The line-up, according to StarWars.com is as follows: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker.
I'm not the sort to complain all the time. I love the Star Wars universe and defend parts of it that others like to pick on. And, yes, I'm still excited about Episode VII and the cast members they have in place and the remainder of the sequel trilogy. However, my second reaction after exclaiming over the fact that there was finally news about Episode VII, was a mix of frustration, anger, and sadness. Of all the new cast members, there was one woman. One.
Now, Daisy Ridley could be the star of the movie. That would help, but the problem remains that in this group of seven new cast members who are presumably the leads of Episode VII that will carry on the Star Wars torch, only one of them is a female. I keep getting hung up on that number. One out of seven. Yes, more women may appear in the supporting cast - dear goodness, I hope so - but why aren't there more at the helm of the movie? I'm confused for a few reasons.
Firstly, Star Wars seemed to be handling diversity across not only gender but race better. They were making slow progress, but it was progress. You can see evidence in the Expanded Universe, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, Barriss Offee), and in the upcoming series Star Wars Rebels (Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren). Though the original and prequel trilogies and Clone Wars may have followed a formula where only one woman was really a lead character, Star Wars Rebels set a different example. It gave me hope for the sequel trilogy.
Secondly, well written female characters make money. No one in Hollywood can fail to see the success of movies like Catching Fire and Frozen. And Disney has no freaking excuse after the way Frozen busted box office records. One small but meaningful example is a comparison of wait times at Disneyland to meet Thor or Captain America vs. the wait time to meet Anna and Elsa. As of earlier today, the Thor and Cap lines were at 70 minutes. The line for Anna and Elsa was at 160. Go ahead, check a wait time app at multiple times during the day. Children - boys and girls - are waiting hours in line to meet two female characters.
Finally, they can do better. Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams are smart people. They wouldn't be where they are otherwise. They have to be aware of the notes I just listed and of the fact that many Star Wars fans are concerned about diversity. We're not exactly quiet about it. I'm not saying they have to listen to our demands for more female characters or anything else, but I'd be curious to know what sort of conversations were had about creating characters for Episode VII. Could it improve in the rest of the trilogy? Sure, and I'll be happy if that's the case, but it doesn't erase the fact that as of right now, Episode VII has one woman in its lead cast.
And in case you're thinking it, yes, it does matter. Star Wars is more than a just an action movie and bigger than a franchise. It's seeped into our culture in a way that not many other stories have managed to do. If Star Wars isn't considering greater diversity and equality in casts, it's bad news for everyone.