The Mandalorian -towards a more women-friendly Hollywood ?
Updated: Apr 7, 2020
The Mandalorian is the first Star Wars live-action TV series following Mando, a Mandalorian bounty hunter (Pedro Pascal), on his various quests. Set before Star Wars : The Force Awakens, it offers an interesting look into the universe and expands the knowledge of it. Perfectly balanced between narrative, spectacular fights and special effects, it compels you to watch the next episode. The series' protagonist is a complete stranger just as Eastwood's Man With No Name - except that Mando has no name nor a face. All we see is a man in an armor which allows the audience to project onto the blank canevas that is Mando and empathize with him.
But one of the more interesting things about this TV series happens behind the scenes. Three episodes out of 8 are directed by female directors - Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. It shows hollywood is changing slowly but surely. As you watch the series, you will very quickly realise there is no difference in the way women and men approach filmmaking that can be related to gender. It sets an example showing that no matter your gender, action is not reserved to men and if you are a little girl interested in filmmaking you have a choice of women directors to look up to.
It is no surprise that the female characters are also impressive. The episodes where female characters appear for the first time are also the ones directed by women. The episode 3 where the armorer (Emily Swallow) - who enforces tradition among Mandalorians- is directed by Deborah Chow. The next one where Mando crosses paths with Omera (Julia Jones) and Cara Dune (Gina Carano) is directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. In both cases, women behind the camera introduce and set up the female characters that the audience will see again in other episodes directed by male directors.
The introduction does play an important role. Instead of having stereotypical characters, they are complex, nuanced, set on the right track for everyone to identify to them, care about their story and therefore to assure the future success of the show. The Armorer, Cara Dune and Omera have little in common but they are all more than meets the eye. Omera who is a widow in a small village looks like the perfect wife stereotype. She is caring, generous, welcoming, quiet but she can also shoot a gun and fight. She subverts all expectations which makes her a three-dimensional complex character. The female audience is not reduced to one character fits all type but has a choice. Whereas it was done on purpose or completely accidental, it shows awareness and wish to appeal to an audience they have tried to capture since making Rey the main character of the new trilogy.
Keeping on a quite surprising path, the series does not rely on any kind of romance nor does it sexualize its female characters or its main male character. It can suggest a bond, an intimacy like the connection between Mando and Omera but it is platonic - and extremely refreshing in a world where the romantic narrative seems compulsory even when unfit and unnecessary. He confides in her but the story does not go further than episode 4. Romance is not at the heart of The Mandalorian - adventure is. It helps shifting the focus from women only as love interests and objects to women as friends, fighters, subjects with their own opinions and decisions.
The Mandalorian is a refreshing variation on the Star Wars universe that pulls its strength from its diversity in front of and behind the camera. May it be a lesson for the film and TV industry that inclusivity is not a burden but also the highway to success and reaching an audience that is itself diverse.