the next film already because there is speculation all over the world about who she really is. Well played, Star Wars makers, well played.
Yep, there is a bromance. I don’t mean any explicit romantic liaisons between the two male characters I’m referring to, though that would have been awesome as well, but instead a genuine friendship and liking that seems to develop. Poe Dameron (Oliver Isaac) is the Resistance’s best pilot, captured while he was on a mission by the dark First Order, the bad guys comprised of black-clad leaders and the classic Storm Troopers. FN-2187 (John Boyega) is one of these troopers, conditioned to fight under the First Order since early childhood. Until the raid and subsequent capture of Poe, we learn that FN-2187 has never questioned his lot in life, but for some reason, something changes. The two strike up an unlikely friendship and their chemistry is immediately apparent, especially when Poe refuses to use the serial number name for his new buddy and instead dubs him Finn. Male friendship isn’t readily depicted like this in film, with affection as well as camaraderie. It’s refreshing to see. However, the internet is rife with speculation on the true feeling between these two and the possibility of Poe being the first openly gay character in the Star Wars universe. Who knows?
Diversity in Casting.
Two major newcomers to the Star Wars universe are Rey and Finn; a woman and a British Nigerian man. Another important role, that of Poe Dameron, is played by Guatemalan-born Oliver Isaac. This is of great importance, because they represent the some of the most poorly represented groups in the American film industry. Some have criticised this as some sort of tactical, “politically correct” move on the part of the film makers. I don’t know if it is simply that we are moving on as a society or if it was a contrived effort- and I actually don’t care either way because the more it is seen, the more others will follow suit. That’s how things become normal.
Han Solo is played by Harrison Ford, age 73. Carrie Fisher, now aged 59, returns as Leia. And there are grey hairs and wrinkles and it is wonderful. It is real. It is natural and I wish there were more of it. Han is still a cheeky smuggler, flying by the seat of his pants and talking himself out of (and into) trouble. Leia is a composed, regal General in the army of the resistance. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for them as a couple, that much is evident. But Fisher and Ford manage to illustrate the depth of care and feeling the characters still have for one another, after all the intervening years. They both wear age beautifully. Not surprisingly, at the time of writing this, Carrie Fisher has hit backs at all the critics who are apparently unimpressed with how she is ageing.
Please stop debating about whetherOR not👁aged well.unfortunately it hurts all3 of my feelings.My BODY hasnt aged as well as I have.Blow us👌🏼
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) December 29, 2015
Harrison Ford is more than ten years older than she is and that is unremarked on, because men get older and their grey hair is “distinguished”, their crow’s feet are “laugh lines” and their facial wrinkles “add character”. Women wearing their age in the same way? Not okay. “Time has been unkind”, she has not “aged well”. Because time marks us all in the same way, but it looks worse on women. And aging is a skill; she has apparently done it wrong.
As a Star Wars fan, I think Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the goods. Also, the feminism is strong in this one. This may be the action movie you are looking for.
Okay, okay, I’ll stop. But go see it! Tell me what you think!