'Rogue One' Is A Huge Step Forward For 'Star Wars'

by Mary Grace Garis

There’s a lot of reasons for Star Wars fans to be pumped about the debut of the Rogue One trailer, but my favorite reason? Feminism. People are already giving the Star Wars standalone film (no Jedi, how novel!) two thumbs up because the trailer for Rogue One passes the Bechdel Test. And while the entirety of Force Awakens also passed the Bechdel Test, to see a movie trailer pass it so swiftly... well, it means good things for the franchise.

To recap, the rules of the Bechdel Test are as follows: at least two female characters (preferably named characters) must be talking on screen about something that isn’t a guy. Having a movie pass the Bechdel Test doesn’t necessarily mark it as a “feminist” film, but it’s, if nothing else, simple enough that all movies should be able to pass it (spoiler alert: they rarely do). We don’t know the specifics of the Rogue One, sure, but to see brave new girl Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) talk her bad reputation with Star Wars recurring character Mon Mothma, I got the sense that our heroine won’t be regulated to a garden variety love interest. Actions speak louder than words, but hey, I can’t say that the words don’t make me feel optimistic that Star Wars is continuing it’s freshly progressive ways.

"Yeah, but it's just a conversation, Mary Grace, why does this really matter?" Well, to answer that, you really have to wade very gently through Star Wars history.

In the beginning, there was the feisty and rebellious (with a capital "R") Princess Leia. Nobody can argue that Leia's role of the original trilogy portrays her, primarily, as a strong female character. Even when she had to be rescued or some space slug slapped a degrading metal bikini on her, little girls obsessed with Star Wars would grow up wanting to emulate her royal highness. I grew up wanting to be Princess Leia, make no mistake. Truth is, though, there really weren't any other female characters.

The only other speaking female role we really see is the aforementioned Mon Motha, who never directly interacts with Princess Leia. So, not only does the original trilogy not pass the test, but it implies that there are only two significant females in the whole star system. Family Guy's Return of the Jedi parody "It's A Trap" expertly acknowledges this when Angela as Mon Mothma (ironically voiced by Carrie Fisher) shows up. "Hey, check it out, it's another chick! The only other chick in the galaxy," Peter acknowledged in the episode. Womp, womp.

Interestingly enough, the first two installments of the Star Wars prequel trilogy do pass the Bechdel test, albeit barely. In Phantom Menace, Padme addresses her handmaidens and Shmi at different points of the film, whereas in Attack of the Clones, she has a conversation with the queen about politics. But those are only small triumphs.

Consider this. The two primary female characters within the series are Padme and Shmi. Shmi, for her part, only appears for a hot sec in Attack of the Clones and immediately dies. Padme arrives in the series as a teen queen, but we all know her endgame is to procreate with Anakin. So, in short, Shmi's arc in the trilogy is to immaculately conceive a force baby 10 years before Phantom Menace and die. Padme's arc in the trilogy is to fall in love, give birth, and die. And at the end of the day, both of them are merely props used to further Anakin's story and fuel the rage that leads him to the dark side.

There are definitely other female Star Wars characters hiding around within other extended media (canon or otherwise), but the reality is this: for almost four decades, Princess Leia had to carry the weight of being the strong female force in the galaxy, and she had to do it alone. That's why the Rogue One passing the Bechdel Test isn't simply about "Neat, lady characters are chatting in the new Star Wars." It's about all the progress the series has made. One of the biggest film franchises in the world is finally pushing fully-formed female characters to the front, and having them band together. This will change the future of the entire fandom... and maybe even push modern media in the right direction.

Feminism awakens in the Star Wars universe. It's been too long.

Images: Star Wars/YouTube (1); Giphy (2)