Don’t you hate it when you’re watching a movie and there just isn’t enough testosterone?
Hopefully you’re now squinting at your screen in confusion, because this is very silly criteria through which to judge a movie. But according to The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, the one thing Rogue One: A Stars Story — starring Felicity Jones as rebel Jyn Erso — really needed was “a strong and vigorous male lead.”
In his review, McCarthy writes:
What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega's Finn in The Force Awakens) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm.
Both [Diego] Luna and [Riz] Ahmed have proved themselves repeatedly in big-screen and television performances, but their characters never pop here, to the film's detriment. And given that Jyn is rather less gung-ho and imposing than was Ridley's Rey, there's an overall feel of less physical capacity on the part of the main characters.
If we’re being generous, McCarthy’s point could be read as a suggestion that Jones’s Jyn is an island unto herself in Rogue One, and could use more backup and presence from the supporting cast.
But whatever kernel of a point McCarthy had is buried here in unnecessarily gendered nonsense. Why, exactly, does Jyn’s foil have to be a “strong and vigorous” man? What does it mean for a man to have “real physical or vocal stature”? Would McCarthy have accepted, say, another woman as Jyn’s co-pilot? Or would she not “decisively emerge from the pack,” her delicate lady vocal chords straining to be heard above the fray of manly war?
In the very next paragraph, McCarthy draws a direct contrast between this supposed lack of “physical stature” with the Galactic Empire “on the verge of universal dominance,” as if Jones and her supposedly slight male co-stars like Luna and Ahmed — neither of whom happen to be white men, for what it’s worth — could never truly convey the necessary strength to match the Galactic Empire’s sneering bad guys (one of whom, as McCarthy points out, is played by a CGI version of the long dead actor Peter Cushing).
Looking at this movie — or any movie — through this lens is, to be blunt, gross. There’s no intrinsic merit in including aggressive men in a story, nor does entertainment need male leads to be worthwhile. Suggesting otherwise is a ridiculous oversimplification, not to mention a weirdly retro argument to make about a war epic set in space.
And let’s be real: The Star Wars franchise isn’t exactly starving for swashbuckling male leads whose personalities coast on swagger. Rogue One managing to avoid that cliché shouldn’t be counted as a strike against it.