A composite of Leia, Rey, Cal, Hera, and Rose
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Credit: Disney/Lucasfilm

A decade of women in Star Wars

Contributed by
Jan 3, 2020

The 2010s were the most prolific decade for Star Wars since the saga began. With a new trilogy, two spin-off films, new books, several cartoons, a live-action TV series, and even theme park attractions, the galaxy far, far away has gotten a lot bigger.

With the decade — and the Skywalker Saga — at a close, SYFYWIRE FANGRRLS is looking back at some of the new female characters we've been introduced to in the last 10 years.

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Rey The Rise of Skywalker

Rey

Easily the most significant new female character of the Disney Star Wars canon. We first met Rey scavenging imperial wreckage on Jakku, and have followed her through her introduction to — and increasing mastery of — the Force. Like many Force users before her, Rey was gifted with machines and an accomplished pilot. A consummate survivor forced to take care of herself alone on a harsh planet, Rey also has a knack for battle mimicry, learning the moves and techniques utilized against her and adapting them to her own usage. We see this with her staff-fighting skills on Jakku that later translate into her natural lightsaber affinity, as well as understanding Kylo Ren's Force mind powers and using it against her own foes. There are many camps of Rey fans, often loudly disagreeing with each other. But whether you shipped Reylo or not, whether you ascribed to the Last Jedi idea of her coming from nowhere special or The Rise of Skywalker's twist of her bloodline, the ultimate message of it not mattering where you come from but rather who you choose to be is a strong one for FANGRRLS everywhere.

jyn.jpg

Jyn Erso

Jyn, we hardly knew ye. From the moment she declared her intentions to rebel in the Rogue One trailer, we were intrigued. That line that was cut from the film, along with the shot of her firing a blaster at a TIE fighter as she shambled along a walkway, but it gave us the first hint of who this short-lived character would turn out to be. Jyn Erso’s death in Rogue One made her a martyr to a cause she had only just fully understood herself. Later, we read about Jyn's beginnings in Beth Revis' book Rebel Rising. In Rogue One, the fall of Jyn and her entire team made for an emotionally impactful end to one of the best combat sequences in the Star Wars film series, but it certainly made us wish we’d gotten more time with all of them — especially Jyn.

Thandie Newton as Val from "Solo"

Val

Speaking of "we hardly knew ye," it's a legitimate crime that Thandie Newton’s Val didn't get a little more screen time in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Even screenwriter Jon Kasdan agrees. Despite her early demise, Newton's acting makes a small character with little background info extremely compelling. She takes the heist-film trope of a character she was given and makes her feel like she was planned to be one of the story's leads. Ultimately, her performance makes the impact of the character's death much more visceral and far less disposable.

HeraSabine

Hera and Sabine

Star Wars: Rebels, the first major cartoon series to be produced entirely in the Disney era, introduces us to an entirely new crew of revolutionary outlaws that serve as an extraordinary compliment to the original trilogy’s. With Hera Syndulla, we get a skilled pilot whose talents are only outmatched by her heart, both for the cause of the rebellion and for her family of crew members aboard the Ghost. With Sabine Wren, we got a glimpse into a very different era and side Mandalorian culture than the one depicted on Disney+'s live-action series, and she's one of the few major Star Wars characters we see with a strong artistic bent, marking up anything she can get paint onto, including a stolen TIE fighter.

qira cape

Qi'ra

Qi'ra of Solo: A Star Wars Story had a tough task ahead of her. Audiences were expected to have a hard time accepting another love interest for Han Solo who wasn't Leia, even if their relationship would clearly end long before the two would meet. She manages to accomplish this nicely while avoiding the easy trope of simply fridging her to give space to that future romantic storyline. Instead, by having her sacrifice her own future with her agreement to continue working with the Crimson Dawn syndicate, Qi'ra ended the film as the character whose future we most wanted to explore.

Rose Tico Last Jedi

Rose

The newcomer to our core cast of heroes in The Last Jedi, Rose Tico provided not only a much-needed bit of representation but also served as an everyman within the Resistance. She wasn't an ace pilot, a budding Jedi, or a renounced stormtrooper. She was just a rank and file soldier, whose experiences with hardships in her life only served to make her believe deeper in her cause. Meanwhile, in real life, Kelly Marie Tran faced such a toxic backlash from the dark side that she became a rallying symbol for all of us who have felt the pushback for daring to belong in this fandom.

Solo- L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge)

L3-37

Voiced by Fleabag's Phoebe Waller-Bridge, L3-37 brought us a unique perspective on droids. While there's a long history of droids who pay little to no attention to their masters, dating all the way back to R2-D2, L3 raised a much louder dissenting voice. Seeing other droids not as simple industrial equipment but as legitimate beings with agency and the right to freedom, L3 makes us cast side-eye at even how many of our favorite heroes treat their own droid companions. And she made us look at the Millennium Falcon in a whole new way.

With so many new female characters in the canon this decade, here's a quick overview of some of the others. 

Maz Kanata

The Light Side

Maz Kanata, the millennium-old “pirate queen” who managed to obtain Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber and compel our heroes into the fight against the First Order. Lt. Connix might have a bigger role to play in The Rise of Skywalker, but Billie Lourde's Resistance officer also brings a family legacy and much more attainable space-buns to the series. Ahsoka Tano was introduced in 2008's The Clone Wars film, but her return as Fulcrum on Rebels brought with it one of the most intense lightsaber battles as well as a rare literal and figurative crack in Anakin Skywalker's Darth Vader armor. Paige Tico only had a few moments of screen time in The Last Jedi, but she was beloved enough to merit her usage along with sister Rose in the Forces of Destiny shorts and dolls. Enfys Nest gave us a look into some of the earliest, most scattered days of the rebellion, long before it had formed into the more cohesive Alliance. And The Mandalorian's Cara Dune showed that a former Rebel shock trooper still had some fight in her.

Though both could have used more development in The Rise of Skywalker, Jannah taught us that Finn wasn’t alone in rejecting the First Order's programming, while Zorii Bliss gave us new insight into Poe’s history, and both represented that we’re never truly alone if we know how to ask for help.

A female dark side user

The Dark Side

We stan Gwendolyn Christie in all things, even if she took her shiny helmet off as often as a Mandalorian while portraying the Stormtrooper zealot Captain Phasma. A 'rogue archeologist' first introduced in the Darth Vader comics, Doctor Aphra is a scoundrel of an anti-hero who also happens to be super queer. Rebels' Governor Price showed us how ambition within the Imperial ranks could cause someone to betray their own homeworld in exchange for power. Meanwhile, the Seventh Sister brought the voice of Buffy's Sarah Michelle Gellar into the SW universe and helped teach us that lightsabers can also be useful helicopter rigs. And of course, there was Lady Proxima, who kicked off Han Solo's lifelong issues working for wormish crime bosses.

rise of skywalker leia

Honorable Mention: General Leia Organa

The OG herself, Leia Organa wasn't introduced to us in this decade, but her reintroduction to the series in The Force Awakens can't be overlooked, and Carrie Fisher was never one for such formal rules anyway. Leia fans have long known her to be a tough-as-nails military leader who is extremely comfortable around a blaster. As such, the grey-haired general that stepped off her ship outside of Maz's castle was there to do what she does best, stand up in the face of the oppression of a totalitarian regime. Seeing her take charge and finally seeing her use the Force in The Last Jedi sent chills down spines that have been waiting since the '80s. But it was the tragic loss of Carrie Fisher, bathed in moonlight and strangled by her own bra, that brought the most significant feelings of the decade. Always our general, Fisher's posthumous impact cannot be understated, as her voice and memory became a rallying cry for a generation of mouthy young women for both the strength of her most famous on-screen character and her candid words chronicling her battles for mental health. Thanks to Fisher, a generation of bold women know that their place is in the resistance, and when needed, to take their pills.

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