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Friday, August 24, 2018

Reminder: L3-37 Deserved Better

In anticipation of the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story's official novelization, StarWars.com has released three excerpts, one of which re-opens the discussion on one of the film's most controversial elements: its treatment of L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), Lando's droid partner who organizes a slave revolt on Kessel, is severely damaged, and is then uploaded into the Millennium Falcon by Lando and Qi'ra to serve as its navicomputer. 
The excerpt details L3's thought process as she integrates with the Falcon. As brilliantly explained by The Mary Sue and writer Donna Dickens on Twitter, it attempts to make it seem like her sacrifice was her choice, but fails miserably and paints the whole situation in an even worse light. Now that we have a better idea of L3's fate, it's time to remind ourselves that she deserved way, way better.

In the lens of gender politics, what happens to L3 would definitely be considered fridging. She is an independent female-coded character who is granted a moment of empowerment and true purpose when she frees her fellow droids, but is then killed just so Lando has a moment of grief for the droid he secretly loves. As if that weren't bad enough, rather than being allowed a peaceful death – with her last act fulfilling her life goal of droid liberation – she turns into his mute slave. 
And even if you ignore the sexist elements, L3's treatment is still indefensible. Introducing a character whose main characteristic is their quest for equality with humans, turning them into the eternal silent servant for humans, and never recognizing the horrible irony of the situation is objectively poor writing, no matter their gender. 

Maybe you're comforted by the idea that she's been in the Falcon this whole time, helping our heroes through their many adventures. But she's been robbed of her voice, unable to express the sharp attitude that Solo's writers, Jon and Lawrence Kasdan, gave her. And she's never once received credit for all the flights she's navigated—yes, including the Kessel Run. How are we supposed to be satisfied with her fate?

The lesson is that if you want to introduce an empowered female character who can stack up to new and popular heroines like Rey and Jyn Erso, retconning them as the franchise's most famous inanimate object is not a good idea, especially when you've already established their motivation to be freedom and social equality for their people.
It's also worth noting that L3's writing is problematic even before her death. In the film's only meaningful conversation between two women, she reveals to Qi'ra that Lando is attracted to her, though she doesn't totally reciprocate his feelings. The scene ends with a thinly-veiled joke about how sex between Lando and L3 "would work."

But droids aren't supposed to have sex! They never talk about sex! Even humans in Star Wars barely do that! So the idea that the Kasdans introduced the first female droid and immediately felt like they needed to sexualize her, like Lando's desire for her had to be a plot point, like her relationship with him couldn't possibly be a platonic partnership, is inherently sexist. 
It's possible that Episode IX will pay some tribute to L3, even if it's as subtle as Lando's affection for the Falcon when he inevitably (probably) reunites with his old ship. But there is nothing that will fix this. They introduced a likable, funny character, gave her a unique and refreshing motivation, and then ripped away her power and voice in one of the most horrifying ways possible. 

At least Val's too-soon death, which is a whole other issue, is a suicide that she chooses out of loyalty to her team. L3's just been in the Falcon this whole time, forced into the kind of servitude she dedicated her life to fighting.

What fate would you prefer for L3-37? Where do you want to see her next? Tell me in the comments or tweet to @sithobserver, and may the Force be with you all.

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