How Star Wars' New Protagonist is Challenging Gender Roles

As I was driving to work the other day, I fiddled with the radio until I heard one radio host discussing something that caught my attention: Star Wars. More specifically, he was talking about the franchise’s new heroine and the waves she’s been making all over the Internet — most of which, it turns out, are negative.

For those of you who haven’t heard, there’s a trailer out for Star Wars' new spin-off, “Rogue One.” The movie, set to release in December, stars Felicity Jones as a rebel whose mission is to steal the plans for the Death Star, according to IMDB. Jones seems cool, slick and utterly bad*ss — which may be the problem for a lot of viewers.

Negative comments immediately erupted in the YouTube feed from people who were unhappy to see that the movie will focus on a woman. Many of the franchise’s (male) fans voiced their disappointment and claimed they didn’t have plans to see the new movie. The radio host I’d been listening to (a man, I might add) was no different. “A lot of guys are upset because Star Wars has always been our thing, and now there’s a woman taking over,” he said. “And it kind of hurts my confidence to have to watch a woman save a bunch of guys. It makes them look like wussies.”

A valid point, perhaps? Not so much. Newsflash: a lot of women enjoy and even geek out over Star Wars just as much as any guy does (even if it’s maybe not considered as socially acceptable). Not to mention that women spend most of their time watching movies about women who have to sit around waiting for men to save them. The majority of action and sci fi films feature women as damsels in distress or as plot devices to weaken the male protagonists.

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Don't believe me? I think the outburst itself is an indicator that women aren't often given the hero treatment. How often do you hear about people getting mad at men for being the protagonists of movies? If the answer is "never," you're probably right. Men are default protagonists, especially in action-packed films that require a savior, and when women are given their place among the ranks, it's either considered a "breakthrough" or a "disaster," depending on who you ask. Men feel threatened at the idea of letting women have even one character that's strong and independent, while a lot of women are asking for just a little representation here and there. Girls grow up watching movies that teach them that they need a hero, not that they can be their own hero. And to finally have a film where the woman is not only capable of saving herself but can save others? Now, that’s something I’d like to see more of.

Besides, I think it’s important to note that while the main character of this particular movie is a woman, there’s no shortage of men. Besides the heroine, the cast is disproportionately male, and it doesn’t exactly look like any of them are helplessly screaming for her to save them. Besides, “Rogue One” is just a spin-off in the same universe and doesn’t follow the storyline of the original Star Wars. This movie is a great step in the right direction, but let’s be real — we aren’t that progressive yet.