A few days ago, Star Wars fans were gifted with the first trailer for December’s Rogue One. Cause for excitement? Everybody likes more Star Wars, right? WRONG. While most fans were delighted by the totally rad trailer, there was the vocal contingent (I know it’s not all of you, so please don’t get all #NotAllMen on me) of fanboys who couldn’t handle the fact that a second Star Wars film was going to have a female protagonist, rebel Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones. The. Gall. As the YouTube comments quickly became a cesspool of meninism and neckbeards’ tears, many also took to Twitter to express their displeasure over the presence of yet another vagina in their beloved story about space monks and light swords.
Yep. There were two whole women in the entire trailer, so expect a bra burning and mass castration at any moment. Based on a minute-and-a-half of trailer time, the battle cry of “Jyn Erso is a Mary Sue!” began to ring in every corner of the internet. For those who don’t know, a “Mary Sue”is a popular term in fandom for a female character that is perfect, good at everything, and empty, so people can project themselves onto the character. (“Gary Stu” is Mary Sue’s male counterpart, but let’s be real — men rarely, if ever, get accused of this.) Despite being a well-rounded and empathetic character, Rey from The Force Awakens has been accused of being a Mary Sue since day one due to her talents as a pilot and quick grasp of the Force. However, the whole idea of the Mary Sue is an absurd one. Do people make the same claims about Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Captain America, or Batman? Nope, it’s perfectly fine to look like vintage Harrison Ford, swagger in, get the girl, and save the world. Feminist geek site (aptly named) The Mary Sue penned an open letter to fanboys yesterday, calling them out on their bullsh*t. Please, go read it. It’s amazing.
The idea that the introduction of additional female protagonists somehow takes away from “their” Star Wars is a baffling one. While there has been a rise in female-fronted films lately, including films like The Hunger Games and Mad Max: Fury Road that were critical and financial hits, it’s not like the industry no longer skews heavily male. In 2014, only 12 percent of major film protagonists were women. The numbers get even more dismal when you factor in men and women of color. Polygraph recently obtained and broke down 2,000 popular screenplays by percentage of men’s and women’s dialogue. The results are pretty much exactly what you would expect:
In 22% of our films, actresses had the most number of lines (i.e., they were the lead). Women are more likely to be in the second place for most number of lines, which occurs in 34% of films. The most abysmal stat is when women occupy at least 2 of the top 3 roles in a film, which occurs in 18% of our films. That same scenario for men occurs in about 82% of films.
Even Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which supposedly heralded a hostile takeover of the Force by the feminists, only had 28 percent of its dialogue spoken by women. True, that is over four times as much as the truly dismal 6 percent in Episode IV: A New Hope, but it’s not like men have been shut out of the equation. Marvel tentpole Captain America: Civil War storms into theaters next month, and while we get two female superheroes with Black Widow and Scarlet Witch (three if you count Sharon Carter), the male heroes still outnumber them 5-1. Don’t worry, boys. We aren’t taking all of your franchises just yet.
And if we did, who cares? Women have been loving male-fronted films and franchises for basically ever, even if they have gotten sick of being marginalized and are using their box office money accordingly. Is it so impossible for a (white) man to relate to a character that doesn’t exactly reflect your demographic that you’ll disown a franchise that you once claimed to love? Clearly it isn’t, as men made up 67 percent of The Force Awakens opening box office weekend, and men came out for films like The Hunger Games and Fury Road as well. Female protagonists are clearly not the problem; a culture of fragile masculinity is.
The fact of the matter is that Star Wars (and geek culture at large) doesn’t belong to angry fanboys. It has been beloved by so many people for decades, and for it to finally start representing a small part of its diverse fanbase can only be seen as a step forward. This is a story about midichlorians (ugh), spaceships the size of planets, and alien packed cantinas. Surely the inclusion of women is one of the least far fetched aspects of this great universe.
My question is this: What are you losing? Well, aside for antiquated notions about gender roles, literally nothing. No one is taking away your male heroes, or preventing new ones from having their glory day in the future. All we’re asking is that our heroes reflect the wider viewership in some small way. (Star Wars is still overwhelmingly white and straight because Rome wasn’t built in a day.) Science fiction is a genre that encourages escape, and if your idea of escapism is a universe that is only populated by straight white men, you may be due for some deep introspection.
What are you so afraid of?