Admiral Holdo is Pretty Much Living Out Every Woman Leader's Experience in Star Wars The Last Jedi

Are you a man who saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and have often wondered to yourself, "What is the experience of the female leaders I work with?"  Great news.  Pretty much everything that happens to Admiral Holdo is what women leaders experience!  Here, I saw the movie twice so I'll walk you through it!  

If you haven't seen the movie, and you don't want me to spoil it, you should totally stop reading because I'm going to poorly cover several major plot points solely based on memory of a movie I've seen twice.


******SPOILERS AHEAD******


what do leaders look like?

So, General Leia gets blasted out of the ship and you assume she's going to die (because, you know, she's dead in real life.)  She Force flies her way back in (I don't know) and is in a coma.  Obviously, you start thinking to yourself that this is where she dies.  But she doesn't.

(A moment of sympathy for the poor writer who had no idea Carrie Fisher was going to die and wrote her almost dying in this movie several times and the poor production team who is going to have to figure out how to handle all this in the next film with some amazing CGI or "she's taking a trip story" or whatever.)  

Anyway, Poe Dameron, who is like a less attractive, less charming, less vested Han Solo listens to Admiral Holdo give a speech and then says, "She's not what I expected."

This is Admiral Holdo:

Admiral Holdo

Admiral Holdo

I didn't read ANY articles about Star Wars so I didn't realize that Laura Dern was in this movie, so I was surprised to see her too!  

Poe does not explain what is surprising about Admiral Holdo, but I have some guesses:

1.  Admiral Holdo is a woman.  What?  I know. I mean, how can a woman be an Admiral or lead a ship or do anything, really?  In this Star Wars universe she's replacing General Organa, there's another woman leader with curly hair bossing people around on the deck, there's like two women leaders flying around during the flight where Poe disobeys General Organa's orders, and Carrie Fisher's daughter is a Lieutenant, but sure - it's totally surprising a woman can lead!

2.  The way she looks.  She has purple hair.  I KNOW.  It's crazy!   And it's not in some complicated braid thing either!   Her outfit is an actual color, and her neck is cold but her shoulders are fine.   She's refusing to wear virginial white (though she is wearing some sort of halo thing)!

Mon Mothma

Clearly, looks are a major surprise. I mean, this guy was the previous admiral on the ship, but Laura Dern's appearance is WAY more surprising.

Admiral Ackbar, also a leader

Admiral Ackbar, also a leader


Prove It Again



I don't know Admiral Holdo's backstory, but what I do know is that after almost all the existing leadership is dead, she's next in charge.  I'm sure she's done some kickass stuff and she's an equal rank to fish eyes up there, so she's cool.  At any rate, she's done some stuff and she's next in line.

Studies show that, in jobs historically held by men, men are presumed to be competent, while women often have to prove their competence over and over again. Thus men but not women may be given the benefit of the doubt. In addition, women’s mistakes may be remembered forever while men’s are soon forgotten.
— Gender Bias Learning Project

And immediately Poe, who screwed up so badly before she walked in, and found himself DEMOTED and caused blessed Carrie Fisher to slap him across the face (because there's no HR team in the rebellion?), begins mansplaining to her what's going on.  And Admiral Holdo is like, "Dude.  I got this.  Go back to your individual contributor role" or whatever.  

But you know, that's not okay and so a significant part of the movie focuses on Poe undermining Admiral Holdo.  We have that whole absurd plot of finding a guy with a rose, who they don't even find, and they find someone else, who ends up being a traitor, and doesn't save anyone.  Poe decides Holdo is not doing a great job, and throws a coup.  Holdo then has to gain control back to finish executing her plan and then literally save the whole damn rebellion by herself.  I mean, we could have cut about 45 min out of the movie which was about 30 minutes too long anyway and not endangered Finn, Rose and BB8.  Meantime, during almost the entire movie you are like, "Yeah!  This crazy lady has no idea what's going on!  Rebel the rebellion!"  



Poe is personally responsible for every single member of the Rebellion that died on the transporters that were escaping the lightspeed tracking situation.

And thanks to stupid Poe, badass lady Captain Phasma / Brienne of Tarth is dead, and she's one of my favorite characters because ladies are leading the empire too.


Women are Liked less When They Are authoritative

Scientific research also tells us that male and female leaders are liked equally when behaving participatively (i.e. including subordinates in decision making), which seems consistent with what Zenger and Folkman observe. But when acting authoritatively, women leaders are disliked much more than men.
— "For Women Leaders, Likability and Success Hardly Go Hand-in-Hand", Harvard Business Review

And before you start telling me, "But if Holdo would have explained this to Poe, none of this would have happened!", I want to say to you that Holdo owed him nothing.  He was a lower level team member.  She was in charge.  His job was to follow her command and she didn't owe him an explanation - a topic which Leia had just covered with him as well.  He had a history of not obeying orders and could not be trusted.  Telling him her plan could have endangered her mission.

I mean, Hux seems like a real idiot and Kylo Ren clearly has some anger issues, but no one is asking them to prove their competence over and over again.  Kylo Ren is like, "SHOOT ALL THE BULLETS AT LUKE IGNORING THE ENTIRE REBEL ARMY" and everyone is like, "SIR!  YES SIR!"

When I discussed this with one of my awesome lady leader friends, Katie Krueger, she said, "And when that dude on the throne gets cut in half and the Hux walks in and is all,“our leader is dead OMG,” Kylo Ren throat chokes him until he submits, right? Holdo is WAY nicer than this guy. Probably because as a woman she was told she was being “too aggressive” in every fucking performance review for the last 10 years. RAGE."


The Glass Cliff

Extending the metaphor of the glass ceiling, ‘the glass cliff’ research has found that women tend to be appointed to leadership positions under very different circumstances than men. More specifically, this research suggests that women are more likely to be appointed to leadership positions that are associated with an increased risk of criticism and failure.
— "The 'Glass Cliff' Phenomenon That Senior Female Leaders Face Today And How To Avoid It", Forbes

Admiral Holdo has ascended to a leadership position during a losing situation.  It's literally a suicide mission.  It's almost like she was like, "Sure, I'll be CEO of Yahoo!"

Actually, do any men we actually care about die in this movie other than Snoke?  Is this whole movie one giant glass cliff?  We've got:

  • Admiral Holdo
  • Captain Phasma
  • Rose's sister
  • The other chick on the ship with Rose's sister
  • Carrie Fisher

(And don't EVEN think about putting that Luke died in the comments.  He didn't die -- he's now a Force ghost you Star Wars noob.)


This Shit Happens All The Time

After Admiral Holdo has regained control from her insubordinate subordinate colleague Poe Dameron, she throws his body on a stretcher and sends him off the ship with General Organa.  


General Organa and Admiral Holdo have been lady leaders in charge for a really long time now and this is not their first rodeo.  They share a moment where they are like, "This guy.  Seriously."  And Holdo is like, "I like him," and God bless her, General Organa doesn't say, "Are you fucking kidding me with this shit?  He literally fucked all of this up.  So many people died because they listened to this treasonous idiot instead of you, the actual fucking leader of this ship.  Never mind.  He's going to stay here with you and "help you" lead this mission on the big ship."  

Instead Leia is like, "I don't have time to get into your need to be liked right now, so sure, I like him too.  I'm going to go almost die on screen like four more times now May the force always be with you."