Science Fiction Film & Television

Women, sf spectacle and the mise-en-scène of space adventure in the Star Wars franchise

Science Fiction Film & Television (2019), 12, (1), 9–28.


This article explores the gendered work of the Star Wars franchise within the generic frame of sf. In the context of this special issue around women in space, I explore here the mise-en-scène of adventure in the Star Wars franchise, focusing on The Force Awakens (2015) and Rogue One (2016). Space and the juxtaposition of planets with spacecraft provides one of the series’ recurrent establishing shots, indicating points of arrival and departure; along with the representation of light speed through a vanishing point, such shots serve to signal distance in both spatial and temporal terms. Although narrative and thematic elements are important aspects of the argument presented here, the article elaborates the centrality of setting and landscape in the twenty-first-century films, notably the construction of multiple worlds as sets for melodramatic action. Female heroism is staged in the films I explore here in a cinematic space of visual effects and spectacle across diverse settings including desert and forest landscapes, mechanised interiors and, of course, space itself. I argue that these spectacular settings are important both visually and thematically, elaborating key themes of freedom, loss and redemption in and through the ground, the environment and space.

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Works cited

Botting, Fred, ed. The Gothic: Essays and Studies. Cambridge: Boydell & Bewer, 2001. Google Scholar

Botting, Fred, ed. Gothic Romanced: Consumption, Gender and Technology in Contemporary Fictions. London: Taylor & Francis, 2008. Google Scholar

Cocca, Carolyn. Superwomen: Gender, Power and Representation. New York: Bloomsbury, 2016. Google Scholar

Collins, Robert G. ‘Star Wars: The Pastiche of Myth and the Yearning for a Past Future’. Journal of Popular Culture 11:1 (1977): 1-10. Google Scholar

Cornea, Christine. ‘From Isolationism to Globalism: An Overview of Politics and Ethics in the Hollywood Science Fiction Film’. Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition. Ed. Cristian Baron, Peter Nicolai Halvorsen and Christine Cornea. New York: Springer International Publishing, 2017. Google Scholar

Cornea, Christine. Science Fiction Cinema Between Fantasy and Reality. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2007. Google Scholar

Courcoux, Charles Antoine. Des machines et des hommes; Masculinité et technologie dans le cinéma américain contemporain. Chêne-Bourg: Georg éditeur, 2017. Google Scholar

Curtis, Barry. Dark Places: The Haunted House in Film. London: Reaktion Books, 2008. Google Scholar

de Bruin-Molé, Megen. ‘Space Bitches, Witches and Kiss-Ass Princesses: Star Wars and Popular Feminism’. Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling. Ed. Sean Guynes and Dan Hassler-Forest. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2018. Google Scholar

Eagle, Jonna. Imperial Affects: Sensational Melodrama and the Attractions of American Cinema. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2017. Google Scholar

Hanson, Helen. Hollywood Heroines: Women in Film Noir and the Female Gothic Film. London: I.B. Tauris, 2007. Google Scholar

Jameson, Fredric. ‘Postmoderism and Consumer Society’. Postmodern Culture. Ed. Hal Foster. London: Pluto Press, 1985. 111-25. Google Scholar

Mayer, Sophie. ‘Girl Power: Back to the Future of Feminist Science Fiction with Into the Forest and Arrival’. Film Quarterly 70:3 (2017): 32-42. Google Scholar

Orr, Christopher. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens Is a Mashup Masterpiece’. The Atlantic (16 Dec 2015). Accessed 29 Jan 2019. Google Scholar

Singer, Ben. Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts. New York: Columbia UP, 2001. Google Scholar

Sobchack, Vivian. Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film, 2nd ed. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1997. Google Scholar

Williams, Linda. Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O.J. Simpson. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Author details

Tasker, Yvonne