Thursday, March 13, 2014

Another Open Letter to the Makers of the New Star Wars Films

Once again, to the Powers That Be at Disney,

    About a year ago, I wrote a letter to you folks, and I never heard back.  Since you’re a large corporation, I’m just a guy who writes for a blog you almost certainly have never heard of, and I posted it here as opposed to sending it directly to you, your silence is understandable.  However, more stirrings about the new films, and some general thinking about the state of science fiction and Dork culture has prompted me to try again.  No, I won’t be going on at length about how you should return Star Wars to its roots of pulp science fiction and movie serial fun (though that is a good idea).  This time, I want to address female trouble.

    An article I read a while back got me to thinking about Princess Leia and her place in the original trilogy.  Obviously, she was cute, she was a princess, and she needed to be rescued.  Oh, wait.  She was cute and she was a princess.  But her rescue was secondary (almost accidental), and frankly, once they opened her cell door, she was the one who got everyone out of danger.  In fact, if you look at the series, and look at what she does, she’s kind of the most badass person in the whole thing, and the major driving force behind the toppling of the Empire.  Luke was just a brash kid with some magic tricks.  Han, a bumbling con-man.  Leia was the brains and balls behind the fight.  She’s actually the hero of the trilogy.  Yes, Luke goes through the classic ‘Hero’s Journey.’  But Leia was already there, several steps ahead.  She stood face to face with Vader and Tarkin and didn’t blink.  She was tortured and didn’t break.  She was a leader of the Rebellion.  She sacrificed everything for the cause, and put her life on the line countless times.  Heck, when her rescue of Han didn’t go off quite right and she ended up in that teeny-tiny brass-bikini, she took a chain, strangled a galactic crime boss and then hopped on a blaster turret and started lighting up the place.  Nobody came and got her.  She did that.  She killed Jabba the Hutt with a chain!  And then blew a bunch of stuff up!  Han's stumbling around blind and Luke is doing back flips, while Leia is making it rain (by rain I mean parts of ships and goons).

If I were in her shoes, it'd be brown trousers time.

    So, what I’m getting at is this: in your search for a new star, a hero for a new generation of Star Wars fans, don’t be stupid.  Don’t be DC Comics.  Don’t ignore half the population.  I’m not saying cast a woman to play the central character.  Heck, I’m not saying you should only have one central character.  But I am saying, don’t not cast a woman as the lead (double negative is intentional).  There are many wonderful young actresses out there today, and there are many, many young women who I’m sure would love to see them performing heroics on screen.  And you know what?  There are a lot of young men who would love that, too.  The idea that boys don’t want to see girl heroes is stupid.  Straight up stupid.  Even going back to my childhood, I looked up to Wilma on Buck Rogers, to Wonder Woman, to Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and later to Chris (Elisabeth Shoe) in Adventures in Babysitting.  But I didn’t look up to Princess Leia, because (though on reflection, she’s a darned powerful character) when I saw Star Wars as a child, she was little more than set-dressing, a pretty object to achieve.  And that’s not what we should be giving our kids.  I’m not advocating the now cliché Joss Whedon-style ‘Waif Who Turns Out to be a Super-Ninja’ characters.  (Frankly, if Milla Jovovich isn’t playing that part, I’m probably not buying it).  But compelling and heroic characters for our excellent actresses to play shouldn’t be too much to ask.

    Might I recommend looking into Lupita Nyong’o, Saoirse Ronan (I've heard rumor she has read for a part), or Olivia Thirlby, among so many.  All fine, up and comers.  All capable of doing more than looking pretty.  And why limit yourself to one?  How about two or three or (gasp!) four compelling female characters.  The Clone Wars animated series featured several women as heroes and villains.  No reason not to do that in the movies, right?  Write good parts, cast well, and we can all be happy.  You’ve got a lot of brand loyalty.  You’ve got a massive fan base, and no small number of those fans are women.  You have the ability to push Star Wars into a better place, to make it more than it has been before.  Please don’t make this into another exercise in pandering to your idea of the interests of 13 year old boys.  You have to know that’s not the only audience you’re working with.  Right?  Look at the success you’ve had with the Marvel movies.  Learn from that.  Be better.  Make me love you again.  I want to.  I really do.  So help me out.  Be better.

Thanks for your time.
-Matthew Constantine, Star Wars fan since the late 70s

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