Unsurprisingly, with J. J. Abrams at the helm, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is taking a “female-friendly” turn. In addition to the major female character, Rey, Gwendoline Christie, best known as Brienne from Game of Thrones, will be playing a battle-hardened officer called Captain Phasma. Supporters of the casting choice argue that the Star Wars franchise is fantasy and that the new film needs to reboot itself and appeal to half the population. This position is nothing but folly, however.
The first six Star Wars films were full of male soldiers from all sides laying down their lives in epic battle scenes. It’s one thing to say that Star Wars does not and should not reflect our world, yet it’s quite another to take a pre-existing Star Wars universe and then remodel it to support a feminist narrative. Of course, Princess Leia was a crafty, effective and brave heroine from the original trilogy. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The creation of Captain Phasma, in contrast, reeks of a political agenda. The galaxy may be teeming with tens of millions of pro-Empire army and naval personnel, but what proportion of them would be female, let alone be able to fill the shoes of a central Imperial character?
Removed From Reality
When I say “central Imperial character,” the film is continuing the tradition of Imperial characters having minor (in terms of screen time)—albeit pivotal—roles. Also, the Imperials in The Force Awakens are really the First Order, one of what seems to have been many splinter groups forming in the 30 years since the Galactic Empire suffered defeat at Endor.
Moreover, the Star Wars saga has always been about telling stories of good and evil, stories which are indeed rooted in our own history and modern times. The Force and advanced technology are simply devices through which these themes play out.
Unless the First Order lowered the physical entry requirements, how is Captain Phasma even in the organisation’s Stormtrooper Corps equivalent to begin with? Shrieks of sexism and misogyny will probably follow when people criticize the casting choice, as has always happened with legitimate concerns about “female empowerment” (read: propaganda) inserted into video games. Just as Gwendoline Christie’s picture above has been altered with make-up, camera angles and Photoshop, substantially changing her appearance, The Force Awakens is doing the same thing regarding gender roles.
How Many Women Pass Advanced Combat Schools In The Real World?
Captain Phasma is being portrayed in pre-release snippets as an alpha badass, elusive and apparently capable of extraordinary combat feats. So someone please tell me: where in real life (and the military) are these sorts of women? One of the hallmarks of good fantasy is its ability to generate suspended disbelief. The story must be real and plausible enough in other areas that you can forgive the mind-boggling aspects (such as the Force in Star Wars). The inclusion of Captain Phasma just doesn’t pass the sniff test.
We have already seen such a farce of “female empowerment” in relation to FIFA 2015. Anita Sarkeesian, that veritable bastion of media “truth,” questioned why mixed-gender teams couldn’t play in the game released on multiple consoles. After all, she said, if we allowed this, we could imagine future mixed-gender teams in real life! Hooray for readers of The Secret and believers in the Law of Attraction! In the middle of her lecture, she conveniently forgot that men and women don’t play together in professional soccer because women are physically less capable on average and female leagues would be obliterated.
Please Save The World From Itself
When I last checked, 97 or 98 percent of the American military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan were male personnel. Although we should honor anyone who dies in service of their country, a great proportion of the female soldiers who died were not engaged in combat, similar to transport division Private Jessica Lynch (though she survived). We don’t see women in the Navy SEALs or other elite units. Whether one or several get in is immaterial, as the purpose of characters like Captain Phasma is to imagine that women perform these roles regularly, which is just not the case.
In the meantime, the vast majority of the heavy lifting, from military war casualties to other dangerous jobs (and workplace deaths), is done by men. Maybe when equal opportunity meets these realities, I’ll begin to relate to a character as contrived as Captain Phasma.
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