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:
In Attack of the Clones, the Council again only has three women:
Shaak Ti (who replaced Yaddle)
And, in Revenge of the Sith, the Council only has two women:
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:
Attack of the Clones:
Coleman Trebor (who replaced Yarael Poof)
Revenge of the Sith:
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:
- 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.
- A woman NEVER replaces a man on the Jedi Council. In fact, the opposite is true, with Coleman Kcaj replacing Depa Billaba.
- 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?
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.