Earlier this week, Lucasfilm announced that Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been tapped to produce and write an original Star Wars film series for the studio. A few years ago that kind of news would have been met with instant fervor, but now it just feels too safe — and, dare I say, boring.
On paper, Benioff and Weiss make a lot of sense; the Emmy-winning duo know how to navigate dense mythology, complex power dynamics, and epic battle sequences to great success. (Imagine the epic loot train attack with X-wings instead of dragons.) More importantly, they have plenty of experience managing a pop culture behemoth and all of the fan expectations that come with it. So it’s easy to see why Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy would want to be in business with HBO’s golden boys.
And though there are ways the dynamic duo could elevate the franchise to bold new heights, it’s still discouraging to see yet another massive opportunity in the Star Wars universe being handed to two more white, trigger-happy flyboys.
Vice Admiral Holdo is not impressed.
J.J. Abrams is currently working on Episode IX, while Last Jedi helmer Rian Johnson has his own separate Star Wars trilogy in development. As Variety‘s Maureen Ryan points out, a staggering 96 percent of the beloved film franchise’s writers and directors have been white men. Leigh Brackett is the sole woman with a writing credit for a Star Wars film — and that was 38 years ago. And Benioff and Weiss’s own track record isn’t much better: Of Game of Thrones‘ 73 episodes, only four have been directed by a woman (the same woman, Michelle MacLaren), and four have been written or partially written by women. (The last was written in 2013.)
So what does this mean for the future of Star Wars if only white men are allowed to shape its universe?
As writers and producers, Benioff and Weiss have the opportunity to hire women and people of color to direct their films, and it’s something I hope they take into strong consideration. Not to mention, with so many unannounced projects in development at Lucasfilm due to the forthcoming launch of the Disney streaming service, rumor has it the studio has already hired “at least one woman and one person of color” to write and direct their own projects in the Star Wars universe. But rumors aren’t tangible, and for now, we have to hope Benioff and Weiss do better by the women of Star Wars than they’ve done for the ladies of Westeros.
Yet, if Johnson’s Episode VIII taught us anything, it’s that Star Wars isn’t done breaking new ground. Here’s what we want to see when Game of Thrones meets Star Wars in a galaxy far, far away:
Raise the stakes
Benioff and Weiss have never been afraid to kill their darlings — well, except in Season 7 — and that’s part of what makes Thrones a can’t-miss television event. Since Ned Stark’s shocking death in Season 1, fire and blood have consistently rained down on the Seven Kingdoms, decimating entire houses and destroying lives every step of the way. After all, when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. “There is no middle ground,” Cersei Lannister once said.
Aside from the Red Wedding-esque ending of Rogue One, the Star Wars films have trouble letting go of their heroes, even amidst a galactic war. It’s not that we need to see everyone die in Benioff and Weiss’s new film saga, but let’s not forget the devastating realities of battle.
Give us more women, especially women of color
Do you want to know why Season 6 of Game of Thrones is often considered one of the show’s best? Because in its sixth season the HBO epic not only empowered its female characters, but it also completely shifted the balance of power. The dated, patriarchal ideals of Westeros were quite literally burnt to the ground, as everyone from Sansa Stark to Cersei Lannister to tiny scene-stealer Lyanna Mormont to the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen, broke free of their proverbial chains and made their own audacious moves for power. Simply put, it’s the women who rule Westeros.
Carrie Fisher’s smart, outspoken Princess Leia has been a pop culture icon for decades, but it took nearly 40 years for the Star Wars film franchise to introduce its next Force-sensitive heroine, Rey, in The Force Awakens. Johnson’s The Last Jedi upped the ante with even more female heroines — including the franchise’s first Asian-American protagonist, Rebel mechanic Rose Tico — and a feminist narrative that put women in powerful positions and at the forefront of the action.
Whatever Benioff and Weiss have planned next, let’s hope it includes even more powerhouse women talking strategy and making tactical decisions together.
Stop punishing female characters
The writing on Game of Thrones typically comes into question whenever Benioff and Weiss deviate from George R.R. Martin’s text, which they can’t help at this point in the narrative. In Season 5, several key moments were radically changed or added to the show — including Sansa’s rape, Gilly’s near-rape, and Shireen’s death — which made critics and fans alike question the show’s frequent use of violence against women. (Women of color endure the worst of the brutalization in Westeros without any of the agency of their white female counterparts.)
Now that Star Wars has set a new precedent for female roles with The Last Jedi — nearly 40 years after Slave Leia — Benioff and Weiss should follow suit. And you know what would really help? Putting women behind the camera.
Deliver a good villain
On Game of Thrones, the lines between hero and villain are blurred. (Unless you’re Ramsay Bolton. Then you’re just evil incarnate.) Jon Snow is the Chosen One who’s killed. Arya Stark is the tiny spitfire assassin we all root for despite her ever-growing body count. Joffrey Baratheon, though despicable, was the bratty young king you loved to hate. And when the masterful Tywin Lannister was on screen, you fought the urge to blink. We’ve even come around on Sandor Clegane, who went from Hound to hero over the course of seven seasons. They were villains, yes, but they were multifaceted.
For many years Star Wars was a story of good versus evil, light versus dark. But a story is so much more compelling when the villain is dynamic with fully realized motives that go beyond overthrowing the Republic. Kylo Ren, or emo Vader 2.0, is a character who’s been shaped by his own childhood trauma. (Way to go, Uncle Luke.) His morality is grey and often nebulous, a far cry from the two-dimensional villains and Siths from years past. But the same can be said for Rey, who has to fight against her darker instincts to find her light, and Finn, the former Stormtrooper-turned-Rebel.
We know Benioff and Weiss can deliver a cast of complicated characters, each with their own complexities and moral dilemmas. For once it would be nice to see a Star Wars story as told from the perspective of the so-called bad guys — à la the Battlefront II: Inferno Squad novelization — and these two are just the guys for the job.
Listen, I’m not saying I need Drogon in space, but… that would be SO cool. Star Wars has always been known for its genre-defining creature shop, from wookiees and jawas to porgs and vulptices. Given Benioff and Weiss’s enthusiasm for practical effects and mystical creatures (like the Children of the Forest and those pesky White Walkers), the possibilities for more innovative galactic creations are truly endless. But please include porgs. Porgs can be the new ravens!