31/12/2015 11:01 GMT | Updated 31/12/2016 05:12 GMT

Patriarchy and Star Wars: The Mother Strikes Back


I have been waiting to write this piece. After all, I really enjoyed Star Wars, The Force Awakens. It passes the Bechdel Test and Rey is a character of depth, strength and nuance. As for the originals, I grew up enjoying all three, especially Empire Strikes Back - a classic. But, like others, I was sorely disappointed by the prequels *spits*.

But the fact is that, along with Disney movies and others, the Star Wars franchise doesn't like mothers very much. After all, in the Disney films, they are usually either dead, wicked or absent.

In Star Wars, they rarely get a mention: Padme died in childbirth; and Shmi was brutally killed after losing her son to the Galactic equivalent of boarding school. Yes, Anakin Skywalker was freed from slavery. But his mother wasn't. It turns out the price to pay for training as a Jedi is that you are removed from your mother. In a galaxy far, far away, even if you're not dead, you still don't have much of a hand in raising your kids.

And we know how that affected Anakin, don't we?

We know he was consumed by anger at being separated from his mother; he was seduced by the Dark Side in the wake of his mother's murder by Sand People, but the cracks were already there. Hello Darth Vadar, we've been expecting you.

So, naturally, when Kylo Ren, the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, was a child, what did the wise forces in the Star Wars universe do? Remove him, a child, from his mother; and train him as a Jedi away from his mother.

And look what happened. A young man, consumed with anger and hostility. His mother consumed with guilt at having sent him away.

And the fate of Rey? An apparent orphan - consumed with waiting, waiting, waiting, for someone to come to Jakku to find her, to return to her. We don't know who. One thing we know is that, so far, there is no place for her mother. But we can suspect that she has a very, very important Father. That's patriarchy for you. So yes, I enjoyed Star Wars. I look forward to the next sequel.

But for the moment, I introduce you to the Olorenshaw Test. A test for mothers in film:

A film passes this test if it:

  • Features a mother
  • Who has a name
  • Is alive
  • Who speaks to her child
  • Is or was involved in raising her children
  • Is not wicked, incompetent or inadequate

Just stop to think how many films pass this test. Erm. Wait. What about... Er. There was that film about... erm.

A film might be feminist. But it could still be patriarchal as hell.

Mother. Family. As Betty Friedan said in The Second Stage: Family is the New Feminist Frontier. Or have I confused Star Wars with Star Trek? Potato, Potarto.