Kathleen Kennedy Says Women Who Make ‘Star Wars’ Franchise Installments ‘Struggle’ with Male Fanbase

Even Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy is aware of the gendered bias surrounding “Star Wars” fans.

During an interview with the New York Times for upcoming Disney+ series “The Acolyte,” Kennedy admitted that female filmmakers “struggle” with fan backlash to their respective film and TV franchise installments. Leslye Headland is the showrunner for “The Acolyte.”

“Operating within these giant franchises now, with social media and the level of expectation — it’s terrifying,” Kennedy said. “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. Because of the fan base being so male-dominated, they sometimes get attacked in ways that can be quite personal.”

Per the New York Times, some online fans have dubbed the series “Wokelyte” for having a diverse cast, and Headland has received direct criticisms from so-called fans of the franchise — despite the series not having premiered yet.

“My belief is that storytelling does need to be representative of all people,” Kennedy said. “That’s an easy decision for me.”

Headland also spoke out on the surrounding fan hate she’s received.

“As a fan myself, I know how frustrating some ‘Star Wars’ storytelling in the past has been,” she said. “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.”

Headland admitted that creating the original story for “The Acolyte” was “like working on a razor’s edge” due to the more than half-century spanning lore for the films.

“You’re thinking, ‘This is what people want from “Star Wars.” This is what people don’t want,’” Headland said. “It can mess with your head. During the creative process, I had to give myself the forgiveness, as an artist, to fall off the razor — as long as I got back up. That was my promise to myself.”

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” director J.J. Abrams even called out the backlash to Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” during an interview with IndieWire in 2018.

“Their problem isn’t ‘Star Wars,’ their problem is being threatened,” Abrams said of fans who attack “Star Wars” filmmakers over inclusive casting choices. “‘Star Wars’ is a big galaxy, and you can sort of find almost anything you want to in ‘Star Wars.’ If you are someone who feels threatened by women and needs to lash out against them, you can probably find an enemy in ‘Star Wars.’ You can probably look at the first movie that George [Lucas] did [‘Star Wars: A New Hope’] and say that Leia was too outspoken, or she was too tough. Anyone who wants to find a problem with anything can find the problem. The internet seems to be made for that.”

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