The preposterously titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story launched a teaser trailer yesterday, and it’s raised soft-spoken concerns about the future of the beloved franchise.
We have a pattern now: two women leads in Star Wars films, both physical, clearly action heroes. Given that this is the new age of the series, post-Lucas, with an annual release schedule to rival the tiring Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans’ level of scrutiny is matched only by their occasional claims of exhausted disconnection.
It’s a difficult claim to back, but sexists have proven themselves scrappers when it comes to standing ground in the face of logic and rationality and humanity. See, the ‘pattern’ here is only two-strong. In the seven previous Star Wars feature films (including The Clone Wars), the pattern was seven-strong.
But perhaps this new pattern, while comparatively young, could persist far into the future. This fear is embodied by the joke that maybe the Han Solo movie will have a female lead. If so, a term like ‘genocide’ will be co-opted, and the convolution of identification politics will enter into the fray.
Is this about something else? Although the answer is simple, there are additional anxieties powering the primary misogyny here. This new era is a radical departure from Star Wars. The prequel trilogy was a paradigm shift into cartoons (literalized in its late-game), where each character was essentially an emotionless god, a far cry from the charming rogue and the nagging Princess. But what remained consistent with Episodes I-III was science-fiction invention.
At the core of Star Wars is imagination. In premise, it’s based on the old scifi serials where anything could happen, and there had to be something new and fun around every cardboard corner. For example, trench runs, cloud cities, droid armies, pod racing, laser sword duels, death stars, and giant robot walkers.
Seeing that extraordinary shot in the Rogue One teaser where the rebels charge at the AT-ATs was at once exciting and heart-breaking. The AT-ATs represented that invention, contributing to the feeling that in this escapist space fantasy, anything was possible. The Force Awakens was just a remix of old elements, in essence a remake of Star Wars with improvements coming in at character development. By the reprisal of the robots, it seems this approach continues. The new era favors the film half of the scifi film equation. That’s fine – The Force Awakens was a good film. As a work of science-fiction…?
This is grounds for disenfranchisement. But such a psychological space is in turn grounds for confusion. There’s something almost magical about Max Landis lamenting people’s insta-conclusions about this new heroine being a Mary Sue (heretofore a synonym for ‘heroine’), because it underscores the original claim as baseless and irrational. Landis might’ve gone all out to separate his claim from theirs, hitting caps lock, but either side is having difficulty making the distinction.
Rey is a Mary Sue? Let’s calculate this. If Rey is a Mary Sue, it’s because she’s all-powerful (a Jedi). In that case, Luke and Anakin and Obi-Wan must also be Mary Sues. So that’s not the case. It’s about the journey, that hers is truncated, and she undergoes Luke’s journey in half the time. Though she matches Neo’s clear time.
I think it’s just that Kylo Ren sucked. Yeah, Adam Driver seems like an awesome dude, but let’s not forget that he… was a legitimate disappointment about that movie. “He was more complex than Vader,” sure, but complexity that manifests as – come on, he was basically Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending.
Rey’s hero journey is dismissed as PC pandering. The Rogue One teaser is proof of this conspiracy. Look, I don’t take joy in the knowledge that a subset of Star Wars fans are no longer able to enjoy what was once so dearly held. Some people are too quick to say ‘fuck ‘em lol,’ but I’d rather these sexist humanoids see the world in such a way that other people count too, at which point The Force Awakens isn’t some opening salvo, but an entertaining work of entertainment. Granted, a deeper part of me would rather these people be castrated and skinned, but that’s what separates the media critics from the sociopaths. I’m not smiling as I write this, there’s no masturbatory pride in this edgy take.
Rogue One is not invading a sacred space, it’s catching up after a hundred years of monolithic cinema. It gives me hope when sexist moviegoers read accusatory criticism of men into claims that representation of women in film should be stronger – it’s such a kneejerk, so emotionally reactionary, it won’t hold up.
To instead engage intellectually with blockbuster films… tell me that won’t be our new hope. If so, maybe this won’t be so easy after all.
I feel you, man.