The Force Is With You (Unless You’re A Mother)
“Star Wars” is, at its core, a family saga. Yet it’s worth noting the focus has been on relationships between men. The original trilogy, in a nutshell, is about boy following in the footsteps of his father, finding his father, and redeeming his father. This is a great story! I loved it as a kid and I still love it today. But, a thought occurred to me recently: We have all these characters. Where are their mothers?
This question came to mind while I was playing “Star Wars: The Old Republic’s” (SWTOR) Knights of the Fallen Empire Expansion this weekend. (Spoilers ahead!) The expansion introduced the Eternal Empire, ruled by an emperor, with his remaining children, Arcann and Vaylin, playing key supporting roles in maintaining the government. At least, until Arcann decides he would be a better ruler and helps kill his father. While certainly interesting, and well-written, none of this was really new territory in terms of themes and stories I’d seen previously in “Star Wars.” That is, until players get to meet Senya, an ally of the player and a traitor to the Eternal Empire. Senya is pretty badass. She’s the equivalent of a Jedi Knight, just in service to the Eternal Empire, and with a different moral code. Oh, and she is Arcann and Vaylin’s mother, committed to the cause of removing her children from power. As I gawked at this awesome character, it dawned on me: This was one of the few times I’d ever seen a character’s mother depicted alive in the franchise, much less potentially critical to the overarching plot.
One could argue that Anakin Skywalker’s mother gets some screen time in the film prequels, but Shmi Skywalker’s main function in the movies is to be the woman who birthed Anakin, period. We never meet Padme Amidala’s parents; the audience got a glimpse of the Organas, who adopted Princess Leia after Padme’s death, but that wasn’t explored extensively. While both animated “Clone Wars” (full disclosure: I haven’t finished the series yet, I think I’m in season three) and “Rebels” offer numerous female characters in varying roles, the family element varies—mostly focusing on the family one forms outside of blood relatives. An argument could be made for Leia as a mother in the former “Star Wars Expanded Universe” because she married Han and they started a family, but that all got tossed with the franchise reboot. The only character I can think of in current continuity who is: a) alive, b) a main character, and c) a mother? Norra Wexley. Norra is one of the main characters in Chuck Wendig’s “Journey to the Force Awakens” novel, “Aftermath.” She’s a Rebel fighter pilot and part of the plot revolves around Norra reuniting, and rebuilding her relationship, with her estranged son, Temmin. Exactly one. Hm.
I’m not going to go off on a rant about how “Star Wars” hates women; I don’t think it does. I do think that “Star Wars”—like so many other forms of mainstream entertainment—suffers from the same societal blinders most of our media wears when it comes to women. That is, women can only fall into certain categories—for example, damsels in distress, mothers, love interests, or femme fatales—and that is all a woman can be. Which is pretty shortsighted and ridiculous. Male characters get to be husbands, fathers, murderers, whatever,and badass heroes or villains. Why can’t a daughter turn on her mother and try and take over the galaxy/kingdom/family business? Why can’t a woman be a John McClane type, walk on glass, and rescue her spouse from terrorists? Why are family ties seen as limiting to female characters but opening up new depths for male ones?
It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the newest “Star Wars” film installment, “The Force Awakens,” hits in December. There is lots of speculation about one, or more, of the new characters being related to the established trio—Luke, Han, and Leia—from the original trilogy. I’ll be interested to see if this story is driven by family strife and, if so, which relatives get to play a role. Regardless of what happens with “Star Wars,” I think we all need to remember that people are, generally speaking, multi-faceted and not defined by one role in their life. Let’s see more moms who serve a purpose other than existing to give birth to the next Chosen One!