As you may have noticed, I kind of love Star Wars and pretty much all affiliated video games. So, this one goes out to two of my favorite female characters: the Jedi Exile and Juno Eclipse.
Let’s start with the Jedi Exile. In Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords, you start off choosing your gender and class. The Exile could be a guy, but for today, let’s say you chose a woman. You start out … in your undies. Woops, but it’s the same for any choice in character. Eventually, you meet Atton (swoon), Kreia, Mira (also swoon), Brianna, Mical, Bao-Dur, Mandalore, Visas Marr, T3-M4, HK-47, and G0-T0. That’s a nice big crew. You get to choose light or dark (if you go dark, you get Hanharr instead of Mira) as you destroy the rest of the Sith Lords. One of the best things about this game is the philosophy. You get all sorts of interesting talks from Kreia and have a lot of morality questions throughout the game that aren’t as simple as the Paragon or Renegade in Mass Effect. But that’s all part of the fun.
The weirdest thing a female Exile has to put up with is Darth Sion. I mean, Darth Creepy has a weird love thing going on? Of course, this is turned right around, and male Exiles have Atris after them. Both are equally bad.
Overall it sounds awesome, right? You get a badass female lead with a cool crew. Fun. Then, Star Wars: The Old Republic happens, and your Jedi Exile is suddenly thrown out of the window for this Meetra Surik chick. Who’s she? All you get to know about her really is that she’s a Force ghost obsessed with finding her old comatose pal, Revan. Now, my nickname is Rev for Revan, who had a similar setup in the first KOTOR game. You follow ghost-Exile around until you find this white, brown-haired, straight, skinny, and generally generic-looking guy claiming to be Revan.
Here’s the biggest problem: Poor, dead Meetra barely gets a name. You just canonized a badass lady Jedi, but made her nothing next to the canonized bland dude. That’s just sad. Obviously, Revan could never be a woman and the Exile could never be very strong because nobody expects a woman to be able to do all that and actually live. There’s just one of life’s huge disappointments, though.
On the other hand, Juno Eclipse is a character who has her story arc done right. She’s a woman who makes it in the Empire under Palpatine’s rule. That right there tells you a lot about her, as one part of that era is how sexist and speciesist the Empire really was. Here’s a nobody girl from who knows where as one of the best Imperial pilots ever. Of course, this has to be hushed up and she ends up accepting a secret job from Darth Vader to ferry around his apprentice. Probably not what she deserved with her skills.
There is a romantic subplot between her and the main character, Starkiller, but it’s not a huge issue. She’s the first one in a long time to bother to get to know him and try to be a decent person by being nice, and he can’t help falling in love with her. Who could in that situation? He’s lucky she sees some redeeming qualities in him and reciprocates his feelings.
And then, The Force Unleashed II happens, and all of a sudden we see Juno falling back into that category of being used to torment her boyfriend. The way this is done is pretty interesting. Usually, it’s all dramatic and there’s a lot of man-pain involved, but Juno has her own subplot going on. She’s a brand new leader of the Rebellion! But next thing you know, she’s captured. Still, the smart girl she is, she tries to manipulate Boba Fett into helping her out, and it almost works. In the end, she is used as bait for Starkiller and nearly dies a few times, but manages to get a good slash in on Vader. If the player chooses the light side, she lives and resumes her position in the Rebellion and as captain of her ship. Wow, good job, LucasArts.
Her combat skills aren’t emphasized, and she’s not supposed to be all that helpful throughout the games. On the other hand, her skills as a pilot are always pointed out and it’s really only because of her strong belief in Starkiller and his clone that both are saved so they can begin to move on from all the hate and pain they were raised with. She’s a total badass in her own right, mostly through taking the tropes of a girlfriend being captured and tortured and fighting every moment of it for herself, her Jedi-wannabe boyfriend, and the movement she believes in.
If more characters could be treated less like the Jedi Exile and more like Juno Eclipse, there would be a lot more interesting women in games.