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Can't Talk | September 16, 2019

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Why Is Rey So Important?

Why Is Rey So Important?
Andrew

We are far enough out from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” that I feel I can talk about the importance of Rey without having to worry about spoiling the story. That being said, if you haven’t seen it yet and have managed to avoid spoilers this long, congratulations and stop reading now if you want that to continue

Spoilers Ahead.
When I first saw “The Force Awakens,” I told Amelia here at Can’t Talk that Rey was probably the most important female character in science fiction in a generation—and possibly ever. She was taken aback by that statement and rightly so; with such amazing characters as Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Lt. Uhura, and Zoe Washburne already out there, what made Rey so special? Not to take away from any of the accomplishments of these characters or the actresses who played them—their existence made Rey possible—but they are all missing something that had not happened before. None of them were the lead in their first appearance. Now an argument can be made for Ellen Ripley, but she was originally written to be a male character and was recast when Sigourney Weaver auditioned and was ultimately cast in the role.

Why is Rey so important? She is the lead. She may not be the first name when the credits roll— that honor belongs to the original trilogy cast—but there is little doubt when watching this movie that the story is all about Rey and her journey. Everyone in the film talks about or is concerned about Rey in one form or another, from her supporting male characters Finn and Han Solo, to the two main antagonists Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke, who spend a great deal of time obsessing over her. Why is Rey so important? While I greatly identified with the character of Finn, who spends much of the movie afraid, not in control, lost and running away from his problems, I wanted to be Rey. I wanted to be the character that looked at the world as it was but could still take the time to rescue a helpless droid, which are property despite their sentience; see new places and be filled with wonder; make the moral decision when faced with hunger and poverty; be confident and in control when it’s pretty clear that she is facing down some of the most terrifying moments of her life. I may relate to the mess that was Finn, but I aspired to be more like Rey.

Why is Rey so important? She isn’t defined by the men around her. When Finn constantly takes her hand when running to escape, she yells for him to stop taking her hand because she knows how to run. She is in control of her body and has no problem telling anyone to back off because she has a sense of self that is lacking in many fictional women on screen. When Han Solo—a character she clearly admires—offers her a job, she declines because she feels more obligated to what she feels is her duty than her desire to see more of the galaxy. Why is Rey so important? She is never a damsel in distress. Yes, she is captured by The First Order and interrogated by Kylo Ren, but she resists him, something Poe Dameron was unable to do. Yes, Finn, Han, and Chewie go on a rescue mission, but when they arrive not only has she escaped using her newly discovered ability to manipulate the Force, but she is the one who ultimately rescues Finn by standing up to and defeating Kylo Ren.

Why is Rey so important? At no point in the film does she become anyone’s love interest. Finn makes little secret that he is interested in Rey; it’s clear from the first meeting where he thinks he has to rescue her to when he tells her that no one ever looked at him they way Rey had. Ultimately, though, it becomes something that is rarely seen in Hollywood: a platonic friendship. It’s evident in the hug when she is happy to see him on Starkiller Base and a kiss on his forehead as she leaves to find Luke Skywalker with the parting words “my friend.” Why is Rey so important? “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has made almost $2 billion worldwide proving that a movie with a female lead can be successful. This is the third highest grossing movie of all time, and it is still in theatres so it could still climb even higher.

Why is Rey so important? She has paved the way even more for women in film and is only the most important woman in science fiction because she is being lifted up to this level by all the women that came before paving the way for her: Ellen Ripley, Uhura, Sarah Connor, and many more. I hope now not only does Hollywood see how successful women can be for them, but also that we don’t have to wait another generation to have a character as important as Rey.

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Comments

  1. Michelle

    Nice piece!

    • Andrew

      Thanks Michelle, I hope I’ll be writing something similar about Jyn Erso in December when Rogue One is in theatres.

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