Last week was a long week of toxic nationalistic chest-thumping, not to mention all the tacky star-spangled apparel. Thankfully, Star Wars fans received an optimistic and kind-hearted refuge from all the excessive July Fourth performative patriotism: Disney's Forces of Destiny series on Disney's YouTube channel.
As described in Geeks OUT's recap of Star Wars Celebration Orlando, the Forces of Destiny animated shorts were released each day last week leading up to a broadcast debut on The Disney Channel on July 9. The episodes focus on brief but consequential narratives that add perspective and depth to the heroines of Star Wars. Featuring fan favorites like Rey, Ahsoka Tano, Princess Leia, Jyn Erso, and Padmé Amidala, they are charming bite-sized confections of Star Wars goodness.
Narratively, the episodes function like deleted interstitial scenes from larger Star Wars stories like Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Clone Wars, and The Force Awakens. For example, the Ewok Escape episode clears up the 34-year-old mystery of how Princess Leia managed a full costume and styling change during her offscreen detour through Ewok country.
The 2D animation style of Forces of Destiny has been a popular target of internet griping, especially when critics contrast Forces of Destiny to the more dimensional animation styles of The Clone Wars and Rebels. Granted, the character design of Anakin Skywalker perhaps could have had a little less going on in the lips department.
However, even if the animation is simple and clean, the animation still meets the very high standards and artistic coherence one would expect from a Lucasfilm production. The evocative backgrounds and surprisingly thrilling action sequences are achieved with impressively little fuss or clutter, resulting in a deep Star Wars storytelling experience that remains accessible for a compact format.
But chief among the annoying hot takes leveled against Forces of Destiny was the "sexism" of a series focused on only female characters, and the imposition of a supposedly progressive political agenda on a franchise that is geared for a younger audience. True, the episodes galvanize the heroic stature of the most iconic female Star Wars characters and show them at their most resourceful and courageous. And yes, the heroines are very free with their cuddles of all the adorable Star Wars creatures.
But one of the reasons Forces of Destiny is so great—and so necessary—is the way that the episodes challenge tiresome notions of heroism. If anything, we need more stories where the hero is bravely vulnerable enough to express genuine affection, gratitude, and kindness. We need more heroes who solve problems with cunning, intelligence, cooperation, and humility. And what, pray tell, could possibly be wrong with inspiring everyone, but young women in particular, with tales of heroism from a galaxy far, far away? In this age of hyper-masculine posturing and marginalization of vulnerable populations, we all could use more reminders that females are up to the task of saving the future for all of us.
Official Star Wars social media already said it best when it responded to a sarcastic post about the intended audience of Forces of Destiny:
Look for new episodes later this fall, and let us know what you thought of Forces of Destiny!