A Feminist Watches Star Wars For the First Time

Why are there no women in these movies?
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Kayla Goggin
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Why are there no women in these movies?

Everybody in the whole goddamn world has seen Star Wars except me.

How have I been alive for over a quarter century without having watched one of the greatest adventure epics of our time? It was easy. I started by not giving a shit about Star Wars, followed that up by finding out that there are almost no women in the original films, and finished by enjoying 80s-era Harrison Ford in Blade Runner instead. 

It was a great formula. So good, in fact, that it took nearly twenty-six years to crack. With the new installment coming out next month, I was finally curious enough to find out why everyone loves these movies so much.

Let’s do this.

Let’s do this.

This weekend I watched all three of the original films, comfortable in the knowledge that no matter the outcome, I was at least among the lucky few who have been compensated with money to live inside George Lucas' brain for six hours. Before I dug in I analyzed each of the films’ original posters to get a feel for what I could expect. 

My bias is probably already clear, but I really went into this with an open mind, hoping to be surprised or at least entertained. Instead I force-fed myself a six-hour-long wet fart. Anyway, here's what I learned:

Star Wars: A New Hope

Greetings from planet sex bomb.

Greetings from planet sex bomb.

Prediction:

This movie looks like it's gonna be sexy as hell! Like, Drake dousing my body in champagne while we laugh into the sunset on a beach made of cash – that kind of sexy. This movie looks like it's about to bring the righteous virility of galactic gods up against the darkest evil in the universe until everything explodes into shirtless sex fireworks.

Despite knowing all the characters' names, what the Death Star is, and that Vader is Luke's father, I have no idea what this movie is actually about. What I gather from this poster, however, is that I am about to meet a man who is a master of lightning and I am 100% all in. Also, if that's Leia beside him then I totally get why this movie caused millions of boys to leave the theater and crash directly into puberty. Like, goddamn. Is this Bond in space?

Reality:

I immediately realize that this will not be sexy. This will not be sexy at all.

Is there seriously only one woman in this whole movie? (Luke's Aunt Beru, who speaks a total of two lines, does not count.) Maybe they could've cut the enormous stormtrooper codpiece budget and hired a woman x-wing pilot. No? Okay. At least Leia is allowed to be a badass who isn't repeatedly undermined by a man. No? Okay.

Since I, until this weekend, was the only person alive who had not seen this film, I'm going to assume you know what the plot is. If you don't, then I really can't help you. The most cogent part of A New Hope (and coincidentally my favorite) is the cantina scene and I'm still fairly certain it inspired the lizard-person acid trip sequence in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

I will say, though, that I think "Luke Skywalker" is a totally dope name and I am here for it. I also appreciate that I was rewarded for my patience with the image of the Death Star exploding, which, I'll admit, was also totally dope.

The Empire Strikes Back

Far more interested in the cozy gay romance between C-3PO and R2D2, tbh.

Far more interested in the cozy gay romance between C-3PO and R2D2, tbh.

Prediction:

My feelings about this poster are so torn. Once again, I feel like it could be pretty sexy – just look at Leia and Han! Maybe we'll see some actual romance; maybe he'll stop negging her for two seconds and they'll have a normal conversation. There's hope here, I think.

And then I see the lizard kangaroo.

I think this is where a lesser millennial would pause and find the emoji most demonstrative of the involuntary eye rolling seizure I'm experiencing. However, I tend to give out the benefit of the doubt like it's my job so instead we'll focus on Vader's floating head in the background. Obviously, he's coming for sweet revenge! Last time we got to see him go all Carrie-at-the-prom and murder a guy with his mind powers. Maybe there will be more of that? Maybe he'll get his period and stormtroopers will throw tampons at him. I would watch that.

Hey - remember how emotionless Leia was when General Douchebag blew up her home planet in A New Hope? Surely that was our tip off that she's a double agent who is only pretending to seduce Han Solo so that she can sell rebel secrets back to Vader. Please let that be how this goes down because all I'm seeing right now is Luke riding a dinosaur kangaroo and I'm worried, George.

Reality:

You know that scene where Chewbacca gets thrown in jail at Cloud City, cradles the dismembered corpse of C-3PO, and screams into the darkness after the only black guy in the movie betrays him and his friends? That’s how I felt when I realized the best part of this movie would be the second bottle of wine I cracked open during it.

To be fair, The Empire Strikes Back is a lot more fun than A New Hope. There's way more action; we get an abominable snowman in the first 5 minutes and we get to see Leia actually kick some ass. Unfortunately, she is still the only woman in this movie (except for a female general with a total of one line) and half of her screen time is spent rebuffing Han Solo's creepy sexual advances. Ladies, don't you just love it when a dude screams at you because you won't say you love him? Ah, romance.

Speaking of the ladies, why doesn't Vader hire any women? Maybe if he did someone would fire a laser that actually hit one of these intergalactic terrorists. Maybe one of those hypothetical women would also be able to capture the Millennium Falcon – a ship which we are reminded at least four times is the equivalent of a spritely trashcan.

Positives include Vader's cape (so luscious – is that Balmain?), finally understanding the cultural significance of Luke's paternity, and watching Yoda stunt all over everybody's ass. I would have liked this more if it had been called Yoda Strikes Back.

Return of the Jedi

Leia actually wears a camouflage poncho for 80% of the movie but that’s none of my business.

Leia actually wears a camouflage poncho for 80% of the movie but that’s none of my business.

Prediction:

I am totally on board with the Jedi. Badass telepathic ninja space warriors? Yes please. The title of this movie alludes to there being a Jedi on screen doing Jedi things possibly in or around the Death Star, whose reappearance on the poster has me pretty excited. 

Maybe there will be multiple Jedi – after all, "Jedi" could be like "Lego": the plural and singular forms might be the same. Maybe Leia will go full Jedi! Maybe Luke and Leia will team up and Jedi the shit out of the empire, kill their dad and then open a school for cute little Jedi kids like a couple of intergalactic Charles Xaviers.

Reality:

The good news is that there is more than one woman in this movie. The bad news is that I had to google her to find out her name (Mon Mothma) because it's never spoken during her appearance, which lasts forty seconds. Please note that she has less screen time and fewer lines than Admiral Ackbar, a gigantic talking catfish.

Leia does not go full Jedi, though she does get to murder Jabba the Hut, an animated sebaceous cyst who forces her into (sexual?) slavery. This is pretty cool, I guess. Oh, by the way – the only other women in this movie are slaves, and one of them is fed (alive) to a giant monster for sport. There's probably a metaphor in there but you can just green screen it in during post-production.

It wasn't all bad though – John Williams' musical score is amazing and iconic, and the final Luke/Vader battle scene was everything I wanted it to be. Also, Emperor Palpatine is a treasure and I hope my voice sounds just like his when I'm a decrepit old hag coaching my progeny to commit acts of interplanetary war.

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I still don't understand why people love these movies so much. In spite of all the conventional wisdom that these films are classics, maybe twenty-five-year-old feminists are not the Star Wars target audience. Maybe you had to be there. Just a guess.