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Disney in Denial; Part 6; The Activists Aren't All Right

This is the sixth in a series of posts regarding missteps taken by The Walt Disney Company. You can navigate to Part 5 here.

If you ask Chat GPT which is the most feminist Star Wars movie, it will invariably lead with The Last Jedi. If you ask which Star Wars film appeals most to women, you will get a more nuanced and variable answer, which tends to not highlight The Last Jedi.

Thus, artificial intelligence reflects an implicit “understanding” of the zeitgeist that has, so far, eluded Disney. The preferences of activists don’t necessarily reflect those of the general public.

Crowdsourced data from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) indicate that women rate each of the original three Star Wars films released from 1977 – 1983 more highly than they do any of the five movies Disney has produced.

(Note: due to reasons that remain elusive, the IMDB has stopped publishing the breakdown of ratings by age and gender. You can retrieve results through early 2023 for most films by visiting

Detailed crosstabs of a 2,200 respondent survey conducted by Morning Consult on the eve of the release of The Last Jedi indicated that even feminists preferred the original trilogy over the first two Star Wars films Disney released. Specifically, 78% of people whose #1 political issue concerned women’s issues rated the films of the original trilogy very favorably (Tables BRD12_1 - BRD12_3) compared with 71% who felt the same way about Disney’s first two Star Wars films (Tables BRD12_9 & BRD12_10).

Chat GPT's summary of which Star Wars films appeal to women will invariably invoke Rey, the protagonist of Disney's Star Wars trilogy, as exemplifying what women wish to see in a movie character. The algorithm is drawing from no end of articles that describe her this way.

But Chat GPT is just regurgitating what many writers have written, and what they have written isn't backed by data. There are many Star Wars character rankings available on the Internet. While Rey is shown as a popular (Top 10) character in some of these rankings, these are invariably created by writers and editors (Maxim, Screenrant) not rankings based on consumer input.

The highest ranking I can find for Rey in a user-generated poll is #16 at the Top Tens, but this is an obscure site, and it's not clear how many customers have actually voted.

IGN ranks her #33 out of 200 Star Wars characters, based on input from 56,024 character match-ups. This ranking puts her just one rung above Darth Malek, a character that has only appeared in a Star Wars video game.

Men place Rey at #18 at Ranker based on 11,533 votes with women paradoxically not including her at all among the top 160 characters. I would dismiss this finding if it weren’t for Morning Consult’s crosstabs, which shed additional light on how audiences view Rey.

As the above chart shows, men rate Rey much more favorably than women do—but people whose #1 issue of concern is “women’s issues” rate Rey significantly higher than do both men and women. Rey is twice as popular among this subset (5.3% of respondents) of the population than she is among women.

I think this explains the approach Disney took to Star Wars. It created a character that appealed to a particular subset of women, erroneously thinking that doing so would generate appeal among women more generally.

And again, here is where the Morning Consult survey is revealing. When asked to name their favorite character (Table BRD15) men chose Luke Skywalker. Women chose Princess Leia. Only 1% of women chose Rey. In fact, women preferred Luke Skywalker over Rey by 7:1. This fact will be shown to be of importance in a future post.

In my next post, I'll describe how the engagement of women with Star Wars declined over time.


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