For the past decade, Disney has taken a hatchet to the Star Wars franchise, creating only a few gems. Hopes were high that the new Disney+ series Ahsoka, about a former Jedi knight, could save what was left of the Lucasfilm magic.
Alas, in Disney's latest attempt to prove "the force is female," writers again forgot that characters should also be interesting and multi-layered, whether they're women or men.
The biggest problem in the first two episodes of the new series, titled "Master and Apprentice" and "Toil and Trouble" respectively, is the amount of screen time devoted to a former Padawan named Sabine Wren (Natasha Liu Bordizzo). Wren smirks a lot, rolls her eyes and is otherwise obnoxious and unlikeable. In Hollywood, this is code for "a strong, independent woman."
The audience is introduced to Wren after she has skipped out on a ceremony she was supposed to speak at, embarrassing everyone involved. No reason is given for not doing her duty except that she didn't feel like it. She's seen racing away on her speeder as she disobeys reasonable orders. It's hard to believe that she is actually an adult rather than a moody teenager.
Unlike Wren, the other female characters are bearable, but boring. They show little emotion and inner life, as if the only thing that matters about them is that they are in charge. Male characters don't really factor into the show except as villains, incompetents or irrelevancies.
Hollywood used to be able to create exciting female sci-fi heroes. The late 1970s and 80s produced Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy and other iconic female protagonists in films, like in Alien and Terminator 2. The women in these franchises were tough but interesting, because they could show moments of affection, warmth and vulnerability. Princess Leia was charmed by Han Solo. Maternal instincts drove Ellen Ripley in the Alien series and Terminator 2's Sarah Connor.
Unfortunately, in Hollywood today, maternal instincts are passé and the desire for love or romance is supposedly regressive. So, audiences instead are left with wooden women or smirking girl bosses.
It is a loss to the sci-fi and action genres in general. Perhaps Ahsoka will get better in future episodes. As Disney+ series go, it's certainly not the worst product they have premiered this year.
Considering how low Disney's standards are at this point though, that's not saying much.