The current run of annual Star Wars films has come under fire from a certain, er, narrow-minded contingent of the franchise’s fanbase, with one fan even going so far as to recut The Last Jedi into a “De-Feminized Fanedit.” A Scottish film Ph.D. and lecturer has crunched the numbers, and it turns out, these detractors aren’t wrong that these newer films contain a renewed focus on gender parity — although contrary to what they think, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Becca Harrison, a self-described “feminist writer, academic and curator,” posted to Twitter a quantitative ranking of Star Wars films based on the degree to which each devotes screen-time to female characters. The results paint a picture of a franchise digging its way out of its male-dominated tradition, with all pre-Force Awakens installments coming out with under 30% of female screen time each:
I have FINALLY ranked all of #StarWars based on screen time for women. This is now canon. Don't @ me.
43% Last Jedi
37% Force Awakens
35% Rogue One
23% Return of the Jedi
22% Empire Strikes Back
20% Phantom Menace
18% Attack of the Clones
17% Revenge of the Sith
15% A New Hope
— Becca Harrison (@BeccaEHarrison) May 28, 2018
On her website, Harrison opens up about the methodology behind her research, which involved her editing men out of the films “as much as possible,” and then counting the screen time of the remaining female characters who are portrayed as having “the ability to say something and contribute to the story, and not serving as a visual object.” She even extended this gender evaluation to the onscreen appearances of those lovable droids (“Threepio, Artoo and BB-8 are programmed ‘male.’ L3 is programmed ‘female.’ And, as L3 confirms for us in Solo, droids are sentient – hence droids can have genders”).
Although Solo is still far too fresh off its release to be available in a form that allows Harrison to recut it to be included in her research methods, The Last Jedi, otherwise the most recent installment, is by far the closest film in the franchise thus far to achieve something resembling gender parity at 43%, signalling that hopefully things are trending upward in terms of gender representation in the galaxy far, far away.