The prequels didn’t do much better. The sole female lead in those films, Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), was nothing more than a plot device to explain how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. However, fast forward to the new trilogy, and almost all the lead roles are women. There are far more women on the screen now in Star Wars movies than ever before, much to the chagrin of some toxic fans who would have it otherwise. Star Wars has always had its share of female fans, though, so it makes sense to include characters in the story that they, too, can relate to. One of the new female characters introduced in The Force Awakens was Phasma, a female stormtrooper.
However, Lucas once said that he always intended to include female stormtroopers in the Star Wars universe. Shortly after the first Star Wars movie became a big hit in 1977, Lucas wrote:
“Some of the stormtroopers are women, but there weren’t that many women assigned to the Death Star. We can assume that there are quite a few elsewhere.”
Women as stormtroopers do seem, however, to be something Lucas thought to add after the fact, similar to J.K. Rowling’s statements about characters in her Harry Potter universe (and she is often compared to Lucas for continuing to add things to her story’s canon). However, Lucas never thought to add a female stormtrooper in his following two Star Wars movies. The animated series Star Wars Rebels did feature a unit of female stormtrooper cadets. Several novels also mentioned women as stormtroopers. Phasma, though, was the first to appear in the movies, and unfortunately, her character was given very little screen time and seemingly killed off in The Last Jedi.
Disney still has a chance to rectify its mistake with Phasma by either explaining away her supposed death and bringing her in for a more significant role in Episode 9, or the studio could bring in other women as stormtroopers. Even with a lead cast that is mostly female, though, it seems the company is still making some missteps. Not only did Disney announce Jon Favreau’s TV show for Disney+, later to be called The Mandalorian, on International Women’s Day, it also decided to create a Rogue One prequel series focused on a male character in the movie, rather than a series based on that movie’s female lead. One has to give Star Wars some credit for trying, but there are still times when it seems tone deaf to its female audiences.