After purchasing my tickets to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in early November I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I kept myself spoiler free in every possible way other than viewing the initial trailer, and after hearing all the positive feedback from my news feeds from the Thursday night release I was stoked.
I took a half-day off work on Friday and (along with my older sister) we raced to Scotiabank Theatre in IMAX. From the moment the scrolling words appeared on my screen I was almost in tears. Two hours later, I was in tears.
Episode VII is exactly what you’d expect and more. But let’s not talk about what was expected, let’s talk about something extremely important and completely unexpected: the strong, female heroines defying gender roles and generally, to put it simply, kicking ass.
Firstly, I need to bring up the fact that Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan from the original trilogy was a strong, female icon for her time. Unfortunately, she was also used as a sexual trope; the woman who motivates the hero (Luke) on his quest to save the galaxy and who has to be saved by the men after being captured on more than one occasion. Her character is perfect, but in order to be at her best her male co-stars would have to take a backseat.
Fast-forward to The Force Awakens and you meet women like Captain Phasma, who is the first female storm trooper – one who’s in power all while looking as badass as possible. Who we really need to discuss, however, is Daisy Ridley’s portrayal as Rey: a simple, tough young woman living alone in the middle of a dessert in Jakku. Without giving away all of the amazing things she’s capable of, all I can say is that instead of her character taking a backseat to her male co-stars, she outshines them.
Rey is a breath of fresh air. She doesn’t need to be saved, nor need anyone to hold her hand. She’s perfectly capable of handling herself all on her own. She’s strong-willed and skilled in her trade all while avoiding being used as a sexual trope. She also shows vulnerability and compassion, allowing the audience to see weakness and making her relatable. Some have criticized and labeled her as a “Mary Sue” but I whole-heartedly disagree: she’s the hero we’ve needed for a very long time and JJ Abrams delivers.
When the movie was over, I turned to my sister and exclaimed happily that I couldn’t wait for her 8-year-old daughter to see this film. It’s so very important that young girls have positive role models to look up to and what better source than coming from one of the most highly anticipated films of the decade from one of the most influential franchises.
Star Wars isn’t just a boy’s club anymore, and thank goodness for that. Men have been constantly overshadowing strong female characters for years so let’s embrace this change.