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Quick, name your favorite female character in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, now that everybody has named Princess Leia, name your second favorite. While you’re still thinking, we can tell you the reason you’re having difficulty is that there are not a lot of choices. A new video has compiled all of the lines spoken by women who were not Princess Leia in Episodes IV-VI. Go ahead and check it out before you continue reading. It’s ok, it really won’t take very long.
The runtime of female speaking lines in the original trilogy is brief to say the least. The video is barely more than a minute long. About half of it is given over to Luke’s Aunt Beru in the first movie. The fact that she has less has 30 seconds of dialogue is terrible enough until you realize she’s the only woman other than Leia to have lines in the movie at all. Then the whole things gets worse when you get to The Empire Strikes Back and discover that the only woman to get a line is a random rebel officer who’s managing the ion cannon during the attack on Hoth. For the record, she’s credited as "Other Rebel Officer" in the film and doesn’t even have a name. Return of the Jedi fares slightly better in that it gives it’s one other female character a decent speech. Caroline Blakiston’s Mon Mothma is the one who lays out the attack plans for the rebels.
And that’s it. 63 seconds of total screen time over three movies, according to New York Magazine. One character per movie beyond the female lead. We’ll cop to being embarrassed we’d never noticed this before though we’re pretty sure we’re not the only ones. Even taking out the lack of screen time that women got in these films, the lack of speaking characters in total is more than a little disturbing. Surely, we could have worked in a couple more characters with lines in these movies. Why aren’t there any female X-Wing pilots in the Rebel Alliance? Why aren’t they any women, really at all, in the Empire?
The late 70’s and early 80’s were certainly a different time when it comes to issues like this, so we’ll blame the society that made this seem acceptable more than we’ll blame any individual people for not noticing the blatant discrepancy. Instead we’ll focus on the good news that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will have significantly more female screen time. Even if we eliminate Daisy Ridley (as our lead female character, as Leia was before) we still have the returning Leia in a supporting role and General Phasma leading the Empire. Even if they are literally the only women in the film, and that’s unlikely, it should still be a vast improvement.