‘Star Wars’: Why BB-8 Was Almost a Female Character
The issue of Disney and gender has been analyzed extensively. The perceived gender politics of Star Wars are no exception. The recent wave of Disney Star Wars films garnered praise for including more female characters than George Lucas’ Star Wars films.
Although the sequel trilogy and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story both had female protagonists, female droids have been largely absent from the franchise. L3 from Solo: A Star Wars Story is a major exception, though she was poorly received by critics and fans. BB-8, one of the most beloved droids in the entire franchise, was almost a female droid with a completely different name.
A female droid in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’?
The whole idea of droids having genders is odd. People don’t conceive of toasters and washing machines as having genders. Yet, the droids of Star Wars – which are also appliances – have genders. C-3PO is male, L3 is female, etc.
Outside of a droid from the opening of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace which had a few lines, none of the Star Wars droids with notable roles were female until the late 2010s. BB-8, a male droid from the sequel trilogy, almost broke the mold. In fact, many fans thought the character could be female when the trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens were first released. However, the people who worked on the film decided to make the character male during the filmmaking process.
The character BB-8 became
Neal Scanlan is an Academy Award-winning visual effects artist. He worked on The Force Awakens. He revealed BB-8 originally had a different gender and a different name. “BB-8, for instance, started out as Snow Girl or Globe at one time – there were four or five names for BB-8. BB-8 didn’t come until VERY, very late, and that’s probably for very good reasons as he’s such an important character.”
BB-8 might vaguely resemble a snowglobe, but he has nothing to do with snow. We never see his travel to a snow planet at any point in the sequel trilogy. With that in mind, it’s odd to think the character was once called Snow Girl.
Scanlan also said the character’s gender changed in the eyes of the filmmakers. “I’m still not sure, dare I say, whether BB-8 is male or female. BB-8 was female in our eyes. And then he or she became male. And that’s all part of the evolution, not only visually, but in the way they move, how they hold themselves.”
Fans felt BB-8 was an innocent character who was obviously based on R2-D2 from the original trilogy. However, Scanlan said BB-8 was not as innocent as he appears. He sees the character as a master manipulator who uses his cuteness to get what he wants. Regardless of the character’s evolution, BB-8 received a warm reception from fans an critics alike.