This Tweet About Star Wars Reveals a Problem Women Have Always Faced

December 14th 2016

Almie Rose

On December 16, "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" opens. The film stars Felicity Jones, and the reviews are already pouring in.

But one review, by Todd McCarthy for The Hollywood Reporter, is being singled out on Twitter for inadvertently nailing an issue about female film leads.

The tweet.

On December 13, Marc Snetiker, a writer for Entertainment Weekly, tweeted out a clip from McCarthy's review along with the following commentary:

The tweet has since received over two-thousand retweets and over three-thousand likes.

The debate.

Snetiker points out that by McCarthy focusing on the lack of a "strong and vigorous male lead" and making that a complaint with the film, he is, whether he is realizing it or not, shedding light on an issue that women have faced "for literally a century." Female characters, especially in action and science fiction/fantasy films are largely relegated to one-dimensional supporting character roles.

It's an issue of women being poorly represented in film, and how refreshing it is to see an example where the inverse is true, as some Twitter users were quick to agree and point out:

However, not all Twitter responses agreed like the above tweet; one Twitter user, for example, insisted that McCarthy was critiquing the acting of the male leads, and not the characters themselves. 

Regardless of McCarthy's intent with his complaint about the lack of "strong male leads" the resulting discussion highlights a real issue.

In most cases, female characters exist only as a love interest for the male lead or to move his plot along.

Writer Tasha Robinson of The Dissolve, a film review website, dubbed it "The Trinity Syndrome" named after the Trinity character in "The Matrix." Her definition of The Trinity Syndrome is, "the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene."

Robinson offers more examples like Wyldstyle from The Lego Movie ("her only post-introduction story purpose is to be rescued, repeatedly"), Tauriel from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ("she’s capable of killing approximately a billion spiders ... but she only shows any actual personality when she’s swooning ... and being swooned over") and Valka of How To Train Your Dragon 2 ("She’s interesting. Too bad the story gives her absolutely nothing to do.")

This is not the first time a female-led film has been accused of having weak male characters.

When the Ghostbusters remake came out, one tweet went viral for pointing out the very same issues about female characters and film criticism:

Strolle goes on to tweet that for too long women have seen themselves cast in roles where they're not properly represented and are instead relegated to tired tropes, like the female characters who only appear in Superhero movies to look "super hot and wear skintight outfits."

Ultimately, a great film should have rounded and well-written characters no matter their gender — especially given the history of under-developing female leads, or not even making the lead character female.