In a new series, we dive deep into the characters in Andor and how they translate into real-world political paradigms. Let’s kick things off with the new villain, Dedra Meero.
Multiple reviews from a variety of outlets have praised Andor for being such a masterclass in telling a political story in a way that resonates and is rich in both context and subtext. Tony Gilroy has stated that his inspirations range from the Russian Revolution to Palestine and a number of other movements throughout the history of armed conflicts and revolutions. Imperial Insight will drill down into the various characters in the series to identify the archetypes they represent in the fight against oppression.
Andor is a lead up to Rogue One, so the characters are all responding to the escalating tyranny and oppression of the Empire. With this in mind, we can compare the characters of the series to established political and revolutionary thought and map their arcs to these various paradigms. Each Imperial Insight will look at one character that has made it to the end of Andor Season 1, and show how their arc aligns with a specific political paradigm in the context of fighting, or opposing, liberation.
This series will blend examples from Star Wars and the real world that inspired George Lucas then and Tony Gilroy now. From the dialogue, to the scenarios the main characters find themselves in, the series does not shy away from having hard conversations. These moments are pivotal, showing how opposing tyranny and oppression can start with speeches and small acts of resistance, before going further.
As an immigrant born in Venezuela who left as Hugo Chavez was running for office, I saw myself in Andor’s plot as political moves impacted real communities and put him and his people in Kenari and Ferrix in the impossible position of accepting their oppression, fleeing, or fighting. With that personal story in my heart, I could not help but see how intentionally the different characters in the series have been built and how all of them are responding to the rising tyranny of the Empire by design. From the ISB and Luthen’s Rebel network, to Mon Mothma’s life and the lives of the people on Ferrix, everybody has a role to play and their character and story echoes the many revolutions that have played out in the history of the world.
Let’s kick things off with a deeper dive into Dedra Meero’s character. The ISB Supervisor and Syril Karn’s obsession is the perfect example of “White Feminism.” Throughout the show’s season, Dedra continues to double down on her methods in order to achieve the justice she thinks is worth pursuing. Most importantly, at no point in the series is she concerned with fighting for a system better than the Empire.
Dedra does not like how her peers treat her, but she never questions why the system lets them get away with it. She is visibly frustrated by the finale with everybody wanting to kill every partisan they can get their hands on. Yet, she never once challenges why people like Colonel Partagaz feels compelled to “wipe the taste of Aldhani from the Emperor’s mouth” and kill partisan leaders who could lead to other, bigger, victories if they were taken in as prisoners.
Before diving any deeper, let’s talk a little more about “White Feminism” so Dedra’s arc can be placed in the appropriate context. Koa Beck, author of ‘White Feminism: From the Suffragettes to Influencers and who they leave behind’ defines White Feminism as, “an ideology and a very specific approach and strategy toward achieving gender equality that focuses more on individual accumulation, capital, and individuality without any redistribution or reconsideration of it.” This definition focuses on working within the current system to find individual freedom while essentially blaming the damage done to others as a personal failing.
In the context of the United States and the Global West, capitalism is not viewed as inherently oppressive, and those who try to break the system deserve whatever punishment is given. This is a crucial distinction to make because, as much as White Feminists may argue they want to liberate others, they have no qualms with letting other women get trampled by men or capitalists. Historically, we have seen this in the suffragette movement that wanted to give women the right to vote, but excluded Black Women on the basis that they weren’t “educated.”
Fast forward to the present day, and White Feminism can be seen in the “Girl Boss” phenomenon in which female leaders are lifted up as examples of equitable success, despite their victories built on capitalist oppression of their peers and employees. The biggest example is the titular GilrBoss, Sophia Amoruso, who founded the company Nasty Gal and named her autobiography #GirlBoss, went from a multi-million dollar behemoth to bankruptcy in Chapter 11 filings that highlighted how she fired other workers who had become pregnant, and copyright infringement.
In Andor, White Feminism essentially amounts to not finding the Empire to be inherently oppressive; but only oppressive if you are trying to “break the rules.” This matches Dedra to the letter because we meet her at the start of the series as one of the few female ISB officers. Colonel Partagaz makes a point early in the series to point out that letting somebody like Dedra even become a supervisor is the ISB trying to bring in officers who are more “tucked away.” As viewers, we root for Dedra in the first few episodes because she uses the tools of the ISB against them in order to gain more individual power.
By episode four, however, we see the true menace emerge. Dedra successfully gets Ferrix added to her portfolio of sectors, showing her mastery over the tools of the Empire. She intimidates an attendant to pull the information she needs, and publicly shames Supervisor Blevin and other male officers in making her case. The entire introductory arc shows she has read everything from the ISB manual to the reports of her peers from top to bottom so she can use them.
No matter which metric you judge Dedra by in the beginning, she is excelling as a woman in a man’s bureau. However, White Feminism quickly shows itself in how she engages with Bix on Ferrix. Episode nine opens with that initial conversation and crystallizes Dedra’s view of the Empire, and women who live in an Imperial system. She tells Bix that it “seems a shame to end up on the carving board if your motivation here is just money.” Dedra then drives that point home by telling Bix, “You’re a business owner,” as if that somehow means the Empire has a vested interest in keeping her alive. If this tactic feels familiar, that’s because it is.
As an immigrant, I watch the talking heads on news channels fawn over rich business owners like Elon Musk while talking down on people that look like me for not making more of our lives even though the wealth of the Musks is built on the backs of my people. When we are in positions to own land or run businesses, they are attacked by white nationalists or pushed out of their neighborhoods by gentrification. Being a business owner is such a false way out of oppression that both Democrats and Republicans push to “support business owners” in the same way Dedra tries to offer that as a way out for Bix.
The business owner comment reflects directly on White Feminism’s fascination with succeeding by playing the capitalist game. Dedra is trying to get business owners to give up information and find Andor and Luthen by reminding them that they could be making money and exploiting other people rather than be tortured by Dr. Gorst. Of course, Bix’s refusal shows us how Dedra views the people of Ferrix and anybody who stands in her way. Salman Paak was reduced to a husk of a person before the Empire hangs him, and Dedra immediately takes the same approach to getting Bix to talk.
Dedra’s commitment to upholding the Empire also provides her discomfort as she engages with men throughout the series. This is another telltale sign of White Feminism as she experiences moments that remind her of how quickly she can be supplanted by her male colleagues or simply any man in general. Syril stalks her; literally waiting for her outside of the ISB, and not a single officer or Stormtrooper steps in even as he forcibly holds her in broad daylight. Dedra is shown slightly shaken after this encounter and the camera hangs on this just long enough before switching gears to show us that it is impacting her.
In her initial attempt to get access to the Ferrix data, she is dismissed because of the “feeling” she has that the Starpath found there is tied to a larger Rebellion. Women are constantly deemed “too emotional” to lead, and it is emotion that is cited as the reason she can’t get access to the files just yet. Even when she initially tries to link Andor to the Aldhani heist, the other officers do not immediately buy into her theory until her assistant, a lower ranking male, steps in out of turn to point out that Andor had shaved. We already know that Dedra most definitely read her own report, if she didn’t write it, and yet it takes a man stepping in to give her and her theory more legitimacy.
These sleights are obvious, and Dedra shows it in her face and tone of voice, but she never thinks to challenge why she is viewed as less than by her peers. Even though she is constantly proving to be one step ahead of them at every turn, she’s still willing to work within the system intent on holding her back. By the time we get to the finale, she is not even consulted when Anto Kreegyr is killed and is told by Colonel Partagaz that if she “wants a conversation, find Axis.” Colonel Partagaz ultimately ignores her by the finale. Blevin fights her tooth and nail even as she proves she’s on to something. Even as Admiral Yularen tells the ISB officers about the Public Order Resentencing Directive, she is the only officer who is not pleased with the Empire’s response because it plays directly into the rebels’ plans. Without her work, the Empire wouldn’t even have been as close to Luthen as they got in season one, and yet her opinion can still be easily dismissed whenever the Emperor (another man), is more interested in vengeance than securing his Empire.
As a final cherry on top, it is interesting to note how even the setup for Maarva’s funeral was something she had to push for, even around other men who held a lower rank than her. The Prefect of Ferrix asked Blevin for permission to take on the title, but had to be told by Dedra to allow the people of Ferrix to hold their funeral in order to draw Andor out. On the ground, she spends most of the finale reminding every officer multiple times that she needs Andor alive. Such insubordination did not occur when Blevin was on Ferrix, and yet Dedra couldn’t even order a single officer around without reiterating what she needed multiple times. At no point in the series did Dedra question the Empire that allowed these incompetent men to rise, a true White Feminist.
Dedra Meero is a prime example of White Feminist theory in action because of how her arc plays out. She does terrible things to people solely for her own advancement, and the story rewards her by reminding her she is still second to any man in the room. So yes, she is different from her male counterparts in how she’s treated, but she continues to uphold the supremacy of the Empire, rather than fighting against it. Ultimately her quest to gain more power in the ISB isn’t to change how the organization works, but instead to be the one pulling the trigger instead of a man.
We will have to wait until 2024 to learn more about the fallout after the uprising on Ferrix, but Dedra Meero will most likely be made an example of and her male counterparts could view this failure as the permission they need to critique her methods. Blevin is teased by his peers in the finale to “guess who’s not happy” about Anto Kreegyr’s death, and that line points to the men already taking shots at Dedra and her tactics compared to the overt violence male ISB supervisors prefer. Whatever happens next, Dedra’s adherence to the Empire’s supremacy mixed with her unique approach to applying violence makes her the Star Wars galaxy’s Girl Boss and a detached study on White Feminism.