By now it’s safe to assume that most readers have already seen the new Star Wars movie Rogue One. And if you haven’t, don’t worry. There’s no spoilers ahead.
Well, sort of.
Even though the comic book and sci-fi characters filling up the theaters in our local Cineplex promise strong female characters, the truth is that most of them are not exactly role models. While it’s great how Black Widow, Rey, Mystique, and Wonder Woman all have their own goals and story lines, they all seem to find themselves involved in some romantic entanglement one way or another.
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow fought alongside the rest of the Avengers during the first movie, and while she seemed to flirt with every male lead in the stand-alone films, we accepted it because she’s a spy. That’s kind of her job. But then, the second Avengers movie came out with the trite love story, which seemed to be plucked out of nowhere. It was as if she couldn’t be another soldier fighting alongside her comrades because she’s a woman. So, of course, she’s going to fall for one or vice versa. Thankfully, she was back to regular business in Civil War.
However, there’s a new hero who isn’t defined by her gender, her clothes, or even her motivations. Rogue One’s Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, is driven by family and beliefs. She can fight because she’s wearing actual pants (I’ve always wondered how anyone can fight wearing skimpy dresses or skintight clothing), boots, and an army-like jacket. She doesn’t need to learn how to shoot, because she already knows how. She doesn’t even make googly eyes at any man around her; there’s no time for that. They’re fighting a war.
The men in her team get to know and respect her because they trust her, not because someone says it’s cool they’re trying to flirt with her. This is a huge step for young women out there in the armed forces, law enforcement, or male-dominated jobs. It’s a way of showing young girls that it is possible to have male friends, peers, or coworkers who will not objectify or sexualize them, but see them as people.
Another point made by The Atlantic is that “Rogue One, indeed, is an almost asexual movie —not in the ‘oops-the-stars-had-no-chemistry’ manner of Padmé and Anakin in the Star Wars prequels, but rather in a ‘there-are-more-important-things-to-deal-with-right-now’ manner of wartime.”
The film does not try to romanticize the horrors of war. While it’s a Sci-Fi fantasy that’s rated PG-13, rather than a realist battle film like Saving Private Ryan, it presents the physical and psychological brokenness left by violence. It captures the psyche of several people who have endured tragedy and find in that a common ground to fight against the forces of evil.
In our present world, it seems it’s important to show younger audiences that, despite gender or socially assigned roles, we can stand for our beliefs and protect others.