In a recent interview, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy — who’ll be directing Lucasfilm’s upcoming Star Wars feature centering around the return of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and the future of the Jedi Order — talked about her excitement for the project. “I’m very thrilled about the project because I feel what we’re about to create is something very special,” she told CNN. “We’re in 2024 now, and it’s about time that we had a woman come forward to shape a story in a galaxy far, far away.”
On the one hand, it's not clear whether she's talking about her own position as director on the movie, as the majority of reaction to her comments have suggested, or Rey's position as the primary mover and shaker in the Star Wars franchise moving forward. (I personally wouldn't be surprised if it's the latter.) On the other, if Obaid-Chinoy is talking about her own position, “it’s about time that we had a woman come forward to shape a story in a galaxy far, far away” is pretty much the worst way to do so, in that it accidentally devalues the many contributions made to Star Wars by women to this point.
After all, while the untitled Rey movie might be the first time that a woman has directed a Star Wars movie, it’s not the first time a woman has directed a Star Wars project — Deborah Chow directed the entirety of last year’s Obi-Wan Kenobi series, after all, and also directed an episode of The Mandalorian. In fact, there have been a number of female directors on the live-action Star Wars shows on Disney+: besides Chow, The Mandalorian has seen Bryce Dallas Howard and Rachel Morrison direct, with Howard and Steph Green also directing episodes of The Book of Boba Fett. Susanna White directed three episodes of Andor’s first season, as well as two episodes of Ahsoka, which also saw Jennifer Getzinger and Geeta Vasant Patel direct an episode apiece. On top of all of this, Obaid-Chinoy isn’t even the first announced woman to direct a Star Wars feature; that would be Patty Jenkins, announced as the director of a since-shelved Rogue Squadron movie back in 2020.
When we talk about “shaping a story” set in the Star Wars franchise, we should point to Leslye Headland, who created and showran the upcoming The Acolyte series, of course. But she’s far from the only woman who’s had significant input into Star Wars lore in the past few years; the Lucasfilm Story Group is a division inside Lucasfilm that not only tracks the core continuity of the franchise across media, but advises creators in developing story… and it’s a group that includes seven women in its current fourteen-strong incarnation: Carrie Beck, Rayne Roberts, Lauren Olsen, Kelsey Sharpe, Emily Shkoukani, Shiree Cole, and Kate Izquierdo. For that matter, Carrie Beck’s official title at Lucasfilm is Senior Vice President, Development and Production, while Rayne Roberts’ title is VP of Film Development.
Amongst those creators the Story Group works with are the many, many writers who contribute to the Star Wars novels and comic books. Again, there is no shortage of women working on those projects, from Justina Ireland, Claudia Gray, and Delilah S. Dawson on the prose side to Jody Houser in comics.
Above all of this, of course, there’s the fact that for the past decade, Lucasfilm has been led by Kathleen Kennedy, who’s had the final say in what projects move forward at the company. Which, you know, is kind of like having a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away.
There’s more to pointing all of this out than clowning on Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy — in fact, that’s more of a side effect than the intent, if truth be told. In response to her comment, social media trolls have been complaining about the idea of a woman being in charge of Star Wars as if it’s a new thing, or a novelty. It’s really not, and it’s time that fact was recognized, accepted, and, honestly, moved on from. (Yes, even by well-meaning directors excited about their work, if that happened to be the case.)