The second time my husband and I saw Rogue One, we spent the ride home from the theatre gushing about it. We love that everyone that should have died did die, and that despite some ridiculousness, Vader was appropriately terrifying. The nods to old technology and even the stereotypical plot-holes (seriously: shooting the lock of a door should not open it) were exactly what we hoped for.
Then we started to talk about Jyn. I wished she had a character-building scene like Cassian’s, where we see who she is in adulthood and can anticipate what kind of person she is now after all the abandonment. My husband disagreed.
We went back and forth for a while—arguing whether or not Jyn was as fleshed out as a character or got her fair share of dialogue compared to Cassian. And we ended on this: she is the doer. The impetus. The one who gets shit done. And even if that means she doesn’t get a special character-building scene or as much dialogue or even a single supporting actress, that’s still pretty cool.
We started talking about all the shit she got done in Rogue One.
Unfortunately, it turns out Jyn gets zero shit done in Rogue One.
Meaningful shit Jyn attempts to do on her own in Rogue One:
- Escaping her mother’s killers and father’s captors as a child
- Escape from prison/captivity
- Get information from the pilot Saw has in his control
- Save her father
- Inspire the rebels to get the Death Star plans
- Send the Death Star plans to the rebel fleet
All of these goals are accomplished. None of them are accomplished by Jyn Erso. At least, none are accomplished without the support or damsel-in-distress saving from men (usually Cassian, whom I adore). Thus a definitive list (we like those here on the post calvin) of the ways Jyn’s efficacy are undermined:
Young Jyn successfully follows her father’s orders and escapes her father’s captors!
…except, her decision and desire to disobey her father and watch his capture are what almost get her killed. It is only by obeying the men in her life—her father—and then being rescued by Saw, that she survives.
Jyn reacts quickly and decisively when her convoy is attacked. She attacks and escapes from the men rescuing her—!
…only to be captured by K-2SO, who sounds male and is under the orders of a man (Cassian).
Jyn helps the rebels infiltrate Saw’s base so they can get information from the pilot.
…except that they might not have made it as far as the rebels without Chirrut’s badassery. Moreover, Jyn’s identity isn’t enough to get Cassian in to see Saw himself. Luckily Cassian saves the day (get used to that) and gets the pilot’s information that he needs.
Meanwhile, Jyn has lots of emotions and forgets to grab the USB stick on her way out.
Jyn realizes Cassian is going to kill her father and she climbs up the tower to save him—!
…but too late, he’s dead. Cassian himself chose not to take the shot, but dad dies anyway. Once again, Jyn has lots of emotions that require Cassian coming in and dragging her out of death’s way.
Jyn gives a rousing speech—somewhat surprising, given her taciturn nature, but she has hidden talents!—to inspire the rebels to join her. It doesn’t work on the cowardly bureaucrats, but a ragtag team of misfits my husband affectionately calls “The Shitbag Army” are recruited—!
…by Cassian. They are recruited by Cassian while Jyn is busy making her ineffectual speech. In a weird twist of fate, Jyn’s speech—or at least her inspiring rebellion against the rebellion—does inspire most of the rebel fleet to show up and fight anyway. Personally, I’m baffled by this on many levels and would love to hear theories on whether a) that was actually a good thing and b) if it was, whether or not it can be attributed to Jyn.
A note about casting: I realize that war is a typically male-dominated sphere. Testosterone is a thing; men have bigger muscles. Got it. Cool. You’re special. But spycraft and deception is not a stereotypically man’s field, so if you can’t hire a few female actresses to be in your Shitbag Army, you have broken my ability to suspend disbelief.
Jyn finds the Death Star plans and transmits them to the rebel fleet!
. . . with Cassian’s help. She is uncharacteristically weaponless and helpless, three feet away from cover and the transmission thingy when Krennic has her at his mercy. Cassian shows up and saves the day (again).
A possible rejoinder: no one besides Jyn would have recognized the plans were under “stardust.”
. . . which makes Jyn matter—but only because she happens to be the daughter of the guy who had that brilliant plan. Which is just too bad, because Jyn has so much potential to be an awesome, complex character.
I love Rogue One. Really, I do. I love Donnie Chen. I love Alan Tudyk and his K-2SO. Diego Luna is so cool, and I think Cassian is an amazing character. I love you, Rogue One. But for the love of gender equality, could you please cast more than three women in a movie?
Elaine Schnabel (’11) spent her twenties traveling, blogging, and earning various master’s degrees. Now earning her PhD at the University of North Carolina in organizational communication, Elaine researches and writes at the intersection of religion and communication. You can find her blogging at Religious (Not Crazy).