While everything about The Force Awakens feels achingly familiar to fans, there is so much about it that is new and different. Most noticeably is the diverse cast of heroes and villains. For the first time in the history of the franchise, on film anyway, we have a major female villain in the role of Captain Phasma. It’s this unique position that the character has which is making her so popular, according to the actress under the helmet.

Speaking with Entertainment Weekly Gwendoline Christie says that the fact she can be a progressive character, while still being covered in armor is exactly what makes her so fascinating.
We know very little about her at this stage, but what I think people are drawn to is that this is a very progressive female character. We see Captain Phasma, and we see the costume from head to toe, and we know that it is a woman. But we are used to, in our media, connecting to female characters via the way that they look, from the way they are made flesh. … We are actually connecting to a female character as a human being.

Phasma is a woman, this is something we all know, but by connecting her character with a suit of Stormtrooper armor between us and the character, we will better be able to connect with the person as opposed to simply the woman. As Christie says, we know that the character is a woman by looking at the armor, but this happens without any of the traditional ways that movies would normally do this. The armor doesn’t have obvious breasts, nor is it built with an hourglass figure. That’s the beauty of it. The armor doesn’t have to tell us who the character is. The character will do that.

While we will hear Gwendoline Christie’s voice from behind the helmet (assumedly), we don’t even know how much we will see her face in the film. Quite possibly not at all. It’s actually a unique way to connect to a character. While many in the Star Wars universe have their faces covered, most of them are simply cannon fodder Stormtroopers. Even Boba Fett, while becoming a popular character, never had much, well, character. Captain Phasma will be in the company of people like Darth Vader when it comes to those we’ve gotten to know entirely behind a mask.

Christie is making a career of turning masculine tropes on their head as she is best known for playing the role of Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones. In that role, the fact that she is a woman who wishes to be a knight does have a bias that she needs to overcome, but she does not let that stop her, either.

We’re looking forward to meeting Captain Phasma, not to mention the rest of the new characters, when The Force Awakens finally gets here in December.

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