The first Star Wars movie I saw growing up, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), included just two female characters: Princess Leia and aunt Beru. One was murdered near the beginning and the other was abducted, sequestered and threatened with death by men. These two women never spoke to each other, so the movie failed the Bechdel test (a test that serves as an indicator of the active presence of women in movies). Moreover, one of these characters was highly sexualized so as far as voice and presence go this movie did poorly. Next in the original trilogy was The Empire Strikes Back (1980), which also failed this test. No two women ever spoke in that one either. Finally there was Return of the Jedi (1983)—another fail. No two women ever spoke. A pattern had been established.
Apparently, for the filmmakers of Star Wars having women speak to each other was not a priority. Having women speak period didn't seem to be something they were interested in. In an article by Julia Baird that appeared in the New York Times in 2016 Baird wrote, "If you took Princess Leia out of ‘Star Wars,’ the total speaking time for female characters is 63 seconds out of the original trilogy’s 386 minutes.” Having women speak was not a priority, but sexualizing them was--from the first to the latest. For instance, in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) a hologram of a female dances provocatively for a male audience. Violence against women is also something the filmmakers of Star Wars have time to include. For example, in the opening scene of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a woman is shot dead before her daughter’s eyes.
As a teenager I enjoyed the original Star Wars trilogy, which I've watched countless times. As an adult I'm noticing things that weren't on my radar all those years ago: the sexism, the violence against women and the silencing. The Star Wars trilogy had a major impact on pop culture and more than one generation of moviegoers and filmmakers. For women that isn't such a good thing. Something to keep in mind on May the 4th.
 The New York Times, How to explain Mansplaining, April 20, 2016, Julia Baird
© 2018 Alline Cormier