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
Chris
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:38am

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.

Chuck
Chuck
reply to  Chris
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 2:39pm

 “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!

Chris
Chris
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:41am

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).

Chuck
Chuck
reply to  Chris
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 2:43pm

 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.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Chuck
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 5:46pm

Meh. Old, pointless argument is pointless and old.

Jan_Willem
Jan_Willem
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:57am

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
Allen W
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 1:39pm

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
RogerBW
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 1:44pm

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.

HORSEFLESH
HORSEFLESH
reply to  RogerBW
Sun, Jan 03, 2016 5:23am

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?

Allen W
Allen W
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 2:09pm

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.)

Patlandness
Patlandness
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 2:56pm

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
althea
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 3:40pm

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

Allan.
Allan.
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 3:55pm

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
LaSargenta
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 4:32pm

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
Dr. Rocketscience
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 5:38pm

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.

David N-T
David N-T
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 7:33pm

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
LaSargenta
reply to  David N-T
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 8:02pm

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

That makes everything a-o-k!

Chris
Chris
reply to  LaSargenta
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 8:14pm

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.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  Chris
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 9:46pm

 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.

Chris
Chris
reply to  LaSargenta
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:48pm

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”

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  Chris
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 2:56am

 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).

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  LaSargenta
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 3:55am

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.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  Bluejay
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 3:55pm

Maybe I was. They all look alike.

David N-T
David N-T
reply to  LaSargenta
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 8:48pm

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

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  David N-T
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 9:44pm

 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.

David N-T
David N-T
reply to  LaSargenta
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 10:06pm

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

teenygozer
teenygozer
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 10:26pm

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
Allen W
reply to  teenygozer
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 10:42pm

  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.

teenygozer
teenygozer
reply to  Allen W
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 1:14am

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.

OnceJolly
OnceJolly
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 10:58pm

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

Killara29
Killara29
Thu, Dec 13, 2012 11:26pm

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!

Hank Graham
Hank Graham
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 3:10am

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.

LaurieMann
reply to  Hank Graham
Sat, Dec 15, 2012 1:33pm

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

Bluejay
Bluejay
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 4:37am

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.

teenygozer
teenygozer
Fri, Dec 14, 2012 10:47pm

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

mortadella
mortadella
Sat, Dec 15, 2012 5:43am

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

http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/psa-your-default-narrative-settings-are-not-apolitical/

LaurieMann
Sat, Dec 15, 2012 1:32pm

Sexism, pure and simple.

Tiffany
Tiffany
Wed, Jan 02, 2013 8:19pm

Because. They were like, girls?