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mygif

I’d much rather watch this version of Empire than any of the versions George Lucas has released. It sounds like a much better movie than the cinema release, let alone the assorted Lucas ‘tweaked’ re-releases.

I haven’t even bothered to find out which retcons he’s inflicted on the Blu-Ray release, ’cause I’m sure they will please nobody but his own Vision(tm)

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I agree with most of this, except for the idea of torturing Leia in Cloud City.

This isn’t because we can’t have a woman being tortured. Rather, it’s that Han Solo gets tortured because Darth Vader just feels like making him suffer, hence the “they didn’t ask me any questions” line. If he’s not trying to get any useful information out of Han, then that removes the main reason he would have for torturing Leia, who would obviously have more vital information. There’s also the fact you noted, that he already knows how much resistance Leia can put up to torture. The only reason left would then be personal satisfaction, and by this point in the story he doesn’t care about Leia or Han, he wants Luke. He’ll get a lot more personal satisfaction by capturing his son than by breaking any of his other captives.

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Of course, now that I think about it some more, none of the reasons I have given would actually prevent Vader from torturing Leia in Cloud City. He could still do it for the hell of it, since that’s his only reason for torturing Han. The radio play gives him a line about doing it to punish Han for his defiance, but that also adds problematic lines from Leia about how they have no chance to resist Vader, which doesn’t really support Empire Strikes Back having a strong female character in Leia.

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mygif

All you have done is taken the Han Solo and Leia characters and switched them around. Leia does everything Han does and vice-versa, with some expository dialogue to explain why a princess is doing the stuff instead of the smuggler.

It hurts the plot because Lando’s betrayal is impersonal treachery if Leia takes the stage, and Han being frozen in carbonite is less effective. It works because Han is such a dominant figure in the story, driving the love story and the action adventure. If you make him passive (as you have done here) and have him frozen, then it would be akin to doing EMPIRE as is, but making Leia frozen instead.

But that’s really neither here nor there; if EMPIRE had come out in the manner which you claimed, no doubt, anyone could simply say, “It’s anti-feminist because Leia appears like a bullying man who insults people”. Alternatively, you’d complain that the badass Han Solo is now pussy-whipped.

The misogyny you cite isn’t present in the film, and your ‘fixes’ only demonstrate that changing one or two ‘minor’ details unravels a tightly plotted story, requiring new exposition and set-ups to new pay-offs you’d require to be in both EMPIRE and JEDI.

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Actually, I’d say that the problem is that both Han and Leia are supposed to be both powerless and ineffective in Empire. It’s kind of the point: they’re now on the run with nothing to fall back on, making their choices increasingly desperate and limited. In actuality, Han’s decision-making isn’t a strong character trait – every time he makes a decision for the group, it winds up being the wrong one (the monster in the asteroid belt, Lando). I think people only remember Han as powerful and engaging because Harrison Ford is so good at being effortlessly charming. I’ll grant you the AWDKHOMANAMTSHWSIIBFSHU trope, but it is a 30-year-old movie, and movies that old sometimes have stuff we don’t look back on fondly.

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Thinking on this even more (this has clearly struck a chord for me), I’ve come back to the scene on the Millenium Falcon. Which is problematic, I can’t argue against that. What’s even more problematic is any attempt to defend it on the grounds that Leia is clearly attracted to Han, because even if she is, attraction is not the same as consent. That’s why any argument like “she’s clearly into him” isn’t a coherent defense.

The one thing I can think of that is a defense is contextual, namely that Leia’s resistance is not about Han and how she feels about him, but their specific situation. She’s not trying to resist his advances because she hasn’t made up her mind, but because they’re running for their lives and trying to make desperate repairs. In that context. Han trying to pursue her is a problem because he could be using that time to fix his half-broken ship, and get them all to relative safety. Han, for his part, probably sees it as a quick breather in between being chased. While he knows they need to repair the Falcon, there’s also the fact that if Leia uses the fact that they’re in danger to deny a possible relationship, then she’s shutting down all chance of one, because they’ll never stop being in danger.

This argument doesn’t make Leia into a feminist character, but it at least presents a version of the kiss which is less troubling, at least to me. It also means that when C-3PO interrupts them, Leia is grateful for being reminded of the repair priority, while Han is annoyed at having a nice moment interrupted, instead of Han going “Damn, I’ve been caught! I thought I’d beaten my sexual offender rap, and now this fucking droid is going to report me.”

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Evil Midnight Lurker said on September 25th, 2011 at 9:29 am

Tales to Enrage: Vader’s torturing them to get Luke’s attention through the Force.

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The misogyny you cite isn’t present in the film

Care to offer a counter explanation then? No, thought not. Have you actually considered the argument presented or are just angry that someone called Star Wars a bad word?

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Evil Midnight Lurker: I KNEW there was something about the torture I was forgetting! I was overthinking it.

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Plus, if you need someone to whine and need things explained to them, well, isn’t that C-3PO’s whole raison d’etre?

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I haven’t seen the movie for ages, and the movie I remember goes a lot more like your version – I’m pretty practiced in rewriting stuff in my head, apparently, especially since I really wanted to like Leia.

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And this is the “best” Star Wars flick?

Damning it with faint praise, but yes, it is.

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Brilliant! yes. I loved the film as a child, but in my old age, it has soured on me. I realize a non trivial part of that is that I could not identify with any of the characters, and I think you’ve put your thumb on why I couldn’t with Leia.

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@BringTheNoise: Care to offer a counter explanation then? No, thought not. Have you actually considered the argument presented or are just angry that someone called Star Wars a bad word?
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It is extremely clear that I read the post and that I considered it. My response is specifically rebutting the very changes suggested to the movie.

You are guilty of the exact knee-jerk reaction you attack me for, asking a rhetorical question on one sentence of my post without any real consideration for anything I put forward.

Furthermore, I am not a STAR WARS fan. None of them would even be in my top 20 favourite movies, so it is not petulance or fanboy-ism on my part.

I have no interest in continuing this discussion further with you. You are clearly not interested in any response I have to give. If you were, you would’ve asked your question and waited for a response, rather than being remarkably condescending.

Please do not respond to me as I will not indulge your rudeness any further.

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Mitchell Hundred said on September 25th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

This is not the best ‘Star Wars’ movie: ‘Return of the Jedi’ is. The improbability of the Ewok victory is easily explained by assuming that the Empire had to cut back on its military budget so that it would have the money to build another Death Star (resulting in the construction of the inferior military equipment we see in play on Endor).

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FYI, Vader tortures Han because he knows Luke will be able to sense his friends’ suffering and come rushing into Vader’s trap. Is the vision Luke receives on Dagobah a direct result of Han’s torture? I don’t know. But the point is that Vader knows Luke can receive such visions, so he is deliberately trying to provoke one in him. (I don’t know why he picks Han instead of Leia, other than that he already tortured Leia in the first movie.)

I don’t want to bother debating whether a 31-year-old movie lives up to today’s standards of feminism, because I’m pretty sure “We have to rescue the princess part II” lost that battle a long time ago. But I do think your complaints about Leia and Han’s roles depend largely on how much subtext you read into the their dialogue. If you take everything they say to each other at face value, then Han is being pushy and condescending to a woman that clearly rejected him at the beginning of the movie, but changes her mind on a whim because it suits the writers’ fantasy.

However, if you read more into it (based in part on what the other movies make more clear), then Leia is in love with Han all along, and their quarreling is just a pretext to their real dispute. Han is angry that Leia won’t admit her feelings and thinks she’s too wrapped up in her war and ordering him around like a soldier. Leia is angry that Han acts like a horny douchebag who presumes to know her feelings, instead of the honorable man she knows/hopes him to be. So they bicker and fight because neither of them knows to say what the other really wants to hear, until the shit hits the fan. Basically, it depends on whether you choose to believe that Han’s reading of Leia is correct–that her lips say “no” but her eyes say “yes, yes”–and I think the movie proves him right. That’s not to say I’d recommend Han’s style to solicitous males in the real world. But he’s not a role model, he’s a 1970s space pirate.

Setting that stuff aside, the remainder of your issues with Leia’s portrayal in Empire boil down to her lack of action in a plot that sees her party dogfighting in space, repairing spaceships in mid-flight, and knowing the haunts of old criminals. With all due respect to Leia, all the action is tailored for Han’s skills, and there’s about as much reason for her to take point as there is for C-3PO. This leads to the real, deeper issue that the movie doesn’t have any female Han Solos and doesn’t give the one heroine it has enough to do. But to resolve that you’d have to rewrite the whole story, either to make Empire’s plot more political/strategic or to recast Leia as the streetwise pilot.

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mygif

Let us not forget, this story takes place “a long time ago…” Things were different then.

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It’s rather difficult to argue as you can interpret things one way or the other.

Your revised version has Leia stay longer deliberately, my interpretation was that she had already deliberately stayed that long… she was in danger but she just didn’t care about her personal safety compared with the success of the evacuation.

You say “Han gets to demonstrate his superior judgement and discusses with a MAN what to do about this whole “woman” situation while Leia gets no input at all.”
I say “Most people would need a second or two to recover from the shock tunnel collapse, and to consider alternative routes, but to Han’s credit rather than Leia’s discredit he reacts very fast. We don’t know if he is right they can’t get to the transport but once he’s said he’ll get her out on the Falcon it’s too late to argue.”

You say “Leia isn’t the kind of person to sit passively by and watch other people do the rescuing when she can pick up a gun and start shooting.”
I say “Leia isn’t the kind of person to pick up a gun and start shooting when Han, and Chewie, know the Falcon better and have decided it is better to simply try to outrun the Imperials. Blockades and Imperial craft are something they are used to as Smugglers so they do have a lot of experience. As Han is Captain and Owner of the Falcon it is his decision whether to man the gun turrets or not, which we saw in the previous film where he came back from the cockpit and told Luke to get in one while he took the other.”

You say “proved wrong by his manly manliness that manfully mans up at every turn.”
I say “Like the tunnel collapse this is more Han’s credit than Leia’s discredit. She has spent years as a diplomat and senator while Han has spent years as a smuggler and pilot. He simply has more relevant experience in this situation, just as Leia had more relevant experience in the situation of sweet-talking the Ewoks. And in any case Chewbacca doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about most of Han’s ideas so he was being just as proven wrong.”

You say “instead of spending all her time changing outfits and getting her hair done, Leia decides to ingratiate herself to Lando using her diplomatic skills.”
I say “Leia getting her hair done and some flattering outfits would help with using her diplomatic skills on Lando or anyone else, and also gave her the chance to speak to whoever did her hair and fitted her for the dress. We don’t know how long she spent in the room compared with outside the room and how long she could have used the excuse of shopping to be moving around Cloud City. But saying we don’t know is saying we don’t know… off-screen they could have had a discussion where they agreed Leia should take that approach while Han and Chewbacca, whose friend Lando was, snoop around but I can’t argue a negative and I agree it would be stronger if we had seen Leia doing this or what you suggest.”

You say “Still not fond of the “Leia gets a flash of woman’s intuition Jedi insight” sequence.”
I say “What? That seemed perfectly clear that Luke remembered the advice to trust his instincts and in trusting them felt that Leia would be able to hear him. Nothing to do with “woman’s intuition”, was to do with Luke’s “Jedi insight”. He could feel the bond between them and even if he needed Obi-Wan telling him he had a sister to realise what that bond was he knew it existed.”

And to Jim Smith above me I would suggest that Vader knows how unusually resistant Leia is to torture and so she might contain her pain within herself or block it out from her “luminous being” better than most people. Han Solo on the other hand tried to shoot him at the dinner table (most rude) and shot down one of his wingmen to cause the other to panic and ram him. So let’s find out if he would make more impression through the Force, can always torture Leia later… or torture them both and let their agony at the other’s agony increase their own.

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mygif

And this is the “best” Star Wars flick?

Yes.

Isn’t that sad?

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@Jim Smith: Well, yes, that’s kind of what makes the movie actually reprehensible instead of just the character. If Han did all these things and was presented as a sexist jerk who needed to learn how to treat Leia right, and he doesn’t get the girl until he begins to respect her as a person and as a leader in the Rebel Alliance, you wouldn’t hear me complaining.

But the movie suggests that Han is morally justified in groping Leia repeatedly despite her statements of “Let go”, and “Stop that,” because his instincts about her protests being self-delusional are absolutely right. The message of the film, at least of its romantic subplot, is “Women don’t know their own minds, the poor little dears, especially frigid ice princesses who need a good sexing up. Just keep grabbing them and groping them–use plenty of excuses like ‘The ship lurched unexpectedly’, or ‘I thought your hand might be sore from working on that big engine’–and sooner or later she’ll realize that you’re the forceful man they need, just like Leia did!”

The fact that the movie vindicates Han’s treatment of women is far worse than the treatment itself.

(And as for “It was 31 years ago, times have changed”…yes, the time-lost year of 1980 was well before the women’s rights movement, wasn’t it? Why, I’m not sure if women even had the vote back then! :) Yes, Leigh Brackett did come from the pulps, but unless she was frozen in carbonite herself and somehow didn’t experience the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, that’s no excuse.)

@_JM_: Yes, if you divorce every moment from its wider context and try to rationalize each sequence individually, you can come up with a justification for why a strong, intelligent woman might do what Leia did in that scene. But taken together, they paint a pretty damning picture. Context is the key, here.

@Bass: Of course it doesn’t reverse Han and Leia’s positions. Han still performs the magnificently reckless flight through the asteroid field, he’s still the one who comes up with the plan to ditch the Star Destroyers by hiding in their garbage, he still is the one who comes up with the idea to go to Bespin…and Lando’s betrayal is no less a betrayal of Han just because Leia gets something to do in those scenes. You can diminish Han without making him ineffectual, and in an ensemble movie like this, one character shouldn’t have all the heroic moments.

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@John Seavy

“@Bass: Of course it doesn’t reverse Han and Leia’s positions. Han still performs the magnificently reckless flight through the asteroid field, he’s still the one who comes up with the plan to ditch the Star Destroyers by hiding in their garbage, he still is the one who comes up with the idea to go to Bespin…and Lando’s betrayal is no less a betrayal of Han just because Leia gets something to do in those scenes. You can diminish Han without making him ineffectual, and in an ensemble movie like this, one character shouldn’t have all the heroic moments.”
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But that wouldn’t be the effect of the changes you suggest. You give an example of a scene in which Leia clearly trumps Han by staying behind with an insult. It’s not just that she’s smarter than Han, it’s that Han is a bumbling fool. Later, in the chase, she’s manning the turrets which means any success is not because Han is reckless, but because she’s helping him out. In the torture scene she’s tougher than Han. With Lando, she’s there doing the talking and with her authority, controlling the conversation – you make a point she’s a diplomat and an authority figure.

Every scene she’s in, you not only change it so she’s more active, but you actively undermine Han. You transfer empathy from Han to Leia.

Now, that’s not to say it couldn’t work, it could work if Leia was on Dagobah becoming a Jedi.

But what I’m trying to explain is that your fixes are the same as the ‘problems’, all you’ve done is switch the genders. Instead of the woman being perceived as weak, foolish, submissive, the man now is, and yet you have no problem with that.

Now, I personally, don’t think Leia is weak, submissive, or undermined. Nor do I think that having a strong woman lead inherently creates the ‘pussy-whipped’ man, I’m just trying to express the sub-text you’ve added to the film. For me, Leia makes perfect sense: She’s completely out of her depth, and in Han’s world, hiding in garbage and dealing with smugglers on the fringe.

Leia may have been a big part of the rebel movement, but she was never one who went into hiding. She was a public ambassador of Alderaan, and while courageous, brave, and in some ways, ruthless, she’s not a guerilla tactician but a political agent. In EMPIRE she is completely out of her comfort zone. And while she tries to retain some control – she is a princess after all – she simply does not know about how to evade Empire patrols, nor deal with smugglers who buy mining cities. She’s used to organizing a support structure.

But more than that, the point of there relationship is that Han has to prove to Leia that he’s worthy of her. She is so far out of his league (a point made numerous times by Luke and herself) the story is designed specifically to show that Han is worthy of her.

It’s clear this is what their relationship is about, but you don’t see it that way, and your changes drastically alter the themes of that relationship and, I think, the very natures of the characters.

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I forgot to talk about a point; the Han-groping-Leia stuff:

The film is quite clear that Leia loves Han (he’s Harrison Ford, after all) and that Han loves Leia, however, he’s a terrible, groping son-of-a-bitch who’s not worthy of her at all. And so while Leia would like to be with him, she knows he’s bad news and refuses him. This is why when he ‘gropes’ her and she says ‘stop’, it’s somewhat ironic. She does want him, and also doesn’t want him as he is.

And so the film’s story design is built around Han becoming a better person, capable of self-sacrifice and compassion in order to get her.

This is also what happens in STAR WARS: Han starts off as a criminal who redeems himself by the end. This is why fans so utterly hate “Greedo shooting first” because it undermines that Han is a cold-blooded murderer at the beginning and a altruistic hero at the end.

In both STAR WARS and EMPIRE, we have great empathy for Han, we love him and identify with him, but we don’t think he’s ‘morally right’. In fact, it’s the exact opposite; we think he’s morally wrong. The film’s are very clear that Han’s worldview is VERY wrong.

We don’t go, in STAR WARS, “Man, that Han Solo is so right, killing aliens and smuggling. Luke should take the money and run.” We go, “He’s dangerous – cool and awesome and sexy, but he’s a selfish bastard with no moral compass” and we want him to find a moral center (which he does in STAR WARS).

In EMPIRE, we’re not leering with him thinking, “Man, he should rape Leia if she gives him any more lip, that bitch doesn’t know what she wants”, we get that Leia wants him but knows he’s bad news and because we love Han and Leia and we want them together, we want him to become a BETTER man. If Leia had just taken Han as the scoundrel he is at the beginning of EMPIRE, we wouldn’t have tolerated it.

Your reading that Leia is portrayed as being ‘wrong’ for not accepting Han’s advances, are not what is in the film. It’s the other way round. Han is portrayed through his behaviour, as not being worthy of Leia, and it’s not until he’s done incredible things, sacrificed himself, and gone through literal torture and incredible pain, it’s not until he’s about to die, that he’s worthy of her. The entire story design is to express that he’s NOT morally justified in groping her.

Yes, she loves him from the beginning of the film, but it’s not until Han stops acting like a boorish chauvinist that she’ll let him touch her. The meaning is not “Women don’t know their own minds, so grope away” but “You want a woman like Leia? Then you must become a better man than you have been.” And that moral growth begins in STAR WARS.

As for the final “I love you” “I know”; Leia finally gives him what he’s been hounding her for, an admission of love, and he calmly and tenderly reciprocates. The Han at the beginning of the film would have said, “I know”, but with a wink and a grin, and he’d be a cocky son of a bitch for doing so.

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Cookie McCool said on September 26th, 2011 at 11:59 am

It’s always easier to feel empowered when you feel pretty.

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@Bass: The reason why “we get that Leia wants [Han] but knows he’s bad news” is because he tellsher that while he’s forcing himself on her when she has nowhere safe to go to.

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It occurs to me that if you make Leia a “active, decisive, intelligent, emotionally-mature female character”, she becomes overqualified to be in the movies. None of the other characters are active, decisive, intelligent and emotionally-mature after all.

* Han? He’s a loser whose greatest claim is he has a spaceship, and its vague if he has that by the end of the series. Shooting first is why he survives!
* Chewy? The best he can do is travel with a guy who has his own ship.
* Luke is a noob with magic powers who can only win by getting his ass-kicked until daddy saves him. His saving grace is that he’s supposed to be an unsure kid on the cusp of becoming an adult (having a guy in his 20’s play a kid isn’t anything new for Hollywood, so I’ll spare them this one).
* Boba Fett? He gets what… three minutes of total screen time before ending up a snack for an immobile hole in the ground. He’s the Darth Maul of 4-6, but with even less screen time.
* Obi-wan? “If you strike me down… I won’t do much of anything else really. So I’ll just stand here and let you.”
* Yoda? “Teach you how to get powerful so you will get your ass kicked by Emperor I will.”
* The Emperor? His plan is to have Vader and Luke fight to the death so that Luke can take Vader’s place? Now I know why the Expanded Universe exists….
* Darth Vader? Seems fine going with the Emperor’s plan up to the point he realizes Luke -really- doesn’t want to kill Vader.
* C3-PO? He’s a droid with non-functional arms who only does what people tell him to do. On the other hand, he’s a droid.

I’ll cut R2 some slack here. Sure he’s a droid following programs, but he shows more initiative and competence than any two other characters in the movies (at least in IV). He’s a comedic relief character that got toned down in the next two movies because he was at risk of outshining everyone else I think. Plus: he had the power to retroactively make Vader forget he ever had droids or something (which I’m sure the EU handwaves away somewhere or another).

Honestly, the trilogy reminds me more of an extended Venture Bros storyline, where everyone involved is essentially a loser of some flavor.

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“And this is the “best” Star Wars flick?”

May I dare suggest that perhaps the people who judged it as such based their estimate more on its value as entertainment than as a battlefield on the imaginary war between sexes?

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It hurts the plot because Lando’s betrayal is impersonal treachery if Leia takes the stage, and Han being frozen in carbonite is less effective. It works because Han is such a dominant figure in the story, driving the love story and the action adventure. If you make him passive (as you have done here) and have him frozen, then it would be akin to doing EMPIRE as is, but making Leia frozen instead.

Yeah, and now that you mention it, why is Han such a dominant figure in the plot, anyway? I mean, sure, “rogue makes good” is interesting, but why is he more dominant than Leia? She’s been a leader of the Rebellion from early on if not the very start, she’s Force-sensitive, she shows the necessary personality to be a “hero” at least sometimes, and she’s the real main character’s sister and Vader’s daughter.

In most stories, when there’s a lost prince who’s fallen in with rebels against the usurper that is corrupting his rightful kingdom and fights back, the lost prince gets to kill the usurper and lead the rebellion himself. It’s funny, then, that in Star Wars there’s both a lost prince and a lost princess, and while the lost prince gets to do all that stuff, the lost princess is less important to the story than her love interest.

And this is the “best” Star Wars flick?

Well, it seems pretty clearly not the best on the level of feminism, gender politics in general or related issues. By other metrics, though, that’s still open for debate. I’d defend its overall plot the most, its character growth for everyone but Leia, its world-building on the whole Jedi thing…

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Empire isn’t about Leia, and trying to make it be about her is why people dislike Leia’s portrayal in it. Each of the three original trilogy shined….shone? did shine?…put a different character in the spotlight.

An New Hope is Luke’s story. He’s the active figure who seeks out Kenobi to start the action. He’s the one who drags Han along to rescue Leia. He’s the one who ultimately destroys the Death Star. In short, he’s the character who grows up by the end of the film (with a little residual character arc to come in Empire).

Empire is about Han Solo. He saves Luke and Leia on Hoth. He does all the cool piloting and clever escaping that everyone has already referenced. He drags them all to Bespin to look for the security offered by his old poker buddy while Luke’s ultimately a non-actor in the plot because he’s busy learning to be a Jedi from Yoda. And by the end, he’s grown enough to be a better person.

Jedi is your movie about Leia. She’s the one who really starts the plan of “Let’s rescue Han.” She kills Jabba (and looks hot doing it). Even without 3P0’s help, she charms the Ewoks into helping (after she takes the initiative to silence those Imperial Speeder Bike Scouts). She’s the one who leads the assault on the Shield Generator (and saves Han Solo while doing it). At the end of the movie, she knows who she is and what she’s getting.

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One quick thing: Just because Han turns out to be “right” about dodging into an asteroid field and charging a Star Destroyer doesn’t mean those two ideas are not both MONUMENTALLY STUPID. Leia’s the one who’s thinking about this from an “I want to see tomorrow” standpoint, Han’s just being a cocky a-hole. Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but the only reason that they had to do either of those things was because his ship’s a POS.

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I think Sisyphus has it pretty spot on. I will say that it’s a bit unfair to call “Jedi” out flatly as “Leia’s Movie” as there is a fair amount of Luke and Han thrown in. I mean, just from the title I can tell you that the Jedi that is returning isn’t Leia.

That said, it is definitely worth noting that if you’re looking for feminism “Jedi” would be a much better flick than “Empire” to watch. The ordained leader of the Rebel Alliance is Mon Mothma – a woman – after all. Even as a kid I remember that catching me off guard. And Leia’s rolls – marching into Jabba’s Palace to free Han, winning over the Ewoks, and breaking the trap at the shield generator – were far more pivotal than in any other film.

And to dirge:

* Luke is a noob with magic powers who can only win by getting his ass-kicked until daddy saves him. His saving grace is that he’s supposed to be an unsure kid on the cusp of becoming an adult (having a guy in his 20′s play a kid isn’t anything new for Hollywood, so I’ll spare them this one).

* Obi-wan? “If you strike me down… I won’t do much of anything else really. So I’ll just stand here and let you.”

* Yoda? “Teach you how to get powerful so you will get your ass kicked by Emperor I will.”

Do you maybe see a theme here? Obi-wan refuses to fight Darth Vader. Yoda doesn’t run school Luke in how to toss lightning bolts or cut trees in half with his lightsaber – he teaches focus and serenity and peace of mind. Then Luke, in his climactic duel with his father, does everything in his power to cause as little harm as possible.

Almost as though the Jedi doctrine is one of peace and non-violence? And that this strategy – in the face of overwhelming opposition – actually works out amazingly well? Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here? Eh?

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I won’t make comment about Empire, because as entertainment and a work of film I love it unconditionally. I will at least say, though–at the risk of derailing the thread–at least Empire isn’t Blade Runner and Han isn’t Deckard. I mean, you want to talk about rapey…

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@Prodigal
“@Bass: The reason why “we get that Leia wants [Han] but knows he’s bad news” is because he tellsher that while he’s forcing himself on her when she has nowhere safe to go to.”
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That’s not it at all. We get Leia wants Han for a number of reasons: the fact that Leia chases after Han when he says he’s leaving, we get it from the glances Leia gives Han in the first minutes of the film — glimpses of Leia looking at Han with longing and betrayal, we get it from how she plays dumb at his insinuations that she cares for him as if she has no clue what he’s going on about when she clearly does, and how she kisses Luke in order to make Han jealous and on and on. Her behaviour is clearly that she loves Han but due to him being such a scoundrel, she cannot admit it to him or herself. We knew Leia is in love with Han before either one of them opens their mouth.
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@Cyrus
“Yeah, and now that you mention it, why is Han such a dominant figure in the plot, anyway? I mean, sure, “rogue makes good” is interesting, but why is he more dominant than Leia? She’s been a leader of the Rebellion from early on if not the very start, she’s Force-sensitive, she shows the necessary personality to be a “hero” at least sometimes, and she’s the real main character’s sister and Vader’s daughter.”
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Because it’s in-character. Leia is completely out of her depth. She’s a leader of the Rebellion, and a commanding presence, but that’s just it: she’s a majestic figure and they’re on the run looking for refuge. On Hoth, Leia is in an underground movement, but she’s in a Rebel base surrounded by her ‘subjects’. As soon as she’s on the Millennium Falcon she’s in garbage hiding from bounty hunters and then going to a backwater mining station run by an illegal gambler. She cannot throw her weight around. To do so would be out of character.

I had to pop in the dvd to watch a scene or two again to refresh my memory, and I hit the ‘next chapter’ button and all of a sudden I’m watching Leia, quite in control, giving all the rebel pilots their orders. I also quickly caught the scene in which Leia is supposedly dragged out by Han — Han tells her it’s enough and that they have to go, she looks at him, and AGREES with him. He doesn’t “practically carry her off over his shoulder”, she agrees – with a look – to go with him. Just because he’s holding her by the hand doesn’t mean he’s dragging her. She’s clearly accepting that it’s time to go.

When I began reading Seavey’s post, I expected to agree with him. I thought, “He’s probably right, it’s probably rather chauvinistic” but I found myself disagreeing with every point made, saying, “You’ve fundamentally misunderstood the nature of what’s going on in these scenes and how the story and cast are assembled”.

The idea that it’s anti-feminist because Leia doesn’t go around taking charge of everything when it would be out of character to do so, and because she’s not a superwoman who’s right all the time, is like saying EMPIRE is racist because the only black guy in it is a ‘bad guy’. The misogyny is not there. The only way to see it as anti-feminist is to cast Leia as a victim and Han as a sexual predator, when it’s very clear from the dialogue, the acting, and the design of both story and character that not only is that not the case, but that Leia is in fact the STRONGER lover of the two.

She holds ALL the power in their relationship. Han spends the movie begging for her to admit she loves him. He doesn’t need to say “I love you” at the end because he’s been saying it for two hours. He’s emotional, easily hurt, begging for love, hysterical, impractical. She’s stoic, unemotional, logical, practical, powerful and authoritative, wealthy, tenacious, headstrong… if anything, in the relationship of Han and Leia, she’s the man.

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Jason Barnett said on September 26th, 2011 at 9:24 pm

having read your original post there’s something I wanted to ask here.

Is it possible that the “I am your father” was originally meant to say there was an affair between Vader and Luke’s mother rather than Vader was Anakin Skywalker

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@ Jason Barnett:

That’s an amazing idea on so many levels. And completely in keeping with the weird little fantasy that Ben feeds Luke at his shack in A New Hope. I don’t know how it would really fit into the way that Star Wars has developed into the EU, but it would have certainly made for more interesting prequels.

@ Bass:

Amen, brother. I was really quite prepared agree with John as well, but your reading seems way more in line with the film’s intent. Despite my bias, I can agree that the presentation of Han and Leia’s relationship is silly and highly filmic, but it’s also a film and a high adventure story, and no matter what George might change the plot is pretty well set in stone. It’s hardly a viable platform for gender politics at this late date; especially when we have people like Michael Bay actively shooting any female character under the age of forty as though she were an inanimate object.

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Bass said:

“The idea that it’s anti-feminist because Leia doesn’t go around taking charge of everything when it would be out of character to do so, and because she’s not a superwoman who’s right all the time, is like saying EMPIRE is racist because the only black guy in it is a ‘bad guy’.”


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You know what? Honestly, if you can say that with a straight face and actually mean it, I think we’re done here. I’m trying as hard as possible not to be rude, but I honestly don’t think you have the conceptual framework to discuss the idea of white male privilege; if you can’t even see that there is a problem here, let alone what it is and why it should be fixed, we are never going to be able to communicate in any kind of meaningful fashion.

If you don’t think there is a racial issue with a film series that doesn’t introduce a black character with speaking lines until roughly two thirds of the way through the second movie, and makes him a shady criminal type who operates in a morally gray underworld, then yes, you will probably not also get any kind of sexism in the film either. And it’s going to take someone a lot more patient than me to educate you.

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han – that wasn’t a laser blast, something hit us!
leia – han, get up here!

leia (driving the falcon) – hang on!
han – are you crazy? you can’t seriously be going //into// an asteroid field!
leia – they’d be crazy to follow us!

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@Doyle — “Amen, brother. I was really quite prepared agree with John as well, but your reading seems way more in line with the film’s intent. Despite my bias, I can agree that the presentation of Han and Leia’s relationship is silly and highly filmic, but it’s also a film and a high adventure story, and no matter what George might change the plot is pretty well set in stone. It’s hardly a viable platform for gender politics at this late date; especially when we have people like Michael Bay actively shooting any female character under the age of forty as though she were an inanimate object.”
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Thank you, Doyle. That is exactly the case, when you look at how women in Michael Bay movies are portrayed and compare them to Leia, you notice immediately that Bay’s women are not characters possessed of any humanity, their first appearance is with their buttocks or breasts or lips. Leia is never portrayed as a sex symbol in any of the STAR WARS trilogy with the exception of the slave bikini, and then it’s specifically done to dethrone her and is filled with negative airs. To illustrate what real misogyny is, if Bay had directed the slave bikini scene, Leia would’ve have pole-danced in front of Jabba, and we’d have had shot after shot of her ass and chest. As it is, in JEDI, as I recall, she’s chained, the shots are always focused on her face (except the full body shots) and when she does move, it’s to kill her oppressor.

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@John Seavey — “You know what? Honestly, if you can say that with a straight face and actually mean it, I think we’re done here. I’m trying as hard as possible not to be rude, but I honestly don’t think you have the conceptual framework to discuss the idea of white male privilege; if you can’t even see that there is a problem here, let alone what it is and why it should be fixed, we are never going to be able to communicate in any kind of meaningful fashion.

If you don’t think there is a racial issue with a film series that doesn’t introduce a black character with speaking lines until roughly two thirds of the way through the second movie, and makes him a shady criminal type who operates in a morally gray underworld, then yes, you will probably not also get any kind of sexism in the film either. And it’s going to take someone a lot more patient than me to educate you.”
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I didn’t say there wasn’t a racial ISSUE, I said it wasn’t RACIST.

The racial issue is simply that the film has a disproportionate number of white faces versus black faces considering the country of its production and that the story’s setting is racially neutral. But that issue is unimportant to the film’s content. Otherwise, every film is inherently racist because it doesn’t feature native Americans.

Your analysis of white male privilege and racism is not particularly complex in its concept. It is a binary position of “racist/not racist” or “misogynistic/not misogynistic” and it is a purely socio-political one that you view the films through, but it is not present in these films.

Let’s take Lando, for example; Lando is not, in any way, cast in a bad light. He is in fact, remarkably handsome, cool, powerful and wealthy, he’s a dear friend. In fact, Lando’s first appearance is so likeable, so effective, that when he betrays Han, it actually means something. What’s more, because the creators of EMPIRE took the time to actually make him likeable, they understood that while he can betray Han, they can’t betray us. They know we want Lando to make it right, and so he does, because we LIKE him.

If the film was racist, we WOULD NOT like Lando. If the filmmaker’s were racist, they would not have him redeem himself, he wouldn’t have been a hero in JEDI, and he would’ve had a ten-foot twirly moustache with which to signal his villainy.

Nothing in the movie, at any point, references Lando’s race. No characters react differently to his race, nor do any elements of black culture or political strife appear in the movie. It’s a fantasy with walking carpets, any mention of race would be inappropriate.

But you look at him and all you see is “He’s black”. It’s quite possible that they were under pressure to cast a black man for EMPIRE due to perceived racism of an all-white cast (despite that the lead villain is voiced by a leading black actor) and so they cast Williams to mitigate that, but if not Lando, there is no other character to cast him as. Cast him as a rebel pilot who dies and the film is racist. Cast him as a rebel commander who appears for two scenes and the film is racist. Cast him as a imperial character and the film is racist. Cast him as Yoda, and you destroy the character unless you get a very old black actor to play him, and even then, you’ve cast him as the ‘magical negro’ stereotype and the film’s racist. Cast him as a bounty hunter and the film’s racist. Don’t bother casting him as anyone, and the film’s racist.

The only solution would be to create a new character for a black actor, and, to avoid racism, he has to be a good guy, he has to be awesome and pro-active and important. So they gave him Lando, who appears that way and then turns out to be not the paragon we thought he would, and that has the effect of making him MORE interesting as a character, and more ‘real’, and less of a compensatory cultural artifact to make up for a century of slavery. If anything, considering that Han, Luke, and Leia are all flawed, by making Lando just as flawed, he immediately ‘fits in’ to the cast without trouble. And EVEN if Lando were the good guy he appears to be and Vader took over Cloud City, well, the only black man can’t fight the Empire without help from white people? Racist.

The film doesn’t care about Lando’s race. You do. And if you want it to be racist, it will be racist. Even if Luke Skywalker was black, you could argue it’s racist. They make him too brash to learn because they think all black people are gang-bangers. He gives up spiritual enlightenment to save his friends because all black people are emotionally hysterical and into ‘brotherhood’. And then he LOSES the fight against Vader because he’s so unwise, how much more racist can the film be? While, on the other hand, another person could say it’s so progressive because Obi-Wan and Yoda represent the dispassionate white power structure telling a black man what to do and no matter what a black man does, a black man always loses because he’s black. As if the film cared one way or the other. The film isn’t a socio-political commentary on gender or race equalities, it’s a children’s fantasy story that isn’t concerned with the temporary political shiftings of its time, but with the essential values of good and evil and the excitement of wonder in setting it a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

As for Leia, no one in the movie ever makes a deal out of the fact she’s a woman. No one goes, “Huh, a woman in charge?” Lando and Han don’t talk about how odd it is to take orders from a woman. She’s never portrayed as a sex symbol. The only time Leia’s gender is brought up is specifically in the romantic sub-plot (where gender is relevant, if only because ‘gender’, outside of the biological differences, we use the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ as symbolic gestures for certain romantic behaviours) and when it’s brought up in the sub-plot it’s specifically Han calling Leia “princess”. Han specifically makes remarks about her being a little girl in order to get power back in the relationship from her, and Leia never, ever stands, for being talked down to as a little girl. She insults him right back, and walks away the more powerful of the two.

To put it another way; EMPIRE has two leading black-characters, one is the awesome and extremely powerful Darth Vader, and the other is Lando Calrissian who is an eminently loveable character, well-realised, and has a drastic effect on the story of both EMPIRE and JEDI. And not once, in any of the three films, is a reference made to the fact they’re black. The film is completely color-blind. EMPIRE has a lead female character who gives orders and commands an army, and no one ever brings up the fact she’s a woman except in specific romantic situations and then, pointing out her gender is considered patronizing.

Racism and chauvinism, and indeed any bigotry, is not simply about having more black faces or more powerful men than women, but it’s the intent to dehumanize other peoples. Bigotry can only work by saying, “Those people aren’t really human beings like us”. That is how people are able to oppress entire cultures, because they’re not really people, they’re animals or storage space for babies or biologically malfunctioning and what not. That’s the ugliness of it, to reject the very humanity that other people possess. This is true even of positive discrimination which is just as bigoted, “These people are victims and need my help”, and equally denies them of their humanity (though, at least, such people wish to help rather than harm), and of course, the minorities see through such behaviour and find it offensive because they don’t want to be treated differently because of their colour, gender, or other external trait.

EMPIRE clearly is neither form of bigotry. Leia has a humanity all of her own, as does Lando, and both are just as lovable as Luke and Han, and just as important to the story design. The film gives them their humanity.

You seem like a pleasant man, but don’t dismiss me as having a lack of understanding of these issues; I am a 30-year old Muslim living in the UK in a post-9/11 world where I am confronted daily with images of faces, not unlike my own, as symbols of terror. I know and understand bigotry a little, I have had a couple of personal experiences to do with racism, and I have friends who know and follow this stuff much more than I do. You may be a bigger authority than me on these issues, you might be, for all I know, a social worker who deals with this daily, but I’m not exactly incapable of understanding the concepts you put forward, and while they are indeed rife in this world, they are not present in EMPIRE.

I assume you don’t want to discuss this further and so I’ll leave it alone and look forward to your next post.

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@John Seavey: Yet again, well said.

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Raskolnikov said on September 27th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

@Bass – Just want to say, I agree with you 100%, and appreciate your well reasoned and courteous response.

Too often discussions of this subject devolve into passionate name calling, which is by far the least productive thing to do but by far the most common thing done.

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@Raskolnikov – Thank you very much. But it should be noted that I don’t think anyone, certainly not Seavey, has resorted to name calling here. It’s not a trait unique to me.

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@Zifnab: “Do you maybe see a theme here? Obi-wan refuses to fight Darth Vader. Yoda doesn’t run school Luke in how to toss lightning bolts or cut trees in half with his lightsaber – he teaches focus and serenity and peace of mind. Then Luke, in his climactic duel with his father, does everything in his power to cause as little harm as possible.

Almost as though the Jedi doctrine is one of peace and non-violence? And that this strategy – in the face of overwhelming opposition – actually works out amazingly well? Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here? Eh?”

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Except it doesn’t work well. Ben dies because… well, no real reason. Fortunately, his death -angers- Luke into becoming avenging him (and Jedis love to get people angry as a motivator, right?). Luke then proceeds to get tortured until Vader gets pissed off enough to murder to the Emperor (there’s that “harm me until someone else gets angry enough to fight for me” pacifism again). Meanwhile, Luke blows up one Death Star, while later helping his friends blow up another one, both times killing hundreds if not thousands of people.

So Jedis don’t use violence, except when they kill people by the stadium-full off screen. And their passivity is apparently a ruse to get others to fight for them or something, because that’s what passive objectionism is all about.

(Maybe Star Wars is a mockery of Vietnam’s Conscientious Objectors?)

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