Obviously spoilers, but honestly, you should have seen this movie by now.
The world is not yet over the release and sheer magnitude of “The Force Awakens.” My fellow writer, friend, and “Star Wars” expert Ruth Ronnau is back this week to help me discuss the most important part of the franchise’s newest installment: Rey.
I just watched the film for the second time. It was gut wrenching and heartbreaking and everything I ever thought I needed from a “Star Wars” film.
I grew up playing with “Star Wars” action figures. On long car trips to Oklahoma my mom would bribe my sister and I to behave by dangling new action figures in front of us and for roughly three hours we would be angels. You don’t want to know how many action figures I have. I have a Millennium Falcon. I have Luke’s landspeeder. “Star Wars” was my everything and after “Revenge of the Sith” came out I felt a small part of my heart just up and die. And I’m not being dramatic.
So when Rey force-pulled the lightsaber out of the snow and held it in her hands I realized that having a woman holding a lightsaber was all I had ever wanted. Watching Obi-Wan and Anakin and Luke running around with lightsabers was always cool and fun, and I never realized how I so badly wanted to see myself holding one.
In a satirical article that I wrote earlier this year about TFA, I jokingly predicted that Rey would have to disrobe on camera. That she would be used, essentially, as a prop for J.J. Abrams to point at and say, “Look, we have strong women in this film! I’m capable of writing women well!” I’ve never in my life been so happy to say that I was wrong. I’m so incredibly grateful that Rey exists. That Rey is strong and complex and vulnerable. She felt more real to me than Anakin ever did.
As much as I love Anakin Skywalker, Hayden Christensen is not a great actor. Every scene with him felt incredibly forced, and it didn’t help that the dialogue between him and Padme was terrible. So as much as I love Anakin, (and think he’s extremely handsome) I can’t identify with him. But Daisy Ridley brings so much to this character. She’s such a strong actress and Rey is a strong character. Rey is sometimes scared, but keeps going. She’s lonely, but that doesn’t stop her from being kind. Rey–I understand her.
I’m looking forward to seeing more of her. And you can bet that I’ll be buying her merchandise ASAP.
To me, what feels real about Rey is the fact that, like what Ruth alluded to, she’s just like us. A young girl discovering the “Star Wars” story for the first time can see herself as Rey. At 23 I can see myself as her. She’s brave, sure, but she’s also vulnerable. She’s scared in a lot of ways, but she overcomes her fears to do the right thing. She’s not just an action hero; she’s a role model.
Which means she’s a hero character just like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia was a female character ahead of her time, too, but she never got to hold a lightsaber. She never fought a baddie without Luke or Han helping her out. Rey doesn’t depend on others. She was left alone on a desert planet, she was use to being alone and doing things for herself. She was self-sufficient. She’s what every grown woman should aspire to be.
But Rey doesn’t just represent a female character that actually feels real and not like a Scarlett Johansson “Avengers”-type. Boys can relate to her, too. Rey is everything we love about a hero. She’s cunning, smart, a little sassy, has a big heart, and is one of the good guys. Why can’t dudes see themselves in her as well? She’s the good of the good vs. evil thing. And a guy shouldn’t feel weird or ashamed to be rooting for her.
It goes beyond a sex thing. Sure, Daisy Ridley is gorgeous and looks good on camera, but we all fell in love with Rey because we were seeing the story through her eyes. She’s discovering her Jedi powers, just like we’ve all imagined ourselves doing at some point in our lives. (Admit to it people, just like how you waited for that Hogwarts letter when you turned 11.)
I don’t even care about who Rey’s parents are at this point, either. I just want to see more of her hanging strong alongside heavyweights like Luke and Leia. Ridley is a strong acting presence. I mean, when was the last time the world was this excited to see what a character does next?
More “Star Wars!“