Riding my High Tauntaun with my Minority Agenda
taken from my personal blog, May 2011
Shelly Shapiro, the editor at DelRey in charge of Star Wars books, did a Facebook chat today which you can read here: Star Wars Books Facebook Chat with Shelly Shapiro. (racist comments in response to my question redacted.)
I went out on a limb and decided to ask her about diversity in Star WarsExpanded Universe (EU). I guess bringing up lack of diversity in EU made people uncomfortable because this guy named “Darth Severity” got all up in my grill ranting about how Star Wars isn’t the place for your minority agenda, Marissa blah blah high horse. (I wish I had saved the quotes, they have since been deleted.)
It surprises me how when this topic comes up in fandom a certain subset of fans react by trying to suppress conversation, as if bringing Star Wars up to Star Trek levels of diversity is a bad thing. How dare I take the piss out of Star Wars. Star Wars fans never do that!
So I said:
I’m a long time reader of Star Wars books (own over 200+) but I am also greatly disappointed by the lack of diversity in the Star Wars EU. I was particularly disappointed that the “Rip Tide” cover established Jaden Korr as just another young white human male hero(like the primary protagonist in every other era of Star Wars publishing.)
I would like to see more characters of color and women (including women of color) in Star Wars stories. Will DelRey make a commitment to pursue diversity in future publications?
Diversity: I feel we’ve had quite a bit of diversity, especially when you take into consideration the growing number of prominent characters that aren’t human. Saba Sebatyne, for example: An awesome female Jedi who is barely even humanoid. (I like her a lot!)
I feel so represented.
Slapping is Sexy in Star Wars EU
This is so horribly inane I’m not even bothering to spoiler it. From FangirlBlog’s review of Fate of the Jedi: Ascension by Christine Golden:
This scene validates that domestic violence against a young woman is okay as long as the young man loves her.
The scene occurs on pages 173 to 181 in the book. Ben breaks into Vestara’s locked bedroom and demands that she show him her private files on her computer. He’s not doing this just to be a jerk, of course; he was at first worried about Vestara, then as the scene progresses worried that she might still be betraying the Skywalkers. He tries to seize the computer from her, then grabs her wrists. Defending herself from his intrusive verbal and physical demands, Vestara Force-shoves him away. In return, Ben uses the Force to slap her across the face – the ultimate iconic “put a woman in her place” action by a man. Their confrontation degenerates further. Ben prevails by using the Force to bind Vestara in her bedsheets – no crass symbolism of male sexual domination there – and then proceeds to read her private files despite her sobbing and begging him not to. When he does, he realizes that he has in fact intruded into her deepest personal emotions, the equivalent of reading a teenaged girl’s diary. He apologizes and consoles her by spooning with her on the bed. The scene ends with Vestara proclaiming to Ben that she wants to become a Jedi, and their first kiss.
It would be difficult to draw up a more classic scene of domestic violence. Escalating tension between the couple leads to a violent confrontation, followed by contrition. Ben has forcibly violated the privacy of Vestara’s bedroom, the sanctity of her private diary, and the dignity of her body. Immediately thereafter, though, Vestara expresses in words her desire to join the light side and in actions her love for Ben – and we’re supposed to believe that these emotions are reliable and real? This young woman has just been abused by her boyfriend. She doesn’t have clear thoughts or honest emotions at that point – especially because it’s the first time he’s dominated her in this way. For any person, male or female, who experiences this sort of event with an intimate partner, the predominant initial reaction is usually profound shock.
Star Wars often deals with mature themes, and in principle there is nothing wrong with addressing domestic violence as one of them; after all, Anakin Skywalker’s physical violence against Padmé was the final proof that he had lost his soul to his fall to the dark side. But that is not at all what Ascension does. From the text, it is abundantly clear that the book does not mean to include any such theme in its story. Rather, it seems the author and the editors believed that what is portrayed in this scene is perfectly okay.
Yet the rest of the book displays nothing of the sort. Ben does not act like he has done anything wrong. There are no more apologies, and in fact no further references to the abuse having even occurred. Vestara is not traumatized in the slightest, apparently; there is no fear or withdrawal, no outrage or distance. The remainder of the book reveals no recognition of the seriousness of what was portrayed in this abusive incident.
That is what troubles me so deeply about this scene. Validating domestic violence has no place in Star Wars, and the author and the editors apparently are completely oblivious to the fact that their story has done exactly that. Perhaps Golden believes that these sorts of anachronistic tropes of “romance” are still legitimate storytelling; it was she, of course, who wrote this scene in the first place. But some of the blame lies at the feet of the editors – both of whom are also women – who should have known better and insisted on a rewrite. It is well known, for example, that authors such as Stover and Kemp have received guidance on the level of violence in their novels, and that Denning was challenged on several moral themes in the Dark Nest trilogy, including the degree of sexual innuendo and Allana’s out-of-wedlock parentage. Yet this scene was allowed to go into print the way it is. I expect far better from Star Wars.
Not to mention that it’s Ben Skywalker who is the abuser in this scene. It’s not in character for Ben himself, given what we’ve seen previously. It’s also inconsistent with Luke’s impressions of his son’s state of grace throughout the book. Perhaps that’s the author’s point: that Luke doesn’t know his own son as well as he should. But isn’t that just a rehash of exactly the same storyline we saw between Luke and Jacen in Legacy of the Force? Considering the two characters involved in this Twilight-worthy trope are set up to appeal to teenaged readers, it seems unlikely that Golden really expected those readers to catch and understand that kind of subtle dramatic irony. Instead, they are just left with Luke assuring everyone that Ben is a true a Jedi – which will only reinforce in some readers’ minds the idea that sometimes hitting a girl is okay. It must be, right, if even good Jedi Knights do it?
Gross gross gross barf ugh whhhyyy