Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy Criticises Toxic Masculinity In Star Wars Fandom

Lucasfilm’s CEO Kathleen Kennedy has shed light on the gendered bias she perceives within the Star Wars fandom, particularly as it affects female filmmakers and creators involved in the franchise. Her comments were part of a broader discussion with The New York Times during the promotion of the upcoming Disney+ series, The Acolyte.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy highlighted the challenges that women face when stepping into significant roles within the Star Wars universe, noting that they often endure more severe scrutiny compared to their male counterparts. This scrutiny can sometimes manifest as highly personal attacks. “Operating within these giant franchises now, with social media and the level of expectation — it’s terrifying,” Kennedy explained. She noted the specific struggles of The Acolyte showrunner Leslye Headland, saying, “I think Leslye has struggled a little bit with it. I think a lot of the women who step into ‘Star Wars’ struggle with this a bit more.”

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The Acolyte is set to feature multiple women in prominent roles, both in front of and behind the camera. Despite facing derogatory labels like ‘The Wokelyte’ from segments of the fanbase on social media, Kennedy remains steadfast in her commitment to diversity. “My belief is that storytelling does need to be representative of all people. That’s an easy decision for me,” she stated affirmatively.

Leslye Headland also spoke on the issue. “As a fan myself, I know how frustrating some ‘Star Wars’ storytelling in the past has been. I’ve felt it myself. I stand by my empathy for ‘Star Wars’ fans. But I want to be clear. Anyone who engages in bigotry, racism or hate speech … I don’t consider a fan,” she declared. Headland acknowledged the high stakes of creating within such a beloved and expansive universe, admitting to the pressures that come with meeting fan expectations while trying to innovate creatively.

The Acolyte

Reflecting on the broader landscape of Star Wars, Kennedy and Headland’s remarks highlight ongoing tensions over the franchise’s direction in the Disney era. This period underscores a persistent debate over who truly ‘owns’ Star Wars — a conflict that has only intensified since George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney in 2012.

Under Disney, there has been a concerted effort to diversify the kinds of stories told within the Star Wars universe and the characters who populate it. This shift aims to make the galaxy far, far away more inclusive, reflecting a broader spectrum of experiences and identities.

The Acolyte will premiere on Disney+ on 4 June, with an innovative plot that seeks to delve deeper into the Star Wars mythos.