In the Star Wars universe, notably in Obi-Wan Kenobi, female Imperial officers are referred to as “sir”, just like their male counterparts. Here’s why.
Warning! SPOILERS for Obi Wan Kenobi episode 4.
In Obi Wan Kenobilike everything star wars, female imperial officers are treated as “Sir” – but why? Obi Wan KenobiThe fourth episode of contained a tense sequence in which Tala (Indira Varma), a resistance operative, goes undercover as an Imperial officer in Fortress Inquisitorius so she can provide Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) with a safe passage through the base. There’s a scene in which a security guard asks to see Tala’s Imperial ID, and while they’re initially reluctant to let her through, her convincing portrayal as a commander does the trick.
Throughout this tense exchange, the security guard designates Tala as “Sir,” although she is a female commander. It’s quite common, not just in Obi Wan Kenobi or even star wars as a whole, but also in other sci-fi media. Battlestar Galactica comes to mind, for example, but it also happens in other major franchises, such as star trek. There will definitely be more cases, but the more important question here is why female commanders are often called “Sir” in the genre of science fiction and star wars universe when in reality it is usually used as a specifically gendered term.
In star warsthe Empire is not the only organization to use the term “Sir” as a way of addressing a senior female officer. The Grand Army of the Republic and the Jedi are known to address their female leaders this way, with the Jedi also using the term “Master” as a means of addressing Jedi who hold the high rank of Master, regardless of gender or species. How the term “Sir” is used throughout star wars suggests that it signifies rank without any regard for gender. In the star wars universe, any commander from any medium deserves recognition and the same common courtesy – even within a dictatorial organization like star wars‘Empire.
The most obvious example of the term “Sir” denoting respect for a female commander within Star warss is how the clone troopers address Ahsoka Tano throughout Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Once she proved herself worthy of the rank of commander and the clones understood that she would always work as hard as she could to keep their brothers safe, they moved on from calling her “little” Where “boy” at “Sir” and “commander.” They respected her as their commander and as such used the best terms they had to express that admiration. Within the Empire, however, admiration is perhaps too positive a way of looking at this kind of respect, but it certainly shows the influence and power that any Imperial officer wields in star wars. As such, admiration within the Empire is perhaps best understood as awe and fear.
Given the many variant species found in star wars and other science fiction stories, “Sir” might be the simplest gender and species-neutral term in the core language of the universe. The biology of all species does not work the same way. Considering that the commanders in star warsboth sides of any conflict have all manner of species in their ranks, it’s no surprise that gendered terms as used in the real world have no place in these fictional galaxies.
Tala’s trick of impersonating an Imperial officer in the latest episode of Obi Wan Kenobi is not the first time this has happened in star wars, and it won’t be the last. It is interesting to note that the Empire, the Republic in star wars, and later Rebellion use similar terms of respect for officers within their organizations. Despite very different ambitions, some practices remain universal.
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