Settling a fiery debate that’s presumably led to more than its fair share of wannabe Jedi angrily bashing each other in the face with plastic lightsabers , a lead designer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens has mostly confirmed that newly iconic droid BB-8—a robot sphere with a dome on top of it—is probably a boy robot sphere with a dome on top of it.
As reported by /Film, Star Wars creature shop lead Neal Scanlan has hinted at a statement on the plastic soccer ball’s gender of choice, saying in an Entertainment Weekly interview, “BB-8 was female in our eyes. And then she became male.” Scanlon’s comments line up with earlier statements from director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy, who’ve both previously used female pronouns to refer to the plucky little droid. According to Scanlan, though, the change in robo-gender is “all part of the evolution, not only visually, but in the way they move, how they hold themselves,” presumably referring to the uniform sphere’s aggressively masculine posture as it bounces goofily across a far-off space desert.
To be fair to everyone angrily arguing about proper pronoun use for a fictitious globe that only speaks in beeps and boops, though, the original Star Wars trilogy definitely does establish some kind of gender or sex for its robot inhabitants. C-3P0 is voiced and portrayed by a male actor, after all, and R2-D2 is consistently referred to as “he”. Even so, Scanlan wasn’t willing to make a definitive blanket statement about BB-8’s gender, saying, “I’m still not sure, dare I say, whether BB-8 is male or female.”
That’s actually something of an admirable sentiment, really, given the way this focus on the gender of a fictional, featureless robot drives home our collective obsession with viewing gender as a mandatory, unavoidable binary. (Or it might just be a cynical bit of bet hedging, in light of this earlier article from The Telegraph, where an unnamed source said BB-8’s original female distinction was at least part intended “to appeal to the female half of the Star Wars toy market.”)