A guest post by Natacha Guyot (@natachaguyot)
When Episode VII brought up questions about female heroes in Star Wars as well as representing multiple human ethnicities, I eventually thought about the matter of alien heroes. Star Wars is a vast universe, whether you look at current canon or at the whole Expanded Universe (now labeled Legends). One can find compelling characters of many kinds. Yet prevalent alien heroes aren’t that common. I would like to add that droid heroes, such as R2-D2, BB-8 and Chopper, are equally deserving of being praised and brought to the forefront, but due to the ‘alien’ scope of my post, I chose not to include them.
The two oldest examples of alien heroes would be Chewbacca and Yoda. In their own way, they have marked the universe, the Wookiee since the launch of the franchise in 1977 and Yoda for only 3 years less. Yet one major issue emerged from the first movie. Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the ceremony on Yavin IV, which had to be fixed semi out of character on MTV years later. Han Solo wouldn’t have been the hero he was without his best friend, regardless of meeting Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. While Yoda was a significant but more minor character as a mentor, he was still validated at the end of Return of the Jedi when his Force ghost appeared alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi’s and Anakin Skywalker’s.
Both characters took on a greater life in the franchise. For Yoda, it was particularly possible thanks to the prequel era in which he could appear as a Jedi Master in full activity. Alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda was a figure that helped the transition to the Prequels with familiar faces.
The Prequel era also introduced a female alien hero whose trajectory also helped deepen the development of major female characters in Star Wars: Ahsoka Tano. The Togruta Jedi, revealed in The Clone Wars movie and subsequent series, is another character who earned love from numerous fans and whose story isn’t over yet. It is interesting to see how Ahsoka Tano and Hera Syndulla, the Twi’lek pilot from the main cast of Rebels, both emerged in animated series. The same way it is notable that another member of the main cast of Rebels is a male alien, the Lasat Zeb Orrelios. This asks the question of whether animated shows’ audiences or creators are more inclined to incorporate major and diverse female characters.
With the new installments of the franchise coming out with such strong schedule, Star Wars has many opportunities to continue to diversify its landscape of heroes, whether it is in age, species, ethnicity, gender.
What about you? Who is your favorite alien hero from the Star Wars universe?
Natacha Guyot is a French researcher, author, and public speaker. After studying at Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle and King’s College London, she relocated to Texas in summer 2016. There, she has embarked on a new academic journey: she started doctoral studies in Arts and Humanities at University of Texas at Dallas.
Her main fields of interest are Science fiction, Gender Studies, Children Media and Fan Studies. Besides her nonfiction work, she also writes Science Fiction and Fantasy stories. She is a feminist, nerd, Christian, cat lady, book dragon and Earl Grey drinker.
Her new Science Fiction novella, Dream Crusher, is coming out in Kindle and paperback format in November 2016.