WARNING: The following contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Episode 4, “Sanctuary,” streaming now on Disney+.
For almost the entire Disney era of Star Wars, a sub-section of franchise fans has complained about every female character who’s played a leading role. Rey has been labeled a “Mary Sue,” Rose Tico has been called useless or out of place, Jyn Erso has been dismissed as flat, and Qi’ra was labeled as under-developed. Without fail, a vocal minority has criticized the women of Star Wars for “ruining” the films in which they appear.
That’s now followed the property to the small screen, with the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian. For the first three episodes, fans remained almost uniformly passionate about the adventures of the mysterious bounty hunter. However, the fourth episode introduced two women — Cara Dune, an ex-Rebel shock trooper played by Gina Carano, and Omera, a native of the planet Sorgan — drawing the ire of certain Star Wars devotees. In breaking down why they’re angry, however, it becomes clear the reasons for their objections are patently ridiculous.
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One of the big criticisms is that these new women of Star Wars represent a form of “forced diversity,” in which female characters, LGBT characters or people of color are given prominent roles in a narrative. According to people who employ the term “forced diversity” as a serious critique, it’s bad practice to cast women or people of color into Star Wars, because it “isn’t necessary.”
This criticism is difficult to take seriously as it is, but even harder when one sees what these diversity critiques draw issue with and don’t draw issue with. Rey, a young woman who had to fight all her life on a desert planet full of bandits, can swing a lightsaber with some degree of efficiency. That’s bad, according to these critiques. Likewise, she can use some minor Force powers without training, as seen when she intuitively manipulates a Stormtrooper using the Jedi Mind Trick.
However, when Baby Yoda lifts up a raging mudhorn using the Force, some of those same people criticizing Rey are silent. Moreover, these fans don’t see any issue with 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace piloting a Naboo N-1 Starship without any training, nor do they draw issue with how he destroyed the Trade Federation blockade by himself. These complaints only arise when women do things.
The Criticism Surrounding Omera
The complaints directed at Omera, played by Julia Jones, are far more minimal, as she is a relatively minor character. However, by breaking down why fans are angry about Omera, it becomes increasingly clear what irritates them about Cara Dune.
A native of an isolated fishing village, Omera develops obvious feelings for the Mandalorian, who’s been hired to defend the helpless citizens against raiders. Although she’s led a peaceful existence, Omera is quick-thinking enough to hide her daughter and herself during an attack, and familiar enough with a blaster to hit a stationary target. In short, she has moderately competent survival skills to get by in a troubled region, like a widow on the range in any number of Western films. However, some fans took issue that the only person in the village who knows how to use a weapon is a woman.
Omera is able to point a weapon a shoot, hardly a feat that invites disbelief. But this critique establishes an important precedent: If a woman possesses competence in any field, there are some fans who will demand a full explanation of how that’s remotely possible.
That brings us to Cara Dune, who is confirmed to play a recurring role on The Mandalorian. But her introduction in last week’s episode, “Sanctuary,” was enough to turn some viewers against a series they previously lauded, all because of its purported “forced diversity” and “wokeness.”
It’s difficult to pinpoint what about Cara Dune has them so agitated, other than that she’s a skilled combatant. She fought in the Rebellion, but, after becoming disgusted with the New Republic’s political side, she abandoned her position to become a mercenary. A hardened war veteran, Cara is a bruiser.
While we may wonder about Omera’s past, it’s obvious why Cara is a skilled fighter and strategist. No special attention is placed on her gender; the Mandalorian and the villages simply accept that she’s well-versed in the art of war.
Cara Dune Can Fight
The objections to Cara Dune most likely stem from her ability to fight the Mandalorian to a standstill (heck, she may have bested him). That altercation forms the basis of their mutual respect, and leads the bounty hunter to enlist her aid in protecting the village. But while the Mandalorian appears unfazed by how their fight played out, some viewers detected a plot by the producers to demonstrate women are just as strong as men.
To them, Cara Dune’s presence serves as a means to make men appear weaker by comparison, as she fights battles that most of the male characters aren’t capable of undertaking themselves.
“New plan, give me the pulse rifle”#TheMandalorian is scared by the AT-ST. He hands his gun over to Cara and watches her single-handedly taking it down. He comes afterwards to throw a pathetic grenade at the already defeated Walker. pic.twitter.com/MNmH3h1m9F
— Jar Jar (Not) ̶A̶b̶r̶a̶m̶s̶ (@JarJarAbramss) November 30, 2019
Of course, anyone who argues the Mandalorian is “unstoppable” clearly hasn’t been watching the show. He’s repeatedly outmatched and out-gunned. In every episode, the Mandalorian is pitted against forces he can’t defeat on his own: He needed IG-11 to reach Baby Yoda; he needed Baby Yoda to stop the Mudorn, and Kuiil to rebuild his ship; and he needed the other members of a Mandalorian enclave to escape other bounty hunters. At no point has the Mandalorian been presented as an unstoppable force, and there are plenty of fighters on his level throughout the galaxy,
Furthermore, Cara win their hand-to-hand bout because she plays to her advantage: physical strength. The Mandalorian is not a physical powerhouse; he mainly uses his weapons. She pummels him, preventing him from drawing his pistol until the very end.
She helps to stop an AT-ST, which is impressive, but she defeats the walker alongside the Mandalorian, who developed a complex plan. During most of her fight, she exploited the area’s poor visibility to fire off sneak shots at the war machine. Compare this to the Ewoks, who collectively stopped multiple AT-STs using logs.
This makes all of the criticisms against Cara Dune unjustified. She has combat abilities developed over time, and the series went out of its way to ensure that viewers understood who she was and where she came from. Furthermore, she is on the Mandalorian’s level — not above it, but at it.
Cara Dune exists as the perfect response to those who criticized Rey, Rose and Jyn. She has done nothing that defies explanation, and she’s fairly ordinary in the context of the Star Wars universe. She just happens to be a woman.
Created by Jon Favreau, The Mandalorian stars Pedro Pascal, Gina Carano, Carl Weathers, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog and Nick Nolte. A new episode arrives each Friday on Disney+.