Jyn Erso: So Much Potential, But…

I watched Rogue One again two weekends ago.  I really wish I could say that I came away from it better satisfied than the first viewing, and while there were parts that did not irk me as much (such as Darth Vader on Mustafar), I found that I still had major issues with Jyn.

The problems I have are not so much with her, but more with Disney and how they decided to create her character.  I read an article a few years ago when the Hunger Games first came out – critics, especially female critics, were using the Hunger Games as an example of how movies with female leads can crush the box office, despite the fact that Hollywood bigwigs thought that men in leading roles would do better (i.e. make more money).  Hunger Games really broke the mold when it came to the leading female in an action movie and I think we have seen a good amount of movies since then that also prove that.

But this line in one of the articles has stuck with me ever since.  The author said something along the lines of,

Do not write strong female characters.  Instead write characters for women. The strong aspect will fall into place if it’s necessary.

I wish I could remember the article and link back to it, but alas, that was five years ago.

The author was saying that if you focus too much on creating a physically strong character, that character will lack the depth that makes people attracted to movies to begin with.  When we look at Katniss, whom her article was based off of, we see a young woman whose strength comes out of necessity to keep her family safe.  She taught herself how to hunt with a bow and arrow so that she could sell her food on the black market and feed her family.  Her love for her sister is what pushes her to join the Hunger Games.  Her feelings for Peeta is what forces her to turn the games on its head at the last minute and best President Snow.  By creating these driving forces within her, a strong character was created.

This is my first problem with Jyn.  We don’t see any character to her.  And you guys can all preach to me as much as you want that there are more in the books, but if a movie is to be good, you shouldn’t need to read a book.

We know Jyn saw her mother die and her father taken hostage.  We eventually learn that she was raised by Saw.  But because she has no character depth, I don’t understand her motivations.  When she figures out that Cassian had orders to kill her father, she is upset.  She rages at Cassian.  This all makes sense…though Jyn lacks character, anyone can relate to losing a parent; especially in her situation where the loss was not ideal (is it ever an ideal situation?).  Yet within a few minutes, she has joined the Rebellion and trying to convince them to find the Death Star plans on Scarif. 

What?  You want to join the team that blatantly lied to your face about killing your father?  They said he would be unharmed but then Cassian was going to kill him?  You know Cassian didn’t think of that on his own, he pretty much implied he was under orders.  So let’s hold hands with the Rebellion and let bygones be bygones, right?  Phssshhhhh.

Those are my first problems in a nutshell.  I can’t understand Jyn’s motivations and she doesn’t seem to have much of a personality.  And of course I could read the book!  I know!  But if you think that, you’re missing the point.

Now we are onto the second, larger problem I have with Jyn and Disney’s writing of her/the movie.

Disney goes out to make this strong leading heroine (yay!)…but this strong, supposedly capable woman always gets rescued.

Okay read that again.

She. Always. Gets. Rescued.

I’m not sure why I missed this the first time I saw it in theaters.  But watching it again, I can count on my hand three major times that she gets rescued.

The first time is when she meets up with her old foster father, Saw.  He shows her the hologram of her father, Galen Erso, and she is spellbound.  She hasn’t seen her father in years and he’s all of a sudden there calling her by her nickname “Stardust” and telling her about plans to destroy the Death Star.  Meanwhile, the Empire decided to use that exact moment to blow up NiJedha/Holy City. She falls to her knees in shock as the cave begins to crumble…and who comes running around the corner?  Cassian.  Because Cassian got himself out of a cell on his own and ran to get her.  If not for Cassian, Jyn would have been dust and pieces just like Saw Gerrera.  I don’t remember Jyn getting herself out of a cell or handcuffs.  NiJedha/Holy City is exploding, the ceilings are caving in, and Jyn sits there looking at a blank hologram until Cassian forces her to move.

The second time, again, has to do with her father, Galen.  Galen is blown up/shot on Eadu where Jyn had been watching everything, hidden.  She runs to his side, to possibly save him if she can, while trying to hear his last words.  Meanwhile, Rebellion X-wings and TIE fighters are having a full on battle and she’s sitting on the most obvious place (a platform that awkwardly juts out) any X-wing would want to shoot down.

Oh and while she’s sitting there crying over her father, who comes to extract her from this dangerous situation?  I remember – Cassian!  That guy who always seems to be most helpful in these situations where Jyn has high odds of dying.

And then finally, the third time, which is sadly the most unforgiveable.  Jyn and Krennic are face-to-face on the top of the tower at Scarif.  He has a gun.  It’s pointed at her.  How in the world will she get out of this situation?  Hmmm…why not use her brains and figure a way out?  Or not.  Remember that guy Cassian I keep talking about?  He somehow regained consciousness from when he fell, climbed all the way up a tower, just in time to shoot Director Krennic so that Jyn can upload the plans.

If Jyn had managed to get herself out of other situations before, this last rescue would not be so challenging in my eyes.  But she didn’t and never will.

Here’s where I pick my other gripe with Disney.  This would not be as big of a problem if they did not surround Jyn with an all-male cast.  If Jyn was consistently rescued by another women, not only would it show amazing teamwork within females (I think Hollywood likes to pit us females against each other in a petty fashion a bit too much), it would show us that girls can get out of situations on their own.  I’m not saying the entire surrounding cast has to be women, but it would have been helpful to have Cassian be played by a woman.  His character is easily interchangeable with a female lead.

In my point of view, this is why Rey succeeded so well in The Force Awakens and why Jyn’s character was such a failure in Rogue One.  They made Rey a young woman that could fight, cry, laugh, and empathize with others.  They made a character who turned about to be strong.  With Jyn, we get almost the same character throughout the movie and who does not seem to be able to get herself out of tense situations.  She constantly needs to be rescued which does not look good for a female lead, especially one they are hyping up to be battle hardened and tough.  This time, Disney made a strong female without any character.


Do you agree or disagree with my rant?  Am I too narrow minded and missing something important that would change my entire argument?


10 thoughts on “Jyn Erso: So Much Potential, But…

  1. I agree with you and as I said in my comment in your post about trailers, I wonder if too much got cut/ re-written from Rogue One?

    I agree about the Darth Vader on Mustafar scene. I think there was also some debate about whether Leia and the Tantive IV* would have been at Scarif. I’m re-watching the opening scene of New Hope (which is also a IV) and from the crawl, it plays up the battle as if it were a planned attach and mentions spies stealing plans. I’m being nitpicky but it’s more like a strike team than a band of spies.

    However, the crawl goes on the say Pursued by the Empire’s Sinister Agents, Leia races home with the plans, so there is foundation to support her being at Scarif. Also C3P0 says “there will be no escape for the princess now” which also helps support them being at Scarif not too long ago.

    * in my day, we only knew this ship as the Rebel Blockade Runner.

  2. This is another symptom of the film trying to take on too much story and character. As a friend of mine pointed out, this would have been a fantastic mini series where we could better get to know these characters. With cramming so much in, each character, including Jyn, becomes a cypher rather than a full being.
    If you haven’t seen this yet, I think you’ll enjoy this summary of the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9-pTStLGGo

    1. I think my main problems were more that she was rescued too much. She never made her way out of a key situation. And in this case, it didn’t feel like teamwork.

      I think the lack of character created a blah person who was unrelatable and compounded on the fact that she was always rescued. It’s a vicious cycle. If we had one or the other, I might not even notice these complaints/issues.

      I agree, as a mini series this could work nicely. I’d love to know the characters individually before seeing them as a whole. A bit like Marvel pre-Avengers.

      I’ll check out your link right now!

  3. I’m still working through the Star Wars movies for the first time (#narcolepsyproblems) and have no idea what you’re talking about. BUT I loved your overall analysis of the quote that you’re writing about! I hadn’t thought before about how the intention that a writer has in forming female characters will play out in the strength of the character. And it makes perfect sense that if a writer forces the issue of “this is a strong female character”, the storyline development where we actually see her demonstrating her STRENGTH could be overshadowed or just totally lost. This made me think! Thank you!

  4. I’ll begin by saying, as you know, ‘Rogue One’ is the only Disney Canon film I really like. I think it’s the only one that *feels right* with what Lucas gave us. That being said…how have I never noticed this?!? Because you are absolutely right! The Krennic scene bothered me from my very first viewing. There was no reason Cassian had to save her. She could have, she SHOULD have, defeated Krennic on her own. It angered me then and it makes me cringe when I rewatch it now.

    But I think my overall love for how the film feels like it fits in with Lucas’ work made me overlook some of these glaring faults in regard to Jyn. You’re right – we don’t get any real character/motivation to her. And I read ‘Catalyst’ before seeing the film. I think the ‘Catalyst’/’Rogue One’ duo was the best tie the Disney Canon’s done so far. But it’s all about Galen, Lyra, and Krennic. It adds nothing substantial to Jyn. Comparing her to Rey as you do really underscores how Disney failed with her. I’ll grant I have a lot of personal issues with ‘The Force Awakens,’ buy Rey was never one of them. I love her character and she was what made me want to develop a relationship with TFA. I still get teary-eyed from the power of the scene when she pulls the lightsaber to her on Starkiller Base. And seeing her fly the Falcon? I can’t not cheer when I watch it :). She’s smart, funny, resourceful, and can use the Force! She does feel “real” if a way Jyn doesn’t. My brother likes to joke that even Jyn’s “iconic” line from the film – “Rebellions are built on hope” – wasn’t hers! She was just quoting what (was it Mon Mothma?) said to her. They didn’t even let her inspiring moment be her own.

    I appreciate this piece very much. Thank you for your “rant” and for opening my eyes to something significant I should have seen ages ago!

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