Who is Sister, the transgender clone who will appear in the novel by Star Wars, Queen's Hope? What are the legitimate controversies it has raised? And what are the fruit of pure and simple transphobia?
Sometimes months go by between one article on Star Wars and the next, but sometimes the franchise wakes up, the controversy rains and we have to get our hands on again.
Last week we had talked about the problem of the polarization of opinions in the fandom of Star Wars, with the release of the trailer for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Today, however, we will talk about a new controversy, this time around a print publication of the franchise.
The controversy revolves around S, a clone of Jango Fett who fought in the Clone Wars and will appear in the book Queen's Hope. As you can see, unlike her clone brothers, Sister is named in the feminine, since it is a transgender clone.
You will already understand so what kind of Comments may have triggered its appearance. In fact, virtually any naming of queer themes in popular franchises triggers hatred and controversy. Also this time, the script is the same and the transphobic comments flocked.
However, the announcement of Sister's character also sparked a series of legitimate objections. The latter are not related to the gender of the character, but to the visual representation of him.
Let's take a closer look at both of these controversies to understand their nature.
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Who is Sister, the first transgender clone and where does she appear?
As said above, Sister is a clone of Jango Fett who fights in the Clone Wars alongside his clone brothers. We don't know what her identification number is, but we do know that her siblings call her S (sister) to emphasize that they love her and that they firmly consider her one of their own. In fact, it is clear that Sister is one transgender woman, with the same genetic makeup as Jango Fett, but a different gender identity.
Other than that, we actually know absolutely nothing about the character.
However, we are aware that Sister appears in the novel Queen's Hope, written by EK Johnston, former author of Ahsoka. This is the third volume of a series of young adult novels dedicated to Padmé Amidala and her handmaids, of which the first two titles are Queen's Shadow e Queen's Peril. In Queen's Hope two narrative lines will be followed: Padmé engaged in a secret mission and her handmaid Sabé who takes her place in the Senate.
Queen's Hope will be released on April 5, 2022.
We're not sure what role Sister plays in all of this, but presumably we'll see how secondary character. In fact, EK Johnston herself says Sister won't play a big part in the story.
We know that the clone's armor colors are his own and do not distinguish his troop.
Sister was announced by EK Johnston in a Twitter thread.
Why can there be a transgender clone?
From a canon point of view, a transgender clone is perfectly possible.
In fact, the clones used by the Republic to fight during the Clone Wars all have the same genetic heritage, namely that of Jango Fett. Consequently, all clones have the same genes, the same build and the same facial features. The only exceptions are clones with genetic anomalies, such as clone 99 and members of the Bad Batch.
Clones as unique individuals
However, during the seven seasons of the animated series The Clone Wars, we have widely seen that clones have personalities and characters that are also very different from each other. Their psychology and their own perception of themselves vary from one to the other. For this reason, practically all clones customize their appearance and armor, and each of them adopts its own name. So we have Cody, Rex, Fives, Wolffe, Echo and all the other (beautiful) clones of the animated series, each with its own character and appearance.
In that sense, the Jedi tend to encourage this development of a unique personality for each clone. The only Jedi who insists on calling the clones not with their chosen name, but with their identification numbers, is Pong Krell, the antagonist of the cycle of episodes set on Umbara.
In short, in The Clone Wars let's see how the clones are in a state of tension between two poles: what they were designed and created for (living weapons, all the same and replaceable) VS what they actually are (people, each unique and irreplaceable).
A transgender clone is therefore an example of the uniqueness of the single clone
Sister, as a transgender clone, fits perfectly into this dichotomy. Created to be a man equal to her brothers, Sister stands out on a social and psychological level for agender identity (which is, in fact, a social, cultural and psychological concept) different, that is female.
And, as with his brothers, Sister also expresses his person (and therefore his gender) on an aesthetic level, through the colors of his armor, long hair and feminine appearance.
The controversy over Sister's appearance: a "black" hairstyle for a character inspired by a Polynesian person
Sister's announcement provoked many positive and enthusiastic responses, but also several criticisms. Among these, we want to report the only ones that actually have serious bases, that is, those related to the fact that the clone was substantially illustrated as a black woman, and not as a Polynesian woman.
In fact, Sister was introduced to the world by EK Johnston on Twitter thanks to an illustration by Uzuri, famous artist who makes works on Star Wars. In this illustration, Sister has her hair styled in cornrows.
Cornrows as a cultural hairstyle
Cornrows is a hairstyle typically associated with black people.
But not only that: like many other styles of braids, the cornrows have their own a cultural value for the black American community, which also derives from the nation's slave past. Braided hair was a way of keeping some trace of the original slave cultures and, over time, it also became a secret communication strategy between slaves.
Opposed by whites and regarded as retrograde hairstyles first, and crude and inelegant later, braids in general have today become an identity hairstyle for the black American community. Wearing some kind of braid hairstyle is a way of expressing love and respect for one's cultural identity among African American people.
Also solidifying this perception is the fact that braid hairstyles have been (and sometimes still are) banned from white-controlled workplaces, as considered unprofessional. Conversely, when white people wore such hairstyles, they were praised for their innovative style.
In short, even if for us Italians such a debate on hairstyles seems absurd, we must realize that the oppression of African-American people in the USA has also passed through the field of hairstyles. And the creation of a unfair double standard, in which whites could wear braids and blacks not, has further accentuated the cultural and identity connotation of certain hairstyles.
That's why, for many people in the African American community, seeing cornrows on non-black people or characters is a sore point.
Polynesian culture set aside
Author EK Johnston responded to such criticism by taking responsibility for not having explained well to Uzuri. In fact, the writer writes, her idea for her Sister hairstyle was to have her wear her hair in a series of French braids.
However, on Twitter his response was further criticized, since both the cornrows and the French braids have nothing to do with the typical hairstyles of the Polynesian culture, i.e. the culture / ethnicity to which the clones of Star Wars. This association is due both to the fact that all clones are based on traits of Temuera Morrison, a Polynesian actor, and the fact that Morrison insisted on giving the clones (and Jango and Boba Fett, and therefore also the Mandalorians in general) different cultural elements inspired by Polynesian culture.
Several Polynesian fans have criticized Sister's hairstyle and found Johnston's response unconvincing, as they see it as a lack of respect for Polynesian (and Maori in particular) culture.
In general, then the criticisms of Sister's hairstyle revolve around the fact that the cultures of non-white people are not a single cauldron from which everything can be taken without context or respect. Cultural hairstyles are not something interchangeable, in conclusion.
I, as a white person with limited knowledge on the issues of black and Polynesian people, on this matter I will not express myself, since I do not have the basis to be able to do so.
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Transphobic criticism of Sister and the idea of a transgender clone
Content Warning: Transphobic comments
As mentioned before, much of the reactions to the presentation of the first transgender clone have been positive and interested. However, there are several manifestations of indignation, especially on the part of the Italian fandom.
Some are expressions of ignorance by the writers, who either don't know that each clone has its own unique personality, or don't know what gender identity is.
1) My question is: if this is a faithful clone of jango, why did he come out transgender?
2) So a clone of Jango Fett after thousands of identical clones to the original would come out transgender why?
3) More than anything else how does a clone, that is a being designed and programmed to be transgender?
4) But weren't the clones all derived from the genes of boba Fett? Did I miss anything from the saga?
The hard and pure hate speech
However, there are also several comments that are instead an expression of vulgar transphobia. There are those on Twitter, hiding behind a fake profile, comparing being transgender to having a mental illness. Other Italian commentators, however, go directly to the insults. These utterances do not deserve to be commented upon.
1) Wow. I guess clones are subject to debilitating mental illness and denial of reality too.
2) It's hilarious that you think you did something of value with this grotesque abomination.
3) We hope it will be shot down quickly ...
4) I will use the ways of the Force to separate his stupid head from his useless body
5) We also needed this shit
6) The whole thing is really disgusting.
7) Don't underestimate the viados of strength!
"It's just marketing and propaganda!"
Then there are those who accuse the franchise of inserting transgender characters only for marketing and to attract queer audiences. In this way, Lucasfilm would also be accused of "ruining" Star Wars, since apparently inserting a transgender clone means "ruining" the story.
1) [...] is that c **** of Disney that must necessarily put political propaganda in the middle of the films, because these minorities cannot write a successful novel, nor get the c ** to make a movie from 0 with their own hands. There are acclaimed films with minorities, I don't understand why they have to ruin other successful series when they can make them with their representative.
2) What is not done to bow to fashions, and raise a fistful of dollars more ...
3) Ah then the LGBT + etc freemasonry has also got its hands on the star wars world….
These accusations can be safely answered in two ways.
First, pointing out that we do not know the intentions of the author of the book, who may very well have included a transgender clone because she genuinely cares about making a positive representation of the T community.
Secondly, even if it were pure marketing, it is appropriate to remind the fandom of Star Wars and basically everything in the franchise is made to sell. The fact that Luke Skywalker is white, male and cisgender is also marketing, as he is a protagonist made to attract white, male and cisgender men (and children).
"It's forced inclusion, which is worse than exclusion!"
Parallel to the accusation that transgender characters exist only for marketing purposes, there is also the usual, obvious accusation that the politically correct (bugbear of our years) is ruining the world and therefore also our dear childhood works.
In that sense, according to these commentators insert a transgender character in Star Wars it is a “forcing”, a desire to insert diversity “at all costs”. There are those who complain that "it makes no sense for a transgender clone to exist" (when she makes perfect sense, as seen above).
1) Wasn't it easier to create a completely new character for star wars than to do these useless things just to follow the "modern times"?
2) How sad these forcing
3) enough .. please .. this extreme forcing is doing the exact opposite of what it should be doing ..
Well, it is very interesting to see that for these people forced insertions (then made in an imaginary galaxy, fantasy and with thousands of different alien species!) are only those that concern characters of minorities. When men, white, straight, and cisgender are included, they are never a stretch.
Isn't it forced that Qui-Gon Jinn was a white man? Isn't Obi-Wan Kenobi forced to be attracted to women? And isn't Anakin Skywalker forced to be cisgender? (“How could she have given birth to Padmé?” Is a question that is only permissible up to a point, as Anakin literally has no biological father and we are, again, in a fantasy galaxy.)
Somehow, that's always how these things go: what is forced is always the inclusion of others, never of people like us.
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Some conclusive words
After reading the comments of part of the Italian fandom of Star Wars, I need a shower. Many of them are unspeakable. Many others show some ignorance about clones, or about gender identity, or about both. Still others carry a more veiled transphobia, but equally present, because they associate everything queer with politically correct, with marketing and in general with bad stories.
But had a whiter and more Caucasian clone been introduced than the others, I highly doubt these same commentators would have said anything.
Personally, I believe that the introduction of Sister is an excellent starting point to tell the intrinsic dichotomy of the clones (weapons VS people). A transgender clone fits perfectly into the canon and makes perfect sense. It makes sense exactly like the clone of The Clone Wars who deserted to start a family.
In a universe that is diverse and open to alien species of all kinds, it is absurd that there are so few queer characters. I hope that in the future we will see new ones, possibly in good original stories we have something new to tell.