Lucasfilm Chief Kathleen Kennedy Blames “Male-Dominated” Fan Base for ‘Star Wars’ Flops

in Star Wars

A person stands with a welcoming gesture, arms open wide, smiling. They are wearing a white shirt, dark pants, and a dark jacket. In the background, there is a large, industrial-looking structure with mechanical details.

Credit: Lucasfilm

If you thought that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy might be interested in getting the Star Wars fandom on her side before the franchise’s next big Disney+ show premieres, guess again. Instead, the executive is doubling down and blaming the “male-dominated” fan base for the state of the series.

Kathleen Kennedy at Comic Con
Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

‘Star Wars’: Disney Edition

It has been 12 years since The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm from founder George Lucas for $4 billion, and with it, enormously popular IPs like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Willow. The change in ownership of the galaxy far, far away has created a huge divide in the Star Wars fandom, with a very vocal group feeling that the new Disney version of Lucasfilm has betrayed Lucas’s original vision.

As the President of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy has been particularly singled out and blamed for the misfires of modern Star Wars. Notably, South Park portrayed a cartoonishly villainous version of Kennedy in the “Joining the Panderverse” special, depicting her as obsessively demanding “Put a chick in it! Make her lame and gay!”

A cartoon character with brown hair and a stern expression sits at a desk with a nameplate reading "Kathleen Kennedy, President of LucasFilm." The desk has various items including papers, a coffee maker, a mug, and Star Wars memorabilia in the background.
Credit: Paramount

Related: ‘Star Wars’ Legend’s Tragic Death Blamed on Sequels, “She Practically Killed Herself”

Some Star Wars obsessives have felt that same way, perceiving any form of DEI practice or female-oriented storytelling as “pandering” (note the South Park title).

For example, Twitter user @Andro_UberAlles recently posted: “You’ve effectively kicked the male fan base in the teeth. You’ve relegated male characters to Sidekicks & clowns. Most businesses try to cater to their audiences, you’ve told them to fuck off. How many times is she going to fail before she gets fired?”

Since Disney purchased Star Wars, it has produced three feature films and five Disney+ live-action streaming series. The sequel trilogy primarily centered on a female protagonist, Rey (Daisy Ridley), but, much like the two previous trilogies, featured an ensemble cast including Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega. Of the five live-action series produced so far, only one, Ahsoka, featured a central female protagonist.

Rosario Dawson in Ahsoka
Credit: Lucasfilm

Despite that, a significant (or, at least, very loud) segment of Star Wars fandom seems to feel that Kathleen Kennedy is forcing the franchise to focus solely on women characters and people of color, and the executive is well aware of this.

“Social Media and the Level of Expectation — It’s Terrifying”

In a New York Times feature on the upcoming Disney+ series The Acolyte, both showrunner Leslye Headland and Kathleen Kennedy were candid about the pressure of releasing a new Star Wars project to the current fanbase.

Star Wars Acolyte
Credit: Inside the Magic

Leslye Headland, the creator of the critically acclaimed Netflix series Russian Doll, is the first female Star Wars showrunner in the franchise’s history and considers herself a lifelong fan. She said:

“I essentially cold-called Lucasfilm and, after a lot of conversations, found myself pitching a show — utterly elated, my ultimate career goal, the culmination of my fandom. At the same time, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. There is so much pressure. It’s extreme. I had never done anything this big before.”

Related: Next ‘Star Wars’ Project Will Combine Franchise With Disney’s ‘Frozen’

Since the Disney purchase, there have been numerous occurrences of actors and writers being hounded on social media by Star Wars fans; disproportionately, the stars targeted have been women and people of color.

Amandla Stenberg, one of the stars of The Acolyte, has said, “When it comes to the world of fantasy and sci-fi in general, it hasn’t felt like a safe space always for people of color… And it’s been a world that I’ve always deeply loved and been invested in. So, to be in any way, shape, or form a part of the wave that is ushering in inclusion and safety for Black nerds, it’s my dream come true.”

Amandla Stenberg in The Acolyte
Credit: Lucasfilm

Both John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran have extensively and openly discussed the racially-motivated attacks against them by self-proclaimed Star Wars fans, while the casting of Black actor Moses Ingram in Obi-Wan Kenobi caused such backlash that the franchise’s official social media accounts had to take a stand about it:

Kathleen Kennedy also spoke up about the unique struggles that women in Star Wars face, saying:

“Operating within these giant franchises now, with social media and the level of expectation — it’s terrifying. I think Leslye has struggled a little bit with it. I think a lot of the women who step into Star Wars struggle with this a bit more. Because of the fan base being so male dominated, they sometimes get attacked in ways that can be quite personal.”

Kennedy further emphasized her and, by extension, Lucasfilm’s commitment to diverse storytelling, saying, “My belief is that storytelling does need to be representative of all people. That’s an easy decision for me.”

The Acolyte will premiere on June 4 on Disney+, and only time will tell whether the fandom embraces it or whether it becomes more fodder for the culture wars. One thing is certain: Kathleen Kennedy isn’t backing down.

The Acolyte stars Amandla Stenberg, Lee Jung-jae, Dafne Keen, Manny Jacinto, Charlie Barnett, Jodie Turner-Smith, Rebecca Henderson, Dean-Charles Chapman, Joonas Suotamo, and Carrie-Anne Moss star.

What do you think of Kathleen Kennedy and her DEI commitment? Tell us in the comments below!

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