(Long background rant here. Scroll down for the image if you’re not interested :D)
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Chani from the 2000 Dune miniseries. Now, to be fair, I haven’t read the books, and I hear she has a bit better treatment in them. More agency, gets more chances to be a bad ass; that sort of thing. The actress who plays her is very pretty, but she’s also very… well… white. I believe she’s Czech, so I guess the casting person went “Yeah, accent. We’ll pretend it sounds Middle Eastern. Good ’nuff’.”
Now, I’m willing to buy that Paul and his family are white. It makes sense given what we know about where he’s come from. He’s basically the sci-fi equivalent of a European arriving in North African colonies, because the director isn’t particularly subtle with his allegory.. But a woman from a desert tribe that has been there for generation upon generation and is barely sun-kissed under her ‘desert dirt smudge’ makeup? … Nuh uh. Not buying it.
Chani got a little bit of a makeover in my version so that she actually looks kinda-sorta like a desert-dwelling woman. I was aiming for Middle-Eastern skin tone, but went slightly lighter on her hair since it would be somewhat sunbleached, even if she kept it covered most of the time. Her eyes are, of course, blue, from the Spice. I am told the book describes the effect more as just turning your entire eyeball blue with no iris, but I’m going with the representation from the mini-series. Glow-in-the-dark blue irises are still pretty neat.
Chani does get to be a bad ass at least a bit in the series, which is fun. She’s very matter-of-fact about her own badassery, which just makes it more enjoyable. She kills one of her … er… mate, I guess? ‘s challengers for him, since he’s busy meditating in a trance, and then doesn’t get why he would have a problem with this. “I killed him. You were busy. No big thing. I took care of it.” Taking on a fight to the death and winning easily is not a big deal for her, so why is he getting all worked up over it?
Unfortunately, Paul and a few other characters pee in the pool for the rest of us, doing things like referring to her as “his woman”. Chani is repeatedly told she’s going to have to share Paul, whether she likes it or not, because being a Jesus allegory is clearly not enough to get him out of the ‘have to marry someone to form an alliance’ thing… for some reason the miniseries doesn’t really make clear… and often takes on a subservient role with him, despite being more than his equal intellectually and being the daughter of an infamous revolutionary leader. She also gets a whole lot weepier about the loss of her son than Paul does, which only sort of kind of makes sense. Paul is a bit of a sociopath for most of the later half of the series, so I guess his ‘manly tear’ moment is believable, but I feel that Chani collapsing into sobbing months after the event with little provocation, when her reaction to the news AS SOON AS IT HAPPENED was essentially “Gasp! That sucks…” just seems… out of place. She’s dealt with a LOT of death in her life. This war is not new, especially not to her people. Her reaction seems oddly ‘damsel in distress’ like.
I decided to draw Chani more the way I think her character is TRYING to be: a calm, unflappable, tough, warrior woman to be reckoned with. She’s had a hard life but it’s made her strong. Her mate’s kind of nuts, but she loves him anyways. She can deal. Here, she’s reflective, thinking about the coming battle, but taking a moment to enjoy the cool of the early morning and watching the sun rise. (That said, she’s still armed, so anyone trying to ambush her is going to be in pain.)
The cave behind her is based on a photo of a cave, because for some reason I CANNOT draw those little buggers without a ton of struggle It shouldn’t be so difficult, but it IS