Today’s casting announcement was indeed very welcome. Finally, we have a confirmed cast, or at least the biggest part of one. We have a group of familiar faces and new actors who come with glowing recommendations, and they’re not all white guys. (Just mostly.)
But there was one bit of fallout that we have mixed feelings about.
Where are the women?
We have Carrie Fisher, of course. But of the seven new cast members there’s only one other woman joining her. Granted, Daisy Ridley could very well be playing Episode VII’s main character. She could be the axis the entire film revolves around. Or, she may not be. We don’t know, and they’re probably not going to tell us any time soon. And there could be other women in the cast but again: We’re not seeing them today. In any case, this is the core cast. The leads will be drawn out of this group – or so we’re led to assume.
I’m not the only one who noticed this, or remembered the casting call for two new female roles. And may still be? Though two out of eight isn’t much better, depending on the size of both roles. Three female characters is still only hitting the bare minimum. In addition to the virtual stream of comments on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr, we have pieces from Annalee Newitz, Amy Ratcliffe, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Devin Faraci, Eliza Thompson, Julie Hammerle, Bonnie Burton, Rainbow Rowell and Tricia Barr. And, from back in February, Laura Hudson’s Leia is not enough.
But, you know, “be patient.”
We’ve had two trilogies with exactly one woman each taking the lead. We had the prequel trilogy, where, finally, there were enough women that they actually talked to each other sometimes. When their scenes weren’t cut, anyway. (Sorry, Padme’s mom and sister. Sorry, Mon Mothma.) Still, Padme talked to her handmaidens, to Shmi Skywalker, to Queen Jamillia, to Beru Whitesun. And remember: The Bechdal test is (again) the bare minimum, not any sort of ultimate measure.
Outside of the movies, we’ve embraced the addition of characters like Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Ahsoka Tano and even newcomers Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren, whose show hasn’t even aired yet. Two women in the Rebels cast? We were enthusiastic, even if there are still some bumps in the road.
“Be patient,” they say.
They don’t seem to realize that we have been patient. We’re here. We’re fans. We’re ready. We’ve been patient for 30 years. It’s just that now, there’s enough of us visible that you can’t ignore us when we speak up.
Here’s a real question for you: Why do we keep asking? It’s not because we enjoy this outrage, I’ll tell you that much. It’s because of decades of being ignored, disrespected, and of our contributions being constantly downplayed, our concerns brushed to the side. And if we don’t ask, if we go back to being “patient?” That’ll just give them more reason to go back to the status quo, no matter how many Katnisses there are.
I’m sorry this casting announcement, this moment we’ve all been waiting nearly two years for, has been clouded by complaints. But I’m not sorry for speaking up as to why. I just wish we didn’t have to.