If you were anywhere near a computer yesterday, at some point you probably sensed a great disturbance in the Force…I mean, in the internet. That disturbance was Star Wars Episode VII casting news, which quickly spread far and wide, along with this picture of the cast sitting down to do a table read of the script.
In case you missed it or can’t quite pick out the faces in the above photo: yes, the original cast of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford is returning. So are the actors who played Chewbacca, R2D2, and C-3P0. Some of the exciting newcomers include Andy Serkis (Gollum!), Max von Sydow, and Bill Weasley…I mean, ah, Domhnall Gleeson.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, it’s hard to hear this news and not get excited. Star Wars Episode VII is becoming real, and even if you’ve got a little trepidation about some of the casting choices, or about JJ Abrams’ stewardship of the franchise, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities. Max von Sydow in the Star Wars universe? Awesome.
However, there’s cause for concern as well. Others have written about the troubling lack of diversity on the cast, and The Stake writes about these issues enough that we’re probably starting to sound like a broken record. But seriously, aside from relative unknowns Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, the new cast members are all very white and very male, and that’s a problem.
This stuff matters, and I think this tweet from sci-fi writer Chuck Wendig best encapsulates why:
The Star Wars universe offers plenty of places for boys to imagine themselves into the story. But—in the movies at least—there aren’t many female characters for girls to identify with, and those who are there are mostly…princesses. (Asskicking princesses, but princesses nonetheless—and, now, thanks to the magic of IP acquisition, Disney princesses at that.)
Look, the Bechdel test isn’t perfect as a measurement of gender representation, but it’s relevant for a reason: because in the vast majority of movies, it’s still men who move the story forward, male characters who are usually the ones given important stuff to do. That’s why it’s often hard to find stories that meet the pitifully low standard of having two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.
But this is a new Star Wars, and we have the opportunity to make it different than previous iterations—in a good way. There are, I’m told, plenty of great female characters in the Clone Wars series, as well as in the extended universe of Star Wars books. Why not take advantage of this to create a new Star Wars movie that’s reflective of the diversity of the audiences that will be watching it?