Star Wars Casting News. And Exceptional Girls.

[Content Note: Misogyny.]

J.J. Abrams and the Lucasfilm team have announced the cast of Star Wars: Episode Wev:
The full list of announced actors is as follows:

Mark Hamill — "Luke Skywalker"
Carrie Fisher — "Princess Leia"
Harrison Ford — "Han Solo"
Peter Mayhew — "Chewbacca"
Anthony Daniels — "C-3PO"
Kenny Baker — "R2-D2"
Adam Driver — Girls
John Boyega — Attack the Block
Daisy Ridley — Toast of London
Oscar Isaac — Inside Llewyn Davis
Andy Serkis — The Lord of the Rings
Domhnall Gleeson — About Time
Max von Sydow — The Exorcist
That's a really weird announcement list, since it gives the character names of returning cast and the names of previous works of new cast, but whatever.

The thing that's most notable to me is that the much-criticized token female dynamic of the original films (Princess Leia) seems to be replicated here in the newly added cast, 37 years later, in the "post-feminist" year of our lord Jesus Jones two thousand and fourteen.

Now there will be two whose women in the cast. Maybe they'll even have a scene together!

My objection is not just about filling a quota—although I'd be lying if I said that a cast which is 15% female when women are 52% of the population doesn't annoy the fuck out of me.

More than that, however, is the fact that the habit of putting token girls into sci-fi and fantasy works informs narratives about strong, powerful, smart, and/or otherwise cool women being exceptions.

Is it any wonder so many budding feminist nerd girls go through a stage of Exceptional Womanhood, in which we define ourselves as "not like other women," for the benefit of male friends?

image of me asleep as a little girl with Princess Leia buns in my hair
Me as a kid, sound asleep with Princess Leia buns.

It was lucky I was the only girl who loved Star Wars in my elementary school class; there was only one role for a girl, anyway. And I can't even begin to explain the joy of The Lord of the Rings' Eowyn telling the Witch King, "I am no man," as she delivers his death blow. Empowered with such heroism because she was a girl—my god, it was revolutionary.

But even though Leia and Eowyn were both great heroines, it seemed to me as though girls who were smart and tough were always segregated away from other women. Images of women who are smart and tough and the only female in a group of men are, in fact, so common, that it serves to teach smart and tough little girls that girliness is bad. Only silly girls hang out together in their giggling little gaggles; smart girls hang out with boys—a sentiment reinforced over and over as I played girl-less video games and watched films and read books with a token girl. A second girl only meant a rivalry, never a friendship.

Or, in rare cases, a token girl of another generation. A mother or auntie who might dispense wisdom, but doesn't kick ass herself anymore. Which is what I fear is going to be the dynamic in Star Wars, with its two whole women.

The problem isn't that individual female characters can't convey to girls (and boys) that women can be awesome. The problem is their solitary circumstances, and how that lonesomeness communicates that there simply aren't as many awesome women as men. While simultaneously tasking the token with being representative of the monolith. Tokens are at once lionized as above average, and diminished as interchangeable with the rest of their kind.

There should have been other girls for me, and there should be other girls now. Good girls, bad girls, smart girls, funny girls, conniving girls, heroic girls. The presence of all sorts of girls in the Star Wars universe would be affirming to the girls who love those films.

But there was only one kind of a girl for a girl like me, who happened to prefer Star Wars to Facts of Life, and I find it utterly depressing that basically nothing has changed.

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