Why Mara Jade Won’t Appear in “Star Wars: Episode IX”

Matthew Loffhagen
Del Ray
(Photo: Del Ray)

Fans of the “Star Wars” Expanded Universe, now known as the Legends canon, have been very excited recently at the prospect of a character named Mara Jade appearing in “Episode IX”.

The evidence seems to support this. A casting call for “Episode IX” called for a middle-aged female actor to play a role named “Mara”. Shortly after, it was announced that Keri Russell, who vaguely resembles Mara Jade, would be joining the project.

The significance of this character is worth explaining. In novels, comics, video games, and other media prior to 2014, Mara Jade was Luke Skywalker’s canonical wife.

In the Legends canon, Mara Jade is a former assassin, trained by Emperor Palpatine. Eventually, she  overcomes her programming before being trained as a Jedi by Luke.

She’s a significant character in this version of the “Star Wars” canon, as well as a fan favorite. When it was first announced that Disney’s vision of “Star Wars” had no room for the Expanded Universe, Mara Jade was one character that fans grieved for above and beyond many others.

Various elements from this older canon have begun to bleed across into the new “Star Wars”. Notably, Grand Admiral Thrawn, created by Timothy Zahn (who also invented Mara Jade), plays a big role in “Star Wars Rebels”. If rumors are to be believed, Thrawn could even be making a live-action debut in the near future.

Alas, according to Zahn himself, Mara Jade is not going to pop up.

Where in the World is Mara Jade?

The acclaimed author has control over the character, so Lucasfilm has to run small cameo roles for Mara Jade past him. Thus far, Zahn states, nobody at Lucasfilm has contacted him about a potential appearance of Mara Jade in “Episode IX”.

Said Zahn:

“If there was a generic, or organic, spot for her to fit into a story…I promise people, I will pitch it to the Lucasfilm story group, and then, it’s their decision whether to allow it or not.”

This isn’t to say that Mara Jade won’t turn up in this movie. Or, at least, a version of the character.

One of the benefits of this new canon is that Lucasfilm can rework characters. They can smooth over elements of Mara Jade’s backstory that don’t quite work. Or, simply rename her to make things easier.

After all, if Keri Russell plays a character that’s functionally similar to Mara Jade, but with a slightly different name, then suddenly, Disney no longer needs to pay deference to Timothy Zahn whenever they use her.

Lucasfilm has a vested interest in making any Mara Jade style character functionally different from her Expanded Universe equivalent.

Reinventing Mara

If this new character is no longer Mara Jade, suddenly Disney can plaster her on posters and action figures and heck, even her own spin-off movie. All without needing to rely on Zahn providing his best wishes.

If this is the case – if Lucasfilm is planning on revamping Mara Jade to gain control of the character by giving her a new name – then I really hope that she won’t be played by Keri Russell.

This is an opportunity for Lucasfilm to rethink a key character in the wider “Star Wars” canon. It’s the perfect opportunity to give the role to a woman of color. Or maybe a trans woman. Someone who doesn’t fit the standard Hollywood mold quite as well as Keri Russell.

Russell can still be in the movie, but if we’re not getting a novel-accurate Mara Jade, I hope the creators of this movie go in a very different direction.

More Than Just a Character

I can’t address this subject, and the idea of the Expanded Universe in general, without bringing up a recent article and YouTube video by Bob Chipman, better known as Moviebob.

In speaking about the Alt-Right’s assassination of James Gunn’s career at Disney, Chipman notes that, to a certain degree, the ongoing war over the Expanded Universe is similarly political.

Certain influencers on the Far Right of politics are using fan outrage over “The Last Jedi” as a recruitment tool for their cause. They’ve been framing the discussion over new “Star Wars” canon as a failure of liberal, progressive moviemaking.

Essentially, the argument is that “The Last Jedi” sucks both because it ignores the needs of true “Star Wars” fans (who prefer the Legends canon), and because it promotes a feminist, inclusive view of “Star Wars” as a whole.

Misunderstanding “Star Wars”

This push from the Alt Right is logically baseless. Looking at George Lucas’ classic “Star Wars” movies, the emphasis has always been on empowering women and minorities. This is why Princess Leia is more than a damsel to be rescued, and why Ewoks can take down a totalitarian regime with nothing but sticks and gumption.

It’s hard to see the progressive elements within the original “Star Wars” movies in the modern era, because these ideological messages have become so mainstream. Leia’s capture looks positively dated by modern standards, where at the time she was heralded as a rare example of a princess who does more than sitting around expecting the men to save her.

Remember that line, “Somebody has to save our skins!”? That was a radical feminist treatise in 1977. Or, at least, as close as a white male director could get!

Don’t Give Into Hate

Progressive messages within “Star Wars” notwithstanding, it’s hard to argue that the Alt Right’s campaign to dominate the media discourse is working. This is why people like Mellie May Tran get hounded off social media.

It’s okay to dislike “The Last Jedi”. I’m not a fan myself. The problem comes when people believe that their disillusionment with the franchise comes from Lucasfilm’s progressive approach to gender and racial politics.

Thus, people can begin to think that a love of the Expanded Universe, and by extension, Mara Jade, is synonymous with Right Wing political policies.

Thus, I need to clarify that this is not the case.

It’s okay to feel a nostalgic longing for the Expanded Universe and all its wild, wacky characters. Even the green rabbit from the Marvel comics.

It’s not okay to blame Lucasfilm’s divisive movie output on the fact that a woman is in charge of the studio.

These two opinions are mutually exclusive.

Mara Jade Skywalker
Source: Del Ray

Personally, I very much prefer even the dumbest parts of the Prequels over the bland, soulless “Star Wars” of the Disney era. That said, I’m thrilled at the level of inclusivity that’s gone into Disney’s take on the franchise.

If Mara Jade doesn’t turn up in “Star Wars: Episode IX”, don’t blame Kathleen Kennedy. Don’t get involved in any online hate movement that’s designed to turn “Star Wars” fans into a weaponized army of cyber bullies.

This may sound like nothing more than a discussion over a nostalgic movie series. Underneath this all, though, people are genuinely trying to harm others, and they’re using your love of “Star Wars” to get you to be complicit in their schemes.

Do not give in to hate.

Hate, as we all, know, leads to suffering.