With no Star Wars Rebels tonight, it’s the perfect time to catch up on a RebelForce Radio’s Star Wars Rebels Declassified. Last week I joined artist Randy Martinez to share our impressions of the episode “Idiot’s Array.” A lively and informative discussion led by Jason Swank ensued, with some more voice impressions between amazing insights from Jimmy Mac.
A few thoughts, some of which I mentioned during the roundtable, and others I haven’t voiced yet:
1) One of the things this episode showcased is how a pre-existing character can fit well into a story. The thinking in Star Wars often has been to rely on the movie characters, then pepper the story with new characters. It’s hard to create suspense that way. Star Wars Rebels has given us a whole slate of new characters, then bounced them off ones we already know to great effect. Hopefully, this is more the line of thinking from the Story Group going forward.
2) On Rebels Recon, producer Carrie Beck talked about exploring Lando Calrissian before we knew him at Bespin. The reverse engineering worked really well, right down to the lack of cape. This is not yet the Lando ready to lead Cloud City. While we’ve seen other Original Trilogy characters on the show, this is the first time we see a point of view character who provides the audience an informed opinion of the rebel team. Lando in The Empire Strikes Back is a shrewd study of people, and in this episode he clearly picks up on the fact that Hera is the captain and leader of the team. While she has shown trust in Kanan’s Force-enhanced judgment in battle situations, overall within the team he operates as a second in command, much like Spock is to Kirk. For a show on a network targeted at boys, it is remarkable to see a woman at the top of the command ladder. For all the tiptoeing around that fact in earlier marketing, Hera truly is in charge.
Given the continued discussion on gendered marketing for toys the question needs to be asked: what merchandisers in their right mind would leave Captain Kirk or Mal Reynolds off their merchandise?
3) Not only does the Star Wars Rebels story team appear to be subverting the status quo for a show targeted at the boys’ demographic, first putting a Bechdel Test passing episode early in first season, then putting a woman in charge, but now they’ve taken it one step further and challenged the longstanding Star Wars trope of Twi’leks as servants while flipping around the Slave Girl trope made popular by Leia’s predicament and costume in Return of the Jedi. While I have explained at this blog why Slave Leia works within the story, behind-the-scenes books like The Making of Return of the Jedi and Star Wars Costumes confirm that the intention behind the metal bikini, as relayed by several creative minds on the production team, was simply to appeal to the male gaze. Lucasfilm has continued to promote the image as “iconic” over the years, to the point of the absurd. Take for instance the recent Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, a product made for kids, yet the only female character represented on the cover is Leia in the slave costume.
Four-year-old daughter: "Why is everyone wearing their regular clothes except Princess Leia?" Good question. pic.twitter.com/s9lZlZt6Dz— Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed) January 9, 2015
Kudos to the Rebels story team for showing there is another way to use the trope, essentially spicing up the slave girl trope with a little Black Widow-esque feminine wiles and the spunk of Rapunzel in Tangled. That leaves Hera shining as capable, competent, and sexy enough for a kids’ show.
4) With that said, it is remarkable to note that Rebels Recon has consistently been highlighting women as part of the show. In the latest episode, host Andi Gutierrez talks to producer Carrie Beck, Pablo Hidalgo gives a shout out to concept artist Amy Beth Christensen, and both Vanessa Marshall and Tiya Sircar share perspective on their roles as Hera and Sabine. Also, I love the ending tease on the question of “Who is Fulcrum?”, which Kay has speculated about in a recent post. At least, Jason and Jimmy Mac know where to find Kitster.
The next episode of Star Wars Rebels, “Vision of Hope,” premieres on DisneyXD on Monday, February 2, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.