For a little while now there has been a growing push of people, mainly women who are discussing on twitter and through blogs the issue of gender in science fiction / fantasy mainly focused on Star Wars.
It started here The GFFA Needs Women: The Disappointing Nomi Cancellation in a post by Nanci, then Chris wrote his rebuttal: EU Action/Reaction: Let’s Stop Thinking About Gender
This post from Club Jade says it very well. Why do we want more women highlighted in the Expanded Universe? And so does Tosche Station Why Star Wars Needs Women – Now More Than Ever.
One of my Twitter friends asked why women were so mad at the moment, well I think partly the post from Chris over at the EUC didn't really help matters and also I think that we're seeing several things collide at once not the least of which is probably a subconscious push against the misogynistic tendencies going on the e USA at the moment. There's a war on women and it's spilling out onto the streets ( but that's another post for another time)
Does the Star Wars franchise need more strong female characters? Yes I think it does. While one can argue that SW is full of women, for the most part, as characters, they are not treated very well nor are they, as characters, written very well either and this is part of the problem.
Yesterday, when asked to pick out a strong female character in the scifi / fantasy world the 1st person that came to mind was Ellen Ripley. She is the standard by which I personally set the bar by. After that Zoe and Inara from Firefly also came to mind, both incredibly strong characters but for vastly different reasons. Olivia from Fringe, and let's not forget to mention half the cast of BattleStar Galactica. There is a wealth of strong female characters in today's sci fi, movie and tv. Women who are tough, smart, sassy, vulnerable, emotional and essentially human and very believable. And this is the point. Many of the female characters in Star Wars are two dimensional and personally I don't give a rat's ass about them, although in all honesty I feel the same way about many of the male characters in SW as well.
So I thought about this a lot and I think the issue is not so much a lack of female characters, because there are actually quite a few in the SW universe, but rather the incredible lack of really good writing. I've touched on this before but I think it bears saying again. Most of the SWEU books I've read are crap. While reading the NJO ( the new jedi order series in which an entirely alien and brand new to the SW universe bad guys set out to destroy all) I had to restrain myself from having a good old fashioned book burning. Honestly I've never read a worse set of books. There were one or two exceptions to this ( Matt Stover being the one that comes to mind) but for the most part I wanted to toss the set out the window. Waste of money. Why? Because they were awful. Bad plots, terrible and unbelievable dialogue and for the most part boring as hell. Evil bad guys vs out numbered jedi yeah what ever... And don't get me started on the Killik series which featured giant bugs and a bunch of the stupidest ideas I've ever read - ever. ( even worse than the NJO)
Well here's the thing. I find that Star Wars in general as of late has become a great deal about merchandising and tie ins and less about story and substance. ( in many but not all cases) It's a money maker. I get that, it's a business and it needs to make money. If something has the lable Star Wars slapped on it people WILL lap it up like cats at a cream bowl. I've seen people buy anything you can think of just because it's SW related. The same goes with books. People are so desperate for anything Star Wars related many don't care and or don't notice how badly done so much of it is, especially in novels.
Now there's a rising vocal group who want more. We clamour for well written books. Well thought out, in depth, clever plots with characters we can identify with, male and female. No more rehash of the movies, no more recycling the movie lines. Let's have more thought provoking situations with complex adversaries not some variation of keystone cops and overly empowered super jedi with some gratuitous harlequin romance thrown in for good measure.
When I wrote my fanfic I did so because, honestly, this was the book I really wanted to read. Something where the Imperials were not all mustachio twirling idiot megalomaniacs hell bent on destroying the universe before letting it fall into the hands of the enemy. ( Isard and her stupid plan to poison Courescant...really? Come on.) I wanted characters I could love and hate. People I wanted to hang out with and be friends with or shoot. These are the reactions I should get when reading books. Good, well written books make you feel. You fall in love, you feel pain, you learn to hate a little, you clamour for revenge and so on. You go on a ride along and if the book is really good, for a short time you're totally transported to another time and place. You should not be aware you're reading a book because you have been transported into the book instead.
Why is it that a single jedi can slaughter an entire battalion of battle droids and not get a single scorch on him. What is the point of all these super battle droids if they can't hit their mark at least once? Maul comes back as mechno man? Plot holes as big as the Atlantic and more all add up to YAWN as far as story telling is concerned. What made Palpatine such a great bad guy is he WAS clever and evil and luckily for us portrayed by Ian McDiarmid in such a way that every time he was on screen he game me goosebumps and not in any good way. Palpatine was evil, clever and subtle. In this respect we were shown not told.
There are a lot of awesome things about Star Wars and I love it in spite of its failings but I think there is a lot of room to improve and grow. So let's set aside all the weird gender issues. Star Wars is not just for boys and finding some great writers who would be willing to create or write really well rounded believable female characters in books with decent plots and worthy adversaries would go along way to helping this.