Star Wars Good for Young Girls?

I want to stress that I am not holding myself out as some sort of authority -- I'm just a Catholic father sharing my thoughts at the request of a reader. So here we go; first with some general comments that apply to all six of the films. They all feature what in my view is mild fantasy violence -- blood is minimal, and what constitutes violence is usually bits of coloured light flying around knocking people down, burning holes in walls, or blowing up spaceships. I may be more permissive than other parents when it comes to violence, but I have no concerns with my children seeing this sort of thing even at preschool age. As a point of comparison, the violence is much more mild than that found in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.

The language in the films is clean, and the fact that it takes place in a fantasy world means there is no blasphemy of any kind. I can think of one instance where the word "hell" is used, and that's about as coarse as the language gets. There are no sex scenes; there is a bit of relatively tame kissing and in general (with exceptions noted below) the immodesty is no worse than one would observe in her day-to-day travels and is generally better.

The only real concerns may be over "New Age" themes with the Force. Again, perhaps I'm more permissible than others, but I am not overly concerned with this since it tends to be fairly mild, and in the prequel trilogy is made less mystical and more junk science. Also, in a fantasy world, I think children will be able to understand that it is fantastic and not real,  just as they can understand they can't be Gandalf when they grow up. So, in general, I think that Star Wars is safe for children but I would not recommend all the films.

My correspondent asked specifically about the appropriateness of Star Wars for a daughter, so as I look at the specific episodes I'll focus on how femininity is portrayed. It seems to me that, given how much female nature has been obscured and even perverted in modern society, we must be a little extra vigilant as regards our daughters in what may seem "small things".

Episode IV - A New Hope

On the whole, I consider A New Hope to be good, clean fun. Princess Leia is a feisty but still feminine character who relies on the heroes for protection and inspires them to good feats. Her costumes are also at their best in this film. The tale is a basic "good versus evil" plot with very little moral ambiguity. Recommended.

Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Okay, Princess Leia wears pants for much of the film which I'm not crazy about, BUT she is still her regular self, a strong-willed princess. Also, when living in a warzone on a planet that's all ice, I think this is what anyone would wear, and when she has the opportunity (on Cloud City) she gets into something more becoming. She doesn't fight on the front lines and proper roles are maintained. Again, more basic good versus evil. I think this film is to be recommended as well.

Episode VI - Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi is probably the most problematic film of the whole series if for nothing else, the notorious Princess Leia "slave" costume. More problematic for boys, perhaps, but still not a good thing. Among the many issues I have with Return of the Jedi, I think that it the portrayal of Princess Leia is in some ways not true to her character in earlier films and more of a "warrior woman" which as everyone knows I'm not a fan of. I certainly don't think it's a good role model for young girls. I'd skip this episode or regard it with a lot of caution.

Episode I - The Phantom Menace

As mentioned previously, I don't hate Episode I the way most do. I think especially for children it's a fairly decent film. Queen Amidala's portrayal as a gentle, ladylike figure who is concerned for her people and takes a leadership role (as befits a queen) to free them from the invasion of the Trade Federation makes for a good feminine role model. Her wardrobe a little over-the-top but generally pretty good. She gets involved a bit in the fighting but doesn't give that "Xena Warrior Princess" vibe at all. I think this film is pretty safe for young girls.

Episode II - Attack of the Clones

I only saw this film once and honestly can't remember much about it, other than that Queen Amidala's wardrobe is fairly atrocious (especially when it gets conveniently ripped Captain Kirk-style to expose her midriff). Aside from that, it is just not a great film. I remember that watching it felt a bit like watching someone else play a video game. Not particularly engrossing or worth watching. You can watch Episode I and skip to Episode III without being lost plot-wise at all.

 Episode III - Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith is probably the darkest of the Star Wars films, and this is mostly where I'd stress caution, plus also one scene where viewers are treated to sights of Hayden Christensen naked from the waist-up. I think the portrayal of female characters is okay, although we are starting to get into the Xena-style warrior Jedi-esses, which I believe was in Episode II as well.

Those are some very brief thoughts on this series of films which is one of my favourites.


Sophia's Favorite said...

Well, there is that whole "accidentally incestuous kiss" thing that's a titsch problematic.

As for the warrior-women, there were female combatants in the Second and later Crusades, and actually St. Louis's wife commanded the Templars almost as much as he did, during the two Crusades they ran (he was incapacitated). Every medieval noblewoman could be expected, if circumstances called for it, to command troops, simply as one of the duties of her station.

The idea that combat, as such, is completely inappropriate for women is a Renaissance, therefore a pagan, idea, and in fact really takes off with the post-Revolution "Enlightenment" (it's the mindset of the Code Napoleon, for instance). As I said before, the actual medieval, i.e. authentically Catholic, idea, was more like that of the US military, and though we don't station our servicewomen in combat roles they certainly don't shy away from picking up an M4 when it's called for.

The Jedi are military officers—all Jedi are generals in the army of the Republic—and their members, of both sexes, are shown fighting because of the stupid idea that a good general risks his life with his men. Which is goofy; while, if their base were invaded, a Jedi of either sex would put the invaders to the lightsaber, in general, being general officers, they'd see relatively little combat. Because realistically, even the Force and a lightsaber wouldn't be much protection from getting shelled, which would happen a lot more than it does in Star Wars. (Something I like about Halo is that it specifically mentions that the Elites suffer because of that idea—Elite officers, called Zealots, not only lead from the front, they're actually berserkers.)

Nicholas D.C. Wansbutter said...

Well, Medieval history is ONE area where I don't think you have me completely beat on knowledge. Although I haven't read Women in the Days of the Cathedral and I think you have (although skimming the table of contents, it doesn't appear that it treats of women and war).

That said, I don't think we're in too much disagreement so long as you're not trying to suggest that Marguerite of Provence was in the thick of combat smashing heads with a mace. Joinville's chronicle certainly doesn't claim that, as far as I can remember, but makes mention of her doing things like acting to ensure the food supply, conducting negotiations. She only accompanied him on his first crusade, also, not both.

Anyway, you'll notice I took no issue with Princess Leia picking up a blaster as necessary, such as the escapes from the Death Star and Cloud City. That's fine, I'm not saying that women should have nothing whatever to do with war. But I do think their being frontline soldiers is not consistent with Catholicism or common sense (as the Israelis discovered the hard way).

But I do think it was more the exception than the norm for mediaeval women to be taking part in war. Usually they were ensuring the smooth running of the lord's manor's on the homefront while he was off fighting.

The incestuous kiss was inadvertent/out of ignorance so I'm not too concerned with that.

Sophia's Favorite said...

Huh. Could've sworn Louis's wife was on both. I must reread some things.

Nevertheless there were female Crusaders, on the battlefields, certainly in the Second and probably in the other Crusade. Regine Pernoud mentions them in "Those Terrible Middle Ages", in the chapter on women's status that I think she sort of expanded into "Days of the Cathedrals".

Now, they probably weren't, as you say, crushing guys' heads with maces—save as strictly necessary—but actually large portions of a medieval army, even on the field, were essentially noncombatants. Squires, for instance, were basically just caddies (the term means "shieldbearer", hence why "esquire" means someone is a gentleman—he "bears a shield", a metaphor for the coat of arms).

I still think that the female Jedi, at least, can be blamed more on the silly idea that generals should take a direct role in the fighting than on ideas about sex-roles—general officers are, most of the time, functionally noncombatants. Many complaints about "the brass" in the history of soldiering have actually compared them to women.

I make no excuses for Amidala, though, that was just silly—there is a reason senators don't fight. Even in Rome Senators didn't fight, and military service is how they got the job in the first place.

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