Category Archives: opinion

On Star Wars fandom, feminism, diversity and anger

I never, ever, ever wanted to be a social justice blogger. I still don’t. But apparently it’s happened, so let’s talk a bit about Star Wars, diversity and feminism, shall we?

Attack Pattern Clinique: When a hostile male enters the chat room and makes himself known as such, frantic chatter re: Clinique Bonus Time ensues. The hostile is ignored, drowned out and generally retreats in defeat.

Attack Pattern Clinique: When a hostile party, generally male, enters the chat room and makes himself known as such, frantic chatter regarding Clinique Bonus Time ensues. The hostile is ignored, drowned out and generally retreats in defeat.

I have been very lucky in that I did most of my fandom growing up in spaces that were heavily female, from the early ship-war days to Club Jade to the fanfic community. That’s not to say jerks don’t happen in such spaces – the Star Ladies invented Attack Pattern Clinique back in the days of AOL chat rooms for a reason – but for the most part I ‘grew up’ in fandom areas where women and their contributions were unquestioned, where the idea that Star Wars needs more women was simply a given.

When I came back into general fandom via the StarWars.com forums, it was from a position of authority. Not big authority – moderator of a message board – but there was still a certain amount of respect expected and received. I’m sure having nicknames that tend to read masculine doesn’t hurt, either.

Still, in general fandom I have, for the most part, had a good experience in dealing with male fans. It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t see a lot of random outright hostility due to my gender, either. Until I, oddly enough, started writing more extensively about feminist concepts. Curious, no? (Not at all, actually.) But I personally haven’t received any rape threats for criticizing Star Wars, as recently happened in comic fandom, so we have that going for us, I guess.

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Analysis: Thoughts on the Episode VII cast

cast-daisyA few days late on this, perhaps, but this has been quite a slog, hasn’t it? In any case, we have our cast – or at least the better part of it.

In short, there are a lot of interesting possibilities here for everyone, and while many of us may have qualms about the gender diversity of the overall group, you certainly can’t say any of them are boring.

Let’s see what we can unpack here.

And yes, of course I’m guessing. Aren’t we all?

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Where are the rest of the women in Episode VII? Just “be patient!”

Today’s casting announcement was indeed very welcome. Finally, we have a confirmed cast, or at least the biggest part of one. We have a group of familiar faces and new actors who come with glowing recommendations, and they’re not all white guys. (Just mostly.)

But there was one bit of fallout that we have mixed feelings about.

Where are the women?

Daisy Ridley

Daisy Ridley

We have Carrie Fisher, of course. But of the seven new cast members there’s only one other woman joining her. Granted, Daisy Ridley could very well be playing Episode VII’s main character. She could be the axis the entire film revolves around. Or, she may not be. We don’t know, and they’re probably not going to tell us any time soon. And there could be other women in the cast but again: We’re not seeing them today. In any case, this is the core cast. The leads will be drawn out of this group – or so we’re led to assume.

I’m not the only one who noticed this, or remembered the casting call for two new female roles. And may still be? Though two out of eight isn’t much better, depending on the size of both roles. Three female characters is still only hitting the bare minimum. In addition to the virtual stream of comments on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, we have pieces from Annalee Newitz, Amy Ratcliffe, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Devin Faraci, Eliza Thompson, Julie Hammerle, Bonnie Burton, Rainbow Rowell and Tricia Barr. And, from back in February, Laura Hudson’s Leia is not enough.

But, you know, “be patient.”

We’ve had two trilogies with exactly one woman each taking the lead. We had the prequel trilogy, where, finally, there were enough women that they actually talked to each other sometimes. When their scenes weren’t cut, anyway. (Sorry, Padme’s mom and sister. Sorry, Mon Mothma.) Still, Padme talked to her handmaidens, to Shmi Skywalker, to Queen Jamillia, to Beru Whitesun. And remember: The Bechdal test is (again) the bare minimum, not any sort of ultimate measure.

Outside of the movies, we’ve embraced the addition of characters like Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Ahsoka Tano and even newcomers Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren, whose show hasn’t even aired yet. Two women in the Rebels cast? We were enthusiastic, even if there are still some bumps in the road.

“Be patient,” they say.

They don’t seem to realize that we have been patient. We’re here. We’re fans. We’re ready. We’ve been patient for 30 years. It’s just that now, there’s enough of us visible that you can’t ignore us when we speak up.

“Be patient?”

No.

Here’s a real question for you: Why do we keep asking? It’s not because we enjoy this outrage, I’ll tell you that much. It’s because of decades of being ignored, disrespected, and of our contributions being constantly downplayed, our concerns brushed to the side. And if we don’t ask, if we go back to being “patient?” That’ll just give them more reason to go back to the status quo, no matter how many Katnisses there are.

I’m sorry this casting announcement, this moment we’ve all been waiting nearly two years for, has been clouded by complaints. But I’m not sorry for speaking up as to why. I just wish we didn’t have to.

Always in motion the future: Coming to terms with Episode VII, the Expanded Universe and canon

luke-lightsaberI don’t really have a whole lot to say on Friday’s Expanded Universe news, mainly because I pretty much wrote that post a couple weeks ago.

Naturally, I’m pretty happy with the decision. That doesn’t mean I’m not a little apprehensive about the new films, but the ‘salad bar’ mentality is something I’ve been preaching for a long time, and I think it’s for the best that Lucasfilm has the ability to pick, choose, or just entirely ignore elements of the existing EU.

But that doesn’t mean the stories themselves are dead. If you like a book or a character or a series, than they still count to you. And that is what’s important, or should be: The stories. The people. Not their canon status. Lucasfilm can dictate that, but they can’t tell you what to enjoy.

If this took you by surprise, it’s okay to mourn, but remember: This isn’t a guarantee that you won’t see your faves – or some version of your faves – ever again. They may show up in Rebels, or the new canon books, or even Episode VII or one of the standalone films. They may show up in ways you don’t expect, but Lucasfilm, like their stepsister Marvel, knows their own products. They know what they have, and I don’t think they’re going to forget it. As they mentioned in the original release, they’re using EU elements in Rebels, and I doubt that’ll be the last.

But me? Yes, I’m excited. Of course the new trilogy could still be awful, but if it is, it won’t be because they’re not following the EU. All this latest development means is that the new films are not beholden to storylines and character developments made while being half blind. The many stories that are, themselves, as imperfect as anything else in this franchise is imperfect.

But there are a lot of reactions to this out there, and head below the cut for my favorites.

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Big Moon Rising: Why I don’t mind if the Star Wars sequels mean the end of the Expanded Universe

The Death of Chewbacca

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was barely 13, and became an Expanded Universe fan only days later. My entire experience of falling in love with Star Wars was prompted and is because of the Expanded Universe; I ‘first’ saw the movies on VHS over Christmas break in 1991. And we wouldn’t have even had those copies in the house if not for the release of Heir to the Empire in the spring of that year.

I owe my entire fandom to Heir to the Empire and the Thrawn trilogy. The Expanded Universe, which was pretty much all there was back in those days, formed the nucleus of my fandom. They hooked me, and they hooked me well enough that I sit here, 22 years later, running a fairly popular blog devoted to the franchise, with those same worn copies of Heir, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command not four feet away.

I love the Expanded Universe. It’s a weird kind of love that you get with this sort of fandom; I kept with it through some of the absolute worst fiction I have ever read, and many books that could I barely bring myself to call mediocre and, yes, even those rare gems that make it all worth it.

But I’m also okay with letting it go.

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Why the Wookieepedia article on breasts is a big deal

wookTo be honest, I hadn’t planned to write more about Wookieepedia’s page on breasts. I’m already on record as disapproving, twice. Outrage fatigue happens even to the outraged, and quite honestly I don’t have the temperament or patience to continue to explain Feminism 101 to this fandom.

But the page and one of the responses ended up on Tumblr – one of those areas of fandom where you do actually see female majorities in many circles – and I remembered why it’s important that we keep speaking out.

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Wookieepedia makes a statement about their breast page, still misses the point

Not long ago, Wookieepedia released an official statement regarding the breast article I wrote about earlier today.

Although Brian at Tosche Station has already written a great response to the statement, and I agree with him wholeheartedly, I still feel I should address it personally.

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Hasbro will make figures for Rebels’ Hera and Sabine, but then what?

Rebels: Sabine

We saw Sabine’s official reveal this morning, and although we’re still waiting for Hera’s, Hasbro confirmed with Newsarama’s Lucas Siegel that action figures of both Rebels ladies are coming, and will be unveiled at SDCC.

There’s been some blowback to the concerns over the lack of women showed in the first wave of Hasbro Rebels toys. But together with the ‘for boys’ nature of Disney XD and the apparent ‘ladies last’ spacing of the character reveals, it’s really felt like the female characters – and thus female fans – are there as an afterthought. (Is it really still not a given that women and girls like action?)

Yes, we know ‘this is how it is.’ Yes, we know that ‘it’s all here to sell toys.’ Yes, we know that’s ‘what advertisers want.’ And that’s exactly why we’re fighting so hard over this. This is our first major rollout since Disney took the wheel, and this is an uphill battle.

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Sorting out Marvel, Dark Horse and Star Wars

DarkHorse-MarvelIt’s been a week since the news went out that the Star Wars comics license will go to Marvel Comics for 2015, leaving Dark Horse Comics after a twenty-two year run. With the news on Tuesday that Dark Horse will be releasing a new series, adapting the unproduced The Clone Wars scripts for the finale of the Darth Maul storyline, we know that 2014 will still be a big Star Wars year for Dark Horse. Over the course of the past week, questions about the switch have started to get some answers, at least from Dark Horse:

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What does Marvel’s Star Wars deal mean for Del Rey?

Del Rey (logo)While it was pretty easy to see today’s Marvel announcement coming, things are much less clear-cut when we’re talking about another high-profile Star Wars publishing licensee: Del Rey.

(I’m putting all issues of canon, continuity and the sequels aside for this post. Those are big decisions made at Lucasfilm, not by their licensees: We can discuss it another time. This post is solely about the franchise’s publishing rights.)

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