Heroines of Star Wars Panel Impressions (SWCO 2017)

Heroines of Star Wars Panel 6 Rey and ReyOne of my favorite panels from Star Wars Celebration Orlando 2017 was “Heroines of Star Wars,” as it focused on some of the best characters (which have been many of the ladies these past few years), hammered home the franchise’s commitment to inclusion and gender parity, had great panelists like Ashley Ecktsein, Tiya Sircar, Dave Filoni, and a surprise appearance by Daisy Ridley (!), and we were even treated to one of the Forces of Destiny shorts. Details within!

The whole thing kicked off with a fantastic sizzle-reel covering moments from all the big female characters in Star Wars, highlighting just how many more there are now and how multifaceted each one truly is. The word multifaceted continued to pop up throughout the panel, as each panelist essentially discussed at one point how the moniker strong, while a perfectly fine attribute to attach to any female character, is too generic and vague, hinting at how strength is supposedly the only true testament to a great character when it truly isn’t. Filoni started the chat with his thoughts on Leia (like how he felt she was always planning her next escape from the Death Star and she looked at Luke simply as an opportunity) and bringing characters like Ahsoka into The Clone Wars (where it was his idea to make Anakin’s padawan a girl).

Shortly after, Tiya and Ashley joined him on the stage. Both actresses spoke a bit about the origins of their character, as Ashley went over some material we’ve heard before about the initial backlash to the character and her telling fans to trust them, or how the family-vibe of the Rebels cast has helped Tiya mouth off even more convincingly to Ezra and the other characters. Host Amy Ratcliffe got the two to start talking about inspirational females from their childhood’s (be they fictional or real) and both of their responses started down the all too important topic: fair representation across media would mean we don’t have to have these chats anymore because championing female roles will be commonplace at some point in the future (Tiya covered it best at the 22:40 mark in the video below). I particularly loved her story about her mom being a role model for her and how her mom wouldn’t let them play with unattainable body image dolls like Barbie and instead played with Transformers, while she and her sister played Gods and Goddess instead of playing House. It’s pretty cool to hear these things and, for those who think that’s crazy talk, it’s obvious not playing with Barbies didn’t make Tiya Sircar any less of a woman.

The panel eventually dovetailed into Forces of Destiny, the upcoming animated series of micro-shorts focused on the female characters (with every actress reprising their original role, besides Carrie of course) of Star Wars like Rey, Ahsoka, Leia, Sabine, Jyn, Padme, etc, however the whole panel essentially felt like it could’ve been a FoD panel so I’m a little confused why these shorts were initially revealed at 12:05 AM Thursday instead of waiting to drop the surprise here with the panel. It would’ve been an even bigger and memorable surprise announcement than relegated to the middle of the night, but at least this brought FoD to a broad audience, as the people in line I spoke to on the first two mornings knew nothing about it. Due to the early announcement, part of me hoped and guessed Daisy Ridley would maybe make a guest appearance, and my hope actually came true! She shared how much she enjoys that Rey has spoken to so many people across so many ages and got to geek out with the other gals when Amy brought out each of their character’s action figures from the Forces of Destiny line. Her time was all too brief and it seemed like she wanted to stay and chat some more but supposedly she had to leave…but this came as a surprise to Daisy and an awkward conversation ensued where she was essentially asked to leave. I don’t know what it was all about, but if Daisy Ridley wants to stay for a panel, I’d say let her stay next time!

They proceeded to show us one of the micro-shorts, entitled “BB-8 Bandits,” which involved Teedo and his thugs trying to steal BB-8 from Rey on Jakku in the morning before she heads off to Niima Outpost and runs into Finn. The 2D animation is slick and the overall style fits well for the age-range and content of the micro-short we saw, which was heavy on the action and excitement, had a few laughs, and was absolutely entertaining for its short, short run time. It’s obvious the intended audience is a much younger crowd and these feel absolutely appropriate for young children and can be an amazing substitute for rewatching Frozen the 100x with your young daughter/son that even the adults could enjoy them for their simplicity and message. I look forward to seeing what else these shorts have to offer!

Here’s my gallery:

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Here are a few other things:

  • Carrie Beck was originally supposed to be part of the panel but she was unable to make it. She’s been in a couple Rebels Recon this past season and I was really looking forward to hear her talk more about Star Wars and the ladies in it, so I was sad she didn’t make it. Filoni even ended the panel discussing how important and numerous the women behind-the-scenes truly are and they’re heroes in their own right too.
  • In my gallery you can see a shot from one of the micro-shorts that has Sabine and Leia together, something I can’t wait to learn more about when/where/what these two characters are doing!
  • There was a really funny joke that Filoni kept up through the rest of the panel when he jokingly whined about not getting an action figure.
  • While I didn’t make it into the room where they were showing The Last Jedi panel live, I did for Heroines so I can say I got to see Daisy!
  • Between the ladies of Rebels, Rey in the sequel trilogy, Iden Versio in the new Battlefront, Jyn in Rogue One, Doctor Aphra headlining her own comic series, these Forces of Destiny micro-shorts…there is plenty of great Star Wars content with women at the forefront, so let’s keep that up, Lucasfilm!
  • And if this panel gave the crew at FANgirl’s blog optimism about the future of women in the Star Wars, then this panel certainly did something right!

Here’s the panel in full for you to watch, and while it unfortunately doesn’t include the excellent mashup video at the beginning OR the “BB-8 Bandits” FoD short, it’s still well-worth it!

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth. You can follow the website @MynockManor.

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