OP-ED: Disney’s Star Wars Doesn’t Understand Strong Female Characters

Hoo boy. I know this topic is getting tagged with “Controversial” without even having finished it. Crud, it’s controversial just from the title. Discuss anything to do with female characters, strong or otherwise, and you’re painting a gigantic target on yourself.

Which is why I’d like to point out, for those sharpening their pitchforks before they were even finished reading the title, that I’ve had some experience with strong female characters of a wide variety. Yeah, it sucks that I have to lead with a disclaimer, but people are just that trigger happy these days. But I’ve written some very well-received female protagonists who are strong and capable, whether they be Meelo Karn, the Imperial Inquisitor of Shadow of an Empire, with her quick, deductive mind and talent for investigation, or Samantha, a young journalist determined to be the first to interview her city’s elusive superhero.

Crud, I’ve written Being a Better Writer articles on here before about gender in stories, and in those admitted that I have a fun habit of flipping a coin for secondary characters just to keep things fresh and fun. I don’t have a problem with strong female characters. The world needs strong women and strong men. Neither should be excluded.

Which, in a way, is where Disney is getting things wrong. And with that, we get to the point.

Disney’s Star Wars, as well as the company itself, has come under fire as of late. Once maligned for being a house proposing (generally) only a singular type of female character, Disney has in recent years worked to round themselves out, giving us characters like Moana or Rapunzel that are more varied than their female protagonists of the past.

Unfortunately, some aspects of Disney have shown they don’t quite understand what this approach entails, and have simply flipped everything as far the other direction as they can manage. The result is, well … bad. And I don’t just mean cringeworthy, but flat-out showing that the folks making the decisions don’t understand A) What a strong female character is and B) How to make one.

Still puzzled as to what could have made me write this post? No, it wasn’t The Last Jedi, though that movie falls into many pitfalls that are only expanded on what you’re about to see. And yes, I do understand that this now means there needs to be a BaBW post on strong female characters. It’s now on the list.

But that’s for a Monday in the future. For the here and now, I want to talk about Disney’s new Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures.

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Op-Ed – Giving Star Wars: The Last Jedi a Second Chance

So about two weeks ago I wrote a post concerning some of The Last Jedi‘s flaws and how they could have been fixed.

Suffice it to say that some disagreed with my view on things. One reader, in particular, made a long, lengthy, passionate comment about how I was incorrect, and how they felt I needed to go back and give things a second look.

So you know what? I did. And I went all in.

First, I sat down and watched The Empire Strikes back. Oft regarded as the series’ best film, ESB is usually the golden standard of “Hey, this is a great Star Wars flick.” To the degree that the director of TLJ has stated many times that TLJ was to be compared to ESB, both in tone and in what it did for the series. Many have made the case that if one wanted to criticize TLJ, they needed to do so through the lens of ESB, based on the director’s comments.

So I did. I sat down and watched ESB, enjoying it, and then I switched to TLJ, coming at it anew with what I’d just seen and the admonition from said reader that it deserved a second chance. And, by the end, I’d reached a new conclusion.

The Last Jedi is even worse than I’d thought.

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Op-Ed: Fixing One Small Part of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

And with that title, I already feel the eyes of the internet upon me. Which is kind of the point. I wouldn’t be posting this otherwise.

Plus, it’s my website. I can post what I want. So there (despite a few internet commentators who have actually posted, in pure seriousness, the XKCD strip about “being shown the door” regarding content on my own website, without any trace of irony or acknowledgement of the ridiculousness of their demands).

Enough navel-gazing. This editorial is about The Last Jedi, specifically about what went wrong with one small part of it, and how it could have been fixed.

Because let’s be honest: There was a lot wrong with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It definitely wasn’t Star Wars Holiday Special levels of bad, but at the same time … Well, let’s just say there were a lot of Star Wars fans out there who had thought that they’d never seen anything in the series that could possibly perform worse than the prequels.

Yeah, talking about something that didn’t work in The Last Jedi is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Suffice it to say, its creators pretty much set the bar about as low as it could possibly be set without reaching Holiday Special levels. I remember seeing Facebook and Twitter posts from people I knew, dedicated fans, talking about how they’d gone back and seen it a second time, hoping they’d missed something critical the first time around.

Yeah, you’ve probably seen some measure of this controversy. Personally? It’s not at all without merit. The Last Jedi kind of came across as a film that didn’t understand what Star Wars was about past the visual element. And sure, we got some great scenes—the battle with Snoke’s Praetorian Guard is a six-minute slug-fest that is absolutely one of the more fantastic Star Wars fights—but we also got some stuff that really dropped hard.

One of these, which I want to talk about today, is Finn’s butchered character arc. Actually, butchered isn’t the proper term. More … grossly mishandled character arc.

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