dune female characters

The praise brigade is back in full force for Denis Villeneuve‘s Dune, with star Rebecca Ferguson revealing that the director has given a more empowering update to the story’s female characters. Ferguson, who plays Jessica, the mother of the protagonist played by Timothee Chalamet, acknowledged that her character was created by author Frank Herbert when men and women didn’t exactly have equal rights, but that Villeneuve’s upcoming sci-fi film will give a more progressive take on the Dune female characters.

In an interview with ComingSoon.net during her promotions for Doctor Sleep, Ferguson revealed what longtime fans can expect of her depiction of Jessica, a mystical Bene Gesserit and concubine of Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) whose son Paul Atreides is the prophesied hero of Dune. But Ferguson says that she is doing more than simply lending her star power to playing a supporting character.

“[Dune] completely and utterly honors the strength of Jessica–the Bene Gesserit that she is, even though she is a concubine and her rights are not as high as the King or what her son becomes. Denis was very much aligned with creating empowerment and powerful moments for her where they were needed. I think Frank Herbert… when he wrote it he didn’t really live in an understandably equal environment. And the book is great! It has beautiful moments in it. It’s not really where we are or where we should be.”

As one of the Bene Gesserit, a mysterious order of women that have preternatural abilities (think of them as magic space witches), Jessica enters the story of Dune as a force to be reckoned with. She plays a large part in the political intrigue that makes up the first half of the book, and is shown to be quite shrewd and capable. But in the second half, she does get relegated somewhat to mystic prophet status, as Paul steps up to be the “chosen one” of the story. However, her character was surprisingly progressive for a sci-fi book written in 1965. However, it makes sense too that Villeneuve would flesh out her character, with the oncoming  Dune: The Sisterhood TV series focusing on the Bene Gesserit. Whatever modern updates Villeneuve can add will be welcomed, as it would be a shame to waste Ferguson’s charisma and talent.

In addition to Ferguson, Chalamet, and Isaac, Dune also stars Josh BrolinStellan SkarsgårdDave BautistaZendayaDavid DastmalchianStephen HendersonCharlotte RamplingJason Momoa, and Javier Bardem. The film is set to hit theaters November 20, 2020.

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