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Tag: opinion

We want our Doctor Aphra solo movie, Lucasfilm

Contributed by
Jun 15, 2018

Whether you like it or not, Disney looks set on releasing a new Star Wars movie each year until the end of time. So far they haven't really disappointed with the films they've brought out since 2015. The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and Rogue One earned decent box office, and while Solo: A Star Wars Story hasn't achieved a similar level of financial success many critics and fans have enjoyed its addition to the cinematic universe.

Disney has confirmed several more films to come, including J.J. Abrams' Episode 9, Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi solo movies, as well as Rian Johnson's own trilogy too, but I think it's time that another Star Wars character — one who is a queer woman of color — got her chance in the spotlight, and that character is Doctor Aphra.

I first heard of Chelli Lorna Aphra during a Star Wars panel at London Super Comic Con last year. Kieron Gillen, who created the character, was speaking on it, and when I asked which solo movie he'd like to see Disney make, he said one led by the Doctor. As someone who had only ever seen the Star Wars films and not read the literature, I was intrigued to learn more about Doctor Aphra, so I sought out her comics and was thrilled by what I found.

Aphra shares the snark of Han Solo and sexual charisma of Lando Calrissian, but toes the line between right and wrong far more regularly than these two characters — and more often than not steps over it into the downright naughty. She's an antihero, a criminal archaeologist with an expert knowledge of droid and weapons technologies who debuted in Gillen's 2015 Darth Vader comic series, published by Marvel Comics. Within two years Marvel granted her own solo run, marking the first time a character who has not appeared onscreen has been afforded that honor by the publishers, and that's a testament to her popularity among the Star Wars fanbase as well as her creator.

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"She has this very fun-loving attitude, she’s very fun to be around, but she’s really bad as a person," Gillen explained of her character to StarWars.com. "My description originally was 'Imagine Indiana Jones, how he goes about problems in that ramshackle kind of [way], but with his ethics inverted.'" 

Not only are Aphra's ethics inverted when it comes to treasures — she wants to use the often deadly artifacts as weapons not to store them away for safekeeping — but so are the characters she surrounds herself with. She works for Darth Vader (not altogether unwillingly, either), her droids 0-0-0 and B-T1 are basically evil versions of C-3PO and R2-D2, and like Han she has a Wookiee companion called Black Krrsantan, though their relationship is far less wholesome as she owes him money and he sticks around so he can get it back.

It's these nods to the original Star Wars film characters, as well as Aphra dealing with actual ones like Vader, that make her especially suited for a big screen turn. Her narrative could be adjacent to the main Star Wars arc so it wouldn't necessarily interfere with the events that have occurred so far over the last 40 years of the film franchise, but have enough references and appearances from iconic characters to entice people to want to see it. A sort of Deadpool to the X-Men franchise as it were. 

There's also the fact that Star Wars still woefully underrepresents women of color, not to mention the LGBT community, so what a progressive statement of inclusion it would make to have Aphra toplining a new movie. 

Hera Syndulla and Doctor Aphra- Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #18

Courtesy of Marvel Comics

The Doc's ethnicity has never been explicitly stated but it certainly looks like her original illustrator, Salvador Larroca, had East Asian in mind when he was drawing this character. Women of color like Aphra have certainly been given more space to move in the literary world of Star Wars compared to the screen, which has so far seen a white brunette playing the central role since 1977. Only in the last two films, Rose in The Last Jedi and Val in Solo, have non-white actresses been given more than a passing glance, though Thandie Newton's character sadly ended up getting the short straw for screen time.

Though Newton and Kelly Marie Tran's roles might have been smaller than the likes of Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones, and Emilia Clarke, at least it gave black and Asian Star Wars fans a chance to see themselves represented in a world that they've grown to love. Imagine how inclusive it would feel for non-white audiences to see a whole movie centered on a woman of color? Or for the LGBT community to see a queer woman taking the lead and even enjoying a bit of onscreen loving too?

Romance hadn't really played that heavy in the new Star Wars movies until the arrival of Solo, which explored not just Han's relationship with his first love Qi'ra, but also that between L-3 and Lando, no matter how one-sided it may have turned out to be. An Aphra movie could deliver the first same-sex love affair in a galaxy far, far away that the comics have already laid the groundwork for.

While some Doctor Aphra issues implied a flirtation with Luke Skywalker, others suggested a romantic history with Sana Solo (Han's ex-wife) too, and in a couple, she kisses a female Imperial officer and is told by her dad that she has bad taste in women.

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Doctor Aphra is openly queer in the comics

[SIDE NOTE: Daddy issues as a theme runs rampant in Star Wars movies, so the up and down relationship between her Aphra and father would be narrative gold for any screenwriters hoping to continue that familial undercurrent in a solo film.]

Clearly, Aphra is an equal opportunity lover but she's not really the falling in love type either, rather someone who sometimes uses her sexuality for professional gain with personal pleasure as an added bonus. The only character we've really seen owning their sexuality in such an overt way on screen is L-3, and she's a droid, and, sure, Lando might be pansexual in interviews given by the Solo writers but unless it's made clear in the film then it doesn't really count. So it's about time that some human/alien characters enjoyed some interracial, interspecies and/or LGBT loving in space too, and it could all start with our favorite space archaeologist.

Doctor Aphra is the sort of free-loving, morally-questionable, roguish individual that Star Wars has been missing in its onscreen female line-up and a solo movie for her could fill that gap. As the Deadpool of the franchise — a character who is, incidentally, also queer in the comics — she should be given the freedom to go on dark and morally-corrupt adventures, that none of the main Star Wars heroes could really get away with, and reinvigorate a franchise that may already be suffering from audience fatigue.

So come on, Lucasfilm. Come on, Kathleen. Doctor Aphra is an edgy, cool and refreshingly diverse character who should not be slept on. Let's make Aphra: A Star Wars Story happen.