CultureCinema A Feminist Reading of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A Feminist Reading of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars, with its visible shift in politics and effortless representation of minorities, has clearly rejected the wrong kind of populism.

Content Warning: This post contains spoilers for the latest instalment in the Star Wars Franchise. 

So. Much. Feminism.

I waited for this movie with bated breath and zero patience, and I am here to state with a sense of elation that Star Wars delivered to my socialist conscience along with my feminist one.

Though Star Wars is slightly awkward in handling the dynamics of its political ideologies, it is effortless in being a feminist movie. Generally, when I watch movies with ’empowered’ female characters, I can generally sense the awkwardness in the representation.

But Star Wars’ latest instalment makes you question why would you have any apprehensions about female characters in action roles in the first place. Star Wars does not have time for the archaic concepts of gender performativity, neither does it put the onus of looking sexually desirable on its female characters.

And if I had the time, I would write a love letter to the costume maker of The Last Jedi. The costumes in the movie do not cater to the male gaze and are worthy of fully fleshed out characters that do not exist to serve the male experience.

Star Wars

Kelly Marie Tran as Rose in The Last Jedi. Credit: Daily Express

Rey, Rose, Princess Leia and Admiral Holdo all made me realize that I shouldn’t have to settle for one strong female character in multi starrer fantastical movies. Why did I even think that was adequate enough?(I am probably talking about Avengers and Justice League here).

Star Wars is feminist, period. And it doesn’t want you to pedestalize it or give medals to it for the same. It makes you feel that equality is the norm. It should be.

These are self-assured female characters who actually like themselves, they are leaders and carry out their actions with convictions and not with the generic awkwardness and insecurity we have witnessed far too many times. These characters believe in themselves, their self-worth is not tied to external validation.

No onus of looking sexually desirable on female characters.

However, is Star Wars as progressive in its class politics as it is in its gender politics?

Vulture published an insightful article where they deconstructed the politics of Star Wars and articulated their problem with the franchise. They called the latest Installment ‘populist’. In the modern world of Trump, Brexit and BJP, needless to say, association with that adjective has certain negative connotations.

Also Read: Wonder Woman And The Refreshing Absence Of The Male Gaze

Vulture makes several convincing points pointing out the internalized imperialism in Star Wars and the idealization of archaic Jedi systems which bears resemblance to a government that bears no accountability to any individual.

Star Wars

Jedi Order. Credit: Playbuzz

However, taking on that argument, Star Wars does in fact, deal with the internalized imperialism, stating the failure of the continuation of those very systems in this instalment. It overtly states its socialist agenda when Rose criticizes the residents of Canto Bright who capitalize on the business of war and are overt practitioners of slavery.

Though The Last Jedi reflects on the failure of imperialist ideology, it doesn’t entirely discredit it. It establishes the ideology as the same as the other side of the coin. Is something that only elevates a certain section of the population based on their bloodline ever be given the same legitimacy as something that is democratic? In my personal opinion – I do not think so.

For those of you who have diligently followed the franchise know that the force is strong with the Skywalker family. I, personally hoped Rey would turn out to be Kylo Ren’s secret sister or Luke Skywalker’s daughter, only to realize I am guilty of perpetuating imperialism too when I participate in that theory.

Rey’s parents do not turn out to be anyone with any association to the Skywalker family. They were alcoholics based in Jakku who sold her when she was of a very young age.

Of course, to believe this, we have to take the manipulative Kylo Ren’s word for it. But the last big revelation in the Star Wars franchise involved Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker where Luke is told by Vader that he is his son, which turned out to be true. Also, it only makes sense that Rey is a nobody.

secretly hoping for Rey to have to be related to the Kenobi or Skywalker bloodline is romanticizing imperialism.

Star Wars overtly articulates in the movie the emergence of a new system, and it makes sense that the establishment of the new system is instigated by someone who is an outsider. And I suppose secretly hoping for her to have to be genetically related to the Kenobi or Skywalker bloodline is romanticizing imperialism.

So, is Star Wars overtly socialist in its discourse and acknowledges the emergence of socialism? Yes. But does Star Wars acknowledge the problematic romanticization of Imperialism? Not necessarily, no.

Sure, Luke Skywalker played brilliantly by Mark Hamill points out the failure of ‘legends’ who found their relevance faltering in the new age. But that cannot be conflated with criticism of an archaic system that was deeply flawed, to begin with.

The movie ends with a boy in Canto Bright, who also has a possible connection with The Force, wearing a ring with the symbol of The Resistance on it, looking upwards in a hope akin to being quixotic of Resistance returning and taking on the first order. The boy, as far as episode VIII would go, does not have imperial connections and is a slave.

Star Wars, with its visible shift in politics and effortless representation of minorities, is clear about its stance on politics in the modern world. It has rejected the wrong kind of populism.

Also Read: A Feminist Reading Of Thor: Ragnarok

Featured Image Credit: Publika


  1. Karthika says:

    Star Wars last jedi and Marvel’s defenders perfect example of feminism (lack of male gaze) and representation of women.

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