Last week, Disney/Lucasfilm confirmed that they were no longer working with Gina Carano. The announcement came following a social media post comparing today’s conservative voters with Jews being murdered before and during the Holocaust.
The announcement made it clear that the decision was made before that particular post by Carano, who has been using social media to post a plethora of misinformation about masks and the election results.
For a full breakdown of what happened, I highly recommend this article by The Hollywood Reporter. The TLDR is that there were conversations about a bigger role for Cara Dune, and therefore Gina Carano, in the Star Wars universe, however, these plans took a turn last fall. Any mention of Carano was removed from Disney’s Investor Day, and the most recent events on social media confirmed what both those who spoke out against and supported Carano already knew when they started their respective hashtags: Cara Dune was out. While there were rumors of the role being recast, executives say there are no current plans for this.
In her defense (and her only defense in all of this) the performer claims she didn’t publicly speak about Disney cutting her press because she didn’t want to take away from the show and the hard work of the people involved. If that’s true, I think it’s worth giving her credit for it.
It doesn’t make up for the posts that spread conspiracy theories about election fraud, promoting misinformation about mask-wearing, putting blame for the country’s problems solely on outspoken liberals, and the other controversial posts already discussed.
Hashtags supporting the former MMA fighter have been trending occasionally for a few months now. Most of them use the image of Cara Dune.
And this is where my heart breaks.
Star Wars, from the beginning, was written to follow the format of mythical stories that allow anyone to view themselves in the role of the hero. I love the original films, but Luke Skywalker was a whiny teen to me who, by the end, is the champion of a bygone religion. I love him and root for him, but I don’t view myself in him.
Personally as a woman, it was easier to identify with Leia Organa, and hope that I would have the strength to put myself in harm's way and the intelligence to get myself out of it. That was the person I wanted to grow up to be.
As a kid, I was a big fan of Xena: Warrior Princess. I always knew I was going to be very tall and people often commented on my strength as I played sports. It didn’t always feel like those comments were positive. It felt like I wasn’t supposed to be strong, even though when you’re playing on a team, that’s part of the goal. I was supposed to be just the right amount of strong without losing sight of the fact that I was a girl.
When I saw Lucy Lawless, I saw someone who was strong and wasn’t afraid of it.
When I saw Renee O’Connor, I saw someone who was outspoken and not afraid of her voice. Someone who could fight for herself while still believing in peace.
I wanted to be both of these women more than anything.
And as I’ve watched and read, both fantasy and sci-fi, stories over the years it feels like there’s not a lot of diversity in terms of “strong female characters”. And I’m not alone as many people have commented on this.
When Gal Gadot was cast as Wonder Woman she was hit with criticism about not looking the part. Her response was valid (except for where she talks about Amazons having one breast, that’s a fallacy), we shouldn’t have a limited view of how women should look and Gadot does a great job playing the iconic character. But she also looks more like what we usually see on screen.
We simply don’t get curvy women on screen that often.
We simply don’t get visibly, heavily-muscled women on screen that often.
We simply don’t get diversity.
There’s been a lot of talk about diversity in terms of race, gender, sexuality. And shape matters too.
Carano is the closest I have ever seen someone on-screen look like my body type. Tall, curvy, strong, and feminine. The fact that she played a major Star Wars character meant that I was quick to love that character and excited to get my own Cara Dune costume and create Cara Dune fan art.
Disagreeing with the actor’s politics is fine. I can separate art from artist to some extent. But now that she’s left the franchise in controversy, the image of Cara Dune, NOT just Gina Carano, is being upheld as a mascot for far-right-wing politics.
Lucas may have wanted to create a universal and identifiable series, yet it’s now being used as propaganda. Is this what he wanted? Does this align with the story he was trying to tell? It seems unlikely, but since Disney owns the franchise now, he’s been understandably quiet on sharing his opinions for the most part.
When the news first broke, fans cried for Lawless to replace Carano in the role. I would totally support this if it also included a role for O’Connor, however as the image of Dune is now a part of right-wing propaganda, I’d rather the character be used going forward.
Bring in Lawless and O’Connor in new roles.
Bring in characters that fans love and are begging for (cough… cough… Mara Jade)!
And while I wait to see what they do with the series, I’m going to write my own tall, curvy, strong female character since TV and film appear set on giving more of the same.
If you’re a writer, let me know in the comments your favorite female characters in fantasy and sci-fi! And what’s the dream female role you’ve been waiting to see on screen (either based on an existing story or of your own creation).