Women around the world are shouting “Hallelujah!” because, for the second time in a row, Star Wars will feature a female lead. However, not everyone is excited about the franchise’s latest heroine.
Last week’s the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story released, and it featured Jyn Erso as the lead character. The embittered misogynists gave ecstatic fans plenty of material to roll our eyes at as articles, tweets and comments almost immediately appeared deriding the character as a “Mary Sue.”
“Mary Sue” refers to a female character who is seemingly perfect and saves the day through such unrealistic abilities to the point where she becomes annoying. This character is often one-dimensional, so this phrase is used as an insult.
The film hasn’t come out yet, so this accusation regarding Jyn Erso is particularly frustrating. Fans have only seen less than two minutes of a teaser trailer, yet some viewers have the audacity to assume, because she’s a woman, she’s going to be dull and uninteresting.
Despite having an ironically similar reaction to the female lead, Rey, in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, misogynistic fans don’t seem to have learned from their mistakes. Rey turned out to be brave, powerful and funny while leading a narrative that made audience members yearn for more.
Rogue One will take place between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The film will chronicle a band of resistance fighters as they unite to steal the Death Star plans. Clearly, Jyn is extremely vital in the narrative, which goes on to affect the series’ most famous characters.
Unhappy fans conveniently fail to understand that strong female characters are vital for the empowerment of women and girls. All too often female characters are dependent on a male protagonist. Women are frequently stuck portraying wives or mothers. Of the highest grossing films in 2014, female protagonists only accounted for 12 percent. Smaller roles do not fare much better, as women encompass merely 30 percent of all speaking parts.
Such poor accessibility to female role models for young girls makes the few available all the more vital. Last year’s The Force Awakens gave us Rey, the empowering fighter and pilot we deserve.
“The character of Rey is a game changer for the little girls around the world who have been disgracefully ignored by the Star Wars empire for decades,” said broadcaster Patricia Karvelas. “The dialogue between her and Han Solo finally provides the feminist punch-the-air moment we’ve all been desperately waiting for.”
This isn’t to say that previous female characters are bad. Leia Organa and Padmé Amidala are great, but their stories heavily involve men and romance. The two women, frankly, lacked the authority many viewers wanted.
Rey, on the other hand, delivers a nice vacation from the constant yank of the over-played, straight relationships Hollywood loves to shove in audiences’ faces. She takes initiative, saves the people around her and builds friendships on her own terms. When Rey gets kidnapped she uses her own strengths to free herself. She doesn’t need her male friends to rescue her because she is never the damsel in distress.
Movies reflect real life. Even franchises that take place “in a galaxy far, far away” reflect our culture and the way we view women. If children only see vulnerable, weak women they will grow up believing those monikers epitomize womanhood.
Through Rey’s influence, the female audience members gain a sense of girl power unprecedented in any previous Star Wars film. Disney stores are filled with Rey costumes, and this Halloween will most certainly be filled with precious little Jakku scavengers.
Jyn will undoubtedly have a similar influence as the two-minute trailer has already made an impact. The first six Star Wars films had male leads—I think men can survive women taking over a few.