Mace WIndu

Women of the Jedi Council

The Jedi High Council: the ruling body of the Jedi Order for millennia until the Order’s downfall at the end of the Clone Wars. Consisting of twelve Masters, these experienced and wizened Jedi deliberated the best direction and course of action for the Order they were tasked with leading. At the head of the Council was a Grand Master, and during the last years of the Old Republic – years we see unfolding in the Prequel Trilogy, The Clone Wars animated show, and through other storytelling mediums – that title/role was occupied by Yoda, the mysterious Jedi introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. But while Yoda may have been the oldest and wisest of the Jedi, commanding infinite respect, and his opinions on Jedi matters carrying incredible weight, he was surrounded by Masters gifted in their own particular ways.

It is at this point, though, that I must acknowledge my intention for this post. Rather than trying to weave a path towards my conclusion, highlighting all of the Masters and the way their stories have been woven into the fabric of Star Wars, it is far easier to be direct. In short, this piece is titled “Women of the Jedi Council” because, upon reflection, I found myself shocked that there are not MORE women on the Council.

Introduced in The Phantom Menace, the Jedi Council of the first Prequel film has only three female characters:

Yaddle
Adi Gallia
Depa Billaba

In Attack of the Clones, the Council again only has three women:

Shaak Ti  (who replaced Yaddle)
Adi Gallia
Depa Billaba

And, in Revenge of the Sith, the Council only has two women:

Shaak Ti
Stass Allie (who replaced Adi Gallia)

Over a 13 years period, from The Phantom Menace to Revenge of the Sith, the Jedi High Council only has five different women. And, one will notice from the small lists above that none of the women in The Phantom Menace are on the Council when we get to Revenge of the Sith. On the flip side, the male representation on the Jedi Council remains steady. The breakdown is as follows…

The Phantom Menace:

Yoda
Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Ki-Adi-Mundi
Saesee Tiin
Even Piell
Oppo Rancisis
Yarael Poof
Eeth Koth

Attack of the Clones:

Yoda
Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Ki-Adi-Mundi
Saesee Tiin
Even Piell
Oppo Rancisis
Coleman Trebor (who replaced Yarael Poof)
Eeth Koth

Revenge of the Sith:

Yoda
Mace Windu
Plo Koon
Ki-Adi-Mundi
Saesee Tiin
Obi-Wan Kenobi (who replaced Even Piell)
Anakin Skywalker (who replaced Oppo Rancisis)
Kit Fisto (who replaced Coleman Trebor)
Agen Kolar (who replaced Eeth Koth)
Coleman Kcaj (who replaced Depa Billaba)

Like I said, the male representation on the Council remains steady throughout, particularly among the first 5 male Masters in each list. In turn, whereas there are only 5 different women on the Council over the 13 year period, there are a total of 15 different men (a 3:1 ratio of men to women). Plus, there are three other curious things to consider about this male-female breakdown:

  1. While we do hear women who sit on the Jedi Council speak in The Clone Wars animated series (Adi Gallia and Shaak Ti), a woman NEVER speaks during a Council session in any of the three Prequel films. Notably, the only Jedi woman who speaks in the Prequels is the Jedi Archive librarian Jocasta Nu, but she is not a member of the Council.
  2. A woman NEVER replaces a man on the Jedi Council. In fact, the opposite is true, with Coleman Kcaj replacing Depa Billaba. 
  3. More men (6) are added to the Council over those 13 years than the total number of women (5) who sit on the Council over that same period.

So, what gives?

Well, first and foremost, I will return to my initial admittance: as I reflected on the Jedi Council I was shocked that women are so underrepresented, and I am guilty for not recognizing this sooner. While I was growing up when the Prequel Trilogy films came out (the years 1999, 2002, 2005), and was not prone to deeper reflections on the franchise I loved at that time, as an adult I can say I am disappointed in myself for not recognizing this woeful disparity and lack of female voices sooner. Better late than never, though.

Secondly, while I do not have direct insight into the thought processes of Star Wars creator George Lucas, the writer/director of the Prequel Trilogy, I am never-the-less left to wonder why it is he did not recognize this paucity of women on the Council. As he worked on the Prequels, Lucas clearly took for granted the uneven representation, the lopsided ratio of men to women. Perhaps if he, or others around him, had noticed it then something would have changed with more women added, fewer men speaking, and so on. Or maybe it was pointed out and he just didn’t care. Frankly, I cannot say. But what I can say is that, at least for me, this is glaring red mark against the Prequel Trilogy, and it is incredibly unfortunate that more attention was not given to creating a Jedi Council with equal representation. Which leads me to my third point…

…what does this imbalance of the sexes say about the Jedi Council? In some respects, I suppose it isn’t all that surprising. If art imitates life, then the Jedi Council imitates many corporate board rooms where men still outnumber women. Or, since the Jedi are a religious order, we can think of religions around the world which place greater emphasis on the voices/actions of men (the hierarchy of the Catholic Church being one example). But just because it isn’t surprising that the Jedi are governed predominantly by men doesn’t mean it isn’t disappointing. The Jedi Order is supposed to be built around principles of egalitarianism and, as such, one would presume that the High Council would strive for a balance of the sexes. In fact, I cannot help but wonder: if more women – and newer voices in general – had been present, would they have stopped the march to war in Attack of the Clones which was led by the Council’s longstanding (male) Masters, Yoda and Mace Windu in particular?

Shohreh Aghdashloo
Iranian-born actress Shoreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala in The Expanse.
Photo Credit: SyFy

This is certainly not the only question one could ask, and there are any number of answers that are possible. Yet, my intention is not to dig into every single question, or find every answer. Instead, in presenting what I believe is a truly unfortunate reality about the make-up of the Jedi High Council, the lack of women and their voices on that Council, I want to end with a suggestion. As the Star Wars franchise moves forward, with more films being added over time, my hope is that if a film is set in the days of the Old Republic, long before the events of the Prequel Trilogy, that the Jedi Council (if included in the film) feature a perfect distribution of 6 women and 6 men. To this, I would add my desire that the Grand Master of the Jedi Council also be a woman. If left to me, the actress I’d place in the Grand Master’s seat would be Iranian-born actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, a woman with an incredibly commanding presence in SyFy’s show The Expanse. I am of the opinion that Aghdashloo is a natural fit for the Star Wars universe, and could be a remarkable Jedi Grand Master if given the opportunity. That said, there are many actresses who’d make great Jedi Masters if given the chance, and I hope the day it is not far off when we see them on the High Council and helping to lead the Jedi Order.

Intro to Sithology: The Rule of Two (Part 1)

“Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” – Master Yoda on the Sith

Question: How is it possible for Yoda to know about the Sith Rule of Two when the Sith have been extinct for a millennia?

This question is one that a fan of The Imperial Talker asked me to address, and I am more than happy to do so because it is a question that has bounced around my mind on a number of occasions. Plus, after diving head first into tackling this question, it dawned on me that there are a number of other things to be addressed with regard to the Rule of Two. So this will only be the first of a number of posts where I explore this question, and the Rule of Two.

Before jumping directly into answering the question at hand, a bit of context is necessary so that we are all on the same page. That said, it is essential to first consider the two scenes from The Phantom Menace from which this question is born. I have provided links for both of the scenes below to refresh your memory.

Jedi Master Ki-Adi Mundi Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

The first is a scene in which Qui-Gon Jinn explains to the Jedi Council that he was attacked by a mysterious warrior while on the planet Tatooine, concluding that the warrior was, in fact, a Sith. In response, Master Ki-Adi-Mundi, a member of the Council, exclaims that “the Sith have been extinct for a millennia.”

The second scene is at the end of the film, and depicts Qui-Gon’s funeral after he is killed. Off to the side, Master Yoda and Master Windu discuss the identity of the mysterious warrior. Master Windu states, “There’s no doubt that the mysterious warrior was a Sith.” In response, Master Yoda, agreeing with his friend, states “Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.”

Now, there is obviously much more happening in both of these scenes than we will be discussing here, but for the sake of staying on topic, we will skip over the other stuff this time around.

Ultimately, the question at hand is amalgamation of both of these scenes, or rather, points that are raised in each scene. On the one hand, we discover from Master Mundi that the Sith have been extinct for a millennia. But we also know, from Master Yoda, that the Sith operate in a curious way: there are only ever two Sith Lords, a Master and Apprentice. The question then, how Yoda knows about the Rule of Two, is a pertinent one. Once again, if the Sith have been extinct for a millennia, how can a Jedi know anything about this very specific Rule?

The Phantom Menace does not provide a whole lot of information to solve this conundrum. Even if we added other moments in the film, there is still not much to work with. Still, let’s play around with what we have.

We have been working off of the assumption that the Rule of Two was instituted AFTER the Sith “extinction” event. The problem, though, is that this creates a couple of convoluted problems when the moment arrives and Yoda actually learns about the Rule of Two.

On the one hand, if he discovered the information himself (let’s say he found a Sith artifact that discusses the Rule), he must have kept the discovery to himself. What would this say about Yoda? He knew the Sith had instituted a new Rule AFTER their extinction, that the Sith were still out there? Are we to believe Yoda chose to hide this information from the Council, and not use the full weight of the Jedi Order to hunt down the hidden Sith Lords?

Masters Yoda and Windu at Qui-Gon Jinn's funeral Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Jedi Masters Yoda and Windu at Qui-Gon Jinn’s funeral
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Plus, when watching the scene where Mace Windu and Yoda are conversing at Qui-Gon’s funeral, one does not get the impression that Windu is surprised by what Yoda says. Instead, Yoda’s assertion that “Always two there are…” is matter of fact, something Mace Windu already knew. Perhaps Yoda had confided in Mace Windu about what he discovered, but then all this does is forces us to re-ask the questions I just presented, with Yoda and Windu both implicated.

However, I am led to believe that what Masters Yoda and Windu are discussing is something the Jedi Order already knows about the Sith. In other words, it is common knowledge that the Sith have a Rule of Two.

On the other hand, what if Yoda learned the information from the Jedi Order, and did not independently discover the information? This lines up with the the Rule of Two being “common knowledge,” but this essentially means the Jedi did know that the Sith had survived. At best, this throws Ki-Adi-Mundi under the bus and makes him look like a fool, and at worst, it means the Jedi just stopped caring about the Sith, their mortal enemy, even though they knew the Sith were still around…

Frankly, I just don’t buy it. The Jedi might be flawed in a number of ways, but I can’t see them willfully ignoring the existence of the Sith. Besides, I take Master Mundi at his word, and trust that he is presenting the official position of the Jedi Order: the Sith are extinct.

But what if it is the official position of the Jedi Order that the Sith are extinct, but the Council is hiding the truth. Could it be the Jedi Council knew that the Sith were still alive for all those years, that they had instituted a new Rule of Two, and the Council kept this a secret? Perhaps Master Mundi was feigning ignorance, pretending to be in disbelief at Qui-Gon’s statement that he was attacked by a Sith Lord. What would this say about the members of the Jedi Council?

Master Yoda Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Jedi Master Yoda
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I will be arguing in another post that the Jedi are victims of their own hubris, but I am not sure I believe the Council misled the Jedi Order, and the Republic, and kept the knowledge about the Sith hidden. Don’t get me wrong, I do think this is a possibility, and that this approach could potentially work. However, I feel like the way things play out in the Prequel Trilogy hinges, in part, on the Jedi scrambling at the re-emergence of the Sith, as if the Order, and the Council in particular, are unsure how to act.

Plus, I am also not willing to undermine the scheme the Sith put into play when they went “extinct.” The Sith instituted a master plan that came to fruition in the Prequels, beginning with their return in The Phantom Menace. I would suggest we let the Sith have their moment in the sun, and when they reveal themselves, they caught the Jedi off-guard and unprepared.

And with that said, where in the world do we go from here?

Well, there is actually some more information we can look at, but it doesn’t come from The Phantom Menace. In Part 2, then, we will a journey to Moraband, the ancient homeworld of the Sith and meet the Sith Lord who instituted the Rule of Two: Darth Bane.

Oh, and just FYI, things are going to get really complicated.