The Girl Power phase of the marketing push for The Force Awakens appears to have ramped up this week with a series of interviews, appearances, and even advertisements.
While Star Wars Rebels isn’t directly tied into the movie, it can obliquely affect tickets sales by creating interest among potential female fans. A vast pool of geek women, who enjoy science fiction/fantasy stories such as The Legend of Korra and Hunger Games remain wary of Star Wars and its portrayal of female characters, for reasons varying from fridging of characters to the excessive use of the Huttslayer costume to sell Star Wars. Buffy The Vampire Slayer alum Sarah Michelle Gellar’s role in the show might help bring those skeptics into the fold. After Gellar’s Seventh Sister debuted this week on Star Wars Rebels, the franchise highlighted her appearance at NYCC.
Star Wars movie star Harrison Ford joined Jimmy Kimmel for his Halloween episode to sing the praises of the movie and the younger generation of actors, naming Daisy Ridley first. His appearance served as a reason to announce the next generation of Star Wars stars, including director J.J. Abrams, would join the show on November 23. Set your DVRs! Ford’s interview dressed as a dog in a hot dog suit works well in the Tumblr era.
Within a 24-hour news cycle Ford’s costar Carrie Fisher made headlines as well, for her interview of The Force Awakens lead actress Daisy Ridley for Interview magazine. The congenial conversation dances around the big question on everyone’s mind: Who is Rey? But it’s undeniable that only one person can understand what is in store for Ridley. Again this interview works well for Tumblr, a medium dominated by women. Considering the Amy Schumer Slave Leia kerfuffle, it is notable that Fisher and Ridley were allowed to go there.
Each step in this roll-out is planned and approved. For women sitting on the cusp of fandom, Ridley and Fisher segueing from a conversation on girls in costume to the Huttslayer outfit creates an impression that women have a voice in their portrayals in the franchise. Of course, this conversation follows on the heels of Kathleen Kennedy acknowledging last week that six of the eight members of the Story Group are women.
Gwendoline Christie, who is doubling up on publicity to close out 2015 with Mockingjay Part 2 and The Force Awakens press, had to dance around the pointed questions about Episode VII’s plot, but she did give some insight into Captain Phasma when speaking to the L.A. Times:
Of her role in “Star Wars,” Christie can say only that though Captain Phasma is a supporting character, she will exert considerable force on the story. “She is a Boba Fett-style character,” the actress said, “which means she makes a lot of impact but she’s not at the forefront of the action all the time.”
Christie’s admits she chased a part in the franchise and adds why Star Wars matters to her:
“I really wanted to be in ‘Star Wars’ because it had a special meaning to me,” she said. “Being someone who never felt part of the mainstream, who always felt unusual, it felt like a world that I could inhabit in terms of my imagination and who I was. I became like a dog with a bone and was absolutely insistent: ‘Please, please, please try to have me seen.’ Eventually they were worn down by my incessant asking.”
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Christie explains how Captain Phasma is a game-changer:
“We see Captain Phasma, and we see the costume from head to toe, and we know that it is a woman. But we are used to, in our media, connecting to female characters via the way that they look, from the way they are made flesh.”
Phasma does not show skin. It’s not even clear how much – if at all – we’ll see Christie without her helmet. The silver armor also isn’t sculpted around the female form. That’s revolutionary for a genre in which women have traditionally been relegated to roles as scantily clad damsels in distress.
Phasma’s character radiates through the armor, like previous masked villains such as David Prowse’s Darth Vader and Jeremy Bulloch’s Boba Fett. We come to know her not by her expressions, but how she stands, the way she walks, and who she hurts. “We are actually connecting to a female character as a human being,” Christie says, even if, ultimately, she’s does inhuman things.
“It wasn’t just about what I was expressing above the neck, it was also as focused on what I was expressing below the neck,” says Christie. “It was an interesting acting experience as well as a fangirl’s dream.”
Coming full circle, Christie acknowledges how the first lady of Star Wars affected her as a girl:
“It’s one of the first Christmases I remember, and A New Hope was on the television. I really just fell in love with it,” the actress recalls. “I remember very distinctly adoring Princess Leia, because even in my infant mind, I thought, ‘Gosh, that’s a woman with strength.’”
To cap off a brilliant week that highlighted the fabulous prospects for female fans within the franchise, Duracell released a new Star Wars-themed advertisement, featuring a brother and sister imagining themselves fighting side by side as Jedi. That was the implicit promise heard by many women in the Return of the Jedi line “there is another,” but to date that promise hasn’t been realized on the big screen.
Update: Ad Age reports the Duracell spot premiered October 29th on Fox during Hannity. I saw a shortened version during Chopped on Food Network on the afternoon of November 1. Creativity offered more insight into the creation of the commercial. Duracell is one of seven global brands that entered into a corporate partnership with Lucasfilm. “Battle for Christmas Morning” was directed by Night at the Museum‘s Shawn Levy, who worked with The Force Awakens cinematographer David Mindel “on shooting the Duracell spot with a brand new anamorphic camera lens and aspect ratio that he used on the upcoming blockbuster.”
During ABC’s Sunday night hit Once Upon A Time, another Lucasfilm global partner CoverGirl aired their Star Wars makeup line ad. While some may hunt for clues in these campaigns, the biggest takeaway is Disney|Lucasfilm is reaching out to potential movie-goers beyond the average pre-sale ticket buyer. In both CoverGirl and Duracell, female Jedi are part of the sales pitch.
45 days and counting until The Force Awakens.
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.
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