After initially denying that he would sign on, no one is officially refuting the numerous reports that J.J. Abrams is the director for Star Wars: Episode VII. [Update: As I post, the official announcement comes down.] Many people have shared a wide variety of thoughts and perspectives about the matter, so I thought I would weigh in, too.
Second, I’ll also admit all of the following. Abrams has kept me happily entertained – everything from tugging my hair out in angst to dreamily drooling over a perfect romantic moment – since the Felicity days. I wanted to be Sydney Bristow. And from the late-NJO through Fate of the Jedi I wished Jaina, Mara, Tenel Ka, and Tahiri had been consistently portrayed as tough, fierce, headstrong, complicated and vulnerable as the women of Lost.
For nearly a decade, I’ve hosted a Star Wars-centric message board populated mostly by female fans. Hands down, Abrams’ shows have been favorites in our discussions for their ability to create compelling mythology and the fantastic characters whose stories were told. Like Padmé knew there was good in Anakin, I know the Star Wars movies became a phenomenon for three reasons: the characters, the mythology, and the delivery on the hopefully ever after ending. I also know this: even with the game-changing introduction of Princess Leia, the Star Wars movies still have something to prove when it comes to its female characters. If Disney and Lucasfilm wanted to make a statement about where they’re taking the franchise – well, let’s allow the new director to weigh in on the matter for himself.
In late December, Don Kaye at Blastr wrote about Abrams’ remarks on the ending of his upcoming movie Star Trek Into Darkness, and asked whether it meant that, despite the implications of the trailers, it might have a happy ending. He quotes Abrams as saying:
[T]his is a movie that they certainly go Into Darkness, but I would be the wrong director if it was about characters staying there. This is very much a movie about hope, about love, about romance, and about facing something that is truly terrifying and finding a way through the connection of your family and surviving and being stronger afterwards.[Emphasis mine.]
Earlier this month, Natalie Abrams of TVGuide.com shared a four-part Fringe Oral History. In discussing the origin of the show, Kevin Reilly, the Chairman of Entertainment at Fox, made this comment:
We had a hard time [casting Olivia]. We went through a number of actresses, and what was difficult was that J.J., coming off of Lost and having done Felicity, was known for finding ingénues, and he’s just got this magic touch for finding that next great star in the making. We saw Anna [Torv]’s audition and it was perfect: She is the one.
And back in 2009, TV Guide asked Abrams about his television shows, which are known for their strong female protagonists. He explained:
It’s a funny thing. I don’t try and write strong female characters or strong male characters, I just try and write, hopefully, strong characters and sometimes they happen to be female. I don’t know why the question doesn’t come up about men as well. While Alias was definitely about a woman, I don’t think that question would’ve come up had it been about a man.
I seem to have surrounded myself over the years with women who are outspoken and inspirationally strong and I do feel like that’s something that I’m sometimes more drawn to, because it’s a combination of strength and vulnerability that is a little easier to access with female characters than male characters.
His track record on female characters speaks for itself. But Lucasfilm made sure to remind us of his track record by mentioning Abrams has “created or co-created such acclaimed television series as Felicity, Alias, Lost and Fringe.” When I heard the Sequel Trilogy news, Abrams was my first choice, for all the reasons above. Sometimes when fans wish upon a star, their dreams do come true.
Abrams did a fantastic job rebooting the Star Trek film franchise, and I don’t see any reason to think he can’t achieve equal success with Star Wars. His Star Trek films also prove that he’s more than willing to cast new actors in iconic roles, and direct them into performances that are widely praised as true to the characters. If fans can accept a new actor for Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and the others when done right, then they can come around to new faces for Han, Leia, and Luke, should that be the option the franchise chooses.
As a fan and a woman, I have every reason to believe the future of Star Wars is in good hands.
Tricia Barr's novel, Wynde, won the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for Best Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror Ebook. She was also part of Silence in the Library's successful all-female creator science fiction and fantasy anthology Athena's Daughters, which is available now. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.