The New Jedi Order Director And The Latest Star Wars Controversy Explained

There are few things certain in this world other than death and taxes, but a third could easily be added to the list: a controversy in the world of "Star Wars" that amounts to nothing but blows up online. That's where we're at now with comments made by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, past and present, and the churning machine of "Star Wars" outrage and armchair online punditry. Thankfully, /News is here to cut through the noise and spin and tell you what you need to know.

The New Jedi Order director

It was announced last year at Star Wars Celebration that director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy would be helming the new "Star Wars" film starring Daisy Ridley. Ridley will be reprising her role as Rey Skywalker and the film will show her establishing a new Jedi Order, 15 years or so past the events of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker." That's about all there is to be known about the film, as details are still scarce. Ridley commented on the film in an interview with Allociné, stating, "I think it's a really fantastic exploration of the 'Star Wars' world. It's a really cool way of taking the story on in a bit of a different direction."

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy described the movie to IGN, saying, "The Jedi are in disarray, and there's a lot of discussion around who are the Jedi, what are they doing, what's the state of the galaxy? And [Rey is] attempting to rebuild the Jedi Order based on the books, based on what she promised Luke. So that's where we're going."

According to Gizmodo, reports that the film has been delayed are erroneous, and they've received word that "Peaky Blinders" creator Steven Knight is still working on the script under Obaid-Chinoy (as previously reported). Everything seems to be proceeding apace and Lucasfilm's recent announcement of the "Mandalorian and Grogu" film mentioned that Obaid-Chinoy's movie would be coming out next.

So, where's the controversy?

A woman in charge

The alleged controversy stems from the director herself. Obaid-Chinoy is an award-winning Candian-Pakistani filmmaker, though the brunt of her work is in the realm of documentary film. She's won multiple awards for her hard-hitting documentaries (including two Academy Awards in the Documentary, Short Subjects category), as well as Emmys and the Knight Journalism Award for her more journalistic documentary work.  Her documentaries tend to focus their lens on women's issues and gender inequality, ranging from female Muslim UN Peacekeepers in Haiti to women surviving facial acid attacks in Pakistan. Her impressive documentary resume might make one wonder why she might be tapped to direct a big-budget "Star Wars" movie, but she's also helmed animated works as well as episodes of the delightful Disney+ series "Ms. Marvel." There is probably no one more equipped to handle issues of women and war than Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

In an interview earlier this year on CNN, she said, "I'm very thrilled about the project because I feel what we're about to create is something very special. And we're in 2024 now, and it's about time that we had a woman come forward to shape a story in a galaxy far, far away." As the first woman to helm a theatrical "Star Wars" film, it makes perfect sense why she would say this. However, her comments sent the social media outrage machine went into overdrive, stripping her statement of context.

Some purporting to be "Star Wars" fans took offense at this across the internet, claiming Obaid-Chinoy should be focusing not on the fact that she's a woman but on making a great film (as though she'd somehow forgotten that). Others have accused Kennedy of trying to "inject" more feminism and "wokeness" into "Star Wars" by hiring her (which is infuriatingly normal for the internet regardless of anything Kennedy does or doesn't do). But things got worse when the agitators started digging for more information.

Making men uncomfortable

A TikTok user dug up an interview with Obaid-Chinoy claiming that she likes to make men uncomfortable. Indeed, they produced video where she said, "I like to make men uncomfortable. I enjoy making men uncomfortable. It is important to be able to look into the eyes of a man and say, I am here, and recognize that, and recognize that I am working to bring something that makes you uncomfortable, and it should make you uncomfortable because you need to change your attitude."

Then they overlaid this clip with commentary about her work on "Star Wars", claiming that "Star Wars" was somehow being ruined again.

This felt quite disingenuous and even Snopes had to get in on the fact-checking action. Obaid-Chinoy made this remark in 2015, almost a decade ago, at a forum where she was discussing her work. Prior to this exchange, a clip was played from her 2012 television show "Ho Yaqeen," which dealt with the mistreatment of women in Pakistan, including brick kiln workers in the Pakistani Punjab province who had been subjected to severe physical and sexual abuse. Watching the forum and the context of the quote, it's obvious that she was referring to the sort of men who would watch her documentaries and perpetrate such heinous acts.

Any thoughtful and enlightened person would agree that those sorts of men should be made to feel uncomfortable about their actions.

Maybe she should make men uncomfortable

To date, the TikTok video that incited a rash of click-bait articles and ragebait videos — including one from the Star Wars Theory Youtube channel which had a woman guest on to testify that women don't even like "Star Wars" — has been viewed millions of times.

Obaid-Chinoy is a powerful filmmaker and holds the worst in society to account through the power of the moving picture. She has repeatedly spoken truth to power with her films (having been awarded two Oscars for it) and is a great creative mind and thinker in the world of film. In addition to being a feminist fighting for gender equality, she's also a journalist of integrity and follows in the highly political footsteps of George Lucas.  The "Star Wars" creator used filmmaking ("Star Wars" in particular) as a vehicle for leftist political allegory starting in the 1970s, so it only makes sense to hire a filmmaker that will follow those threads.

If a woman with these iron-clad filmmaking credentials makes some segments of the fandom uncomfortable by stepping into a galaxy far, far away, perhaps they should be made to feel uncomfortable.

Let's hope they learn something.