- Olivia Luchini
Star Wars: One Body Type in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Star Wars rocked the world of pop culture when it burst onto the screen in 1977, and it is considered a cultural unifier because it thrusted science fiction into the limelight and united different types of fans of all ages. The franchise is often associated with the "nerd" stereotype, seen in popular shows such as The Goldbergs. Star Wars has impacted society so much that there even exists a religion, Jediism, based upon the Jedi Code.
It's the second-highest-grossing media franchise, just behind Pokemon, with a total revenue of nearly $43 billion.
Because of the span of interest in Star Wars, women within the franchise are already treated with...toxicity, and often. Leia wearing her metal, slave bikini made Carrie Fisher a sex icon for a generation, with the costume still being used and referenced in shows today in regards to roleplay or fantasies of nerdier male characters. Daisy Ridley, who plays the main character of the sequels, and Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose Tico in Episode VIII, both had to delete their social media due to harassment from fans who hated their characters, who were both written as stronger, more independent women. This is a microscopic fraction of the cases of objectification and harassment against women throughout the Star Wars fan community, but let's move into discussion on the sizes of female characters:
Pictured above are Jyn Erso, Rey, Leia Organa and Padme Amidala, the leading ladies of the Star Wars movie franchise. Beyond the fact that they are all white and brunette, which is sort of acceptable for only two of the four (being that they are mother and daughter), they are also all of the same stature: 5'1-5'7, slender, and unmuscular.
It would be foolish of me to expect a lot of progressiveness from the main characters of a franchise. With that, let's move onto background characters. For men, Malakili and Jek Porkins are the only two heavier men. For women, we have Yarna D’al Gargon.
Yarna is a classic example of how plus-size women are characterized in entertainment. While all of the other members of Jabba's Palace from "Return of the Jedi" are named within the credits of the film with classic, galactic names, Yarna's ORIGINAL name/credit was simply "Fat Dancer." Yikes. Her original purpose was to basically be a punchline. She is juxtaposed with a skinny, sexy, graceful dancer. Yarna's dancing is clunky, untrained and heavy-footed. She immediately looks off.
In one of the many Star Wars novels, it is revealed that Yarna's weight is derived from her species' ability to retain large amounts of water to survive in their desert homeland. Jabba requires her to be as big as possible, forcing her to be full of water at all times. In the books, it is stated that Yarna was freed and eventually wound up dancing at Han Solo and Leia's wedding (fun fact).
Yarna, or "Fat Dancer," is undeniably costumed, written, and directed to be a joke. She doesn't have any lines, and she doesn't gain much respect from the audience. Thus, she's not a positive representation of women beyond the favored stature represented by the main characters of the franchise.
Within the animated shows such as The Clone Wars and Rebels, there are no plus-size or chunky women.
Let's move onto height. With the sequels, we gained Captain Phasma. A 6'3 powerhouse played by one of my heroes, Gwendoline Christie, Captain Phasma is the commander of all of the stormtroopers of the First Order. She aligns with the villainous side of the franchise, so we unfortunately cannot consider her a TSC (tall, strong, chunky) protagonist. She is presented masculine as heck, but it is excusable given that she must be in armor all of the time. Fun fact: This character was originally written as a man, but Christie had her agent fight so hard for her to be in the Star Wars sequels that she ultimately scored the role.
And that's it.
In a franchise with nine main films, two side stories, several cartoons, and a multitude of video games, comic books, and novels, there are no notable tall, strong, chunky women. In fact, there aren't many heavy men either. While the creator of the franchise is himself a heavier person, there is limited representation. For women in protagonist roles, they are always cast as smaller, weaker, and shorter than their male co-stars. For women in antagonist roles, they must fight to gain what would have been male roles. For neutral characters, they are dancing to be comedic relief.
The issues of the casting and characterizations in Star Wars mirror the flaws of Disney movies that I wrote of earlier. This franchise is one of my favorites. I am obsessed with Leia, Rey, and many of the male characters as well. For the nature of this blog, I would be remissed not to critique the lack of diversity in body sizes.
Science Fiction, as a genre, offers an escape for consumers. It offers dreams of a world of endless possibilities, but those dreams feel unattainable for certain members of the "fandoms" who do not look like Hollywood starlets and hunks. In the infinite amount of side stories and mediums that the Star Wars universe expands across, it is a clear mistake to feature singular body types. When BB-8 and R2-D2 are the thickest and curviest cast members, you've probably failed.
I have high hopes that, in the never-ending Star Wars stories being released into the world, we will one day see a woman who is a protagonist and rebels against the one body type for "good" women to have in this galaxy.
Star Wars teaches its viewers to fight for what they believe in and rebel against the evils/oppressors that exist before them. Unfortunately, that oppressor is Star Wars itself, for today. Of course, the original stories do take place "a long time ago," so perhaps they will soon catch up with modern body positivity. Nonetheless, I would hope that we could get past the stereotypes and jokes perpetrated by many of the toxic fans of this series and respect a TSC woman when she comes. With the need to delete social media due to hate from "fans," it is unlikely that a TSC would not become the butt of the latest meme or joke.
But we have to start somewhere. We cannot bend to the toxic nature of fan boys who protect the memories of their childhood and scorn the new ideas presented. Being that the franchise is predominantly for children, we need to paint them a world where they can find themselves and accept themselves so that we can create children who accept each other in the real world. "Nerd" culture promises a safe haven for those who are outcast by society, but this franchise excludes one of the most exluded sectors of people/women out there.
This all being said, you will still see me at the midnight premiere of the next movie. I still dressed as Rey for my 21st birthday. I still have a Kylo Ren plush on my bed. I still love Star Wars, but I recognize where it is flawed.
Tomorrow, I look forward to exploring a franchise that I am just now entering (very late): Harry Potter! Thank you again for reading. I hope you learned something, no matter how insignificant it was.