Attack of the Clones,  Prequel Trilogy

Syfy Wire praises Queen Jamillia from Attack of the Clones

jamillia.jpg

From Syfy Wire:

“You might not remember Queen Jamillia of Naboo; she has about three minutes of screen time in Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones. The prequel trilogy downplaying nominally powerful women to the degree that a scene about Padmé founding the Rebellion got cut out of Revenge of the Sith? I don’t know what you’re talking about! But she warrants our attention and adoration for three reasons.

First, she immediately passes the Bechdel Test with Padmé upon being introduced, as the both literal and figurative queens discuss the threat of the Separatists to the Republic and Padmé’s safety. Of course, Anakin’s only contribution to this discussion is: The Jedi? Investigate in this economy? SHUT UP ANAKIN THE QUEENS ARE TALKING. […]

Second, she’s the first queen of color that we see onscreen in Star Wars, portrayed by Indian actress Ayesha Dharker. […]

And last but definitely not least, she rocks that 10-piece mother-of-pearl headpiece like no else in the galaxy. Padmé’s a tough act to follow, both personally—the people of Naboo wanted to amend their constitution so she could rule forever, which is a lot—and sartorially, but Jamillia doesn’t skip a beat. Now that’s a Queen.”

 

0 Comments

    • Cryogenic

      @ Joe:

      Well, he (Anakin) actually does embarrass himself in this scene. His early capitulation to a modest silence (historically speaking: typically a role or behavioural characteristic projected onto and implicitly demanded of women; especially in the company of men) is soon forgotten when Sio Bibble, an older male, specifically asks him for his opinion.

      But, interestingly, it’s Padme who fires the first shot, so to speak, by reflexively demeaning Anakin (“Oh, Anakin’s not a Jedi yet, he’s still a padawan leaner” — note how Anakin seemingly remembers the putdown and uses the first part of it against Luke in TESB), causing a brief episode of friction to develop, with Anakin protesting and lashing back, provoking another response from Padme (“attack of the clones”, indeed!).

      So the scene can be read a number of ways. A staunch feminist reading might be that, per the article, Anakin is a pushy young male that immaturely interrupts: “SHUT UP ANAKIN THE QUEENS ARE TALKING”. The other end of the spectrum might alternately proclaim: “See what happens when you put two women together? They talk among themselves and emasculate/ignore/degrade any man who tries to assert himself.”

      Hopefully, there’s a middle between those extremes, something along the lines of: “Two women in similar positions of power discuss strategy while a youthful learner looks on and listens courteously and only speaks when invited to. He creates a bit of a scene, but the matter is swiftly resolved without further insults or violence. Both the young male and female are obstinate in their own ways, but largely operate on the same page and respect one another underneath surface disagreement.”

      Nonetheless, Joe…

      I think you’re right. The author casually sneaks in the unfounded/assumed premise that Lucas is sexist in their second sentence and then barrels on. So the well is poisoned right at the beginning; planting an idea or impression in the reader’s mind that isn’t necessarily truthful, accurate, honest, or fair. That style of rhetoric is one we need to be ever-vigilant for.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Joe:

        Hey, that’s fine. You’re entitled to your own opinion. 🙂

        Well, Naboo News seems to be one of the few places left that respects that idea, anyway…

  • Alexrd

    Oh, I know what this is: SJW/third-wave feminism… You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Seriously, who wrote this crap?

    “the prequel trilogy downplaying nominally powerful women”

    Since when cutting scenes out of time makes it downplay against women?! Quite a sexist accusation.

    “she immediately passes the Bechdel Test”

    Who cares about the bechdel test? The fact that the author of this BS focuses her attention not on the story of the movie but instead on wether or not there are scenes with two females speaking to each other says more about the person than the movie or its characters.

    “Of course, Anakin’s only contribution to this discussion is: The Jedi? Investigate in this economy?”

    What?! No comment…

    “SHUT UP ANAKIN THE QUEENS ARE TALKING.”

    Looks like someone lost their pacifier…

    “she’s the first queen of color that we see onscreen”

    So…? Who cares about her melanin or lack thereof? This is the epitome of racism. Judging someone for the color of their skin.

    • Cryogenic

      @ Alex:

      On the whole, I agree that it’s pretty crappy — though not without all merit.

      For starters, I like their final paragraph; or, specifically, the final two sentences:

      “Padmé’s a tough act to follow, both personally—the people of Naboo wanted to amend their constitution so she could rule forever, which is a lot—and sartorially, but Jamillia doesn’t skip a beat. Now that’s a Queen.”

      The author seems to have glommed onto this scene because of this dynamic. It’s two powerful women showing a mutual level of respect for one another and warmly discussing pressing political matters; the kind of exchange that is still fairly unusual in mainstream cinema. I like how they obliquely pointed that out and find the scene worthy of note. And also, still refreshingly, even in 2018: Not a word of complaint about the blocking, acting, writing, directing, etc.

      But, in other ways, they do seem to shoot themselves in the foot, complaining right out of the gate, with sarcasm and condescension which sets the tone, that the prequel trilogy is self-evidently sexist. Which immediately begs one or two questions, including: And what of the original trilogy? Why do they say nothing about the progenitor of the PT? Side note: The prequel trilogy having a female costume designer should certainly please them, not least because they make approving comments of Jamillia’s apparel.

      By the way: Couldn’t THAT be considered sexist on their part? A female author gushing over the fabrics! But no… If we’re smart and reasonable, we won’t lower ourselves to the tendentious level of the author. We can simply acknowledge that men and women find fashion, and art and design, and costuming to be stimulating and interesting and worthy. Phew! I hope no feminist broke their glasses from grimacing too hard.

      And yes: They skew Anakin’s response. He is asked by an older male, a long-term adviser in the royal court, what his opinion(s) on Padme’s safety and the security arrangements are — it’s nothing to do with politics, per se, and he’s not interrupting. And before Anakin has a chance to utter one word, Padme swoops in with a putdown, creating a moment of unnecessary tension and difficulty for all in attendance. Yet no criticism is ever offered of the women in the scene. Curious.

      On the other hand, I kind of like their all-caps retort: “SHUT UP ANAKIN THE QUEENS ARE TALKING.” Makes me chuckle and draws attention to what the author clearly considers its most salient feature.

      ————————————-

      The Bechdel test is a somewhat obscure reference — maybe a piece of virtue-signalling or a way for the author to flash their knowledge/intelligence and subtly assert their authority. It does have some bearing, though. Read the Wikipedia entry.

      Here is one paragraph within it:

      According to a 2014 study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, in 120 films made worldwide from 2010 to 2013, only 31% of named characters were female, and 23% of the films had a female protagonist or co-protagonist. 7% of directors were women. Another study looking at the 700 top‐grossing films from 2007 to 2014 found that only 30% of the speaking characters were female. In a 2016 analysis of screenplays of 2,005 commercially successful films, Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels found that in 82% of the films, men had two of the top three speaking roles, while a woman had the most dialogue in only 22% of films.

      And another (two more) set of paragraphs that shine a more critical light on the test itself:

      The Bechdel test only indicates whether women are present in a work of fiction to a certain degree. A work may pass the test and still contain sexist content, and a work with prominent female characters may fail the test. A work may fail the test for reasons unrelated to gender bias, such as because its setting works against the inclusion of women (e.g., Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, set in a medieval monastery). What counts as a character or as a conversation is not defined (e.g., the Sir Mix-a-Lot song “Baby Got Back” has been described as passing the Bechdel test, because it begins with audio of a valley girl saying “oh my god, Becky, look at her butt”) and works with very few of either will often fail the test automatically.

      In response to its increasing ubiquity in film criticism, the Bechdel test has been criticized for not taking into account the quality of the works it tests (bad films may pass it, and good ones fail), or as a “nefarious plot to make all movies conform to feminist dogma”. According to Andi Zeisler, this criticism indicates the problem that the test’s utility “has been elevated way beyond the original intention. Where Bechdel and Wallace expressed it as simply a way to point out the rote, unthinkingly normative plotlines of mainstream film, these days passing it has somehow become synonymous with ‘being feminist’. It was never meant to be a measure of feminism, but rather a cultural barometer.” Zeisler noted that the false assumption that a work that passes the test is “feminist” might lead to creators “gaming the system” by adding just enough women characters and dialogue to pass the test, while continuing to deny women substantial representation outside of formulaic plots.

      ————————————-

      I think it’s fair to note that the Bechdel test has its flaws, but still has some use in calling certain trends and biases to mind — or at least in (potentially) opening the door to a deeper analysis and wider conversation.

      However, the author uses it in a casual, almost sleight-of-hand manner, having normalized its applicability as a “good” thing, rather than something with inherent limitations and problems, by dint of their basic/lazy/uncritical use.

      And, of course, by sneaking in the idea early on — in the second sentence of the whole piece — that Lucas (per Joe’s observation) is probably or almost certainly sexist, and that the prequel trilogy is a problematic work (again: where is this same rebuke/slandering of the original trilogy?), the well has already been poisoned. None of that makes for an especially nice or encouraging read.

      ————————————-

      Now, briefly, race:

      Judging someone by their skin colour may be a common racist trope — but race doesn’t just boil down to skin colour, by any means. It’s a complex issue. Though, ultimately, of course, there is only one “human race”.

      But the basic fact remains: Star Wars is (largely) a Western/American text, is dominated by Caucasian/Eurasian English-speaking actors, and is manifestly male-centric (but with a good degree of nuance and complication; especially in the prequels). So I wouldn’t put it beyond criticism on racism or cultural grounds.

      Was Carl Sagan, for instance, a SJW/third-wave feminist when he complained of the preponderance of humans, and white-skinned humans at that, when he discussed the original film on Johnny Carson; even pointing out that Chewie fails to receive a medal at the end — an early appearance of that persistent meme?

      (The Sagan/Carson clip is on YouTube. The date of the interview or airing is March 2nd 1978).

      ————————————-

      I think the real problem with the article is that it lightly introduces and passes over several enormously complex and heavy topics concerning human psychology and social, political, and cultural organization — doing a disservice to both the prequels and those very topics and their complex entwining/expression in mass media. It’s not a thinking piece; more of a jabbing piece.

      But at least this short scene, even while being looked at through the narrow prism of gender criticism, is implicitly considered valuable and interesting. And some of the more standard prequel criticisms are avoided. Yet, in a more over-arching sense, it’s a fairly typical article of its kind: A clickbait-y blog-media “hit piece”.

      • Alexrd

        Cryo, as always I appreciate your eloquence, but I’ll only address a few points:

        Regarding The Bedchel test:

        I don’t see its usefulness in calling out a bias. Because bias requires intent and agency, and to prove that there was an intention behind the amount (or lack thereof) of scenes with women characters is literally impossible when there are a bunch of other valid variables. It also turns the discussion around, not on the actual art and intent of the artist, but on a supposed obligation to feature a certain number of characters of a certain sex in a certain number of scenes doing a certain amount of things. That’s identity politics, using and feeding racial and sexist judgment.

        I guess I don’t have a problem with the test in and on itself but rather on how it’s used.

        _____________

        Regarding race: Yes, what most people mean with ‘race’ is actual ‘ethnicity’, but the point remains.

        “But the basic fact remains: Star Wars is (largely) a Western/American text, is dominated by Caucasian/Eurasian English-speaking actors, and is manifestly male-centric. So I wouldn’t put it beyond criticism on racism or cultural grounds.”

        Why should that be a point of criticism?

        “Was Carl Sagan, for instance, a SJW/third-wave feminist when he complained (…)”

        No, but if there’s a commonality between then is that he was reaching.

        It’s a fact that Chewie didn’t get a medal. What’s not a fact is that he didn’t get a medal out of prejudice, or because he was not a (white-skinned) human.

      • Cryogenic

        @ Alex:

        Thank you for the compliment and the response, Alex. This is the only “discussion” forum where I get to publicly engage with intelligent PT fans such as yourself now (at least without the immediate threat of a ban hammer coming down) — and that’s a privilege I don’t take lightly. The loss of other discussion spaces entirely, like the IMDb boards (as loud, jumbled, and coarse as they could be), and the SWPAS comment section, leaves prequel fans with few options, these days. A sad situation.

        I must disagree that bias requires intent and agency. I know this isn’t a philosophy seminar, or a discourse on philology, for that matter, but one definition of bias is “a preference or an inclination, especially one that inhibits impartial judgement”. I think that’s a reasonable definition (my source is The Free Dictionary). One may need agency and consciousness to exhibit or be prone to bias, but one’s intent may not always matter. Most people, of course, believe themselves to have pure intentions and like to think they’re free of bias and error; but that’s not the way of the mammalian brain.

        In that sense, what you say may follow from your premise — but I disagree with your starting conditions. Although, in another sense, I think I get what you’re saying. The Bechdel test is perhaps impotent to realistically weigh or make definitive statements about the artist’s bias; as the test itself is too blunt and imprecise to draw solid conclusions from its application. In other words, anyone using it, knowing that it has limitations (again: see the Wikipedia page), is over-reaching by relying on it it in an augury/tea-leaf-reading sense, to come to concrete conclusions about something as broad and complex as art and personal expression — making them clumsy and naive at best, willfully ignorant and intellectually dishonest at worst.

        Maybe! And now I have probably stacked things too much myself. So I agree with you more than that. But bias can be unconscious — and many forms of bias are exactly that. Even Lucas himself has obliquely alluded to this on a few occasions. For instance, when he was drafting the original film, he knocked out all female characters from one of the drafts, inadvertently, and he claimed that that bothered him when he realized. Well, that’s my little summary. I may be putting words in his mouth. I’ll let J.W. Rinzler explain:

        “Before joining [Gary] Kurtz in London, Lucas made a significant alteration to the second draft during the last couple of days in March 1975: He changed Luke into a girl. “The original treatment was about a princess and an old man,” Lucas explains, “and then I wrote her out for a while, and the second draft didn’t really have any girls in it at all. I was very disturbed about that. I didn’t want to make a move without any women in it. So I struggled with that, and at one point Luke was a girl. I just changed the main character from a guy to a girl.”

        (p. 45, J.W. Rinzler, “The Making Of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind The Original Film”)

        The quote seems to paint a picture, using Lucas’ own words, that he caught himself in the act, when he discovered he had done something, in the artistic/creative process, unconsciously, that “disturbed” him — and that a struggle followed. That’s the sort of passage one reads in a book that should cause a tingle and inspire some heavy thinking. It is entirely and utterly possible for artists to be biased. To assume benevolence on their part, or to assume it after watching their films and reading a select number of their own remarks to one’s personal satisfaction, doesn’t necessarily lick the problem of bias — on the part of the artist or the art-appreciator. In fact, such an assumption gets in the way of reality. We all perceive reality through our own lenses; but, sometimes, someone has a better lens, or a better vantage point. In that regard, we can all help each other to see better. Something about beams and specks…

        Therefore, despite the simplistic nature of the article and the snarky tone, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what the author says — even if their way of saying it is shaky and crude. It is generally easy to dismiss poor examples and act like the issue itself is obviated in the process. But unless you really contend with a strong example, you haven’t necessarily yet “gone to combat” on an issue and remotely settled anything. Jedi can cut Battle Droids down “like they’re butter”, after all…

        I have much less of a disagreement with your second objection to the Bechdel test where you state: “It also turns the discussion around, not on the actual art and intent of the artist, but on a supposed obligation to feature a certain number of characters of a certain sex in a certain number of scenes doing a certain amount of things.” Yes. That problem is specifically acknowledged on the Wikipedia page; even in the extracts I presented. They even acknowledge a corollary effect: “Zeisler noted that the false assumption that a work that passes the test is “feminist” might lead to creators “gaming the system” by adding just enough women characters and dialogue to pass the test, while continuing to deny women substantial representation outside of formulaic plots.”

        Arguably, Disney have done something in the above vein in the sequel installments and spin-offs, and in various remarks made by Kathleen Kennedy and the films’ directors, writers, cast, and crew. By contrast, Lucas just seemed to want to tell an honest-to-goodness story; he wasn’t concerned with using Star Wars as a money-making machine disguised as an identitarian propaganda tool disguised as a “delightful” experience and a “reminder” of what Star Wars is (self-serving Disney director babble is self-serving babble). Articles like this one rankle for a number of reasons — especially in how they give both pre- and post- Star Wars paradigms a complete pass.

        Sorry. This has all been a long drive to a short stay at the beach. I do agree with you in many regards. It’s just, at times, I try to do less of the hand-waving dismissal when I feel an author or commentator is onto something; even if it’s hard to look past their own bias and contentious wrangling. We often interpret as “natural” and “fine” the things we’re familiar with; and anything that strikes a discordant note, or seems to be attacking what we like, gets slaked as inferior and wrong. I think we need to be on the look-out for that more often. And I don’t think we examine our own biases and assumptions too often or too honestly. That said: I still don’t care greatly for the new films. And I’ve made my contempt for Disney known. So who am I?

        Briefly, the Sagan/race/Wookiee thing:

        Sagan was obviously interpreting the original film through his own subjective lens. And that’s fine. My basic point was that not all criticism of Star Wars, on the grounds of race or gender, can be attributed to contemporary “identity politics”; or some other rubric you may wish to use. I wasn’t saying I agree with him. I agree with his frame — but I don’t necessarily share his frame. That might be a subtle difference; because I certainly find it hard to completely *disagree* with him. After all, he was Carl Sagan! I’m only being slightly flip.

        Of course, as an astronomer and popularizer of science, keen to portray and promote a certain vision of the world, Sagan seemingly took — or at least advanced on his Johnny Carson appearance — a rather literal/empiricist view of science-fiction and fantasy; which almost nullifies the point of it all. The allegorical nature of these works apparently meant little to him. Instead, somewhat distastefully, Sagan seems to delight in jumping up on the back of Lucas’ vibrant film, to castigate it for scientific inaccuracy/implausibility, to the amusement of the crowd — not entirely unlike a religious preacher or faith-healer putting on a revival show. He had a little bit in him of what he both cordially disliked and trenchantly wrote various polemics against.

        And yes, he appears to have run away with himself at the end, when he punctuates his dissatisfaction with the film by getting in one final jab over the medal issue. As you imply, there are other perfectly legitimate ways to read into the particular happening of Chewie *not* receiving a medal, but Sagan doesn’t even seem to bother. I sense he is being a bit facetious at the end and can’t help himself. He’s enjoying the glow of celebrity and the smooth approbation of the studio audience. It’s almost slightly Jar Jar-ish. “Mesa propose…” The clip, in this regard, reveals something interesting: People of all persuasions slander things and pontificate on matters for all sorts of reasons. Total benevolence — there’s that “phantom menace” again — should never be assumed. But neither should malice, wrongness, or a total absence of intellectual engagement, either.

        Oh, you had another question:

        Why should Star Wars being X, let’s say, be a point of criticism?

        Well… Why not?

        It’s a gigantic entertainment property and gigantic things aren’t necessarily “all good”. Death Star vs. Yoda.

        One should never be afraid to call things into question; no matter their size. “Judge me by my size, do you?”

        I put it that way because I get the impression people take a lot of what Star Wars is or does for granted — and that questioning it is somehow wrong or dubious.

        I know we’ve had a lot of the opposite on the Internet these past twenty years, but the foundations of it are questioned much less than some of the particulars.

        In that way, maybe Sagan was right to ring the bell on some obvious properties of the original film; even if other people already noticed them or considered those objections silly or trivial.

        Hegemonic dominance is a thing that, in my opinion, should concern us. Look up Jaron Lanier. He has some powerful critiques about modern Internet/social media culture. And I see Star Wars as shading into that. Which isn’t to say I don’t love it — or the big furry beast that Lucas put together. I just try to remain open to wider possibilities and problems (and solutions) I’m not yet aware of or in some form of denial about. Burning critiques may hurt, and they may even be unfair or inaccurate, but that may not, in every sense, be wrong or invalid. Everyone has a piece of the “exploding polygon Shiva” of Grievous. Or put another way: No-one has a complete hold on the truth; but everyone probably has a bit. Life is a tough thing to iron out.

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