16

In The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma first chews out FN-2187 for disobeying orders and being disloyal. Loyalty to the First Order seems like a big deal to the Captain.

Then later, Captain Phasma

under the threat of mere death promptly helps the good guys blow up the Death Star III by helping them exploit the single point of failure. She doesn't even try to resist or trick them, she just straight up submits.

I would call this disloyal if not straight up traitorous. What could have caused this change of attitude?

  • 2
    I'm not a native speaker so could be wrong, but I think that while you can call what you describe "cowardice", it does NOT fall under disloyalty or treason in any way. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 7:23
  • @DVK I don't think fascist leaders would be so generous. For example, this was the attitude of Stalin: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_No._227 – Robin Ekman Jan 2 '16 at 7:34
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    Ah, ok, so you mean "in-universe disloyalty from First Order higher-ups understanding"? If so then yes, I agree, they'd see it that way. However, Phasma wouldn't - she just got afraid of dying. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 7:37
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    @RobinEkman As always, parallels with the real-world are fraught with... problems. For one thing, Stalin wasn't fascist (almost by definition). Second, order #227 is often misunderstood, probably due to the "help" of "accurate" movies such as Enemy at the Gates or "historical" games such as Call of Duty. When making parallels with fascism, it's best to stick to fascist Italy and Nazi Germany ;) – Andres F. Jan 2 '16 at 8:19
20

Basically, she thinks she's not doing anything majorly bad in terms of impact.

From the WGA script:

CAPTAIN PHASMA (to Finn, cruel)
You can't be so stupid as to think this will be easy. My troops will storm this block and kill you all.

Basically, she expects she will shut it down, but then the First Order will detect it, come in, kill the intruders, and turn the shield back on. No big deal, but she lives.

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    and how the hell no body at FO can detect it and turn on the shield back on in time? – user4951 Apr 29 '16 at 9:41
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    Moreover, in a universe like Star Wars', you'd expect the vilains to be able to do that kind of thing remotely. But then again the story wouldn't be as good. – Kalissar Apr 29 '16 at 13:20
6

Phasma's character is discussed in great detail in the 2017 novel Phasma1 and, while it doesn't directly answer this question, it does give us some good clues. In particular, it tells us that:

Phasma's first loyalty is to Phasma, and her second loyalty is to strength

Phasma is going to do whatever it takes to advance herself, and has no qualms about stepping on her allies to do it. This is neatly summarized in a short section of Captain Cardinal's - the only other stormtrooper captain in the First Order - internal monologue2:

As a teen girl, she purposefully disabled her brother with a knife and watched her parents die, then...painted her body with what was left of them to cement her next loyalty. When she accepted that salve, she became Scyre. And he already knows what happened to the Scyre3. Armitage thinks he's got a Kath hound on a leash, but what he's got is a rancor just waiting for the gate to open. No one will see the real Phasma until the moment when what the First Order wants is no longer what she wants. One day - and it's coming - Phasma will betray them all. Just like she did her family, and just like she did the Scyre.

Her loyalty? Means nothing.

Phasma Chapter 37

At the very end of the novel is a short chapter from Phasma's own perspective, where she doesn't go quite as far as Cardinal says, but does say outright that she's not willing to die for the First Order:

Phasma was happier with the First Order than she had been with the Scyre, but she would never be willing to drink poison for any master.

Phasma Chapter 44

What's more, the novel demonstrates a few times that, when you put her at a disadvantage, she's willing to go along with it until she gets an opportunity to turn the tables on you4:

  • As co-leader of the Scyre, she pushes for more warlike, expansionist policies against her brother's preference for diplomacy. She generally yields to him publicly, but takes opportunities to undermine him when she finds them
  • When Brendol Hux is injured and the group has to rely on a station full of obviously-insane droids to heal him, she goes along with their demands, which basically amount to debt bondage:

    "To be blunt, either we take jobs to pay them off, or Brendol dies."

    [...]

    Phasma considered it. "So we need Brendol whole, and we need to know more. We should accept these positions, gather the information we need, and escape."

    Phasma Chapter 17

    "We're happy to be here."

    "Very good. I hope you will consider bathing and dressing in your uniforms now. Poor Deefoursevenseven was quite disturbed by your insubordination. You will need to eat before your shift, and punctuality is important."

    Siv looked to Phasma, and Phasma just shook her head. "We're happy to comply."

    Phasma Chapter 18

  • Later on they're captured by a bread-and-circuses society (who don't have any bread), and are forced to fight for the city's amusement. Phasma goes along with it, taking a mighty beating in the process, until she can devise and execute an escape plan

All of which is to say that Phasma's behaviour when captured by Finn isn't out-of-character for her; she has good reason to believe that she'll be killed if she doesn't comply, and her normal strategy in that situation is to comply until she gains the advantage. It's just that the second part of that never comes around in this case.


1 I know; I'm as shocked as you are

2 Though bear in mind that this monologue is filtered through three levels of bias:

  1. The original source of the information is Siv, a clanmate of Phasma's from the Scyre; she's an eyewitness to, and later a victim of, Phasma's opportunism
  2. Vi Moradi, a Resistance spy who heard Siv's story from the source. She's telling the story to Cardinal in exchange for her life, while also trying to get him to defect to the Resistance; in fact, she outright admits (in her internal monologue) to embellishing the story a little bit to get under Cardinal's skin
  3. Cardinal himself, who has hated Phasma since basically the first moment he saw her

So, although the outline of the facts are certainly true, we need to take some of the emotional colouring with a grain of salt

3 Phasma's betrayal of the Scyre is a significant part of the novel that's hard to find quotes for, but the summarize:

  • She directly disobeyed the clan's co-leader, her brother, on numerous occasions, which led to the deaths of several warriors
  • She absconded in the night with the clan's four best warriors, their only healer, and their only medical equipment
  • When the remaining Scyre people track Phasma down, she leads the battle that kills all of them and personally executes her brother

4 As with Cardinal's monologue from earlier, bear in mind that we're hearing this story second-hand, with Siv's possibly-biased eyewitness account filtered through Vi's somewhat-unreliable narration

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  • I'm shocked that they bothered to write a book about her, after trimming 98% of her character's lines from the film and basically making her a cameo – Valorum Sep 29 '17 at 13:56
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    @Valorum The cynic in me thinks that it's part of the ongoing effort to pump their female characters. The other cynic in me thinks they're trying to turn her into the next Boba Fett. The third cynic in me thinks they're desperately scrabbling to give her an actual character before they have to use her more in the films. The rest of the cynics in me are too busy drinking. That said I actually liked the book, so whatever; not complaining – Jason Baker Sep 29 '17 at 13:58
  • I'm wondering how bad her acting was that they had to cut her part, despite desperately wanting to increase the film's diversity quotient. – Valorum Sep 29 '17 at 14:03

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