Why do we want more women highlighted in the Expanded Universe?

This is not the post I set out to write when I asked the other day which Star Wars ladies should be headlining novels. After all, Nanci already quite eloquently laid out why we need more women in the Expanded Universe. But on Friday, EUC posted a rebuttal to her post, titled Let’s Stop Thinking About Gender and it seems there’s still more work to do on the ground level. I know, I was shocked, too. Though I probably shouldn’t be.

Clearly we’ve forgotten that Star Wars is aimed at boys! And that by asking for something as minor as a female characters whose functions include something other than being Big Bad Lady Cthulu or Confused Teenage Girlfriend makes us the sexist ones! For shame, ladies. For shame. Because we’ve never heard anything like this before.

But seriously, the most offensive part of the column is all that misplaced vitrol at ladies – and lady-friendly guys – who actually want things in the Expanded Universe to change. Just a little. Because what our argument really boils down to is that we need more female characters who are developed and engaging. But there’s no lack of trying at that for male characters. Let’s take a look at the non-reprint Star Wars books published by Del Rey in the last two years, May 2012 to May 2010.

Scourge, Darth Plagueis, Shadow Games, Riptide, Revan, Deceived, Red Harvest, and The Force Unleashed II are all novels headlining men. Some of them are brand-new characters, some of them are expanding on characters from games and other areas of the fandom, but all of them are guys. If there are women in major roles in any of these books, I couldn’t really tell from the release materials, with the exception of Ahsoka in Clone Wars: Gambit, the ‘holostar’ Javul Charn in Shadow Games (starring Dash Rendar) and Juno Eclipse in The Force Unleashed II. In fact, I had to ask on Twitter to find out if Scourge had any women in major roles. Apparently there are two! Would have been nice to know that from the blurb.

Only one of the three women on those covers is actually carrying her book: Kerra Holt in Knight Errant. Mara Jade in Choices of One and Tahiri in Conviction are both part of ensembles.

And that’s why we’re not asking so much about the about male characters. As Del Rey and Lucasfilm show more interest in greenlighting novels featuring no movie characters at all in the major roles, it would be nice to see some new or lesser-known EU ladies get their due. Of all those books, Knight Errant is the only one indisputably starring a brand-new woman protagonist. (And even she started in the comics, which seem to have become much better at featuring ladies these days, despite an environment that may be even more male-dominated than the bookstore.)

As far as the novels go, there are about two women who’ve managed to garner something resembling an actual fanbase through the years. Two women who could conceivably ‘carry’ a novel. One of them is Mara. (And she’s dead.) The other, Jaina Solo, has yet to shine outside of the cast-of-thousands megaseries approach, thought I suspect that’s only a matter of time. Her niece Allana was a main character throughout Fate of the Jedi, and she may have possibilities as well – hopefully she, like Ben Skywalker, will benefit from all Lucasbooks have learned from the mistakes they made with child characters in the past.

Jaina is an interesting case. She is, of course, the only daughter and sole surviving child of Leia Organa and Han Solo. She’s not a favorite of mine – none of the Solo kids were – but she is, without a doubt, a major character in the EU. She a small but vocal fanbase of her own, like Mara. And yet, approximately 50% of her ‘plot’ has involved her love life. Sure, the other half has been, oh, killing her twin brother (another post entirely) and other action stuff. But mostly? Her love life.

They never did that to Luke. You never saw, in the 90’s, an entire series where half of Luke’s role was to ponder his love life and pal around with girls. His two most romance oriented-storylines – Children of the Jedi/Darksaber and Specter of the Past/Visions of the Future – both feature actual plots for him! And, in the case of the Zahns, Mara too! Of course, for Jaina, it’s Movie Character vs. EU Character, Bantam vs. Del Rey, Undisputed Main Character vs. One Of A Cast Of Thousands. And Luke’s other love interests certainly got plenty of short shift along the way. (Poor Callista: “I just want to be worthy of the Jedi Master that I love.”) For Mara, getting hitched simply cemented the character’s rise to the official big leagues. But it’s Jaina’s birthright, and the romance stuff was old before the New Jedi Order was over. She hasn’t been a teenager for a long time, and deserves far more respect – and plot – than she’s gotten through the years.

Neither Mara nor Jaina have been treated particularly fairly. One of them is dead. They’ve wasted many of the other great ladies they’ve had – see also Shira Brie, who had a lot more story possibilities when she was killed off in the same book as Mara. Tahiri, who I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting to get interesting and might actually do something after Apocalypse. (Might.) See Tionne, a character who’s been around since nearly the beginning of the modern EU, who’s been constantly shunted off to the background. See the many ladies of the X-Wing books like Mirax and Winter. (One bright spot in the coming year may be Myri Antilles in X-Wing: Mercy Kill.) Tell that to Nomi Sunrider, who was going to star in a now-canceled book.

Male characters get killed off too, they have out-of-character experiences, they go in directions we don’t like. Of course: Club Jade has been complaining about that since the early 90’s. Prozac Luke, anyone? Welcome to the Expanded Universe. Hell, welcome to the world of licensed fiction. Characterization has been an issue in these books from the very beginning. No one here is denying that. But the men have had far, far more chances to shine.

So, yes: We need more women in prominent roles, we need more Leias and Maras and Jainas. We need female characters that engage people, not because they wear metal bikinis or skintight leather, but because they are interesting characters in their own right.

And, yes, let’s talk about Padme Amidala Naberrie Skywalker. Poor Padme, perhaps the most unexpanded-upon movie character in all of Star Wars. (I’m pretty sure that all the bounty hunters in Empire have had more EU ‘screentime’ than she has.) Padme, who we’re constantly told is great politician, but rarely shown. The politics of the prequel era have gotten a lot of guff, but they’ve been completely ignored by the format that is perhaps the best-suited to explore and display them: The novel.

No one is asking for a 9-book-series on Padme’s political career. We don’t want Fate of the Senator; we’re saying ‘Hey, a Padme book like Darth Plagueis might be nice.’ Stover is probably not the writer for this, but how about a book like Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Minor, which takes all that disparate canon of the era, fits it together, and makes the character shine. I want a book that makes me, if not like, understand Padme and the choices she made in the movies. It’s a tall order, and probably a pipe dream, at least while The Clone Wars is still soldiering on. Lucasfilm may have plenty of reasons for not doing a Padme book. Or a young Leia book, for that matter. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to quit asking.

A politics book would bore some to tears? Elicit the eyerolls? Welcome to how I feel every time they announce another Scourge or, better yet, an Old Republic novel. Yeah, I think I’d rather read about politics. At least it would be something new.

Are we a vocal majority? Oh, yes: But all of us doing this, running fansites that focus on this minor part of a major franchise, are nothing but a vocal minority. Most fans, as far as I can tell, are happily uncritical and will eat up anything that has a big shiny Star Wars label with a spoon and love it. That’s never been me, that’s never been Club Jade, and I am not going to regret that or apologize for it. Or stop demanding better.

The EU is by no means lacking in women. They’re just not getting all that much of the spotlight. And that’s all we’re asking for. As another fandomer, Bryan Young, told me on Friday, “We should all be saying, ‘We want more diversity in our Star Wars.'” Believe it or not, but fandom is more than musclebound white dudes, and we all have a desire to see ourselves represented. It isn’t the 70’s anymore: We won’t be satisfied with just one awesome token lady. We’re not going to shut up. Deal with it.

123 thoughts on “Why do we want more women highlighted in the Expanded Universe?

  1. Leia Flatt

    All I can say is “amen” to all of that. Nanci pointed me over here after a long ranting session the other day and you’ve so eloquently turned this back into a reasonable argument (not that it wasn’t in the first place!)
    Thanks for this!

  2. Pingback: Missing the Point of Star Wars and Its Fandom « fangirlblog.com

  3. MichelleH

    I totally agree! Out of all of those books published in the last two years THE ONLY ONE I bothered reading/buying is Choices of One. I don’t generally read any of the pre-original triology expansions, but I’d read one about Padme or young Leia. There are only so many times I can read a description of a lightsaber battle or a dogfight…I’d love to read about CHARACTERS!

  4. Guddleheid

    Here, here! I want strong women, and not just strong in a physical/fighting sense, and it’s fine and, if done well, even good to have romantic interests, but their entire character must not be based on it, it must add to their characters not define them. Marrying Leia doesn’t define Han’s character, it adds to it. If they can do it for the fella’s, get the balance right in the romance dept, the action dept, the page-time dept, etc, why can’t they with the ladies? (Ok, they don’t get it right with the fella’s a lot of the time, but they do a lot better with the fella’s than they do with the ladies!)

  5. Lass Giselle

    Generally regarding at as a wretched hive of scum and villainy, I do not read EUC, and it’s moments like this that confirm my assessment.

    I agree with Paige in the comments there – may God have mercy on that blogger’s soul.

  6. John M

    Wow these comments are unreal. EUC is a great site, great enough to be linked on SW.com, and the blogger gave his opinion, he wasn’t trying to force anything down your throat. Reading this garbage article by an appropriately named “space trash” site i can see how you all must think that your somehow entitled to strong women characters in SW books. “May God have mercy on his soul” is going a little too far I think, it was an opinion piece, one that I happen to agree with, there is a reason that there are only a hand full of decent women characters in the EU, the authors and LF dont care enough about them. take it up with them, not someone who gives their opinion only to have shit websites like this one try and crucify him. re-think your lives losers

  7. Lass Giselle

    And wow, learning from that fangirlblog trackback that the same guy tried to shut down discussion on Red Tails? Looks like we’ve got a racist, sexist, privileged white nerdy male on our hands. Why is this guy even still a contributor to EUC?

  8. Bardan Jusik

    Honestly I thought that guys article was fine. It’s the story that’s important.

    If you want a reason why there are less women than men in Star Wars it’s probably something to do with it being a series with a lot of action and however you want to spin it, men are generally in the majority when it comes to wars and fighting. Because we’re just born more physically and mentally predisposed to it.

    And no, I’m not suggesting women can’t fight or should be in the kitchen etc. That being said I’m honestly happy to see more female characters leading novels, I just don’t see it as sexist if there isn’t.

  9. Lass Giselle

    “If you want a reason why there are less women than men in Star Wars it’s probably something to do with it being a series with a lot of action and however you want to spin it, men are generally in the majority when it comes to wars and fighting. Because we’re just born more physically and mentally predisposed to it.”

    All of my facepalms. All of them. Why can’t I hold all these facepalms.

  10. DarthPahl

    Every now and again, I lift my head up and look around and think, wait, didn’t we already do this? I remember being THRILLED to see women in the Naboo pilot force in TPM. Remember, Dunc? That little thing that meant the world to CJ because we had told LFL, you know, it’d be nice to see some more women there, in the background. I don’t know if our words were the reason there were women pilots but I appreciated that simple recognition that women populated the GFFA too.

    Anyone who somehow thinks genre generally (and SW in particular) is just for guys is really not paying attention. I’m going to avoid the “strong female character” trope and say more specifically that male and female alike will read good stories with interesting female point of view characters and any license holder is stupid to ignore the demographics. 40% of the audience for Marvel’s record breaking weekend were women, which dethroned the Hunger Games and its point of view female protagonist. Yeah, we like our comic superheroes snarky guys, but I knew going into that film that Joss would give me a character in Black Widow that I would like and cheer for and who would hold her own as part of the team. When you look at fandom as a whole, at what and who keeps static licensed properties alive, it is women fans. Yeah, guys are there too, but women are hugely represented in blogging, writing, art, cosplay, buying merchandise, reading the stuff that comes out, and most importantly in building and sustaining communities around those licensed properties. And we pass on what we have learned.

    I’m sorry but this is all just so 80s.

  11. Dunc Post author

    FYI: Guys, I want you to compare and contrast the responses of John M and Bardan. Bardan disagreed, but was respectful about it. John was just an ass.

    Don’t be John, because that’s the first and last comment of that nature that I am going to approve.

    And, BTW: “great enough to be linked on SW.com”

    If that’s your measure of a quality fansite, so are we.

  12. Lass Giselle

    @DarthPahl – I’m not a Widow fan personally, but I have no more objection to watching gorgeous guys flex their muscles to camera angles clearly intended for our enjoyment than anyone else. ;)

    In that vein, I had a facebook acquaintance recently tell me how “pathetic” it was that girls suddenly like capes now that they’ve cast handsome men in the roles. “Jeez, objectification of human beings is so disgusting and dehumanizing when you GIRLS do it.”

  13. DarthPahl

    @Lass Giselle Pander to me, baby. I remember this very discussion during TPM in which there were women charaters to cheer for and gorgeous guys strutting, twirling and kicking Darth Maul in the face. To quote Anakin, “It’s WOOORKING.”

  14. Andrew Liptak

    I posted this up to the other side, but I figure it bears repeating here:

    What bothers me the most is the idea that stories with male leads are inherently exciting! action packed! and thrilling!, while the idea that a greater presence of women would be inherently boring for the Star Wars universe. I haven’t read a SW book in years, because all of those books with male leads? They’ve gotten boring, predictable, and honestly not what I’m looking forward to. That’s not necessarily the fault of a predominantly male cast, but the lack of anything *different*, is at fault.

  15. Bryan Young

    I want to novelize the episode of Clone Wars called Senate Spy. I’d murder to do that. It would be radical. And star Padme. And give her a chance to explore duty, her choices regarding Anakin, and be a badass spy novel.

    I don’t have to write it, clearly, the LucasBooks people probably don’t know I exist, but someone should.

  16. Lass Giselle

    But no, seriously. Why is he still a contributor? Any site with any respectability would have, at *bare minimum*, had an apology post up by now, if not news of his departure and their best wishes for his future endeavors.

  17. Doyle

    Folks, I don’t say it enough…but this kind of article is the reason I keep coming back to Club Jade every day. You guys are the best.

    Except for John.

  18. Bryan

    You can tell that Star Wars fans have been itching for a discussion in the face of a relatively slow news month. A controversial discussion? Even better.

    Look folks, we all have an opinion. And we all have a right to express it. Chris had an opinion, and was allowed to use his EUCantina column to express it. I didn’t agree with all he had to say, but to call for his head is, frankly, bizarre.

    If you don’t like what he had to say, show some maturity and dispute just the article. Don’t vilify the entire website from which it’s based. If there is ANY site out there least deserving of negativity and disgust, it’s EUCantina.

    All of you who took time out of your day to post a rebuttal on your own fansite: Did you even bother to post about EUCantina’s recent article about supporting Reading Is Fundamental? Did you know that they are donating 100% of their t-shirt proceeds to charity? Where were your loud voices then? Is a controversial opinion article the only thing that motivates you to speak up? Some of you did post about it, though it only received a token mention.

    It’s understandable that the male/female character issue in the Expanded Universe should receive more attention than supporting a charity.

    If there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s the realization that a fansite’s stability amongst the internet is shaky at best, no matter what you’ve achieved in the past, how much labor you’ve donated in support of a franchise, or what friendships and alliances you’ve forged through the years.

  19. Bryan

    Thanks for reinforcing my point.

    An opinion about a fake characters received a much larger response from the both of you than a charitable act.

  20. Dunc Post author

    Club Jade has donated thousands of dollars to RIF over the years – In fact, I believe I was the one who suggested them to EUC when they were looking for something of that nature.

    The charity act is a good thing. No one is saying it isn’t. You brought it up in this context, and I have no plans to remove the link to it. But, sorry, that doesn’t make Chris’ post any less insulting.

  21. Bryan

    What is truly insulting is how fast support of a fansite dries up in the face of a controversial article.

    I’m not disputing the fact that many are insulted. Whether or not they have the right to be is up to them. I’m just asking that the focus of the anger remain on the actual words of the article. And not towards a fansite that has done much for this franchise.

  22. Synlah

    Roqoo Depot also posted the EUC’s #SWEU T shirt for RIF. But it doesn’t give a free pass when a site allows sexist articles. Nor does Austin deserve a free pass for allowing one of his staffers to throw the other one under the bus.

  23. Dunc Post author

    Well, Chris did insult a very ‘vocal minority.’ But I haven’t disparaged EUC as a whole. I’m disappointed in them for posting this (I believe there was a vote involved?) and some of the backlash to the backlash (which they had to know was coming.) That doesn’t mean I’ve written the site off completely. It just means I am disappointed.

    Still, let it be noted that outright misogyny is not a thing that wins one a whole lot of friends.

  24. lassgiselle

    “If there’s one lesson to be learned here, it’s the realization that a fansite’s stability amongst the internet is shaky at best, no matter what you’ve achieved in the past, how much labor you’ve donated in support of a franchise, or what friendships and alliances you’ve forged through the years.”

    Even though you clearly posted this in sarcasm, …yeah, basically. It’s a pretty basic rule of new media that you try to avoid pissing off the people you cater to, because all the good works in the world won’t mean a thing in the estimation of the average modern reader. I’m surprised that you seem to think otherwise.

    There’s no magical internet scale-of-Osiris that can balance donations to kids’ charities against racist, sexist posts. With the unlimited array of media choices out there for the consumer to choose from, a one-strike policy is actually pretty lenient.

  25. lassgiselle

    And: “An opinion about a fake characters received a much larger response from the both of you than a charitable act.”

    Considering these are both *fan* sites, not charity organization sites, this shouldn’t be surprising. The whole reason we (the fans, and the fansites alike) exist is because of those “fake characters.”

  26. Bryan

    Before any of you take what I said and distort it to your various forums, you need to be sure to understand my point.

    I’m not justifying any content of the article by saying that EUCantina is donating money to a charity. What I am saying is that the site as a whole, a site that has done much for the franchise, shouldn’t be vilified because of one article.

    I think any of you who posts a strong opinion would appreciate the same gesture.

    Tracy, I’m not saying that your support is gone. But I have observed other comments to the effect.

  27. lassgiselle

    Despite what you seem to think about the limited intellects of us puny females, we do understand what you’re saying. We’re saying you’re wrong.

    A site like EUC (or CJ, or wowinsider or any other fansite with editorial content) has the tacit responsibility to ensure that the content, tone, and spirit of the articles it publishes are in line with what the site itself endorses. If it publishes questionable content and people get mad, it has the option to apologize or to stand behind its content creator. EUC hasn’t apologized; therefore, it’s (so far, anyway) standing behind him, and that makes them just as culpable and just as worthy of the fans’ ire as Chris himself.

    If there’s a part of this you don’t understand, let us know and we’ll try to help you with it.

  28. Dunc Post author

    To paraphrase lassgiselle, that’s the internet economy for you.

    I’ve seen more than enough shitstorms of this nature. Most of them do, eventually, blow over. But, yes, you may lose a certain amount of respect – and readers – along the way by expressing and/or publishing a controversial opinion. Everyone here has the right to chose where they stand – either now, or when the dust has cleared. That’s the way the game is played.

    (Lassgiselle, back off a bit. Bryan is disagreeing, but he doesn’t deserve stuff like “you seem to think about the limited intellects of us puny females.”)

  29. Bryan

    Oh, you speak for all females?

    And do leave your pathetic assumptions and laughable condescension at the door.

  30. Bardan Jusik

    @giselle: Obviously if I disagree with the popular opinion and a mainly female forum on an issue like this, I’m going to be in the minority. But that doesn’t instantly make me wrong.

    If you stopped ‘face palming’ for a moment you’d realise my point is entirely valid. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be more women characters, or even ones that are strong and even handy with a blaster. But it’s obvious in a fairly combat/action story orientated series that men are more likely to be involved in the action than women. And so more leading male characters.

  31. Nanci

    “But it’s obvious in a fairly combat/action story orientated series that men are more likely to be involved in the action than women”

    Perhaps the problem is that many of us are bored with action-oriented stories, and feel that has become too prevalent in the recent EU. I like action – when it contributes to the story – but I don’t like stories that are just action.

    Case in point, the X-Wing series. Sure, there’s a ton of space combat. But there’s also character development, romantic and platonic relationships, and consideration of many different themes.

    And while the majority of characters in the X-Wing series were male, there were also quite a bit of women. Ironic that a “military science fiction” introduced some of the best female characters in the series.

  32. Lane

    Heck, look at Battlestar Galactica for military science fiction featuring a boatload of supremely well developed female characters. Sharon Valeri, Kara Thrace, Laura Roslin, Dee, Cally. The list goes on. Women and action-heavy science fiction are not mutually exclusive.

  33. eliz

    For me, the whole discussion goes back to the item that drives every female fan just a little bit crazy…
    – that Star Wars was for little boys. Don’t need/expect women characters/dolls/figures/etc because that’s not what they’re marketing to little boys, which implies to every thinking female that:
    – girls who like Star Wars (etc) do not exist
    -if they do, they’re not normal
    -and they definitely don’t have a voice or numbers.

    Which worked before the internet. Then we found each other and realized that we weren’t oddities. There’s actually quite a few of us. And we can like the same things for the same or different reasons. But girl fans exist and once we found each other, we’ve been determined not to let other girl fans feel like they have to hide.

    We’re not alone and we want to be acknowledged, not patronized, not subjected to the same narrowminded ideas of females in society we’ve been fighting all our lives.

    Is it so horrible that we ask for characters who reflect our successes in advancing in society? Females not defined by their romantic partnership or by success purely in stereotypical female arenas?

    Why is asking for this so offensive in 2012?

  34. jawajames

    As Lane points out Battlestar Galactica as an action s/f environment when the gender of the characters doesn’t really affect their roles in a military-focused society, we also have shows like Warehouse 13, which also is action-oriented in a non-military way, where the main cast is predominantly female, and play roles across the board, good, evil, and not just freezer-bait.

    IIRC, one of Red Harvest’s two main protagonist is female – the Jedi botanist. But she doesn’t get on the cover. Nothing says zombies like a female Jedi botanist.

    Also, while they aren’t novels, the John Jackson Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith ebooks pull out a good balance of female and male characters.

    it would be interested to apply the Bechdel test to most of the recent EU and see what passes.

  35. Bardan Jussik

    Well I think this has got me thinking about characters. I agree that Battlestar Galactica is a great example of a gender balanced series. Good point well made.

    I never noticed this before because being honest, its not important to me. The president in BG is female, doesn’t matter because the character is great and the story is good. Same applies to Luke in SW etc.

    Though I will say if I were to compile my top five characters in the EU that I’m disappointed with in terms of development. It would be:

    Kyle Katarn, Tahiri, Jaina, Kyp and probably Wedge (he’s so generic!).

    I think Star Wars could be more like Battlestar and benefit from it. But I don’t agree its sexist or desperately needs to be. What it does desperately need is to focus more on characters for a bit, to break up the galaxy spanning story arcs of doom.

  36. Nanci

    “What it does desperately need is to focus more on characters for a bit, to break up the galaxy spanning story arcs of doom.”

    I think everyone can agree with that!

    I do think, however, that having a diverse cast of characters makes a story more interesting. And I’m not just speaking of “diverse” in terms of appearance, but also background, personality, age, etc. Why do people love Han and Leia so much? Because they’re different and complement each other. Same with Luke and Mara. When you have a cast of characters that are all the same (see the FotJ era Jedi Council members who aren’t Tionne, Cilghal, and Saba), it’s boooooring.

  37. Bardan Jussik

    Yeh and who’s that big fuzzy Jedi Master who replaced Captain Boredom (Kenth Hamner)?

    He/She didn’t even get any copy space in the big melee fight scenes in FOTJ. Here’s a new character. Who has no purpose…

  38. Andrew Liptak

    The assertion that ‘Star Wars was designed for boys’ as a rationale for keeping it as such is ridiculous: franchises and audiences change with time – certainly over course of 35 years: just look at the way that the United States has changed demographically in that time. Trying to keep the franchise adhering to the audience of 1977 isn’t smart business, but expecting audiences to stay with it is just crazy.

  39. jawajames

    I don’t think they are trying to stay with the audience of ’77, as it were. They have tried a lot of branching out with the EU as they search to maximize bang for their publishing buck – horror, game tie-ins, military s/f, random one-shot attempts in different veins: Shadow Games as thriller, etc.

    Most of these might be pushing away from the character-driven stories a bit more as they search for their niche.

    Random thought: for a while on Doctor Who, Rory was sort of the male equivalent of most female characters in s/f – he was really only defined as the love interest to Amy. Is there a Rory in SW?

  40. Jim (Kirr)

    I think the problem with the initial statement “there should be more focus on women characters in Star Wars literature” is that it is a flawed argument to begin with. First it assumes that there is a lack of focus on women characters, or a lack of well developed female characters in the books we are getting from Del Rey. Since Star Wars has always been an ensemble series, featuring both men and women as main characters, each of these books needs to be looked at in that way. So let’s start with the ones mentioned in the article above:

    Scourge – Reen Irana (female) has as much “screen time” as Mander Zuma

    Apocalypse, Conviction, Backlash, Vortex, Allies – I’m going to sum up Fate of the Jedi in one group. I’m going to assume we only want “human/near-human female” characters, so Saba is out (though certainly continues to be developed in this arc). But we have had a focus on Tahiri (with many changes through the series – much more focus than she saw in Legacy of the Force), Jaina (likewise, who seemed to only show up in the last two books of the last series), Allana, and the biggest of course was Vestara. In terms of secondary characters, we could throw in Madhi Vaant who had a lot of build up before her death – which is pretty equivalent to Barv (Bazel Warv) a male with the same amount of build up and who ultimately had the same fate.

    Darth Plagueis – I’ll grant this one, other than some token appearances by Padme I’m not sure there were any women featured in this book.

    Shadow Games – honestly haven’t read it, but I would imagine Javul Charn (female) is at least as important a character in the book as Dash Rendar is.

    Riptide/Crosscurrent – the only other set of books I haven’t read on this list, though the character list seems to indicate some female characters.

    Revan – Bastila Shan gets some screen time, Meetra Surik is better developed, plus there’s Sith Master Nyriss who’s well established in this book.

    Choices of One – Mara is the obvious one here, and let’s be honest, Mara (who’s one of my favorite characters ever) has never really been the sole focus of any book she’s ever been in – she’s always part of an ensemble cast.

    Deceived – I’d argue that Aryn Leneer (female) is actually the most important character in this book, well developed and well rounded, and Eleena is a strong character as well.

    Knight Errant – Kerra Holt is possibly one of the greatest female characters being written in Star Wars.

    Red Harvest – Hestizo Trace (female) is the main character in this book, showing a very different side of the Jedi.

    Siege – Focus is on Obi-Wan and Anakin, though Ahsoka and Taria play important roles (I should note this is a book written by a woman, focusing on men characters).

    The Force Unleashed II – Juno Eclipse is at least as important (and possibly moreso) than Starkiller in this sequel novel, and she has a lot of character growth in the book.

    I could actually add a lot more to this list of “recent” females being focused upon (Etain and many others in the Republic Commando novels, the Darth Bane novels focused as much on Zannah as the title character, and The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance had both Eldon Ax and Larin Moxla as main characters for example) but at this point I feel like I’ve made the point on the initial flaw.

    So what is really at the heart of this discussion/argument? I think it’s that we’d like to see more development of post-RotJ era female characters (certainly the most lacking of the above). Ok, but that’s a different focus, and I’d also argue that the men of this era could use as much development as well – and that’s comparing apples to apples. I think the general consensus is (if we’re talking about female characters) what’s being asked is for more development of Mirax, Jysella, Syal, Myri – established female characters who could use more fleshing out. The same could be said of Valin and Dorian for example.

    The problem here I think is that what we’re asking for (more development of established characters) is that they’re not characters that were necessarily created by the particular set of authors Del Rey is currently using. It’s one thing to have them write about movie characters – well established through another medium and something that can be mimicked. Now we want an author to take a character they had no hand in creating and try to find their voice – and heaven forbid they get it wrong. No pressure. I can’t imagine why authors would rather focus on new creations and use the movie characters as cameos.

    I’d love to see more focus on the further development of existing characters, both male and female in the post-RotJ era. I do think it’s important to have female role models in these books for girls to aspire to – I think the movies, and especially Ahsoka in The Clone Wars do a wonderful job of achieving that goal – but I also think it’s doing a disservice to all the wonderful female characters the authors have created under Del Rey’s guidance of the Star Wars line to make it seem like they haven’t been developing them enough at all.

  41. Doyle

    I wonder sometimes if a lot of this isn’t tied to the fact that there are so few women in the movies. I mean, really, what do we have? Six movies and two female characters with more than bit parts? Sure, one of those characters is Leia, who is cool and spunky and exceptional, but the A-class canon of the franchise has never done a whole lot to visually distance itself from the idea that it’s something of a boys’ club.

    Compare that to something like BSG/Caprica or the later Star Trek and Stargate shows…franchises where you have a lot more female characters in the primary canon who are often seen to have their own adventures and personal arcs, and you end up with fandoms that are often a lot more gracious and inclusive (at least in my experience) toward their female members.

  42. Dunc Post author

    Jim: None of these characters you’ve mentioned in the non-FOTJ books figured into any publicity material – and by that, I mean blurbs. All these books could be as woman-free as Plagueis was for all I was able to tell from the outside. And I’m clearly an informed EU fan, which is more than I can say for most of the ladies who pass by the bookshelves.

    Granted, yes, my focus is post-ROTJ. Just having a woman on a cover is not going to get me in the door. I haven’t read Knight Errant – beyond the first few comics – because it’s just not an era I’m interested in. A woman on the cover is not going to make me pick up a Darth Zannah book, or any TOR novel.

    Take Scourge. I heard more about there being Hutts in the book than there being women. (Insert variable-gender Hutt joke here.) Most Star Wars OCs hold no interest for me, but if that book had starred, say, Tionne (also a Jedi archivist) I would have picked it up. No, she’s not a favorite and she originates in some of my least favorite SW novels, but I am familiar with her and certainly a Jedi with a lot of knowledge and smarts but only a weak connection to the Force has some possibility for a stand-alone story.

    Yes, there are women in Fate of the Jedi. And no, the cast-of-thousands approach is not fair to anyone. I would have said that before Mara died, and it still applies. Like you said, the core problem here is that they’re not really taking the time to develop anyone these days. Hell, it seems the only character whose head they did bother to get into lately was Jacen. The most sucessful thing they did in LOTF was to make me give a shit about Jacen, who I always considered the most useless of the Solo kids. For all the good it did long-term.

    Speaking of Jacen, let’s look at Legacy of the Force. I was thrilled to see Lumiya/Shira Brie come back. I figured she was going to be the main villain of the series. I figured it meant they would play with the whole concept of the Emperor’s Hand, maybe even some New Empire vs. Old Empire stuff. So many possibilities! I thought having Lumiya as the Big Bad might mean an long-overdue A-plot for Mara. I would have loved to read something in that vein. (And hey: Jacen wouldn’t have had to die, either, if Lumiya has been the Big Bad!) We didn’t get it.

    Abeloth, Vestara, Tahiri? None of the books have given me any reason to care about them, and thus I found them and their storylines tedious. Tahiri may have been around for a while, but she could vanish in the next series and I probably wouldn’t notice on my own.

    It’s too late for Mara, at least in the ‘current’ timeline. It’s not too late for Jaina, who, as you said, has only been getting plot in the last couple books of the last big series. It’s not too late for Allana, or Tenel Ka, Myri, or any of ladies who’ve been waiting in the subplots. (Hell, even Tahiri.) Any of them could carry the A-Plot of a standalone or a trilogy, if someone would bother to write it. And that’s what I’m saying with this post.

  43. Michael Falkner

    Star Wars is certainly better than the rest of the science fiction/fantasy genre when it comes to women’s roles, and the franchise has come a very long way since the era of the typical “save the princess” story or putting Leia in a chained collar (Splinter of the Mind’s Eye).

    That said, everything that has been said is indicative of the genre as a whole. There are some bright spots (the modern BSG, Farscape, Warehouse 13, Eureka, Stargate to a degree), but there are still plenty of dark places where women are still saddled with inferior roles and storylines. Even in the progressive franchise of Star Trek, women are grossly under-represented.

    I believe that we need more strong female roles overall in the genre, and Star Wars could be a pioneer if they wanted. Instead of seeing how the next 20 book series is going to escalate mock tension to ridiculous levels, I want to see *why* Padme or Leia were so respected in their respective organizations that were teeming with men to protect and serve. That’s not boring, that’s us asking for more than blind faith in the capabilities of our heroes.

    Science fiction, fantasy, and space opera aren’t all about wielding guns and shooting stuff. Anyone can do that. We need good characters with believable motivations and moving stories to drive them.

  44. Bardan Jusik

    On the point about the 77′ audience, surely the focus has been shifted as Phantom Menace and the Clone Wars series were/are aimed at a much broader audience. Whether that’s worked is another story.

    Amidst all the debate, I’m getting the sense that many on here are of the opinion that the SW franchise is being marketed at the wrong people, or not enough of the right people. I’m curious to know what evidence, other than your own opinions you have to back this up?

    I don’t think for one second that the marketing teams in charge of the various SW products haven’t done their research, and they obviously think that the audience has a larger proportion of males. Given the larger proportion of male characters in the franchise as a whole.

    The people in charge of the franchise want to make money, they do their research, presumably find out who their target audience is, and aim for them. They won’t totally ignore the other demographics because they want their money too, but business is business and sadly they’ll always go the way that they think will make the most profit.

    I’m not saying its right, but if you are a vocal but still minority fan base, they will likely continue to cater for what they think are the majority.

  45. Chris

    Just to throw my two cents in here:

    The above post really sums up what this comes down to. It’s a business with a majority male audience. Most male readers would rather read a story staring a man. If I’m making a business decision, I really have no reason to cater to a vocal minority.

    That said, as said before, it is story that matters. Personally, I don’t see why either gender should care who the story’s lead is as long as that character is well developed and the book well written – relatively, of course, understanding we’re dealing with EU here.

    I think, generally, everyone can agree that it’s better to have a well written book starring a man then it is to have a poorly written one staring a woman or the other way around. So I’m with EUC on that – I’d rather have those in charge of the EU developing better written works then worrying about diversity in them. There’s a place to get worked up about diversity, I’m just not convinced this is it. Too many other issues in the real world in which women are disadvantaged. I understand your frustration – I obviously know I can’t relate, but I do understand. I just question if it really matters that much, as long as we get a decent story one way or another.

    That said, I’d grab a Padme political novel any day. She is a tragically undeveloped character – gender aside. For someone so important to the saga, she deserves better treatment. I’m in support of giving her that treatment – for story’s sake.

    I also realize, though, that it would be a poor business decision. It wouldn’t sell anywhere near as well as other options. So if you’re in their shoes, why even consider it? Doesn’t make sense.

  46. Dunc Post author

    I’m not saying that I think or expect LFL to do a 50/50 on the gender of book leads. I’m saying that maybe they need to do a book with an undisputed female lead a little more often than once every two years. (Or, hell, every 20.) Yes, there are bound to be more men. But this is a franchise that’s know for its women, too, and they’ve been neglected and sidelined and killed off in the books.

    I’m also saying they should maybe vary the kinds of stories that are being told, and there are neglected characters – including MOVIE LEADS – who would be perfect for that sort of thing. I mean, would a young Leia novel (or, hell, let’s go all out: Mon Mothma) really be so bad? You’ve got the Empire at its totalitarian height, the Rebellion, espionage, secret missions… What about that is NOT exciting? What about that is NOT Star Wars? Or is it only exciting if Kyle Katarn is doing it?

    Would I love it if half of the novels they published had female leads? Yes. Do I expect that to happen any time soon, if ever? No.

    Would I be happy if they showed a little more interest in developing characters (of all genders) and less in throwing them into battles every other page? Yes, yes, yes. Luke Skywalker and the Shadow of Mindor is beloved by nearly every vocal lady fan I know because it didn’t neglect Luke AS A CHARACTER while still showing him in action. It’s probably my favorite SW novel of the last… Three? Five? years, and it’s no ladyfest.

    The EU as a whole could use a lot less quantity and a lot more quality. CJ has been fighting that fight for years, with very mixed results. But that’s another post.

  47. Chris

    Sounds like we’re on the same line of thought here. Except, a Mon Mothma novel just would not do it for me. Not because she’s female, but because she never has struck me as being a terribly interesting character. I think Cloak of Deception proved political novels – or at least novels that have a decent amount of political backbone to them – can work. I’d certainly have no objection to a Padme or young Leia novel, in fact, I think they could be reallllly interesting if written well.

    It’s also difficult to get a SW audience to care about brand new, one shot characters. That gets even more difficult when the new character is increasingly unlike the likely male audience. Kerra Holt, for example, just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t find her character interesting at all, and I really struggled through Knight Errant. To me, she seems like she was the type of character designed to appease the crowd calling for female leads, without much more thought put in to her.

    I really enjoy Vestera – I’m glad they opted to keep her from mirroring Mara later in the series, and I think between her and Allana, as the EU moves forward towards the Legacy period, you’re going to see an increased female role. Plus, it appears Jaina’s love life arc has come to a relatively complete close. She’s poised to take over an important role in the order. I’d say for post-RotJ stuff, you’re starting to see the ladies play a bigger role.

    I’d rather have them develop those three then force mediocre characters like Holt out. Previously, your established female character options were pretty much Leia, Padme, Mara. Now you’ve added three others who are now in role’s to carry stories themselves.

    On a side note, Mindor is good – but Stover’s worst SW work. I suppose that puts it still in the top 1% of EU works, but I was disappointed compared to his others.

  48. Tricia

    @Kirr – I think your long list of books only proves the perspective of female fans, especially since you haven’t actually read some of the books. For instance, Crosscurrent has no female characters in the DP. When has that happened in reverse?

    Kerra Holt has not struck a chord with female fans, no matter how many times that book is shoved back as proof that women have been given even footing in the books.

    @Chris – curious how you came to the conclusion that the Padme book would be a bad business decision, other than that has been the prevailing ‘old school’ mindset in the entertainment business?

    @Dunc – fabulous discussion. I think you hit it out of the park with this post.

  49. Chris

    Tricia – Simply put, a majority of readers would rather have another TOR Novel, another action packed battle story, another Sith novel. I’m not saying it would sell poorly – Padme is a big enough character to garner interest – but it wouldn’t sell as well as other options would. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to see it, I already said I would. However, common sense – generalizing of course – says a majority of EU readers are men, and a majority of men like action oriented titles, so action oriented novels will, generally, do the best.

    Old school, maybe, but doesn’t mean it is a wrong way of thinking.

  50. Jennifer Quail

    I would read a Padme novel (assuming you got someone like Stover-not necessarily him, but someone who’s done that level of a job with the prequel eras) as she desperately needs some sort of justification for her character “development” in the movies.

    I don’t need female protagonists to interest me. What I need are *protagonists that interest me*. I have pretty much quit reading Star Wars books because I got tired of trying to remember who 90% of the characters were (especially the ones whose names were apparently created by drawing Scrabble tiles with all the vowels, two consonants, and the blank), what was going on in the galaxy-spanning plot THIS week, or who these random new characters in a spinoff were that I have never heard of and who because of where it falls in the timeline I know I’ll never hear of again….for heaven’s sake, give me a PLOT! With a *few* characters. X-wing and Wraith Squadron were fun because even when the fate of the whole galaxy wasn’t at stake, the characters were fleshed out and interesting. Even the villains. I would like QUALITY over quantity and I don’t care what version gonads the quality characters have.

    Case in point: Only new Star Wars I’ve liked? “Agent of the Empire: Iron Eclipse.” New-character protagonist, but not so many new characters I need a flow chart. Drop-in appearance by a canon character (Han) that makes sense in context and serves both the new character and adds something to the old.

    I’ll give the new “Scoundrels” novel a try. I am waiting eagerly for the new Wraith book as I trust Aaron Allston implicitly to write a fast-paced, entertaining book with characters I’m always engaged with. But I haven’t been getting that. I’ve been getting novels where reading them is the mental equivalent of a death march.

    On a purely superficial level, also: the covers are just ugly. If I were walking by them, I wouldn’t even glance at a book with that style cover if I didn’t see the “Star Wars” logo.

    (To the argument going on: I don’t like suggesting OMG CENSOR HIM SHAME THE SITE BURN THEM from some replies just because he wrote an article the commenters didn’t like. It’s clearly an opinion piece. People are allowed to have opinions without calls for their heads.)

  51. Tricia

    @Chris you say “Simply put, a majority of readers would rather have another TOR Novel, another action packed battle story, another Sith novel.”

    A couple questions to clarify your point…

    1) Where did you take this poll on the majority of readers?

    2) How does action-packed exclude a female lead or characters?

    This site was formed around an action heroine Mara Jade. Princess Leia and Padme were both action heroines. Aggressive negotiations anyone? Jaina = Sword of the Jedi. Fans have suggested Mirax, Jysella and Tahiri – none of these characters have sat around in a fight.

    3) Why would the Sith have to be a male?

  52. Erin

    I think everybody wants quality characters and well-written stories. What’s messy are the particulars. I, personally, don’t want Token Female Protagonist shoehorned into a story. I want a fleshed out character that resonates with me, regardless of the gender. However, females in the post-ROTJ time period are kinda lacking that regard.

    Based on what Kirr has said and how many have brought up Knight Errant, it shows that you can novels featuring female protagonists that caters to fangirls – and still bought by the male readers. Furthermore, Mara Jade resonated with men and women in numerous books that were marketed to male readers.

    The Darth Bane trilogy shows that you can have a Sith novel, featuring two female antagonists, Darth Zannah and Darth Cognus. Deceived shows that you can have a TOR novels, featuring two female characters, Aryn Leneer and Eleena Daru. The Clone Wars, featuring Ahsoka, shows that you can have action packed story with a female. All these books were marketed (and bought) by male readers.

    Regarding the Padme novel, no one really knows why there hasn’t been put out yet. One can only speculate. But we’ll be asking Jennifer if a Leia or Padme novel will be published soon. Personally, I hope it’s a yes.

  53. Bardan Jussik

    @Dunc: I like your idea, lets harass some poor writer into doing it. Mon Mothma could do with a story, maybe sharing the limelight with Leia in the setting of the Imperial Senate. Trying to do a mission for the rebellion while giving us in insight into Palpatines rule etc. I’d buy that.

    I thought Knight Errant was awful btw, total fail. Story was rubbish, more like a guide to the era her comics were written in than a serious effort to write a new story.

    I think we all agree that better story writing is now needed, whatever the era. I’d happily see a Padme book if it brought something new to the table in terms of story, but I have to see the idea doesn’t excite me. I’m not sure what else she has to offer to be honest.

    I’m definitely looking forward to Jaina getting back to being interesting though, and also some new story led usage of Tahiri who seemed to be rescued as a character somewhat in the final book of FOTJ. Overall I just want a focus on stories driven by good characters, male, female or toaster.

  54. Chris

    Tricia –

    1) If you truly believe more EU readers would rather see a Padme book than a TOR book, then you’ve allowed your passion to take over logic. It’s common sense. I’m not saying I agree, I’m not, but I’m being realistic on the issue. The same crowd that bitches over political episodes of TCW would bitch about a political novel. And Padme is a predominately political character. She’s not the “action hero” Mara is/was. She has her moments, of course, but she is not, by herself, enough of an “action hero” to sustain her own action-oriented novel. Which is fine, I’ve already stated I’m in support of a more political, more developed story. But anyone who thinks my mindset is held by a majority of readers is just not being reasonable.

    2 – I never said it did. I was referring to the hypothetical Padme novel. However, assuming LFL wants to work with pre-established characters…they don’t have a huge list of interesting female characters to work with. Padme and Young Leia are great characters – but they aren’t action heroes in the sense that so many other characters are. They’re politicians, first and foremost. A Jaina novel would be great, sure, and she’s more likely, I’d say, to lead her own novel than pretty much any other female character, simply because of her importance in the stories LFL is telling now.

    3 – I never said this either.

  55. Michael Falkner

    You know, Mon Mothma is the perfect character to center a Padme and Leia tale around. She knew and worked with both generations of the Skywalker clan.

    Lucasfilm, are you listening? Get Bryan Young on this, stat!

  56. Jim (Kirr)

    @Tricia – FYI, I don’t actually work for NJOE anymore, I’m a blogger at the link in my name where my boss is a woman. Also, I don’t particularly recall “telling women how great they have it” above – but I know that baiting and controversy are kind of your thing so I’ll just note that what I did say above was a) that I think the initial argument is based on a false assumption (it implies a lack of women in Star Wars literature) and that b) I agree that women in the post-RotJ era of Star Wars should be expanded upon. Pretty sure that’s what I said… yep, that was it.

    I’m not sure how my not having read some of the books I’ve listed proves your point, but I take it that you’ve read all of those books and found the characterization of women in all of them to be lacking. Fair enough. You’re a woman, I’m a man and I’m not going to argue the point with you about if you found those characters to be engaging or not. I did, but that’s just me. The reason that I actually went through and listed all those characters is because I know that Dunc (and please excuse me Dunc if I am incorrect in any of this) has not read most of those books, and was purely using the cover blurbs for her information. Now I completely agree with the point that those blurbs are terrible – I’d never use them to judge if I want to read a Star Wars book (or any other book for that matter) and they certainly don’t do justice to the presence of any women in those books. I suspect though that they’re just as bad about revealing lots of different details about a book. If you’re a Luke fan and want to read every appearance of the character, you wouldn’t know that he’s in Crosscurrent/Riptide from reading the blurbs. But again, blurbs are generally terrible; when they’re not outright wrong, they’re not giving enough information to make much of a worthwhile judgment about the content of the book.

  57. Dunc Post author

    Action heroes can’t be women?


    …Noted.

    Tricia: Thanks. I’m still kind of boggling that we even need to have this discussion, though… I guess I thought better of our corner of fandom than this, and I’ve never considered myself an optimist.

    Jennifer: EUC folks have said Chris isn’t going anywhere. Shrug.

    Michael: Oh, I like it! Let’s bridge that Rebellion stuff!

    Jim: Blurbs are terrible. But they, and the covers, are entirely there to draw people in and make them want to read the book. If I see a book and it is presented as being wall-to-wall dudes, I am far, far less likely to pick it up. That applies beyond Star Wars as well. I won’t say it’s the only factor I have in picking up a book – particularly where SW is concerned – but it is a factor.

  58. Chris

    Dunc – Don’t know if that was directed at my post, but I never said “action heroes can’t be women”. Just that Padme and young Leia are not action heroes in the same sense as Mara. Mara never really found herself to be utterly helpless – Padme and Leia both do.

    They’re politicians, not action heroes. They have their moments when they are forced into action, but they’re senators. No different than how I don’t think most people would want to see a Bail Organa novel. He has his moments, but he is not an action hero. When he shows up in the novels, he usually is either doing something political or is accompanied by someone like Obi-Wan, who covers the action portion of the novel.

  59. Bardan Jussik

    Who actually said action heroes can’t be women?

    I think my own point on that was that it’s not surprising that in an action orientated franchise, men are more prevalent given that in normal society military/special forces roles are made up of mostly men. And fantasy and fiction stories are at some point derived from real life, to one extent or another.

    But again, if the powers that be were to do some stories that improved and built upon the female characters thats no bad thing.

  60. Michael Falkner

    I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this concept that science fiction has to be all about action heroes. As fans, are we really that shallow?

  61. Erin

    @Chris: Have you read Darth Plagueis? If Darth Plagueis can do it, so can Padme Skywalker.

  62. Chris

    Michael – In general, I’d say yes. Same reason Transformers makes a bazillion dollars in film. People – boys in particular – like shiny things that blow up. Generalization, of course, but not wrong.

  63. Michael Falkner

    Chris, does that play out with the demographics who buy Star Wars novels? What is the primary demo for the Del Rey trade paperback?

    My congitive disconnect here is that most young Star Wars fans I know are focused on The Clone Wars and not on the next 20-book series on the history of tapcafs in the Outer Rim.

    I just don’t see how the argument holds.

  64. Chris

    Erin – I disagree. Not only do people gravitate towards villains, but Palpatine – and let’s be honest, Darth Plagueis is Palpatine’s story – is a huge draw for people. Much more so than Padme.

    Not to mention there is a huge difference between political manipulation of the galaxy and sitting around on senate subcommittees. Radically different kind of political activity.

    Again, I want to make it clear that I would read a Padme novel. It’s a story that should be told. However, LFL has really no reason to go in that route. There is no reason to believe it would sell as well as their other options.

    Michael – I’d say yes, it holds in nearly every form of media. SW novels frequent the NYT Best Sellers List. There are a LOT more people buying these books than those of us that put this much thought into them. People don’t read SW for the quality of the characterization – I think we can all agree there. They read it for…ya know, Star Wars. Lightsabers. Space stations. Jedi. X-Wing fighters.

  65. Michael Falkner

    Chris – Grisham, and Stephen King novels also frequent the NYT lists. Those have a ton of character development and little action.

    Even the Jason Bourne and James Bond novels, also NYT bestsellers, have more characterization than a Star Wars novel. I’m not buying the NYT argument here.

  66. Nanci

    “People don’t read SW for the quality of the characterization – I think we can all agree there.”

    Actually, that’s exactly why I read Star Wars books.

  67. Chris

    Michael – Star Wars isn’t, a will never be, Grisham or King novels. That isn’t their niche.

    I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to see better written stories – I’ve said that plenty of times.

    Just that getting away from action is getting away from what makes them work for so many.

    Nanci – You must be severely disappointed with about 95% of the SW books you read then…

  68. eliz

    I think something that is overlooked a lot is that to grow a brand, to grow product, you have to expand it within reason.

    TPTB have the opportunity to expand their brand by acknowledging a whole demographic who feels they are overlooked and are vocal about wanting a similar but different product than what is currently offered.

    It may not sell as well as some of the other products, but it will sell. And encourage purchasers of the product to buy other products. It’s an avenue to gain share, not a dead end, unless they want it to me.

    Arguing that action by men is why current and future books would sell better may be in fact true- but it is ignoring the opportunity to expand and create additional quality product to bring in a more diverse audience. Diversity is a key focus in establishing and growing a healthy business. Plus going in the characterization route is also a dedication to improving the reading skills of the youth audience. Make them think versus presenting it like a video game.

  69. Chris

    I don’t think anything you’ve said is wrong, there. But I suppose the question becomes “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Their approach now is successful. Star Wars is established and doesn’t need to take creative risks to expand. It would be awesome, I’m with you. But from a business perspective, why change anything? There’s just no reason.

    It’s ignoring an opportunity, but they can afford to. In fact, the risk may very possibly be greater than the reward.

    Everything you said is true, but Star Wars has already established a “healthy business” and is undoubtedly continuing to expand in other ways. I’m not convinced they have much to gain by taking a risk and straying from a tried and true formula.

  70. eliz

    Chris- that’s exactly what Eastman Kodak thought.

    Growing to include more women- not make it the focus, but more inclusive can only help the bottom line. Bringing in women who are more alientated now may encourage them to rethink their position on the male-focused items and increase sales there. Who holds most of the purse strings for all these young boys? Their moms. Help make it a family experience and it can and will grow the overall brand.

    It’s like offering different color paint on cars- it’s the same car, just a different flare to it. Might be they don’t sell as many green as black, but the option is there and they do sell some, establish the loyalty to the brand and then woot – more business later.

  71. Chris

    I don’t think that’s a fair comparison though.

    Kodak failed to adapt despite clear indications they needed to.

    Star Wars, as a brand, is thriving. Not showing even the slightest signs of struggle. They’ve always targeted the male demographic – 30+ years now. It’s worked. Consistently and completely. Moms are opening their purse strings. The brand is expanding. It’s selling millions upon millions of dollars worth of merchandise every year. 2010 – I don’t remember seeing 2011 numbers – was a record year for SW merchandise in a non-movie year. Why change? Stick with what works, until it starts to not work anymore.

    Kodak stuck with what worked…and kept with it. Even when it clearly was not working anymore.

  72. Synlah

    Tried and true, ain’t broke, don’t fix it vs. Innovative.

    Blockbuster = Netflix
    Borders = Amazon

    And speaking of Amazon, it’s no secret that the Big 6 publishing houses are in trouble. They’re clinging to an outmoded business model. They need all the buyers they can get their hands on. 78% of females make the spending decisions. It’s just stupid business practice to ignore that market.

  73. Chris

    Synlah – “It’s just stupid business practice to ignore that market.”…$510 million in toy sales in 2010, $84 million in the first week for the Blu-Rays, couple million TOR sales times the $60+ spent on the game, plus subscription fees.

    I’m unconvinced anything about the business model of SW is stupid. Extremely, extremely successful is more like it.

  74. Michael Falkner

    If that’s all we want in this franchise — the business status quo — then that’s fine. I mean, I would have hoped that we’d learned the lesson from another juggernaut franchise that was making money hand over fist from the die-hard fans by pumping out product after product in the same tired formula.

    Eventually, even the fans couldn’t support the financial needs of the studio, and, after a series of lackluster entries, a studio exec walked into the franchise offices and fired everyone, from the executive producers all the way down to the webmaster. That powerhouse went into hibernation for a few years until it was resurrected with a new vision and new direction.

    We call that franchise “Star Trek”.

    While you may be happy with the way things are going now, remember that you must continue to evolve or you most certainly will perish. I, for one, haven’t read SWEU in some time because it seemed to me that all we were getting was more stories about war, conflict, and brinksmanship with each side trying to make bigger and better weapons, often to ridiculous measure. It’s more about shock and awe in my opinion, rather than something that feels like a natural extension of the films.

    Quite honestly, the SWEU seems quite silly sometimes. The tried-and-true formula is reaching Star Trek Voyager levels of yawn-inducing boredom.

  75. Synlah

    As Chris pointed out toys and Blu-ray sales are doing fine. TOR initially did well, but they’re bleeding subscribers now. Obviously the economy isn’t a factor, but SWEU books have been plummeting for awhile now, so the obvious answer is they’re doing something wrong. They’ve disconnected from their readers (which is an entirely different audience from toys). Female readers are telling them what they’re doing wrong from the POV of that demographic.

  76. eliz

    Chris- it’s almost like you’re actually saying “we make enough money, don’t change it” where every corporation I’ve been at (a couple big ones) were ALWAYS looking for how to grow and innovate because as Michael and Synlah pointed out- innovate or fail.

    I don’t know how old you are, doesn’t matter. Perhaps you don’t remember the “dark days” of SW fandom. Post ROTJ, before release of Zahn’s trilogy. Back on USENET we’d share having dreams of walking into a Kaybees or TRU and finding a aisle of Star Wars toys. It was a dream because at that point, they’d focused on young boys and those boys grew up to find something new. Expansion into novels, starting with Zahn is what reawakened most of Star Wars fandom. If the books had not done as well to help rekindle the love, to whet the appetite of those who then saw the SE’s, who’s to say the prequels would have ever gotten made? (Not arguing if they should or not exist, just pointing out if not for the earlier expansion, odds are they wouldn’t).

    The Zahn novels were not written for the same group who bought Kenner figures. They expanded their audience to great reward. All we’re asking for, when you get down to it, is to expand that a little more, be a little more inclusive for all of us girls and women who bought action figures and bought all the toys/etc. Toss a bone and show that you respect our contributions and participation. Give us another reason to love Star Wars and be loyal. Don’t forget about us or ignore us because it’s hard to be a fan of something when you’re constantly reminded you either don’t exist or are not their focus.

    Think of it this way– this is why there are so many subversive adult jokes in kids movies. Successful kid films know it’s a family affair and while they cater to the primary audience (kids) they toss a few bones to the parents. Why? Makes it pleasant for the parents to attend and then the ideas is the parents will watch again & purchase related merchandise.

    We’re just simply asking the same thing. For ourselves, for our daughters- I’m always on the look out for strong female characters to share with my daughter. She can be whatever she wants to be- she isn’t tied to being a mommy or a nurse. She can be an engineer or pilot or doctor. I’m already having to fight battles of “girls can’t do that” from every other corner it seems, so having a franchise that I love so much be a positive example… oh please do it!

    It has been this by accident practically, of expansion that has given Star Wars it’s staying power. Otherwise it would be like Power Rangers – or actually not even that successful unless they’d taken on TV more seriously a lot earlier.

    I love Star Wars and can only see expanding this way as a means to improve their bottom line. Think of them now as a more generational passing brand- like sports teams loyalty running in a family. Sports are a male orientated area but they sell a heck of a lot of female items/pink shirts/etc to include women and encourage them to participate.

    Heck, we didn’t have anything truly female specific with the exception of crap Amidala dolls (other 12″ were technically boy toys) or untouchable dolls until Her Universe came along. Her Universe’s success is from taking advantage of the situation where the female fans have been overlooked for so long.

    So yes LFL has been successful. Yes the franchise is making money now. But they need to diversify to increase the stream inlets to ensure against another “dark days” as much as possible.

  77. Pingback: Why Do We Love Star Wars? | Tosche Station

  78. Chris

    “SWEU books have been plummeting for awhile now, so the obvious answer is they’re doing something wrong.” – Except not. As someone before has pointed out, books as a medium – SW or otherwise – are struggling. I don’t subscribe to the theory that they’ve done anything wrong. The type of innovation that avoid the current troubles is not adding diversity. It’s changing mediums. It’s telling the story in ways other than the old fashioned paperback. Innovation is important – but adding female characters is not really innovating. It’s catering to a minority niche for the sake of catering. It’s not innovating. It will hurt more than it will help for them to cater specifically to a minority demographic when they could be making more money off another group.

    Eliz, your sentiments regarding your daughter are spot on. It’s great to have examples set for young women, even in fiction. But business doesn’t run on sentiment.

    Why would you make a Padme Amidala book when you can make another TOR novel that will sell far better? It just doesn’t make sense. The only rationalization for it is based on sentiment. The “toss us a bone” attitude. Which is fine, I’m not saying it’s wrong and it wouldn’t be a great thing for them to do. But from a business perspective, it still presents a bigger risk than it does reward.

    The franchise continues to succeed, and until indications are otherwise, I’m not convinced now is a time for them to take risks in this sense.

    Despite the fact that I’m certain LFL wants to make fans like yourselves happy, at the end of the day, women are not the target demographic. Keep the target demo happy, you’ll be successful. Any other groups that join in are a bonus. Don’t risk alienating the target demographic for the sake of a minority. Doesn’t mean they can’t have strong female characters, but it does, in a lot of ways, mean “Here’s Mara, she’s strong, independent…but we’re putting her in a skintight suit because boys like that.”

    HerUniverse is awesome. I’ve met Ashley, and she’s great and what she’s doing is awesome. Women are her target demographic and she succeeds completely in hitting the mark. She knows shes marketing to a niche though.

    I apologize if anything I’ve said comes off as being against the idea of more diversity in SW. I, personally, think it’d be awesome. But if I was in their shoes, I’m not sure I’d have a convincing reason to go that route.

    Ultimately, give me a good story and good writing and I don’t care who my protagonist is. Entertain me. Would you rather have a strong female character in a poorly written book or a great male lead in a well written Stover novel?

    It’s frustrating, I’m sure, and I understand as a male I can’t totally understand your frustrations. Still, I’m not sure it’s quite that big an issue for a majority involved – both creating and purchasing the material.

  79. Synlah

    Innovation is important – but adding female characters is not really innovating. It’s catering to a minority niche for the sake of catering. It’s not innovating.

    Lionsgate (and Scholastic) would probably argue that one with you.

  80. Erin

    Chris:

    “Ultimately, give me a good story and good writing and I don’t care who my protagonist is.” Then, pray tell, why aren’t you applauding CJ (and others) for wanting more female leads if you don’t care about gender? Why are you calling us sexist?

    “Would you rather have a strong female character in a poorly written book or a great male lead in a well written Stover novel?”

    That’s a false dilemma. You can have a strong female character in a well written book. (See: The Hunger Games) Strong female characters don’t necessarily mean that the story will automatically suffer. You’re assuming it will.

    But the silver lining in all this controversy is that if the Powers That Be don’t know we want more female leads, nothing will.

  81. eliz

    Chris-
    I’m an optimist and I want both strong female characters and a solid writer. I don’t want any more poor writing in the EU! Bad writing is bad period.

    I understand where you’re coming from, I do. But my experiences show for the best success, you go for the money- and in many situations, that’s the mom. Give moms a reason to want to buy something for their kids- girl or boy, to share. Boys can learn a LOT from reading books with strong female characters- from respecting the women they meet in real life, to overcoming assumptions as to what is women’s work versus men’s work, etc. Which has come a long way since I was a kid but still has so far to go with so many kids.

    Why can’t LFL, lead by Lucas who has two awesome daughters, lead in this direction? I’m certain they will find a means to make it profitable for them. Maybe it will not sell at the same level as TOR- but bringing in the female audience will help increase sales overall. One more TOR will not impact backlog novels as much as a new fan diving into the universe could.

    “Doesn’t mean they can’t have strong female characters, but it does, in a lot of ways, mean “Here’s Mara, she’s strong, independent…but we’re putting her in a skintight suit because boys like that.” ”

    Yes, YES IT CAN. If they want to be more socially responsible, yes, they can make decisions to lessen such oppressive and sexist choices. Can characters wear skintight suits and still be strong? Sure. Do they have to? No. Do we really need to provide more oversexualized visuals to young boys (target demo group). No, I think we can agree we don’t need to. So why would you put characters in it? To appeal to adult males perhaps? Which is outside the target demo? Which you could argue is the same kind of acceptance and inclusion we’re arguing for.

    It is frustrating, beyond frustrating. When I meet one of my daughter’s friends who are shocked that I love Star Wars, a part of me dies each time they follow with only boys like Star Wars! I use it as a teachable moment, that girls can and do like it and other “boy” stuff too- and some boys like “girl” stuff (mentioning cooking and they’re all Ahhhh).

    As a culture we’re waging battles each day to improve our society, making everyone feel welcome and appreciated, so all will participate. If we can’t get it accepted that women and little girls love something as insignificant as Star Wars, then what hope is there for uniting the rest of mankind over bigger issues? We have to start somewhere and while we have come a long way, there’s still a longer ways to go.

    I accept that you’re not going to see it a different way Chris, and I do understand your points. They’re simple- why change when I’m making money now and no guarantee I’ll make more by changing? However that is the thinking that gets companies and people in trouble every day- either by making short term decisions to make Wall Street/stock market happy but ignore the long term effect and see the business fail, to spending everything you make paycheck to paycheck with no savings, and being sideswiped when the company you work for decides to relocate.

    Investing in culturing female fan base may be an opportunity cost, but the rewards will be greater in the end. Kinda like Darth striking down Obi-Wan and we know how well that turned out. :)

  82. Chris

    Erin – Please, show me one point where I called anyone sexist? I don’t believe I have. And the dilemma was taken the wrong way there. My point is the biggest issue with EU nowadays has nothing to do with gender. It has to do with the quality of the writing.

    Eliz – I’m with you, except that I don’t believe “young males” to be the target demo for adult novels. The novels are targeted at males of an age where sex sells. Mara in a skin tight outfit provides a solid compromise for LFL; it allows them to appease folks who want a female lead and it also allows them to market that same book to the target demo. I get why that isn’t ideal for folks like yourself, but is the target demo more likely to pick up a book with sextastic Mara on the front or with senate style Padme? I get why folks object to the over-sexualization of Mara, but from LFL’s perspective, she provides an awesome outlet to both appease CJ-style requests and to target the folks they normally do.

  83. eliz

    Chris-

    Mara is one example. Leia in her metal bikini. Jabba’s dancers. Padme’s torn midriff shirt. Asoka’s original outfit. Heck her current one.

    Why continue to allow an offensive style of sexuality to continue to be the rule?

  84. Chris

    Eliz – Simply put, it isn’t offensive to the target demo. In fact, it makes it more appealing. It sells.

    That’s an entirely different debate. We’ve now progressed into a much larger societal issue that is bigger than SW.

    Again, though, it comes back to basic business. What sells?

  85. Michael Falkner

    Chris — What sells? Obviously big multi-book series that could have been compressed into a trilogy and still covered the same ground.

    I guess we should just give up, eat our soup, and be thankful that we’re getting something, huh?

  86. eliz

    Chris –
    The target demographic is still learning. You can’t target kids and then claim you’re targeting the adults with it. Especially since the designs go through the entire line. Slave Leia was not put in there for the young boys and I think we both know that.

    Little boys are not asking for half naked women in their entertainment. And this is on verge of a larger conversation about society.

    As for basic business- I think I’ve made my thoughts very clear, based on my experiences in the corporate world. What sells is what you sell well. Being more inclusive will increase sales at the end of the day and open a new market. A threshold is reached with selling to one market demographic, branching out to others when possible is the smart way to protect your business. Especially when that market is standing outside the gates screaming and waiving their money around.

  87. Chris

    Eliz – I suppose we disagree on the target demographic for EU work. I’d say the novels are intended for males between, generally, 14-25. That doesn’t mean others can’t enjoy, but it means I expect LFL to do what they can to appeal to that group. Mara in a tight outfit is intended for that audience. Slave Leia was targeted at that audience – those who were kids in 1977 were old enough to buy in to the sexuality by the time RotJ rolled around.

    As for Ahsoka, obviously a demo shift with her. But I’d challenge the idea that she has been sexualized anywhere near as much as Mara or Leia have been.

    Your idea of “being more inclusive” borders on straying away from the target demographic.

    Their best bet, honestly, is to give a strong female lead and then sexualize her. It gives a middle ground.

    Star Wars has been going 30+ years strong now, and the demographic has only shifted slightly. It varies, slightly, based on each project. But the demographic has never been 50 year old men, or 30 year old women. I don’t buy SW has come close to reaching a threshold. There are no reasons to believe the target demographic, as a whole, are leaving the franchise. I don’t see a reason, as I’ve made clear, a reason to risk straying from them.

    I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree, at least in our business approach.

  88. Synlah

    Their best bet, honestly, is to give a strong female lead and then sexualize her. It gives a middle ground.

    I’m speechless. But I’m sure I’ll recover.

  89. Chris

    You don’t have to agree with it.

    I’m not saying I do. I don’t, personally, object to it, but I understand 100% why people don’t agree.

    Does not change reality. Best way to make female characters appeal to most 14-25 year old boys? Make her sexy.

    I don’t really understand how that particular point is even questionable.

  90. eliz

    “Their best bet, honestly, is to give a strong female lead and then sexualize her. It gives a middle ground.”

    *jaw drop*

    Chris, stop. Take a break. Take a day or two. Reread all the comments. See if by then you realize how horrible that comment is. If you don’t understand still why people would be horrified by it, I don’t know what to even say. You’ve missed the entire point of why we are even asking for strong female characters.

    I’m just… wow.

  91. Michael Falkner

    “I don’t really understand how that particular point is even questionable.”

    Then we truly have failed as a society. If we don’t question this, then we implicitly endorse the objectification of women.

    It’s that simple.

  92. Bardan Jussik

    I believe I started the whole business angle here, lets be frank. LFL probably spends more money on marketing and reaching their target audience than we all earn. So I think we can all be reasonable and agree that the market they are aiming at is largely male. We can also then agree that they are unfortunately ignoring other fans.

    So, would it hurt them to include women in the covers and blurb more? No it wouldn’t. Is there a way to constructively push this? I don’t know but I’m happy to help if anyone has a better idea.

    The bottom, bottom line for me though is the writing. I love the republic/imperial commando series. Because the character writing is simply brilliant. The action serves a purpose but its not important in the story. I felt like someone I knew had died when Etain was killed. Same for the NJO, when Anakin died I was gutted. Same with Mara, total disbelief. I actually woke my now wife up during reading a Legacy book late at night because I thought Luke had been killed off.

    The same feelings have not been inspired in the latest series. Could have been so good but it seems action and combat took over story. I want writing that puts me on the edge of my seat, fearful for my favourite characters safety. I never really felt that way and I’m concerned by this. Hopefully it’s not a continuing trend.

    For me there’s nothing wrong with more female characters taking the lead or being developed, but I just can’t see how it will happen while the people in charge are making their money. Changing the established, successful and very profitable plan is a tall order.

    That being said it certainly works for BSG so why not push that as a role model? Perhaps there’s more female lead roles in that series because they were established from the start.

  93. eliz

    Chris-

    Because we all hope to have evolved further than to do just that and that the business is more respected than to just tart up the chicks to keep the boys happy.

    If what you say is true, then you could snowball that idea into so many horrible ideas.

    Do you think we should tart up the female teachers in schools to keep the attention of males in order to improve test scores/whatever measure of educational standard…

    We’re TIRED of being tarted up as a whole. Pretty, okay. Beautiful, okay. Heck sexual is okay. But when that’s all there is, and sexual is promoted soley to young men, I would hope that at this point in time we’d come along further than this as a whole. I would hope it wasn’t appropriate any longer for so many reasons.

  94. Chris

    Michael – If you can, honestly, tell me that the best way to sell female characters to 14-25 year old men is anything other than sex, you’re out of touch with reality. I’m not saying it as a good or a bad thing – I’m saying it as fact. You can question if it’s right or wrong, of course. But you can’t, honestly, question, that it represents the truth of today’s society.

    Eliz – Again, we risk progressing to a larger discussion on society. All I’ve done is point out the reality of today’s society and business world. I’ve made no comment on if it’s right or wrong. In fact, I’ve made it clear, I think, I’m rather neutral on the issue. Be horrified by society, not by someone simply stating an observation.

  95. Michael Falkner

    I don’t disagree that it’s the status quo, but I do disagree that we have to just roll over and accept it. My parents taught me that women were not objects but instead were *gasp* people, and I made my choices in life accordingly.

    What would happen if you ignored what the market told you was true and actually acted on the same principles?

  96. Chris

    Not accepting it is called “denial.”

    You don’t have to be okay with it. You can make every effort to change it. Great. Until it changes though, you don’t have to accept it, but you have to tolerate it. Until it changes, that’s how things are.

    Businesses will react accordingly. Currently, that means sexualizing female characters in stories intended for a male demographic.

    I’d caution that just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean they are “unprincipled.” I’ve done my best to steer clear of making anything personal, so I do resent the implication I lack principle or treat women as objects.

  97. Michael Falkner

    Wrong.

    Not accepting it isn’t simple denial. Not accepting it is denying my share of the market to the company trying to capitalize on my dollar. It’s a pathway to changing the market.

    I don’t have to tolerate it. In fact, I am granted the rights to outright fight it with my words and non-violent actions to ensure my views are heard and seen.

    You seem to think that the consumer has no power, Chris. Your comments seem to center around the concept that we should be happy with what we have and not demand something better because it’s better than having nothing at all.

    We’ve already shown how attitude leads to failure. History proves that point, not only in economics, but in social and political science as well.

    [We're spinning our wheels here. Instead of deepening the rut, I'm bailing out of this discussion that seems to be going nowhere.]

  98. eliz

    Chris- your statements condone the continuation and acceptance of these actions. We’re tired of accepting it as the status quo and being belittled by people saying basically to suck it up and quit our crying.

    I am tired of living in that world and so glad it’s come so far from where things were when I was a child. But it has to go further and I’m glad to know many who want to see that future world as much as I do.

    One day sexualizing women will be as intolerable as other acts but it never will be unless people start standing up and not accepting the status quo.

    Saying they should do it, continue to do it, it’s acceptable for you for them to do it– all which you’ve stated or implied– is what horrifies all the opponents on this discussion.

  99. Margaret

    Chris, I am speechless. I really think there are some life lessons you have yet to learn. Sex might sell to a small group, but there are plenty of guys out there who are just as offended about women being portrayed that way as there are women who are offended. In this fandom, that group is far larger than the group looking for space porn.

    We are NOT just T&A. We are bona fide ass-kickers, and we can more than hold our own in SciFi of any variety. We can game, we can cosplay, we can nerd with the best of them. And we love it. There might be a target demographic, but any smart business person is going to expand their demographic. I work for one of the biggest names in the credit card industry, and we’re still expanding our target market. Why? It’s simply smart business. The larger the demographic, the more opportunities for growth. You might not want a Padme novel, but I’m sure sick of lighsaber swinging/blasting from the hip novels. I’d love a change of pace.

    I’m also a Rebel Legion member, and let me tell you that I still get plenty of male attention in an X-wing pilot’s flightsuit. I don’t need to be sexed-up. Most men seem to think that being a self confident woman gutsy enough to hang with the guys IS sexy in and of itself. No metal bikini needed. The men who’d rather see the metal bikini aren’t worth my time.

  100. Mark Newbold

    Before I weigh in with my thoughts just want to say that (as ever) hats off for a brilliant discussion point, and for the passionate responses it’s elicited. Club Jade is (IMHO) the best place on the net for this kind of thread.
    Ok, at the risk of being called to account on this I think there are a number of factors at play here. Fandom struggles massively because of the outside perception that it’s a bunch of spotty 15 year old geek boys who drool over Seven of Nine posters and play Tomb Raider all day when we on ‘the inside’ know that the split is pretty much (give or take) 50/50 and that women have been at the vanguard of fandom for decades.
    Look at Star Trek and the campaign to bring the show back when NBC threatened to cancel. Bjo Trimble, Elise Pines and the letter writing campaign and the conventions that came after it are legendary in the Trek community (which, incidentally, is a setting littered with strong female characters).
    Star Wars, perhaps by it’s construction, is different. The core of the story is focused almost exclusively around male characters, but lets not forget that originally Luke was a female character and that 60’s Trek had very few strong female characters. Times change, and so do franchises.
    Personally I find nothing more irritating than shoe-horning characters in for the sake of demographics and there should be no logical reason why there can’t be more (LOTS more) female led Star Wars comics and novels.
    But here’s the rub. Tell that to a focus group that only knows the bare bones of Star Wars. Tell that to the increasingly detached LFL.
    Do these people realise that there are just as many 14 year old girls eager for another Ahsoka or Ventress as 14 year old boys looking for another Han Solo? Probably not, the only female led Star Wars endeavour that seems to get any spotlight (and richly deserved it is) is Her Universe.
    Perception is a huge part of this as well. As Nanci said on Twitter, Zahn hardly describes Mara beyond her eyes and her hair, but the natural assumption (given her profession, skill set and age) is that she’s lithe, athletic, and (as drawn by AH!) voluptuous. But none of that is on the page. I write a lot of fan fic myself, with a number of leading female characters and yes, they are attractive, confident and VERY capable. But there are just as many ‘average’ females, and cantina’s full of average males. I’ll admit to casting my own Setnin sector casts and having the leads look like your typical Hollywood movie. But that’s just my shortcoming, it helps me imagine the character and ‘get inside their head’ better.
    To objectify a character because it’s ‘easier’ isn’t just sexist, it isn’t just lazy it’s really, really bad writing.

  101. Mark Newbold

    …and yes, I realise that my final comment contradicts my previous paragraph. To explain, while I have some physically attractive characters in the stories they are not ‘sexed up’ for the sake of being sexy. I’m not trying to sell anything here (I wish!)

  102. Racheal

    By continuously allowing over sexualization of females, the problem will not cease. Creating a women into a sex object IS NOT a middle ground. There is no middle ground that is acceptable. A horribly created female character is not what we want. Throwing a female into a story for the sake of adding a woman is not a solution.

    Quite frankly, insinuating that a man will only enjoy a female character if she is a sex object hurts men everywhere.

    It’s no secret that sex sells. Sex sells because consumers continue to buy into it. As long as the culture backs it, it will continue. Telling others that the only way to bring in a good female character that everyone can accept it to make her into some over-hyped sex object is disgusting, degrading and unacceptable.

  103. Mark Newbold

    Rachael, totally agree with that. I made a ham-fisted attempt at saying just the same. Like you say, insinuating that men only enjoy female characters because they are ‘sexy’ is insulting to men (and a gross generalisation) and and does nothing to help bring through more interesting and unique female characters.
    Having physically attractive female and male characters is fine, as that’s a completely subjective opinion – what’s attractive physically to one person may not be to another. But having a character as a pure sex object is just lazy.
    That’s not to say that the characters have to be monks. We can write Star Wars fiction with an adult edge that doesn’t need to be overt but still shows that these people aren’t just holding hands at the back of the cantina, but a lot of that is down to the skill of the writer.
    Like you say, chucking in such lazy characters does little service to the story, especially when there’s a galaxy of interesting and influential female characters just dying to have a story written about them. As has been said, a Padme novel is a given, a Ventress story explaining her past in more detail is another. Mon Mothma and her struggles for the Alliance. We could go on.
    maybe Del Rey will take the plunge and dip their toes into this pool with a Tales From… (why aren’t we getting a new Tales From…every other month? Such an obvious testing ground for new story avenues)

  104. Chris

    It’s progressed to the point where nobody is putting anything in context – and at that point, it isn’t worth bothering with anymore.

    I suppose I’ve made an error in what I believed the purpose of this post to be. I assumed the point was to open a dialogue. Unfortunately, if all it really boils down to is a small group patting each other on the back and throwing out differing opinions, then its rather useless.

    Look, I understand where you’re coming from. I can’t personally relate, I’m not a female. But I get that you want to see yourselves better represented, you want to make SW…and society…so that women are never objectified. I get it, I do.

    That doesn’t change reality. Reality is:

    1) The targeted demographic here is males, somewhere in their teens or twenties. Different mediums have the ages shifted slightly, but generally speaking, this is the type of person LFL is selling to.

    2) Males in this age range like sex. They like boobs. They like bikinis and skin tight outfits. It’s how biology has always worked and how it always will work. Unfortunately, no amount of activism will alter biology. Regardless of what society looks like, biology says that when most young males see an attractive women in revealing clothing, their interest in peaked.

    3) Companies like LFL wish to sell to their target demographic.

    4) Therefore, companies like LFL will use sex to target their demographic, assuming their demographic is in that general age range.

    That isn’t bigotry. That’s fact.

    What I’m NOT saying is everybody should love that. Everybody has their cause; this particular one is not mine, but I don’t dislike it. I just think, realistically, idealism is only good for so much.

    Realistically, you are not going to get everything you want. Nobody fighting for a cause has ever gotten that. If you want more female leads, realize that probably means having them sexualized. That’s pretty close to fact.

    So yes, be willing to compromise. Settle for little victories and just enjoy the damn books. Your problem, though, is much bigger than SW. What you’re talking about is a fundamental shift in the way the world works and has worked for all of time.

    Nothing productive occurs if you get a group of like-minded people together, sit around, find those who disagree and discredit them because they disagree. Which is what has occurred here.

    I’ve been respectful. I haven’t called anyone names. I haven’t resorted to personal attacks. I’ve simply stated how reality works.

    Also, it’s always enjoyable to see part of your own twitter feed filled with your comments and “OMG I CAN’T BELIEVE SOMEONE SAID THAT” reactions to them. An honor.

  105. Dunc Post author

    Uh-huh. Well ladies, gentlemen, we tried. You tried. Thank you for your contributions.

    Yes, Chris, objectification happens. That’s society. We get it. But it is NOT a compromise we need to accept, it’s an assumption women have been fighting for decades, and will keep on fighting.

    Nothing changes if we don’t work at it. Which kind of brings us back full circle, doesn’t it? If we don’t say it, who’s going to hear?

    Chris, feel however you want to feel, but:

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  107. Darth Bantha

    Women are awesome, interesting and beautiful. Most of these dudes maybe feel intimidated by women? Don’t know how to talk to them? Not trying to be rude, just notice this social awkwardness towards women in people I know.

    Plain in simple some of the best EU characters are…women.

    I’ll read Jaina over Kyp anyday…Kyp sucks.

    btw I’m a dude.

    peace.

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  109. Fettish

    & I’ll read Jaina & Kyp anyday…

    That’s fandom for you. There are all sorts of opinions out there, but the internet makes some look bigger than others.

  110. Megan

    What about Padme’s handmaidens? I’d love to see a book about their training and/or them joining the resistance on Naboo while Padme was off planet in Episode I. Those characters have so much more potential than being demoted to locker room pinups in The Clone Wars.

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