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What the new 'Star Wars' cast doesn't have

Published: Wednesday, April 30 2014 5:35 p.m. MDT

Mark Hamill, left, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in "Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope."

Lucasfilm Ltd.

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The Force doesn’t really seem to be with women when it comes to “Star Wars: Episode VII.”

When the cast of the new “Star Wars” films blasted out from hyperspace on Tuesday, critics and fans alike were left baffled as only two women made the cast list, one of whom is Carrie Fisher, who will reprise her role as Princess Leia.

The other? Daisy Ridley, a relatively unknown actress.

“Ridley does have the distinction of being the one woman on the cast who isn't Carrie Fisher,” wrote Spencer Kornhaber for The Atlantic. “In other words, Abrams's 'Star Wars' sounds like it may keep with the franchise's tradition of spectacularly failing the Bechdel Test.”

Even though the prequels did feature more female characters — like Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala — the recent film doesn’t seem to be going in that direction, Kornhaber wrote. But it’s still possible for women to be cast before the film is finished.

“It's not out of the question, though,” Kornhaber wrote. More actresses could be announced later, though today's starwars.com post referred to the published names as 'the' cast.”

Annalee Newitz of io9.com, an online news website, also wondered where all the women are for the new “Star Wars” films. Newitz specifically mentioned her own daughter, who in the past has been inspired by “Star Wars” characters.

“Having Ridley is great, but one new female lead in a cast of men?” Newitz asked. “That's how we launch ourselves into the future of this series, which inspires little girls with pink swords, as well as old girls like myself who graduated to sharper weapons long ago? Are we seriously still pretending that the universe is comprised almost entirely of men (and mostly white men at that)? Mythic tales are supposed to open up possibilities, not shut them down.”

Star Wars’ expanded universe — the collection of novels, comics and cartoons published in the years since “Return of the Jedi” that won’t count in the new movie’s storyline — also featured many female characters, Newitz wrote, which makes it odd that the new film doesn’t have many women.

“We already know that this movie won't cleave to the Star Wars Extended Universe, where there are a ton of amazing female characters ranging from evil to superheroic,” Newitz wrote. She isn't mad won't feature live-action characters from the expanded universe, like Mara Jade or Ahsoka or Asajj Ventress, though.

Still, "Why not invent new female characters? It's not as if having a gender-balanced EU drove fans away," Newitz wrote.

Fans of “Star Wars” come from all different backgrounds, Newitz wrote. All kinds of demographics dig their lightsabers — er, teeth — into the far away galaxy. So that makes it interesting that it’s a white male-dominated cast, wrote Scott Mendelson for Forbes.

“After teasing us for months over the notion that the new ‘Star Wars’ film would go against the grain in terms of casting, we still ended up with a bunch of white males with a couple of token women and a couple actors of color,” he wrote.

But as Kornhaber of The Atlantic and Mendelson of Forbes notes, it’s fairly possible that John Boyega could become the first black man in a main role for the “Star Wars” films. And Ridley could still be the heroine.

But, “Star Wars” could have changed the game, Mendelson wrote.

“Star Wars was arguably the best chance we had at countering conventional wisdom and adding more diversity to our blockbuster franchises. In terms of how blockbusters are cast and in terms of who gets what kind of mainstream opportunities, J.J. Abrams, Walt Disney and Lucasfilm had the chance to unlearn what we have learned. But they didn’t, and, that darn well matters.”

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @herbscribner

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