By Sarah Muzzillo
I’m a brand new Star Wars fan. It’s sad to admit, but I had never seen any of the movies prior to a couple months ago. I’m sure your jaw just hit the floor in shock and dismay.
I unfairly regarded the franchise as something nerdy my dad enjoyed, not the groundbreaking, inspiring story it is. But as someone who frequents the Internet, the posts I kept seeing about The Force Awakens regarding its diverse cast and female lead intrigued me.
A friend and I binge watched the original trilogy in one day, saw Episode VII the following afternoon and sat in awe for two hours and 16 minutes straight.
The special effects were eye-catching and the acting top notch, but what struck a chord most with me was Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey.
Rey is an undeniably radical and subversive character. She is feminist in many surprising and refreshing ways.
This may seem inconsequential, but what a character wears matters. Rey’s outfit strikes an important balance: neither overtly masculine nor particularly feminine. Unlike so many “strong” female characters, her appearance is not sexualized. Rey’s clothing is practical, with light, flowing material that allows her to easily move around as she flies planes and kicks stormtrooper ass.
The Force Awakens rejects the tired, regressive trope of female characters referring to male counterparts for instructions on how to proceed, which communicates that women are inherently incompetent. When Finn offers his hand to Rey as they run away from stormtroopers, she demands he let go. Rey was forced to learn how to fend for herself as a scavenger after her family left her on the planet Jakku (she’s definitely Luke’s daughter, let’s be honest), so why should she suddenly rely on a man? She also duels with Kylo and wins after he renders Finn unconscious. It’s great to see a female character having full control over her actions and choices—not simply being saved by a man.
We are constantly told through media that the best female characters are “strong” ones. But being strong all the time is unrealistic and dehumanizing. Women are not one-dimensional sexualized objects who fight enemies for the male gaze. Rey successfully subverts this narrative several times throughout the film. She saves BB-8 and refuses to sell it for food, illustrating that her character is deeply empathetic to others’ struggles. She is visibly terrified as Kylo uses the force on her. She cries when Maz tells her that her path lies ahead, not behind. Emotion is not framed as weakness when it comes to Rey, but serves as a tool to humanize her.
I related to Rey on many levels, which seldom happens to me when watching a TV show or film. I prefer comfortable clothes over restrictive ones, consider myself an independent person, and also cry on occasion (as I did while watching this movie, for example).
Star Wars created a phenomenal female character. Girls and young women watching this movie will look up to Rey as a dynamic, three-dimensional person with whom they can authentically connect. That is transformational because, as studies prove, the media we consume affects how we view each other and ourselves.
Rey is indeed a force of nature. And not just because the force is strong with her.