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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Why do you think three female Rebel pilots were cut from Return of the Jedi?

Vivienne Chandler female rebel pilot Star Wars Return of the Jedi

Say what? There were originally not one, not two, but three female Rebel pilots in the finale battle in Return of the Jedi and they all got cut? *grrrr*

From BuzzFeed:

Meet the three unnamed female fighter pilots from Return of the Jedi. Two of these ladies were released with the avalanche of extras on the Star Wars Blu-ray and were originally part of the Rebel Squadrons fighting in the Battle of Endor. Both of them were A-Wing pilots.

The younger pilot… even had a bit of dialogue. According to Star Wars Aficionado, her line “got it” was overdubbed with a male voice in post-production.

Most interestingly, the second lady fighter pilot is elderly, leading one to wonder if she was a hardened lifelong rebel or a late joiner. Either way, it’s one of the great untold stories of the series.

The third Rebel fighter pilot was played by Vivienne Chandler, pictured below, and she and one other female X-Wing pilot were filmed. Not only did they never make it past the cutting-room floor, they didn’t even make it into the Blu-ray release. While Ms. Chandler had more than a page of dialogue, none of it made it into the final release.

There is no solid evidence as to why all of these women were ultimately cut, but fan theory holds it was because watching female pilots die would have been too disturbing for moviegoing audiences at the time.

(More at Star Wars Aficionado Magazine here and here.)

Maybe moviegoers would have been disturbed by women dying in battle. But 1) Why shouldn’t they be disturbed by that, and if they wouldn’t have been disturbed by men dying in battle, isn’t that a problem? And 2) The scenes with women pilots were written, cast, shot, edited, etc, and no one figured this for a problem, so what changed at the last minute?

Why do you think three female Rebel pilots were cut from Return of the Jedi? And are you as angry about this as I am? It’s one thing if the George Lucas Star Wars machine had blinders about the role of women in war and so it simply never occurred to anyone to get women warriors in the mix. But now we now that that’s not the case. Deliberate decisions were made to remove women warriors. Dammit.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Chris

    If he had left them in (or if whoever was responsible for the cut left them in), the number of female characters in the original trilogy would have been, what, doubled?  And bad-ass fighter pilots, to boot?

    I wonder what the effect on a generation of girls might have been had there been more awesome female roles in the films.  Obviously a few minutes of this wouldn’t have done it, but the thought is interesting.

  • Chris

    And another interesting point, in Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers,” all, or virtually all, starship pilots were female, because the military thought they had better reflexes in zero g.  Regardless of the issues inherent to that kind of blanket assumption, the idea of female pilots wasn’t that crazy in sci-fi in the mid-50s (though perhaps they were not FIGHTER pilots, or something).

  • Jan_Willem

    To pose the question is to answer it, I suppose. Unless, of course, this was a pacing issue like the spiders sequence omitted from the original King Kong and reinserted by Peter “Extended Edition” Jackson in his version. Fortunately, valley girl Stacy, aka Pink Five, stepped in to fill the void.

  • Allen W

    Then again, all of the Imperial pilots were likely female (the helmets deepened the voice).  Gotta save weight on a ship as small as a TIE Fighter.

    Plus, there’s the symbolism of (female) bees defending their hive.

    Doesn’t the article imply *4* female pilots?  2 A-Wing, plus 2 X-Wing?

  • RogerBW

    I suspect George only found out about it when the scenes had been filmed. He was the person in that production team who really cared about mythic resonance, and he was thoroughly stuck in the Campbellian, woman-as-quest-object mindset.

  • Allen W

    Another thought:  The whole swarm-of-ships-diving-on-huge-spherical-target-to-shoot-the-core trope is about as gendered a scenario as I can imagine.  Even more so in Jedi, where the ships themselves penetrate the core.  (And would it have killed the Emperor to put up a few unmarked walls on that route?  Quite the reverse, really.)

  • Chuck

     “I wonder what the effect on a generation of girls might have been had there been more awesome female roles in the films.”

    Obviously it would have caused the complete degeneration of society and had to be stopped.

    If allowing women to drive causes homosexuality and devirginification of girls ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2068810/Saudis-fear-virgins-people-turn-gay-female-drive-ban-lifted.html ) then I can only imagine the widespread pandemonium that female fighter pilots would cause!

  • Chuck

     Star Wars is not sci-fi, it is mythic fantasy with spaceships. Science Fiction is more than just the trappings, it is about ideas. Star Wars is just about myth.

  • Patlandness

    I remember in Family Guy’s “It’s a Trap!” that Princess Leia/Lois mentions that’s she’s the only woman in the Galaxy…except for the lady who in ROTJ who describes how many Bothans had died to get the info on the second Death Star.  (Who in the FG spoof is voiced by Carrie Fisher).

    Leia/Lois: “I  don’t like her.”

  • althea

    I find myself actually speechless, not coming up with anything to add. Thanks for spreading the word, Maryann.

  • Allan.

    Well.  That’s really disappointing.  That would have been awesome, and might have had a progressive influence on women in film.  Instead, we get Megan Fox.  Who, by the second ‘Transformers’ film, had lost the ability to run independent of Shia Labeouf’s guidance.

  • LaSargenta

    Why do you think three female Rebel pilots were cut from Return of the Jedi?

    Because the editors, director and producers were all blinded by whatever paltry toehold their egos had in the dominant patriarchy.

    And are you as angry about this as I am?

    I dunno. There’s so much of this shit I get angry about on a daily basis….maybe I’ll just let everyone else on this thread be angry for me on this topic. I’m exhausted today and am outsourcing my emotions.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    It might be that these pilots were cut for the same reason Land and the Falcon got a reprieve: test screening audience feedback. Not an excuse, of course. Both the audience and Lucas/Marquand were wrong to let Lando survive, and they were more wrong to cut the female pilots.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Meh. Old, pointless argument is pointless and old.

  • David N-T

    You know, I hadn’t thought of that. I’d assumed that the scene had been shot and what not, and that it was either some higher up who had a knee-jerk reaction to cut these scenes, or that it came about as a result of a male-dominated editing process

  • LaSargenta

    Sure! Maybe it was a male-dominated test audience!

    That makes everything a-o-k!

  • Chris

    You know, that’s not what he said.  Nowhere did he say that was ok, he just said that he assumed that it was a studio management-based issue, not a test screening issue.

  • David N-T

    That’s not what I wrote nor do I believe that it makes everything a-o-k.

  • LaSargenta

     I wasn’t accusing you of claiming that. I was chiming in on what the next logical assumption could be and what my frustration with the whole chain is. Perhaps I should have ended the post with /sarcasm.

  • LaSargenta

     I didn’t write that he said that. See my reply above to David N-T.

    But, since you brought it up, how is a test screening issue NOT a studio management-based issue? The management includes the marketing which is where the test audiences get chosen generally. I don’t know how test audiences were chosen in 1976, but, I assume it was fairly similar. They certainly weren’t left to total chance.

  • David N-T

     Cool. Just wanted to make sure about that: the written form is such a poor conveyor of tone. :D

  • teenygozer

    I think the short answer is “Because George Lucas is a blithering idiot”, but I’m prejudiced.

    Battlestar Galactica (late 70s version that predates Return of the Jedi, and supposedly a rip-off of Star Wars ) had female warrior pilots.  In the first season, the women of the Galactica rose up and demanded to be allowed to be pilots, a job that was for men only before that point if I
    remember correctly.  I remember Apollo being very uncomfortable that Serena was training to be a pilot, and we had a little Feminist “hear me roar” moment there with Jane Seymour arguing with Richard Hatch about it.  At first there was a single women-only team of Viper pilots, then the teams were integrated into a single squadron of both men & women pilots.  And yes, women pilots were shot out of the sky by the Cylons occasionally.

    Which is odd because in the final season, Sheba (Ann Lockhart) showed up as a hot pilot and squadron leader of the Vipers on the Pegasus, which seemed to have both male & female pilots as a matter of course.  The Pegasus didn’t seem to have a problem with women pilots the way the Galactica had had.  In retrospect, it makes me think a little better of Glenn Larson (whom we nicknamed “Glenn Larceny” for his thieving ways).  I wonder if it was his way of showing that his show wasn’t a rip off of Star Wars?

  • Allen W

      My recollection (which may be faded) is that the original Galactica women only got to be Viper pilots in the one episode where all the male pilots (except Starbuck and Apollo) got the space flu.  After that, I don’t think we saw them as pilots again (except flying shuttles, which someof them had been doing all along).
      Sheba was indeed a kickass squadron leader… but she was also Commander Cain’s tomboy only child.  I got the impression that she was a special case; I don’t recall any other female Viper pilots on the Pegasus, though I’d be happy to be mistaken.

  • OnceJolly

    At that time, there was limited merchandising potential. Why introduce characters if the figures weren’t going to sell?

  • Killara29

    Did you know that in the original script of True Romance Alabama shot a cop but the studio said you couldn’t have a film where a woman shot a cop?  And that’s the 90s!

  • Chris

    That’s fair enough.  I simply meant that the sexism displayed (possibly, who knows the actual motivations, though it’s a safe bet) was from the test audience, not from the execs themselves.  Of course both exist within the same culture, and as you say the test audience selection can be easily biased.  It just raises the question of whether it might be marketing, rather than an (even subconscious) ideological choice by the execs.  That doesn’t change the sexism, of course.  Not to mention my personal dislike of “test audiences”

  • teenygozer

    Considering it’s been 30+ years since I’ve seen most of BSG-original, there’s a distinct possibility that my memory is shaded by wishful thinking!  I caught the last few episodes of the final season on a local channel but they didn’t start at the beginning once it was over.  It was such a fun blast from the past to see even just those few episodes.

  • LaSargenta

     There is also the fact that just cause a test audience says something, it doesn’t mean that ALL changes would be made in line with their opinions. We don’t know why. This would be an interesting interview topic with Lucas and Kasdan (if he were still alive…I seem to recall he died some years ago).

  • Hank Graham

    George Lucas is just not concerned with women as charcters.

    The clearest example of this is Frank Darabont’s wonderful script, much borrowed from, for Indy 4. Darabont had Marion as a funny, active participant, holding her own with Indy. Lucas hated that script (which Spielberg, Ford, Marshall and Kennedy all loved), and they ended upmaking a film which stole a lot of the stuff Darabont had written for Karen Allen and giving it to Shia LaBeouf.

    This is just one more piece of evidence of what should be pretty obvious by now.

  • Kasdan? No, he’s alive and well. You’re probably thinking of Irvin Kershner. It’s being reported that Kasdan may be involved in some of the future Star Wars films or related projects.

  • Alyssa Rosenberg looks forward to female-centric Star Wars movies. (Under Disney, which is no stranger to female-centric movies, perhaps this isn’t an impossibility?) I like the way she thinks.

  • LaSargenta

    Maybe I was. They all look alike.

  • teenygozer

    Um, could somebody please ask Lucas about this?  Before he goes to that big film school in the sky?

  • mortadella

    It’s about fantasy/historical fiction, but sadly it applies to SF too.


  • Sexism, pure and simple.

  • Much as I loved Indy 1 & 3, I hated 2 & especially 4 due to their horrific treatment of every female character.

  • Tiffany

    Because. They were like, girls?


    George Lucas was on-set everyday of ROTJ. He knew everything that was being shot and shadowed Richard Marqaund throughout.

    These female pilots were always intended to be shot; they had dialogue and Lucas wrote and approved the shooting script with Kasdan.

    For what reason they were cut, who knows?

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