Star Wars Needs Moms: STAR WARS RESISTANCE Steps Forward for Mom-Rep in Star Wars
Moms. The Star Wars galaxy got plenty of them. But they sure deserve a lot better.
The CGI-animated canon of Star Wars Resistance on Disney XD introduced us to the silver-tongued X-Wing rebel pilot Venisa Doza (Tasia Valenza) in “The Rendezvous Point.” Venisa possesses the hallmarks of an appealing heroine: wise-cracking, experienced, charismatic, and devoted to being on the right side of the war. She’s also an example of a Star Wars mother who’s not absent in her child’s life because of… well, premature death, but she’s absent because she lives for her Rebel cause. And not only that, Venisa’s headstrong daughter, Torra Doza, undergoes an emotional arc in accepting that her mother can save herself and that their reunion will have to wait. It’s a refreshing take on a mother in Star Wars. It could be so easy for writers to villainize or shame Venisa’s absence in her daughter’s life, but the episode constantly validates Venisa’s agency. Both her husband and daughter have to remind themselves that they understand that Venisa must do what she gotta go for the galaxy.
Plenty has been said about the paucity of speaking female characters in recent (and excellent) Star Wars productions like The Mandalorian. Yes, even if Emily Swallows’s Armorer has significant speaking lines and there are more incoming women played by the likes of Gina Carano, Ming-Na Wen, and Natalia Tena announced, it still doesn’t assuage this meaningful symptom: how Star Wars writers don’t tend to seed forefronted female presence from the start of a story. When a symptom and shortcomings in representation stands out to the fanbase, they warrant discussion so that future storytellers can figure out more forward ways to mold characters and tropes that will benefit perspectives on real-people as well as enrichen stories.
The disposability of moms and the underdevelopment of motherhood for mom characters are subsets of the woman problem in Star Wars. Poor Padme Amidala dies by childbirth and a “broken heart ” in Revenge of the Sith. Jyn Erso’s mother is offed early on in Rogue One. While General-Princess Leia might have had her relationship with her evil offspring Kylo Ren fleshed out in the upcoming Episode IX: Rise of the Skywalker, Carrie Fisher’s untimely death likely decimated those chances unless director J.J. Abrams cobbled the 8-minute archival footage of Fisher into a mother-son showdown — but not likely.
For those asking for more nuanced and forefronted mother-child relationships in Star Wars, the reveal of Venisa required patience, a patience that paid off while feeling frustrating. Torra has been seen with her father and the lack of a mother figure was conspicuous throughout the show. The unclarified absence of her mother has been pointed out and criticized. It’s not the fault of the storytellers to withhold Venisa’s existence for dramatic reasons, but her absence in the early Resistance episodes could have been a symptom of the worst tendencies of the Missing Mom trope across Star Wars, even if it didn’t turn out that way. (Yes, I assumed Torra had a “mother” figure early on because the onscreen Star Wars Universe has been too heteronormative to trust that they will depict non-hetero family units, the too-tame queer depiction of Flix and Orka’s couplehood notwithstanding).
In Resistance, prominent character Jared Yeager was once a father and is a father-figure and Captain Doza shares ample screentime with his daughter. They fit into the paternal pattern. Star Wars tends to be father-centric or flesh out father-child variations of relationships, from Luke’s Daddy Issues in the Original Trilogy, Jedi Kanan’s fatherlike relationship with Ezra Bridger in the animated Star Wars Rebels, Jyn Erso’s fraught relationship with biological and adoptive fathers in Rogue One, Han Solo finding a father figure in Tobias Beckett in Solo, and the recent The Mandalorian television spin-off where our titular Mando essentially adopts a (male-coded) Baby Yoda.
There are exceptions: Star Wars mothers who lived long and had significant face-to-face relationships with their children. In Rebels, the maternal support of Captain-later-General Hera Syndulla to her spiritual “kids,” Sabine and Ezra, resonates throughout their arcs (and spoilers, she survives to have a biological child).
But a stand-out variation of the living mother is the tough-love austere Countess Ursa Wren in Rebels, who has an estranged relationship with Sabine where political complications forced the former to abandon said daughter to save the rest of her family.
Well-thought-out representation of women in the animated realm is crucial. And it isn’t there to compensate for the shortcomings of the live-action movies. Live-action films have the most stakes when it comes to representation and diversity because the live-action films have more reach. Especially for its child audience, the animated realm can help diversify the universe and it’s up to writers to use their imagination and push forward the underrepresented or spin tired tropes. And Venisa Doza is a step ahead.