Star Wars canon to introduce first LGBT character

Lords of the SithBryan Young at Big Shiny Robot has the scoop: Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith will feature the first LGBT character of the new story group era.

Moff Mors is an Imperial who has made some very serious mistakes but she is an incredibly capable leader and spends much of the book working hard to prevent absolute failure. She also happens to be a lesbian.

Awesome. What’s more, Bryan sat down with Del Rey’s Editor-at-Large Shelly Shapiro to talk diversity in Star Wars and Star Wars literature in a recent Full of Sith episode.

This is certainly the first character in canon,” Shapiro says. “But there was a gay Mandalorian couple, so it’s not brand new. It’s not something I really think about, it just makes sense. There’s a lot of diversity–there should be diversity in “Star Wars.”

Emphasis added. Well put, Ms. Shapiro.

Be sure to head to the Big Shiny Robot link above for more information.

All-Ages Comics With Queer Representation: Some Recommendations

Character and/or relationship spoilers for several comics and one recently concluded animated series lay below. Be warned.

There is a severe lack of queer representation in children’s media, as the surprise and discussion caused by the recent finale to the animated series Avatar: The Legend of Korra illustrates. It is sadly rare to find a character who falls outside the heterosexual cisgender mold at all, much less one who is both a major character and respectfully portrayed. Seeing oneself reflected in one’s culture is always important, but in childhood and adolescence people are already struggling to find identity and to figure out how they relate to the world.

Fortunately, things are improving, if slowly. An increasing number of all-ages and young adult comics, for instance, predominately feature queer characters. Here are three really great ones.

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Cumberbatch Confirmed as Doctor Strange, We are Less Than Pleased

ITV3 Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards 2012 - LondonToday Marvel confirmed that Benedict Cumberbatch of Sherlock fame will indeed be portraying Doctor Strange in the 2016 film of the same name.

And we sigh. We sigh so heavily.

I have nothing personally against Cumberbatch and find him to be a talented actor but just what proportion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is made up of white dudes? Of the fourteen Marvel films focusing on a single hero that have been announced and/or released, only two are not about a white guy.

Two. Out of fourteen. And we had to wait six years for even that much.

A big reason so many people are so excited about the Black Panther and Captain Marvel films, besides them simply being great characters who deserve the full cinematic treatment, is because we have been waiting for years to see a film starring someone who is not a white dude. Yes, we’re finally getting a film about a character of color and a film about a woman and that is wonderful and that is progress. But Doctor Strange was an opportunity to even the scales a little more and make the MCU a little bit more diverse.

While Doctor Strange is typically portrayed as white in the comics, there is no reason why he has to be white–or even male–in an adaptation. Marvel’s previously cast actors of color as characters who were white in the comics, casting Idris Elba as Heimdall and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. This isn’t without precedent. Heck, Warner Brothers cast Jason Mamoa as the star of Aquaman a few months ago. If Aquaman can be played by a person of color, there is zero reason why Doctor Steven Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, can’t be as well.

Marvel had an opportunity to make things a little less overwhelmingly white-dude-ish, to stop focusing on just one sort of character the vast majority of the time, and Marvel didn’t take that opportunity. At this point, they’ve already built two phases of movies around films focusing on white male characters, setting up those movies and those characters as the foundation for all that comes after. I had hoped that they might try to bring a little more balance and diversity to their universe. I am disappointed.

Spark of Diversity: What Sabine Wren Means for Star Wars

SabineWrenI’m an impatient person. I really thought that I could hold out until the official Rebels premiere on October 3rd but then they bumped the online release date up to Friday and… I watched it. Because I’m impatient person. I’ve known for a while now that I was excited for Rebels to start. It featured a family-like crew filled with characters who seemed right up my alley.

What I didn’t realize until I sat down on my couch to watch Spark of Rebellion is what seeing Sabine Wren on the screen was going to mean to me. Finally, after twenty-four years, there was a main character in a Star Wars film or television show that looked like me and the full impact of this hit me like a ton of bricks as she took her bucket off for the first time.

It’s not like I didn’t know that Sabine was going to be there. I was amongst those who loved Sabine’s character design from when they initially debuted it, wondered if she was human or alien, and then rejoiced when they confirmed that she was a human character of color. There’s been plenty of time for all of this information to sink in but somehow watching the episode made it seem so much more real to me.  Sabine Wren was the sort of character I’ve been waiting to see my entire life.  All of this brought forth a giant mess of emotions that are difficult to fully describe if you’ve been able to see a hero who looks like you in Star Wars before.

I wish that I’d been born later. I wish that I could’ve had the opportunity to watch Star Wars Rebels as a kid and see a teenage girl who looked like me up there on the screen. I wish that I could’ve had the opportunity at a younger age to watch an Asian woman be an integral part of our team of heroes with no one commenting on her race or gender as she blows things up to stop the enemy… artistically. I wish I’d been able to see a capable lady in the Star Wars universe who looks like me and who does more for the plot than serve as space scenery.  I wish I’d had that extra positive reinforcement that Sabine will give all these young girls out there.

At the same time though, I’m happy. Tiny explosion obsessed Bria may not have had Sabine to look up to but there are hundreds if not thousands of young girls of color out there who can now look at the television screen each week and smile as they watch her kick butt across the galaxy. Some of them may be conscious of how important she is and some may not but the important part is that she is there for them. My heart will probably grow two sizes when I see a little girl dressed up as Sabine and running around playing Rebels with her friends.  (Add in another size if I ever see a Sabine joined by other girls dressed up as Leia and Padmé.)

So thank you, Rebels. Thank you to everyone involved with creating this show and creating a character like Sabine and then casting an actress of color to voice her. Thank you Rebels for giving us an Asian human female hero who not only can hold her own but has more to her character than being action girl. Thank you for finally bringing a character like this to the forefront for hundreds and hundreds of young girls to look up to.

Sabine Wren’s not just the sort of character that we Star Wars fans deserve—she’s the sort of character that we need.

Disney: Star Wars toys for girls are coming

You may have missed the #WeWantLeia protest that cropped up in response to the lack of (and seeming disinterest in providing) Star Wars toys for girls. Disney, however, did not miss it. In an exclusive to Time, Disney promises that toys for the non-boy demographic are coming.

Disney told TIME on Wednesday that it would add Princess Leia toys to its existing Star Wars merchandise line soon, following recent criticism from parents and bloggers about the lack of products for girls.

“The current assortment of Star Warsproducts at the Disney Store launched earlier this year, and is just the beginning of what is to come,” Disney spokeswoman Margita Thompson told TIME. “We’re excited to be rolling out new products in the coming months, including several items that will feature Princess Leia, one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars galaxy.”

Now it’s worth pointing out that toys for girls and Princess Leia shouldn’t be synonymous and there should be more than that in the pipeline, but for now this is a good start. This, folks, is why it’s important to bang the drum for diversity.

An Observation About Women Who Speak in Star Wars

Last night, while getting ready for bed, Brian and I were talking about Star Wars. Big surprise, the conversation centered around the casting announcement. We speculated who the actors were playing, I squeed over Luke Skywalker, we joked about Carrie Fisher mentoring young Daisy Ridley about how Star Wars is about to ruin her life. It was grand.

We also discussed why there are only two females in the (presumably) main cast. We’ve been hearing that there may be a female role that’s yet to be cast, but that remains to be seen. Either way, the representation of women around that table is very poor. And it got me thinking about the women we see in Star Wars. More importantly, about the women we hear in Star Wars.

So I began to list all the women with speaking roles in the live action films, not counting feminine droids. And it was kind of infuriating.

Here’s what I came up with:

A NEW HOPE:

  • Leia
  • Aunt Beru

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

  • Leia
  • Tonyn Farr (the ion cannon control woman – I had to look up her name, I’m a bad fan)

RETURN OF THE JEDI

  • Leia
  • Mon Mothma
  • Oola
  • Sy Snootles (she sings, so I guess that counts)

THE PHANTOM MENACE

  • Transport captain (I am a bad fan and do not know her name and Google didn’t help)
  • Padme/Amidala
  • Sabe (aka Kiera Knightly)
  • Jira (Anakin’s old lady friend)
  • Anakin’s two girl friends (I’m a bad fan and do not know their names but one of them is Katie Lucas do I get my fan points back)
  • Shmi
  • Rabe (the handmaiden who speaks to Anakin on Coruscant)
  • Dinee Ellberger (the lady pilot in Bravo Squadron!)

ATTACK OF THE CLONES

  • Padme
  • Corde (the handmaiden who dies)
  • Dorme (the handmaiden who sees Padme off on Coruscant)
  • Jocasta Nu
  • Queen Jamillia
  • Taun We
  • Shmi
  • Beru (I guess saying “hello” counts)

REVENGE OF THE SITH

  • Padme
  • …And that’s it.

The only woman with a speaking role in Revenge of the Sith is Padme. ONE. ONE WOMAN WITH A SPEAKING ROLE IN A MOVIE THAT’S OVER TWO AND A HALF HOURS LONG. And she dies of a broken heart. (Perhaps the deleted scenes might have helped here? Alas…) How had I never realized this before? Was I that blinded by Padme losing the will to live that I didn’t see that there are NO other women who speak in this movie? It’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s no reason for it. Any random male secondary character could have easily been a female with absolutely no change to the plot.

The other movies don’t do that great when it comes to women, either, with only a handful of of them actually having lines. Things seemed to get better in the first two prequels, but crapped out at the end. While there may be a lot of diversity in the background, there’s no denying women are shockingly absent from the main storyline.

And this is why people get angry. Women are seen in these movies, but not heard. It’s kind of disgusting metaphor that sticks right in the heart.

And it’s important we all acknowledge and think about it.

 

(Note: If I’ve missed someone, please let me know. I think one of the Neimoidians on the Invisible Hand might have been female, but it’s hard to tell with their bulky robes and goggles. I genuinely racked my brain trying to think of all the random female background characters who might speak. Perhaps that’s the most telling part?)

Diversity Amongst the Stars (And the Royals of Alderaan)

There are some films that you can watch a dozen times and always notice something new and there are others where you pretty much get it on the first try.  Sometimes though, you watch a film, notice things subconsciously but it just doesn’t click into place until several viewings later when you sit up straight in realization.  I had one of those moments a few months ago while watching Revenge of the Sith.  The realization?  The Royal Family of Alderaan is not white.  The Royal Family of one of the most well-known and powerful planets in the galaxy does not fit the typical white human mold.  It’s funny how long it took me to come to this realization that the royal house of my favorite planet was more diverse than I’d previously realized.

brehabailWhile not every Alderaanian that we saw in the films fell into this category, a fair number of the ones of note in the Prequel Trilogy did.  The actors who played Bail and Breha are both of Hispanic and mixed descent.  A Brazilian actress played Bail’s aide, Sheltay Retrac.  While three might not be a huge number, it’s rather significant when we consider how few Alderaanians we saw in the films.

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Diversity for Diversity’s Sake Is Not a Bad Thing

We at Tosche Station haven’t been shy with asking for more racial and gender diversity in entertainment. One of the arguments we often hear is that the gender and race of characters shouldn’t matter. The most important thing should be the story. The rest should be inconsequential. The best actor for the part should be cast in that role.

That would be all fine and dandy, if most entertainment already portrayed a diverse cast of characters. But it doesn’t. Continue reading

On Kenobi’s Cast of Characters and Evaluating My Assumptions

The Kenobi concept art by Chris Scalf.

The Kenobi concept art by Chris Scalf.

If you’re regular listeners of the podcast, you already know that the Tosche Station staff greatly enjoyed Kenobi, the latest Star Wars novel by John Jackson Miller. This post isn’t a proper review, but I’ll get this out of the way: I loved the book. It is by far my favorite novel of the year, and exceeded my expectations with flying colors. Despite my enjoyment, however, one of its plot points bothered me–not because of what happened, but because of my assumptions prior to it. And I immediately knew I had to write a blog post about it.

THE REST OF THIS POST CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS FOR KENOBI. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK, AND DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU.

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Dear Star Wars Books: Thank You For the Women

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post for EUCantina in which I analyzed the roles of women in the Expanded Universe, specifically in the post-Return of the Jedi era. The article was inspired by the cancellation of “Mandorla”, the Alex Irvine novel about Nomi Sunrider, from the Tales of the Jedi comics. I’d been wanting a book about Nomi for awhile, and was really disappointed to see it cancelled. And the disappointment stung on more than just a level of “I was really looking forward to that book.”

And then my brain began to turn. As far as I can recall, “Mandorla” was the only novel in recent memory to be focused on a female protagonist. We’ve had “Han” novels, “Bane” novels, “Revan” novels; where are the “Jaina” and “Padme” and “Leia” novels? Why cancel a novel that had a chance to expand on a strong female lead?

The article was generally well received, with a few exceptions, mostly from people claiming that the EU was already filled with lots of female characters. While that may have been true, the point of the article remained:

“But Star Wars has many female leads,” you might say. To which I reply: “but none are allowed to lead.”

The original article has since been lost to the internet ether, but I had my own draft copy elsewhere. With San Diego Comic Con happening and in anticipation of the Star Wars Books panel, I recently skimmed the article with the intention of reposting it here on Tosche Station for posterity’s sake. But as I kept reading, I realized something: in less than 18 months, Del Rey and LucasBooks has addressed nearly all of my major complaints in the article. And I knew I’d be remiss if I didn’t revisit the article and say THANK YOU.

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