Rogue One: A Female Hero Story
The teaser for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” wasn’t even an hour old, and I hadn’t even watched the trailer before the Internet was trying to shit on my joy. It didn’t matter though I watched the trailer, and I loved it. Angry nerds calling for a boycott over Jyn Erso, a woman smuggler, have already forgotten that “Star Wars Episode VII” had the largest domestic box office opening gross of all time, and is ranked third for total gross worldwide behind the movies “Avatar” and “Titanic.” Oh yeah, “The Force Awakens” had a female lead, too. I guess that the boycotts were super effective.
I don’t know why the haters are so upset that there is a female lead; there are still plenty of dudes in the movie. While the trailer passes the Bechdel-Wallace test, there are only two women featured, and Jyn Erso is the only woman that appears in the promo posters. Maybe they are worried that this aggressive, cocky, smart–mouthed rebel will somehow overshadow Han Solo as the greatest smuggler in the galaxy? Who knows? Honestly, I don’t care anymore. Let them boycott. It will make opening night tickets that much easier for me to obtain.
Let’s get serious here. We haven’t had many female heroes or leads in science fiction. When women are included, they’re often relegated to supporting the male heroes or being their motivation through death or damseling. Yet when this isn’t the case, movies aren’t less successful. “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” and “Aliens” were all box office successes, and “The Force Awakens” has a much broader appeal because there is such a variety of representation. Rey has a universal appeal; if you don’t see yourself in her, you want to emulate her because she is a complete character and such a badass at the same time. Finn is who I related to; Poe was the cool hotshot pilot that I would want to be my best friend. So here I am, a straight white guy who relates to the black male character, wants to be more like the white female character, and friends with the sexually ambiguous Guatemalan character.
Maybe it’s because I’m 38 now, and I’ve seen how movies have inspired my thinking that I want there to be better representation in films, especially genre films, because they have the power to cross generational barriers. I want everyone to see themselves as someone that can be the hero or see that the character that they relate to the most can grow into someone better than they were at the start of the film. Everyone watches movies. Everyone plays video games. Everyone can be the hero, the villain, the best friend. Roles are not defined by gender, race, or sexual orientation; they are determined by character, something inside each of us. It is easier for us to believe in ourselves if we can see ourselves reflected on the big screen, the small screen, and literature. I’ve had it easy; Hollywood sees me as the default, but it’s time for that to change. “Rogue One” is a continuation of that change slowly happening in the Star Wars universe. “The Force Awakens” was the first step. I hope that by the end of it all, Lucas Films and Disney have created a universe within “Star Wars” as diverse as we are.