Tag Archive: Star Wars

Guest Post: General Leia — Aging on the Silver Screen

General LeiaOur guest today has been here several times before. Most recently she blogged about writing Wise Women Characters, a must-read post if you want to find some fresh ways to show women as strong, without making them fighters. She also invited us to take part in her fabulous SciFi Women Interview series early this year. She is a scholar with a broad background in gender and media. Her extensive research into the depiction of underrepresented characters in the Star Wars universe sparked a whole book: A Galaxy of Possibilities: Representation and Storytelling in Star Wars and it’s available from Amazon. Please welcome Natacha Guyot.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS featured the main trio from the original saga trilogy, including Leia Organa. While it made complete sense to include her, seeing an older female SciFi character on screen isn’t common. An older Leia Organa in the new movie was thus a strong choice, and might help attitudes change regarding women characters in films and television. Indeed, the “youth at all cost” can be damaging societally speaking, when on the contrary, people should be embracing all ages for all genders in terms of representation. The fact that backlash occurred against Leia’s older figure shows that there is still room for people to accept something as natural as women aging and still being capable of great professional and personal accomplishments.

Like in her younger days, Leia Organa held a significant position in Episode VII’s narrative and continued to be a leader figure, which was refreshing. Yet, I refuse to say that “General Leia” is better than “Princess Leia” because I believe that both titles had validity in the universe and nobility title, including “princess” shouldn’t diminish a character’s credibility nor should be considered “girly” in a bad way. Leia has inspired many people for years because she was more than a “pretty girl who could shoot a gun”. She was a leader from the start and had great strength beyond her physical resilience.

While the presence of older women isn’t widely spread, including in Star Wars, small roles, some important regardless of limited screen time, have appeared in the Star Wars movies since the very first one, A NEW HOPE, released in 1977. In it, Beru Lars raised her nephew Luke Skywalker. This maternal figure soon gets killed along with her husband, to allow Luke to begin his journey. In RETURN OF THE JEDI, political and Rebellion leader Mon Mothma partakes in a crucial briefing, along with male military counterparts.

The Prequels also included a few older women in supporting or minor roles, mostly mother and Jedi figures. The latter case is Jedi Archivist Jocasta Nu in ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Where male elder mentors are included in all trilogies so far with characters such Obi Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Luke Skywalker, women are still to occupy such positions. In that, Jocasta Nu, who briefly showed up again in the CLONE WARS series, is an exception.

In THE FORCE AWAKENS, Leia Organa has a multi-faceted representation, which shows actual care to her character from the movie’s script writers. Due to that, she ties all the previously included threads of older female characters in the saga’s films. Her portrayal encompasses both the professional aspect, respecting her as a political leader as a General in the Resistance, and the personal. In the latter case, the narrative gives her space to be a (former) romantic partner with Han Solo, where the relationship still has great depth, no matter the longtime separation. She is also a mother who struggles with what her son has become, but still has undying faith in his return to the Light Side. The same way, she is a sister who seeks to find her brother Luke and bring him back to help in the fight against evil forces.

By allying professional and personal, the story gives Leia the possibility to show how she has developed off-screen over the decades. Despite struggles of all kinds, she continues to fight for what she believes in, including when it requires her coming to the battlefield. When she first appears in the movie, after several mentions from multiple characters, it is at the end of a fight, where she came aboard one of the crafts, even at the risk of being shot down in the process.

A final point that was thankfully not ignored was her Force potential. While she isn’t presented as an actual Jedi, and any training she might have received or not is left unknown, she still remains able to sense strongly for her loved ones. THE FORCE AWAKENS picks up from when she reacted twice to her twin brother’s situation through the Force in the Original Trilogy. Indeed, a shot clearly shows her shattered when she feels Han’s death. While a very brief moment, it is significant to see Leia’s potential and skills acknowledged during such a pivotal event.

In the end, the Star Wars movies have included older women in most of them, though until THE FORCE AWAKENS none has had as much screen time as Leia Organa. There is still progress to be made, but here is to hoping that Leia’s influence will continue to bear fruits, not only in her portrayal in the upcoming movies, but also more generally speaking, so that older women may still be valued in narratives of different genres and formats.

 

Guest Blog PhotoAuthor’s BioGalaxy - Revised Cover
Natacha Guyot is a French researcher, author and public speaker. She holds two Master’s degrees: Film and Media Studies (Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle) and Digital Culture and Technology (King’s College London).
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.
Natacha’s Blog | TwitterFacebook | Goodreads | LinkedIn

 

 

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Masterplots Theater: K is for Kinsmen

Kinsmen Masterplots TheaterWelcome back to Masterplots Theater.

You just sat down to work on your next book and it features an explosive family relationship. If it spans decades of betrayal, abandonment and emotional scarring, chances are you’re writing a Kinsmen story. The Kinsmen is the classic family drama. It’s what most people call the family saga. For our A to Z series this year F was already taken, so I opted for the older term Kinsmen to bring you this fantastic masterplot.

Kinsmen Plot Notes:

The framework of this story is conflict between family members. It’s siblings against siblings, parents against children, or husband against wife, etc. It’s a story dripping with emotion, long festering secrets and generational rivalry. It never hurts if gobs of money or the fate of the universe are at stake.

This character-driven story often features a dual narrative structure. It’s infrequently told in a linear timeline, opting instead for lots of flashbacks.

The main characters are sucked into a family conflict. This may or may not be preceded by family harmony. The trigger event is often an external conflict. War, social movements, and any race, class or gender issue is fair game. As the family internalizes the external conflict, they pick sides and this stresses the family and splits them apart. Even friends are pressured to take sides. A few characters will do their best to stay neutral or play peacemakers.

The fight may invoke clear good vs. evil divisions or be morally ambiguous, leaving value judgments to the reader.

The Kinsmen is often confused with the Institutionalized masterplot. The critical difference is the characters’ backstory. The Institutionalized characters don’t have pre-existing relationships, shared history and blood bonds. Also at the core of the Kinsmen masterplot is a twisted sense of love, honor, loyalty and commitment. One of the books that is often categorized incorrectly is THE GODFATHER. You will see it called an Institutionalized, but it’s a Kinsmen.

Most black-sheep relative and prodigal son stories are also Kinsmen plots.

This story usually resolves with a horrible casualty that leaves one or both sides morally wounded, or seeking to end the conflict for the sake of the remaining family members. However, it can end with a happily-ever-after if both sides learn to forgive.

Example to Study:StarWars

This is such a common masterplot it’s a challenge to pick just one, but someone asked me to mention when we got to the dominant masterplot for Star Wars and we have arrived. There are other plot layers to this space opera, but the theme that tugs at our hearts is 100% Kinsmen.

FATHER-SON FEUD: Looking at just the three center films, we can see Luke and Darth Vader are the key. Although separated and reunited under strange circumstances, this relationship evolves into a contest of wills between father and son. It is an echo of the contest of wills that evolved between Anakin and Obi Wan in the first three films. All six films include problems in father (or surrogate father) and son relationships.

TWISTED LOVE: The deeper layers of Anakin’s character, including his ability to love, is established in films one, two and three.  His devastating downward spiral paves the way for his reappearance as a chilling villain in film four. Yet it also plants the seeds of the family resolution of film six.

RESOLUTION: There are still two movies to go, but based on the first six we have a HEA of sorts to this Kinsmen tale. We know that Darth makes a deathbed change and a big part of that is because of his love for Luke. This reconciles the Darth and Luke father-son feud and the father-son feud between Obi Wan and Anakin.

BONUS: It’s important to remember that these six (now eventually nine) films were created as one story. The character arc of all these characters needed to sustain a long multi-generational timeline. We already know the Kinsmen aspects of Star Wars will continue, but we have no way of knowing how it will evolve. It will be interesting to watch.

Future Research:

I suspect you don’t need much help to find a Kinsmen book. THE GODFATHER by Mario Puzo is a great start. Or try this Goodreads link for more.

Thank you for joining us today. Other episodes in this series include:
A is for Adventure
B is for Buddy Love
C is for Chosen One
D is for Dystopia
E is for Escape
F is for Fool Triumphant
G is for Gothic
H is for Happily-Ever-After
I is for Institutionalized
J is for Journal

We hope you enjoyed K is for Kinsmen and we invite you back tomorrow for our next installment of Masterplots Theater, L is for Love Story.

Please share your thoughts on the Kinsmen in the comments below.

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Writing Fish-Out-of-Water Characters

fishwaterThe fish-out-of-water character is one of my favorites. It is remarkably versatile and there are so many story situations it works perfectly for (18 according to TV Tropes). I’m currently writing a fish-out-of-water character, which should not be confused with using a fish-out-of-water plot device.

A fish-out-of-water character adds comedy, or gives depth and diversity to the worldbuilding. C-3P0 from Star Wars: A New Hope is the perfect example of a fish-out-of-water character. Although he plays several important roles in the main plotline, the story would not fall apart without him. Other characters could be rewritten to carry his part of the story without any significant plot loss.

The same could not be said of Marty McFly in Back to the Future. In this case, the protagonist being a fish-out-of-water, namely a person trapped in the wrong historical time, is a huge part of the plot. Of the two, the fish-out-of-water plot device is the more common.

See the distinction?

Both types (character driven and plot based) share four elements.

1. Juxtaposition: The fish-out-of-water character needs to look, sound, and act differently from others characters.

C-3PO has a gleaming golden body. This contrasts sharply with the other characters who are dressed in monochromatic neutrals of brown, white and black. He maintains an overly erect posture, while the other protagonist characters (often to avoid injury) are slouching and/or crouching. He speaks in clearly enunciated full and complete sentences and uses a superior and elaborate vocabulary, while others speak more causally and/or use slang.

Marty also dresses differently from those around him. He maintains a casual fashion style, relaxed body posture, slang-rich speech patterns, and more erratic mannerism. The 1950’s kids Marty encounters are extremely repressed, and the world they live in is slower paced than Marty’s. The kids reflect the common values of 1950’s America about class, race, and gender roles, while Marty’s sensibilities are decades more evolved.

 

2. Self Awareness is an Issue: The fish-out-of-water character might not understand their outsider status. Once aware they are often unwilling, or unable to change.

In the case of C-3P0, he is a bit of both. His protocols are his lifeline during unfamiliar situations and he sees his worth reflected in the value of his programming. Yet his programming is almost worthless in real world situations and he can respond inappropriately to a crisis.

Marty knows he is not fitting in, but he is unwilling to change. He attempts to disguise his behaviors to blend in. However, he gets tripped up a lot, mostly when he thinks his actions reflect the correct behavior.

 

3. Differences = Benefits: Ultimately these characters offer prospective and/or clarity because they are unique.

C-3P0 is able to see solutions and problems others might miss. His suggestions are often off-base or ill-timed, but he wants to help. Often his only function is to translate for R2-D2, who has many useful abilities.

Marty uses his modern and assertive perspective to teach his teenage father how to stand up to his high school bully. This one change in Marty’s family history snowballs and when Marty returns to his own timeline his father is a new man, confident, strong and successful. This wouldn’t have happened without Marty interjecting his values into the situation.

 

4. Supports Theme: The fish-out-of-water character’s journey often reaffirms the story’s overall theme.

C-3P0’s character arc mirrors one of the biggest themes of the Star Wars franchise, Public Interest vs. Self Preservation. C-3P0 starts off only slightly loyal to others, but slowly he begins to risk his own safety to help his friends. C-3P0’s shift in perspective is echoed in the shift of Han’s character from self-centered mercenary to hero.

For Marty it was always about family. Marty felt like an outsider in his own home, but by going back in time and being forced to walk in his parent’s teenage shoes, he finally finds a way of connecting with them. His experience teaches him the value of love, and he starts to cherish the family he worked so hard to save.

The fish-out-of-water character sometimes assimilates by the end of the story, but not always. C-3P0 never fundamentally changes, instead the other characters learn to value him for his differences.

Or the fish-out-of-water character can return to his own environment at the end. Marty returns to his correct time, but as an improved version of himself.

 

Some of my favorite fish-out-of-water examples from books, movies and TV are:

Miss Elizabeth Charming of Austenland. She flies thousands of miles from home to take part in a Jane Austen theme vacation, but has never heard of Pride and Prejudice.

Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop. This streetwise African-American cop, runs headlong into the privilege and prejudices of a rich and famous world. And still gets the better of them.

River and Simon Tam from Firefly. This sister and brother pairing are out-of-place almost everywhere. It’s why they are stronger, and more fiercely loyal to each other and the other crew members, than anyone initially gives them credit for.

All the Hobbits in any book written by J.R.R. Tolkien. No one has ever put together a better cast of fish-out-of-water heroes.

And the best fish-out-of-water in water is: Nemo and Marlin from Finding Nemo.
Once this father and son team leave the small, safe world of the reef, neither is prepared for the challenges of the deep blue.

What about you? Do you have a favorite fish-out-of-water plot or character?

 

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