How Fennec Shand Subverts An Irritating Sci-Fi Trope In The Book Of Boba Fett

The Greek myth of Pygmalion told of a misogynist sculptor who fell in love with an ivory statue of a woman he had carved, "detesting the faults beyond measure which nature has given to women," only able to find love with a woman created artificially from his own fantastical design. As we evolved as a civilization and new technologies were developed, this fascination with artificial women pivoted toward the mechanical. The false Maria of "Metropolis," the doppelgangers of "The Stepford Wives," and even the replicants of "Blade Runner" are all examples of "woman as machine" creations, typically existing for the benefit of the male gaze, male service, or male-run labor. Gynoids, Fembots, and other biomechanical women have a deeply rooted history in literal objectification and the use of technology as a tool of patriarchal oppression — the futuristic evolution of "women as dolls."

In episode 4 of "The Book of Boba Fett," we finally learn how Fennec Shand survived the aftermath of "The Mandalorian." The episode "The Gunslinger" ends with an unseen figure and the sound of spurs approaching her body, now confirmed to be Boba Fett. Season 2 of "The Mandalorian" showed that her should-have-been-fatal abdominal wound from Calican had been replaced with machinery, but today's episode "Chapter 4: The Gathering Storm," showed that Fett took Shand to a mod parlor outside Mos Eisley, where she was outfitted with cybernetic parts to save her life. Fennec Shand is now a Gynoid, but one that subverts the tropes typically associated with artificial women.

Fennec is The Droid I'm Looking For

Before Fennec became bio-mechanical, she was a gifted female bounty hunter, elite mercenary, and Master Assassin who worked for the top crime syndicates during the age of the Galactic Empire. Cybernetic modification was not necessary for her to fulfill her roles, and her ability to strike fear in the souls of her enemies was established long before the Mod Artist (indie bassist and singer Thundercat) gave her a gut full of hydraulics. Robotic women are typically expected to achieve the impossible while maintaining a flawless chassis, an exploitation of the "bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan" expectations put upon those socialized as women. Fennec worked her way up the criminal underworld as a cunning and elite mercenary during the beginning of the Empire's reign, and did so without the assistance of machinery. She was just that badass.

Gynoids typically also don a high-femme or overtly risqué appearance, a juxtaposition of the idealized standard of Western beauty with the intensity of machinery. Even characters like Ava in "Ex Machina," who eventually gains her own autonomy after enduring patriarchal abuse, chooses to wear unquestionably "girly" clothes in order to appear more human. Fennec Shand on the other hand is stylized in sleek, practical, and threatening gear. The clothing options in the world of "Star Wars" are typically gendered outside of military uniforms, and Fennec's portrayal of being a mechanical woman while incorporating Domme fashion is a total subversion of what is typically "allowed" of mechanical women, especially that her mechanical stomach is eventually covered by clothing, much to the chagrin of the Mod Artist.

Not A Rebuilding, But A Reawakening

Perhaps most important is the intent behind Fennec's body modifications. Unlike the biker teens who willingly enhance their bodies with droid parts for aesthetic and rebellious reasons (like the "Star Wars" equivalent of getting tattoos), Fennec's modification is done out of survival. Fett wants Fennec to survive, and she surmises that he did this only because she's worth more alive than dead. But in reality, he wants her help. Fett understands and respects her skill and power, and calls on her to assist in his retrieval of his Firespray from Jabba's palace. While yes, the argument can be made that he only saved her and made her mechanical because he needed her to work for him (thereby falling under the "labor" aspect of the trope), this is exactly the type of work she would have done as a human beforehand. Fett could have let her die and looked for someone else to assist him, but the proficiency she showed as a human is why he specifically wanted her, not because of her eventual mechanical enhancements.

Fennec obviously feels beholden to Fett for saving her life, but her partnership with him feels less like repaying a debt, and more of a conscious decision made on the grounds of mutual respect. Seldom are we given the opportunity to see a biomechanical woman make her own decisions, develop her own moral code, and maintain bodily autonomy without being defined by her mechanical alterations. Mechanical stomach or not, Fennec is still one of the coolest characters this side of Tatooine's two suns.