Disney’s Slide and Princess Leia Revisionism

So yesterday the Star Wars Twitter account tweeted something kind of dumb:

First off, let me just acknowledge that there is a larger context here, though it doesn’t make this much better.

“Star Wars Kids” has been putting out these animated shorts on YouTube, featuring different Star Wars characters and trying to make each look cool.

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The issue here isn’t that Leia’s featurette here is kind of goofy and inaccurate (which it is), but that it employs the same, tired modernist trope of elevating the Stronk Womyn by stepping on her male counterparts.

With Nu Star Wars, we see a Leia scornful of her rescuers, who can do everything herself, and who doesn’t need men. Wrong.

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I haven’t watched all of the other shorts, but I kinda doubt any of the men are smacking Leia around in their features.

This comes as Brie Larson is crapping all over the target audience for the Marvel superhero films.

Kinda of sad – Disney used to be much more disciplined in its marketing. I guess this is what happens when ideologues take charge.

Incidentally, a little over a year ago I wrote about Star Wars’ unfortunate feminist turn. Nu Star Wars has been trying to revise Leia for a while now:

(12/28/17)

The internet is teeming and writhing with hot takes on Star Wars. Personally, I haven’t seen The Last Jedi and I feel no great desire to. I only finally watched Rogue One a few months ago on Netflix, so I may catch TLJ on TV or streaming out of curiosity someday. For me it isn’t so much moral outrage, even though a lot of the people involved in “New Star Wars” do show contempt for those of us with more traditional and conservative values. It’s more that I’ve reached my Star Wars saturation point. I still love the original trilogy. Knights of the Old Republic was great, and the old Expanded Universe was hella fun. The Clone Wars animated series was pretty well done, too.

But slapping the Star Wars label onto something isn’t enough for me to like it, and I’ve seen enough of the franchise’s recent offerings to know that I’m not really its target audience anymore.

Incidentally, when you’ve lost Bishop Barron, you know you’ve taken a wrong turn. I mean, the man is an excellent critic and can throw a strong rhetorical jab, but he’s also pretty charitable when it comes to contemporary media. After all, the whole “Word on Fire” thing of his is about engaging with and finding Christ in our modern culture, no matter how buried He may sometimes be. So when he watches your movie and falls asleep, and laughs at your protagonist…

The Bishop’s chief criticism of New Star Wars and the people involved with it comes down to this:

“The overriding preoccupation of the makers of the most recent Star Wars seems to be, not the hero’s spiritual journey, but the elevation of the all-conquering female. Every male character in The Last Jedi is either bumbling, incompetent, arrogant, or morally compromised; and every female character is wise, good, prudent, and courageous.”

I don’t want to say this 3rd-wave feminist mindset isn’t concerned at all with good storytelling, but certainly it’s far more interested in intersectionalist narrative and female/minority empowerment (whatever that means) than overall quality. That is to say its agenda is not entertainment but messaging.

I noticed this apropos thread in my Twitter timeline this morning and picked out a couple pieces:

Obviously not everyone is buying into this baloney, but the whole line of thought seems to be indicative of an all-too-common reductivist false duality: Either a female character is a Strong Womyn who needs help from no man or else she is a regressive damsel in distress and of no use to us. #NotMyPrincess

For the sake of brevity, I won’t delve into the character of Rey in The Force Awakens or the chick from Rogue One (I honestly don’t even remember her name). Let’s talk about Leia and the original trilogy.

The fact is, yes, she was a damsel in distress. Quite literally – she was a princess in mortal peril (about to be executed) upon the Death Star. Whether the princess can or does physically ask the knight to rescue her from the dragon’s lair is irrelevant.

She was again saved at Jabba’s palace by Luke and Lando.

She was also a strong female character. The two facts are in no way contradictory.

The thing is, even though the characters of the original trilogy fall into certain archetypes, they were layered. They developed. They all had strengths and weaknesses. And none of them were defined exclusively by their sex, race, or any other one element of their identity.

Let’s look at some more facts about the original trilogy, with a focus on Leia but keeping the other main characters in mind.

A New Hope

Luke: A farm boy who is good at flying. He is saved by Obi-wan twice early on in the film. Not a particularly great shot with a blaster. Not particularly quick to learn the ways of the Force. He is courageous, and he helps rescue Princess Leia. He is rescued by Han at the Battle of Yavin, allowing him to score the shot that blows up the Death Star.

Han: A somewhat greedy, roguish smuggler. He’s got tricks and skillz. Doesn’t want to bother with rescuing Leia until enticed by wealth. He’s gutsy and somewhat impetuous in a fight. He helps rescue Leia. Ultimately does the right thing and comes back to rescue Luke.

Leia: A princess with a lot of moxie. She’s got attitude and is willing to die for a righteous cause. Pretty good in a blaster fight (she might have even nailed a few more stormtroopers than Luke). Not a pilot; not a gunner; not a brawler; not a Force sorceress. She is rescued on the Death Star by Luke and Han and crew.

The Empire Strikes Back

Luke: He’s coming along. Does some jedi training. Rescued by Han early on on Hoth. Tries to rescue his friends on Bespin. Gets rescued by Leia when he’s hanging from a wire.

Han: Rescues Luke on Hoth. Shows some brains to match his fighting and flying skills. Woos Leia. Gets carbonited and his friends try to save him.

Leia: Does the courtship dance with Han. Admits her love for him. Kinda sorted rescued by Luke on Bespin, then rescues him. Tries to save Han from Boba Fett.

Lando: Put in a tough spot, he sells out his friend but in the end he decides to try to atone and make good.

Return of the Jedi

Luke: Helps rescue Han (and Leia). Instrumental in recruiting the Ewoks native to Endor to the cause of the Rebellion (and shows mercy in resolving the capture of him and his friends peacefully). Finishes his character arch as a space knight/wizard. Redeems his evil father. Still not insanely powerful in any regard, though the guy’s a man with his own skillz now.

Han: Rescued by Luke, Leia, and crew. Now he’s all-in with the Rebellion and with Leia. When he thinks she loves Luke, he’s even willing to step aside for the sake of their happiness. Quite a bit of progress from the selfish smuggler from the first film.

Leia: Helps rescue Han, then is rescued by Luke. Slays Jabba the Hutt personally. Fights alongside Han (and Luke) on Endor.

Lando: Helps save Han (and Leia). Plays an instrumental role in destroying the second Death Star, along with the heroic Nien Nunb.

So for the original trilogy, here’s my rough count:

(I’m not counting Lando here and only really listed him above because yes, there was a major black character in 1980 who did heroic and cool things. Finn was not the first.)

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See, the thing is, in Star Wars a bunch of friends and comrades help each other out. They are all rescued at some point. They all need help. And they all reciprocate. Unless you give Luke an extra credit for blowing up the Death Star, Leia’s actually got a better ratio going than him! So yes, she needs rescuing! She also helps save her friends!

The pitting of the sexes against one another is idiotic. Luke, Han, and Leia are all brave. Luke and Han are men, and they show it. Leia is a woman, and she shows it.

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There’s nothing shameful about this at all. She was a great character and a strong woman back when the men of Star Wars were strong and great, too. Before they were forced to compete and lose by inferior, agenda-driven writing. Back when she was Princess Leia and not General Leia. And the greatest sin here isn’t the incorporation of certain values and beliefs into the new Star Wars stories; it’s that it’s become so central as to render good storytelling secondary.

13 Comments

  1. This reminds me I need to finally watch Solo now that it is available to stream.

    I rewatched a bunch of the MCU movies right before Christmas. They repeatedly make nods at SJW-obsessions…but just nods. The question, I guess, is whether that is a cold-blooded economic decision or an indication of internal politics that might eventually burst to the surface (coincidentally at exactly the time the superhero movie bubble pops).

    • Yeah, they’re usually toned-down enough. Hell, sometimes they can go either way. Thanos is a Malthusian.

      I still need to watch Black Panther, though. Someone told me the politics of it would probably turn me off, so I haven’t bothered to see it yet.

      And Solo, yeah. Just don’t really have any desire to watch new Star Wars movies anymore. I just don’t find them that entertaining.

  2. Not only was Lando cool. He was interesting. He had motives, some shadowy, some not. He had loyalties. Some obvious, some not. As soon as he shows up, meeting Han on the landing pad, you want to know more about him and his past with Han. That is interesting and compelling.

    His skin color had nothing to do with those factors. Lando is a great character because of great writing and acting.

    Now, I just finished season 3 of The Expanse. And while there is plenty of SJW BS throughout, it is still an example of terrific entertainment. It’s not preachy and it doesn’t lecture you as much as other franchises and programs. It’s got great characters. Interesting and compelling characters. Some obvious SJWs, some not. But you care about all of them because they are portrayed as real people with real strengths and flaws.

    As for Strong Women characters, The Expanse has one who is just bad ass. But without being being Rey Sue or Doctor Mary Sue Who or whatever. She’s feminine and complex. A fantastic character. And she’s an example to the Kathleen Kennedys of the world how to make a Strong Woman.

      • The Expanse is a book series by two authors (Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank) writing under the name James S.A. Corey. Sci-Fi channel (I refuse to use their dumb ‘new’ spelling) turned it into TV series. It takes place roughly 300 years in the future. Mars and much of the system is colonized. It begins as a detective story and becomes quite epic.

        But they canceled it midway through Season 3. The twist is, apparently it’s Jeff Bezos’ favorite show. And when you’re the richest guy on the planet, you can order your company to pick the show up the canceled show and continue production on it.

        So, now it streams on Amazon with a season 4 coming soon.

        Before it was a book series, it was in development to be an MMORPG with three playable factions:

        Earth/UN: The UN controls a One Government Earth- “Earthers”

        Mars/MCR: The Mars Congressional Republic- “Dusters”

        OPA: The Outer Planetary Alliance- “Belters”

  3. Good post!

    “Every male character in The Last Jedi is either bumbling, incompetent, arrogant, or morally compromised; and every female character is wise, good, prudent, and courageous.”

    Roughly the same could be said of the Petey/Frallipa script for LotR. Every single guy screws up, while the women are largely kickass paragons who Don’t Need No Man. The whole movie starts out with Galadriel intoning made up stuff about how “Men” lust for power. Sure, it can be argued that “Men” is supposed to represent ALL of mankind, but rhetorically it doesn’t come off that way. The movie backs up the premise again and again. Elrond practically says that “Men are a virus” at one point.

    Don’t get me started. That’s just a small taste of my usual rant. 🙂

    • While I might have a couple of small quibbles with your overall theory, I agree for the most part.

      The LOTR movie trilogy is where I first realized Strong Women were being written into things were they were not before, for no good storytelling reason other than some backstage SJW’s demand for such a thing. It was an epic epiphany in my life. The crack in the dam of leftist/progressive indoctrination that was a product of both school and being raised by “ex” hippies.

      Aside from reading the LOTR once a year since the age of 12 (I am now 43), I was somewhat of a Tolkien scholar in college, to the tune of no less than 8 research papers on his life and work that totaled somewhere near 400+ pages (on a crappy Brother typewriter that was once cutting edge!).

      I can’t stress enough that I absolutely loathe Jackson’s LOTR/Hobbit movies and treatment of the man’s story.

      • Hail and well-met, brother!

        If nothing else, Jackson & Co. should burn for what they did to Faramir, whom JRRT identified most with, but there are a legion of other reasons as well.

        • I appear to be in the minority here – I like the Jackson LOTR movies (though the Hobbit ones were terrible). They definitely have their shortcomings, but I found them entertaining enough to overlook the infidelities. Much rather they exist than the alternative of nothing but the old Bakshi cartoon.

          • It’s not just the “infidelities”–I’ve enjoyed plenty of movies that weren’t true to their source material, whether literary or historical–it’s the tone and the obvious agenda, an agenda that Petey and Phillipa touched upon more than once in interviews. They boiled the frog slowly in “Fellowship,” but they full-on converged in all later JRRT films, just as soon as they’d set their hooks.

            Plus, there are all of the idiotic decisions made when portraying events like the battle at the Morannon. “Hey, let’s all form a circle and charge OUTWARD against an overwhelming force!” Phillipa knows about as much about medieval-style/pre-gunpowder combat as I do about menstrual cramps. Boromir’s heroic, redemptive last stand is rendered into something weak and ridiculous. The second-most badass Man in Middle-earth dies on his knees while Uruks just jog past him as he passively waits for his execution. That happened for a reason and was my first big wake-up call (the second being Aragorn CRYING about his “weak blood” in the extended version). No, we didn’t need this. Now millions use THIS version of LotR as their touchstone and benchmark. That can’t be undone. The man-haters have certainly won this round.

          • I was annoyed that they made Aragorn a reluctant hero; that Gimli became comic relief; that Arwen’s role was inflated. But I honestly don’t see much of that other stuff.

            Which is fine by me. I do resent the incursion of SJW ideology into everything, but as Daddy Warpig has said – when you can no longer enjoy anything, they’ve won.

  4. @deuce & Bushi

    On infidelities: I can accept limited infidelities on a limited basis. I accept them so that large books can be made into manageable films.

    I tell close friends that I expected things to be removed from the LOTR story to fit its size into a film or series of films. It’s not what was removed from LOTR than angered me (with one exception) it was what was added. For example, I completely understand why Tom Bombadil was removed. I don’t think it was absolutely necessary (there are filmmakers who could have made that work) but I do understand why they did it and can’t fault them for knowing their limitations.

    But the addition of Arwen as Super Elf. Ugh. Bad enough. The addition to Faramir’s story. Disgusting. This, this infuriated me. If anything demonstrates that Peter Jackson doesn’t comprehend what the LOTR is about, what is really going on, nothing does.

    There is nothing about Faramir’s changes that makes the story better for filmmaking. Nothing. It’s nothing but ignorance. With Arwen, we can see the motive right away: proto-SJWs shoe horning a Strong Woman into the story. But with Faramir’s “infidelities” it’s nothing but ignorance and poor reading comprehension. Or it’s downright evil and subversion…

    Now, all that said, the one thing that was removed that angered me was The Scouring of the Shire. People say, “there were too many endings already” and “there was no way to fit it in”. There really were too many endings, and I was bored to ‘effing tears watching and waiting to work through them all. So, right there, we know they could have cut one or two. The gay* hobbits jumping on a bed while they gaze longingly at each other would be the first to go in my book.

    Not to mention that Jackson had no problem adding copious amounts of screen time to other things, especially in the extended editions. But no time for the Scouring of the Shire.

    Screw Peter Jackson. Screw him and the horse he rode in on.

    *Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

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