With the opening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, fans of the sci-fi saga have gotten their second film in the franchise that features a woman in the lead. Sure, the previous two trilogies featured many women in prominent roles, but something definitely feels a bit different about having Jyn in this film and Rey in Episode VII: The Force Awakens as their movies' central figures. But just because there are now more women in the Star Wars universe doesn't mean we have to compare them to one another and pick a "best" Star Wars heroine. Each woman has her strengths and flaws, which is as it should be. If the men of Star Wars are able to survive the franchise without being ranked, so too should the women.
Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), our original Star Wars heroine, seemed, at first destined to become the franchise's damsel in distress. A captive of the Empire, Leia started out the story as a prisoner. But looking back, Leia was incredibly brave and powerful. A skilled politician, she took a major risk sending the Death Star plans to Obi-Wan Kenobi. When her "rescue" seemed to be going downhill, she grabbed a blaster and took her own shots. And in Return of the Jedi, she hopped aboard a speeder and continued the fight. But there was also that whole slave gold bikini thing, and the original trilogy didn't hesitate to sexualize her in the end.
Up next came Padme, or Queen Amidala, of the prequel films. Played by Natalie Portman, Padme started out as an intelligent leader who was forced to leave behind her teenage royalty and fight for her planet. She stormed her own palace to take it back from invaders. She fought just as valiantly as Anakin and Ob-Wan against a few monsters. And amidst all of that, she found love. But like Leia, Padme's strength was slightly undermined. In Revenge of the Sith, she became a weeping pregnant mess. Gone was the powerful politician once Padme became with child, and in her place was a woman dying of a broken heart.
Then, last winter came what I like to call the "Rey-wakening." Rey, The Force Awakens' lead character, as played by newcomer Daisy Ridley, was a complex mixture of ability and self-doubt. She could fight her way out of a bind but also make you laugh at her giddy innocence. The fact that she wasn't given a love interest was revolutionary, and by focusing the new series on her destiny, rather than Luke's or Anakin's like in the previous two trilogies, it meant something new was on the horizon. Rey was saddled with accusations of being a "Mary Sue," but that was more a sexist audience reaction that indicative of anything that actually happened in the movie, and even Ridley has dismissed the title.
And now we have Jyn. The Rogue One lead is both strong and vulnerable. She's not that much different from Rey in that she also doesn't get saddled by sexualization or have her entire personality somehow changed by the end to fill a plot point. She has an interesting backstory, is a valiant fighter, and has some heartbreaking emotional moments. And while I love both Leia and Padme for their strength, assertiveness, bravery, and cunning, something definitely does feel different about Rey and Jyn. These two ladies stand apart, but that doesn't mean there's any need to pit any of the four women against one another. They can all be great in their own ways.
And think about it — no one would sit around and ask, "Which of the Star Wars men is the best male character?" Comparing Luke, Han, Po, Finn, or Ob-Wan wouldn't happen, but for some reason many feel the need to hold female characters up to a different standard. Well, enough of that. We need not have a "best" Star Wars woman any more than a "best" Star Wars man. Leia, Padme, Rey, and Jyn all have their flaws and their good qualities, and there's just no need to compare them with one another. As we get more women in the Star Wars franchise, and more female characters in sci-fi and film in general, hopefully this urge to pick a "best" female character will fade away, and we can allow our Star Wars women to shine alongside one another.
Images: Walt Disney Studios, Giphy