Hello again, and welcome to the first of my Star Wars features! Star Wars has been a lifelong film favourite of mine, ever since the prison doors opened to reveal Carrie Fisher with her sassy “aren’t you a little small for a Storm Trooper” opening quip. Princess Leia was possibly my original feminist icon, and it is this, coupled with my frustration at The Last Jedi, and my housemates’ decision to re-watch all of the films, which has led me to write a feature on each one.
The first question is, of course, which order we will be completing our marathon in. We decided on the machete order but began with Rogue One because it is by far my favourite, and it was my birthday.
Rogue One is, I venture, a near perfect piece of cinema. The only film in the Star Wars series so far not to mention the name ‘Skywalker’, Rogue One is, in many ways, miles away from any other Star Wars film. It tells the story of the opening crawl from A New Hope, the mission of the rebel ships to retrieve the plans for the Death Star which leads them to be able to defeat the Empire in the following films. Funny, heart-breaking and edge-of-seat-inducing, Rogue One manages to introduce a whole host of new characters, get you to love them with all of your heart, and then kills them off in various heroic ways at the film’s conclusion. It leaves the plotline where A New Hope picks it up, in perfect symmetry, despite being made almost 40 years previously. But onto the Bechdel Test.
Rogue One actually passes it. Not with flying colours, but pass it, it does. The rebel council involves Jyn, Mon Motha and a whole host of other rebels from various genders, ages and species debating their plans for attack and defence. It’s only one scene but it counts and therefore the film passes.
While this is inarguable, I could not help but be slightly disappointed in the number of female characters in this movie. Jyn is a well-rounded, perfect character who I love, so the writers were clearly capable of writing one.
Why just one?
Any of the rebel characters could have been female, in my opinion, and it would not have impacted the story one way or the other. I would have loved to see Chirut or Bodhi as women, for example. The Alliance is purposefully diverse – as I mentioned before, their group discussions feature characters of all races and genders and species, but apart from Jyn and Mon Motha (who only properly speaks in one scene), all of the women were extras. The Imperial Fleet is manned by Straight White Men, which is an excellent touch which I would argue definitely adds to the story, but I would have loved to see it counteracted even more by having more women with speaking parts on the side of the Alliance.
As a final point, I would just like to take this moment to thank the writers SO MUCH for not including a romantic subplot between Jyn and Cassian. The final scene comes and goes, and they hug. That’s it. A friendly, platonic hug between the damned and the doomed. I’m so grateful. I’m also sad that I have to be grateful but honestly, I really was expecting them to kiss.
All in all, Rogue One falls short of my (admittedly very high) expectations of feminist cinema, but only just. Jyn is a fantastic character, and the lack of kiss in the final scene earns Rogue One extra brownie points. What cannot be argued or debated at all is how bloody incredible this film is, regardless of the lack of female characters. It’s one of a few films where I cannot let this bother me. I also have yet to watch the final scene without tearing up, or just full on crying. Well played, Rogue One. Well played.