Last week on Fangirl Chat, Teresa and I talked about two exciting characters from Star Wars Rebels: Kanan and Ezra. And whew, a lot has happened since then.
The first female character previously spotted had been Hera on Lego material. She showed up briefly in the “Spark” and “Ignite” teasers from Disney XD on Monday. Thankfully, Disney|Lucasfilm did not subject the adult tweeting population to watching a hyper-targeted boys’ show just to see the Rebels news. Together the two trailers give us a mash-up between A New Hope and the Catching Fire trailer, also called “Spark.”
Over the weekend, more reveals came at Toy Fair in New York. Lucas Siegel of Newsarama gave us a glimpse of a pinkish Mandalorian; Justin LaSalata of Jedi News found a game card that gave her name, Sabine. Hasbro previewed their action figures and toys for the show. In the Star Wars Command game, mono-colored game pieces similar to the well-known little green Army men figures, only Sabine, not Hera, showed up among the pieces. Lego presented their Rebels sets, too, which included Hera in the Ghost set but not Sabine. Freddie Prinze, Jr. joined the Disney presentation; in the video provided by Inside The Magic his enthusiasm for Star Wars and Rebels is infectious.
On Tuesday, IGN introduced Zeb, an alien creature based on early concept art by Ralph McQuarrie. He is voiced by Steve Blum. Unfortunately at this point, of the six known heroic characters, just the male characters had been featured in an official reveal. Counting the Inquisitor from New York Comic Con, that made five male leads announced before either of the two female leads.
Discouraged by the omission of female characters in the toys, which was then compounded by the order of the videos with the character reveals, fans began voicing their opinion about the disparity. Placating comments from fellow fans that the Powers That Be were saving the best for last were easily deflected by the representation of the female characters in the toys and Disney’s own press release aiming their products at boys rather than children.
My fellow co-host Teresa Delgado, who is an avid collector, has been leading the discussion alongside Jason Ward from Making Star Wars. I encourage you to join in at Fangirls Going Rogue’s Facebook page, where Teresa is keeping everyone up to date. Major media outlet The Daily Dot covered the social media discussion asking where the female characters were. At Club Jade, Dunc spoke eloquently for frustrated fans, calling poodoo on the prevailing so-called wisdom in marketing and toy sales and telling Disney|Lucasfilm to “step it up already.” I’ve been equally frustrated during this whole process, both as a fangirl and as an aunt of nephews and nieces in the targeted age group for the show. In an upcoming post I will be analyzing the introductory marketing campaign and the reaction from the fanbase. Without a doubt the message of the opening marketing campaign did not align with the message from the showrunners.
Wednesday morning at midnight, The Hollywood Reporter revealed the character Sabine, voiced by Tiya Sircar. Later in the day, Newsarama made an exclusive announcement of the announcement that Sabine and Hera action figures will be unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con. Today, the Ghost’s pilot Hera was revealed by Entertainment Weekly to round out the six heroic characters.
I am excited about the female characters in Rebels despite my problems with the rollout.
Sabine is a person of color portrayed by an actress of color. Considering UCLA’s recent study on diversity in television and film, which states that diversity equates to money, as well as fan requests to diversify Star Wars, this earns the storytelling team high marks. From The Hollywood Reporter article:
Who is Sabine? She is a Mandalorian, and is described as “sassy,” “spunky,” “feisty” and has “a little bit of attitude.” She has an expert’s knowledge of weapons and arms, with an affinity for blowing things up. “She does it with flair,” Sircar says of Sabine, who also moonlights as a graffiti artist.
The Rebels team definitely went all in with the feminine attributes for the Mando character. All hail the pink. I would have preferred perhaps one or two less gendered words in her description, though, such as “brave,” “courageous,” or “fierce.”
Sabine’s reveal artwork included the butt shot angle so oft-used for female characters. Like storytellers, artists and marketers can and do perpetuate tropes. The backward facing pose has historically been used to sexualize the female characters and put them in a submissive position, or at the very least a non-confrontational, non-assertive one. Thankfully, Sabine’s image stops just below the waistline. A review of all the character shots, which can be found together at EW’s Hera article, shows that Sabine and Kanan are posed in this manner. Body language is everything, however. Kanan has a weapon in hand, a scowl on his face, and an opponent’s weapon can be seen in the lower right of the image. Sabine’s coy glance over the shoulder is notably an unaggressive stance, especially for a Mandalorian, compared to Zeb’s fist bump, Ezra’s classic hero pose, and Hera’s determined pilot face. The pose does allow for a nice shot at the detail on Sabine’s costume, especially the shoulder armor, and her personal style aligns with the fashion forward Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie.
The fact that Sabine is an artistic explosives expert opens up exciting possibilities. The artistically inclined nature of Sabine is well-suited for female fans, who enjoy self-expression like fanart, fanfiction, and cosplay. Tagging seems like the least questionable morally shaded activity for a rebel compared to killing and stealing. I’m going to put on my engineer hat for a moment, though. When designing infrastructure projects, engineers see a good chunk of government resources spent preventing and removing vandalism. Additionally, vandalism is a significant problem that affects schools monetarily. Taxpayers dollars would be better spent on pothole maintenance, deteriorating bridges (like a few in the San Francisco Bay Area), and educating kids. So I hope the storytelling team is wary of glorifying tagging in the eyes of their target audience.
With all that said, I’m on board and excited for Sabine and her potential within the show.
Hera is the Twi’lek “commander,” “pilot,” and “owner” of the Ghost. She is described as “strong-minded” and “nurturing” in the introduction video. Here at FANgirl, we’ve talked repeatedly about nurture as an alternate path to the classical conquering hero’s journey. Veteran voice actress Vanessa Marshall expressed her fangirl excitement about the show on Twitter today. She brings the enthusiasm and grace fans have loved from Ashley Eckstein.
As the “heart” of the heroic team, Hera’s video weaves together the framework of the cast. Obviously her appearance as the final character was in the plan all along. And I don’t necessarily disagree with that placement. Still, it has been frustrating over the past few days to ride through the storm of subtweets, male fans telling female fans to calm down, and the rise of trolls coming right at female fans who are voicing their opinions. My recommendation to anyone new to this type of behavior is to plant your feet wide and adopt a stern face forward. Hitting your fist into your opposing palm – like Zeb – once or twice may be necessary. Don’t be afraid to call for backup or a wingman. It’s appropriate for anyone who has supported the franchise with their passionate efforts as fans, and with their hard-earned dollars, to feel and express their emotions when the rollout for a show is dismissive of them.
I am going to reiterate what I said on Twitter a few days ago: Star Wars will not win the battle of the box office in 2015 against Marvel and Hunger Games without the female fans on their team.
Tricia Barr took her understanding of brand management and marketing, mixed it with a love of genre storytelling, and added a dash of social media flare to create FANgirl Blog, where she discusses Star Wars, fandom, and strong female characters. She also writes about Star Wars for Random House’s science fiction and fantasy blog Suvudu.com and Star Wars Insider magazine and is a contributor for Her Universe’s Year of the Fangirl. Her FANgirl opinions can be heard on the podcasts Assembly of Geeks and RebelForce Radio Presents Fangirls Going Rogue.
Tricia has completed her first novel, Wynde – a military science fiction with a fantastical twist that features heroines Vespa and Gemini. For excerpts and tales of her adventures in creating a fictional universe, hop over to TriciaBarr.com.