How about a woman’s perspective on the Rogue One trailer?
This past day the entire interwebs have been talking about the outraged male response to the Star Wars Rogue One trailer. In case you’ve been napping under a rock, here is the recap: Rogue One has a female protagonist, as did its predecessor The Force Awakens, and some white dudes feel outraged / betrayed / depressed at the fact that their childhood fantasy is being “ruined by feminazis”. OK.
Now, men’s feelings and needs have always been the most important thing in my life, and I’d like nothing more than to hear again the sad tale of how they used to be the heroes in all the stories, and now they’re only the heroes in most. But I think it may be time to shift focus. As much as men’s experience in this situation is unique, women’s is equally so, and I want to hear their take on it. How did it feel to never be the hero in the movies you watched growing up? Ask a woman who she identified with, and you’ll learn her workaraounds — identifying with characters of the opposite sex, or with none at all, or slicing at female characters’ identity until she could piece together something that looked like her, or, most likely, slicing at her own identity until it looked like what she saw on screen.
Popular response to the current outcry has been to point out that men now know what it feels like to be a woman consuming pop culture. But this isn’t the most important thing here, nor is it the most interesting. Instead, we should again be focusing on women. Let’s talk about how women feel watching this change happen before their eyes. What’s it like to be a super-smart girl, and watch Rey unapologetically pursue and use her talent for the force? What’s it like to be a survivor of sexual assault watching Jessica Jones, broken and flawed, realize that her strength is unparalleled? How do tomboys feel watching Katniss Everdeen run around killing people, while simultaneously falling in love? What’s it like to maintain a makeup collection while watching Peggy Carter kick ass in heels and possibly the most perfect lipstick ever seen on TV? Can we please have the discussion revolve around women for once, rather than listen to the man-children who just NEED to have their hurt feelings addressed RIGHT NOW?
Here, I’ll start. Let me tell you how it feels to be a grown-ass woman watching someone like herself on-screen for what might well be the first time. It feels like loss. It feels like a gaping hole in the pit of my stomach that I didn’t even know was there until I saw Jyn Erso say “I rebel” calmly, matter-of-factly, as though nothing could be more natural than her being female and speaking this line. For most of my life, I never even knew I needed her. I never knew what I didn’t have. And now I’m so excited she’s here, but I can’t help mourn all those years when she wasn’t.
If we want this new wave of heroines to become more than just a profitable trend for studios, we have to build on their narratives in order to tell our own. Let the meninist sob stories fade away in the dark corners of 4chan, where they belong. It’s not interesting. It’s been done. It’s doesn’t sell. If we can make women’s narratives our focus, if we can make them heard as a matter of norm, then the next time an epic story is reinvented with a female (or POC or LGBTQ) lead, it just won’t be such a big deal.