Why Rey In 'The Force Awakens' Is The Feminist Hero We've All Been Waiting For
The time has come, my friends, to discuss the awesomeness that is Rey from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. When it was first announced that the main protagonist of the latest Star Wars adventure was going to be female, women everywhere rejoiced. The very existence of Rey was a bright spot in the often dark pit of female representation in science fiction, particularly in Hollywood blockbusters. Still, plenty of people had their doubts about Rey, asking, would she be as amazing as I want her to be? Will she be strong but not a cliche, vulnerable but still a force? Funny? Someone to root for? A role model? I’m here to alleviate your fears, my friends. I've seen The Force Awakens, and I can confirm that Rey is freaking amazing. Spoilers ahead!
There are countless moments in The Force Awakens that will make any superfan smile and cheer, and for me, at least, the majority of those moments are the result of Rey. Rey of light, Rey of sunshine, Rey is everything a feminist could want in a Star Wars movie. There’s no way people aren’t going to love her, and even if they're hesitant at first, something in the film will turn them to the Rey side. Maybe it'll be her prowess with the Millennium Falcon. Or perhaps it'll be her hilarious use of the Force. Or maybe, it'll be that final grand moment when the blue lightsaber flies through the air into her hand instead of Kylo Ren’s, allowing her to face him in one of the most intense saber fights Star Wars has ever seen.
This kind of female hero — a woman leader who is badass, yes, but also realistically complex — is new to the Star Wars universe. Yes, Padmé Amidala of the prequel trilogy was a politician you wouldn’t want to mess with, even storming her own castle to take it back, but all of that was undone when she basically died of a broken heart, which, come on, is kind of ridiculous. Overall, the original Star Wars trilogy seriously lacked in female representation. Aside from Princess Leia, there weren’t many other women characters who spoke, let alone ones fans could root for. And while Leia was most certainly a feminist icon — strong-willed, powerful, a brave fighter — she wasn't the star of the Star Wars movies. There's no need to diminish any female in the Star Wars universe, of course, but Rey’s power, humor, doubts, giddiness, and dreams feel different than Leia's, perhaps because she is unquestionably the main hero of The Force Awakens.
In the original trilogy, Luke, Han, and Leia often acted as a trio, but it was Luke’s destiny and growth that drove the story. Yet in The Force Awakens, although many of the characters, even the original ones, get great stories, screen time, and character development, Rey's plotline deservedly gets the most attention. She’s the one with the destiny in this round, and she’s the hero everyone is going to be cheering for as the series continues. It's a big difference from Star Wars movies past, and a huge thing to celebrate as a fan.
The character of Rey isn't the only feminist aspect of the new film, however. The Force Awakens passes the Bechdel Test and, just like the comments section of any article about feminism justifies the existence of feminism, the conversation on Twitter surrounding Star Wars passing the test makes the significance of it abundantly clear. When LA Times writer Rebecca Keegan tweeted after the premiere that the movie passes, a zillion dudes swarmed the post spewing things like “Who cares!” “Who gives a f*ck?” and, I kid you not, “Female representation doesn’t matter.” Then, when Gawker writer Allie Jones wrote a farcical piece titled, “I Haven't Seen Star Wars Yet But I Bet it Doesn't Pass the Bechdel Test,” men seemed to lose their minds, which was exactly the piece's point. It was a clickbaity post intended to troll the dudes who would — and did — come out of the woodwork to decree that the Bechdel test doesn’t matter. Come on bros, the main photo in the article is of Admiral Ackbar. Clearly it was a trap.
But it worked, and it reinforced how important the feminism of The Force Awakens truly is. Thanks to its passing of the Bechdel test, its group of significant female roles, and, most majorly, its lead character of Rey, this newest Star Wars installment is doing wonders for women in film. Especially because of one nice touch — unlike so many movies starring female leads, The Force Awakens avoided making her someone's love interest. Some folks might think that Rey and Finn have a sort of flirtation going on (because telling a guy to “Stop taking my hand!” is totally flirting) and speculate that they’ll end up together. But I’m hoping that, like Luke, she’ll get to fulfill her destiny and fight her battles without ending up with a boyfriend on her arm.
So step away from the mic, Adele. Watch your back, Imperator Furiosa. Take off those heels, Bryce Dallas Howard. I’m declaring 2015 the year of Rey, and feminism in Star Wars.
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Images: Disney, Giphy