The reviews for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story are in, and um, well, they’re a little all over the place. To be fair, the hype surrounding the film is strange—it’s sort of a random installation in the series, production was rumored to have been mired with setbacks, and neo-Nazis attempted to boycott it.
But in a sea of tepid analysis, one bold reviewer raised his voice and wondered: Where were the tough dudes? In his assessment of the movie for The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy wrote:
What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega’s Finn in The Force Awakens) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm.
Now, I obviously have not seen Rogue One yet, so I don’t know what the balance of characters looks like, but I do know that while the film takes place before the original trilogy, the requisite for such a specific manifestation of masculinity is and old relic of movie tropes past. Sorry, dude, but it’s a little much to complain that there are no Han Solos when female characters are severely lacking and also Han, as great as he is, isn’t necessarily the end-all badass hero anymore.
Let’s not forget that, on average, men get twice as many speaking roles as women do across multiple forms of media. A huge analysis performed by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism on diversity in entertainment—which looked at diversity in film, TV, and digital content from 10 major media companies—found that only 18% of stories are gender balanced, and that women are massively underrepresented and oversexualized.
But sure—let’s talk about how big ol’ alpha males with husky voices aren’t featured in an action movie. It’s a particularly baffling thing to discuss seeing as there are no other female characters aside from lead Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso in the main cast (see above image), and only a handful in the full cast lineup. The rest are men!
So it’s a little ridiculous that in this very diverse, international cast of extremely talented men (while McCarthy acknowledges their talent, he refers to the cast as a “rainbow coalition,” most likely a reference to Jesse Jackson’s social justice organization 80s), the critique to make is not that there aren’t more women, but that none of them have that legendary Lego-worthy gravitas of a true male Star Wars hero.