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Lucasfilm boss says women in Star Wars get harassed more because of ‘male dominated’ fanbase

CEO Kathleen Kennedy says the women in the franchise ‘get attacked in ways that can be quite personal’

Shahana Yasmin
Thursday 30 May 2024 08:26 BST
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Carrie Fisher’s Star Wars audition

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Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy has admitted that the women in the Star Wars franchise suffer a lot of online attacks “because of the fan base being so male dominated”.

Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran both left social media platforms after receiving a huge amount of online abuse from trolls who were upset by their characters in the latest series of Disney-produced Star Wars films.

The same situation is repeating itself, with the forthcoming Star Wars TV show, The Acolyte, with some fans referring to it as “The Wokelyte” for having a diverse cast. The Acolyte is set long before the events of The Phantom Menace (1999), and has been created by Leslye Headland.

“Operating within these giant franchises now, with social media and the level of expectation — it’s terrifying,” Kennedy said, in an interview with The New York Times.

“I think Leslye has struggled a little bit with it. I think a lot of the women who step into Star Wars struggle with this a bit more. Because of the fan base being so male-dominated, they sometimes get attacked in ways that can be quite personal.

“My belief is that storytelling does need to be representative of all people. That’s an easy decision for me.”

Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega in ‘Star Wars’ film ‘The Last Jedi’
Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega in ‘Star Wars’ film ‘The Last Jedi’ (Lucasfilm)

Headland, who directed Sleeping with Other People and co-created Netflix’s hit comedy series Russian Doll, is the first woman to serve as showrunner in a Star Wars series. The Acolyte will see new female characters and a diverse cast featuring Amandla Stenberg, Carrie Ann-Moss, Jodie Turner-Smith, and Manny Jacinto.

“As a fan myself, I know how frustrating some Star Wars storytelling in the past has been. I’ve felt it myself,” Headland said, addressing the abuse she started receiving.

“I stand by my empathy for Star Wars fans. But I want to be clear. Anyone who engages in bigotry, racism or hate speech … I don’t consider a fan.”

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In 2020, John Boyega, who played Finn inThe Force Awakens (2015),The Last Jedi (2017), andThe Rise of Skywalker (2019) urged studios to take a larger role in defending their stars from harassment after both he and Tran received racial abuse.

“When one of your actors, especially an actor that’s so prominent in the story, is announced as part of your franchise and then it has a big racial backlash and receives abuse online... It is important for the studios to definitely lend their voice, lend their support to that and to have a sense of solidarity not just in the public eye, but on the ground on set,” he said.

The Acolyte is set to premiere on 4 June on Disney+.

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