Someone crunched the numbers, and did you know that 96% of the Star Wars universe is controlled by white men? Yes, this is true. In the 41 years since Star Wars first hit the big screen, between the writers, directors, and executive producers spanning three different trilogies â€” and now various one-off stand-alone stories â€” just about every single person calling the shots has been a white man.
This is, without a doubt, a problem, but itâ€™s been masked for decades by strong female characters. Yes, the first time we meet Princess Leia in A New Hope she is literally â€śsaving [everyoneâ€™s] skinsâ€ť as she fires a blaster into the trash chute so everyone can escape; and Rey has powers far unmatched to Kylo Ren. Even Rose Tico is a scrappy liâ€™l hotshot, helping save the resistance (and Finn), while Jyn Eros died to secure the Death Star blueprints. Once upon a time, evenÂ PadmĂ© knew her way around a blaster.
There has been no lack of female characters in the Star Wars universe, and Iâ€™ve never had a major problem with them until Solo: A Star Wars StoryÂ came around. The movie features not one but three different female leads â€”Â Emilia ClarkeÂ asÂ Qiâ€™ra, Thandie Newton as Val, andÂ Phoebe Waller-BridgeÂ as droidÂ L3-37 â€” but the movie has literally no idea what to do with them. Iâ€™ve never felt so let down and hurt by the female representation in a Star Wars movie before, and yes, Iâ€™m looking to place blame, and Iâ€™m going to blame it on the fact that 96% of this galaxy is controlled by white dudes.
I understand thatÂ SoloÂ is not about the three female leads, as the movie is called Solo, so obviously itâ€™s about Han Solo. But there are three female leads in the movie, and (HERE ARE THE SPOILERS!) two of the three die almost immediately after being introduced. As for the surviving female character, Clarkeâ€™sÂ Qiâ€™ra, sheâ€™s spared till the end when she gets about 10 minutes to shine on screen before itâ€™s revealed sheâ€™s joined the Dark Side. And thatâ€™s it.
Val, perfectly played by Thandie Newton, is a criminal in cahoots with Woody Harrelsonâ€™s Beckette, who eventually goes on to become Hanâ€™s so-called â€śmentor.â€ť Val herself doesnâ€™t make it through the first act because in order to successfully smuggle some stuff, she has to sacrifice herself to get the job done. I most definitely remember whisper-yelling, â€śOH HELL NOâ€ť during my Solo screening. You donâ€™t introduce us to a badass Thandie Newton and kill her 20 minutes later, most definitely leaving the audience wanting more.
As for L3, sheâ€™s the *first* female droid in the Star Wars universe. That, right there, is something to celebrate. Even more exciting, L3 is a droid with a mind of her own, literally. She is a â€śself-madeâ€ť droid, and does not hold back when clapping-back at her â€śownerâ€ť LandoÂ Calrissian. Also, even more exciting, L3 is looking for equal rights for droids. At one point Lando asks, â€śCan I get you anything else?â€ť to which L3 actually quips, â€śEqual rights.â€ť (During the Solo press conference,Â Waller-Bridge revealed that she actually ad-libbed that line. Nice.)
A droid looking for equal rights in the galaxy? Thatâ€™s amazing, and I canâ€™t help but read it as a reflection of the current day and age in our galaxy. However, no sooner does she make this stand for equality than L3 shares a scene withÂ Qiâ€™ra â€” and it is the ONLY scene in the entire movie that features one female character talking to another female character without any males present. So, do they talk about gender equality, feminism, or even dope space caps? NOPE. They talk about boys.Â
In what is probably the lowest point of the movie for me, L3 andÂ Qiâ€™ra talk about Lando â€” and imply that Lando has figured out how to pleasure L3 even though sheâ€™s a droid (To be fair, Donald Glover has said that he believes Lando is pansexual, and this is space, after all). Itâ€™s barely a two minute scene, and these two strong, female character are reduced to gossip. Itâ€™s with this moment that Solo fails theÂ Bechdel test, and itâ€™s a huge disappointment. So is the fact that shortly after this, L3 is killed and it sends Lando into a tailspin. (But donâ€™t worry â€” her â€śconsciousâ€ť is uploaded into the Millennium Falcon, and sheâ€™s now the shipâ€™s navigator, even though this is never mentioned throughout the rest of the movieâ€¦ nor addressed in any other Star Wars movie ever made.)Â
With two-thirds of the movie now done, thereâ€™s only one female character left.
Qiâ€™ra is like a double-double spy, working for no one but herself â€” but she answers to Darth Maul (??!!??!!???). This is honestly a downright bonkers reveal, and sign me up for whatever movie Clarke takes on asÂ Qiâ€™ra next. But the fact that this reveal is saved for the end of the third act, with little to no buildup and prior minimal screen time for Clarke when sheâ€™s not just heavily flirting with Han Solo, is disappointing. Are we ever going to get aÂ Qiâ€™ra movie? No. Are we ever going to get aÂ Qiâ€™ra where sheâ€™s more than a supporting character? Nope.Â
The Solo production is now one of legend, as with a month left to go of shooting the original directors, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, were fired and Ron Howard was brought in to finish everything up. Iâ€™m willing to bet that during this process of trying to â€śsaveâ€ť the movie, the female characters were pushed farther to the side â€” and honestly, thatâ€™s fine. The movie is not about them. But it really would have only take one female behind the scenes to step up and go, â€śHey, how about L3 andÂ Qiâ€™ra not talk about sex in the cockpit of theÂ Millennium Falconâ€¦?â€ť
Now keep all of this in mind, and letâ€™s circle back to the fact that Star Wars is 96% made by white men. That number just actually increased, as the next stand-alone Star Wars movie has been announced. Itâ€™s going to be a Boba Fett movie, and GUESS WHAT, to the surprise of no one, itâ€™s being helmed by a white dude. Another Star Wars movie about a dude being made by a dude. Someoneâ€™s going to have to crunch the numbers again, as the scale has tipped a little but further, and not in the female favor.
Iâ€™m not by any means saying that these white men arenâ€™t doing a fine job with Star Wars, but the lack of representation â€” with both genderÂ and race â€” is really starting to show. Itâ€™s not to say that men canâ€™t tackle female characters, as both J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson recently have with their trilogy installments and given us characters like Rey, Rose, and even Captain Phasma. But come on, guys. If Carrie Fisher were still around to see this, she would be pissed. The greatest tragedy in life is that weâ€™re never getting a stand-alone Star Wars movie helmed by the late
princessÂ general because can you even IMAGINE? The least we can do, for the sake of Carrie, is try a little bit harder with our female characters.