We have opened our doors to Guest Editorials. For our first we are delighted to host Irish author Sarah Maria Griffin. Caution this contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You have been warned!

[quote style=’1′ cite=’http://lithub.com/men-explain-lolita-to-me/’ title=’Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Lolita To Me‘]You read enough books in which people like you are disposable, or are dirt, or are silent, absent, or worthless, and it makes an impact on you. Because art makes the world, because it matters, because it makes us. Or breaks us.[/quote]

It’s easy to feel tiny in the front row at the IMAX. All of my peripheral vision was screen – was rolling desert landscape and interstellar arctic tundra, was stars and the pew-pew-pew of spacecraft revolution.

I had reservations going into Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’d learned to set my standards low for blockbusters – a feminist education and worldview means I can’t just take off my Equality Goggles and Enjoy The Film Even If It’s Three Hours Of White Men Talking. The feminist gaze isn’t just a lens: it’s a conversation that continues, that we can have with every item of media we encounter. It’s rare that I can just choose to stop having that conversation with a film. If the film refuses to speak to me, then I walk away feeling emptied. Feeling tiny. During the trailers that led up to that iconic black screen with the small blue lettering that invited us to a galaxy far, far away, I steeled myself further. Here we go.

Deadpool: a man becomes a superhero and remains kind of quirky instead of becoming brooding and isolationist. Imagine that, like.

The Revenant: Leonardo De Caprio is a caveman looking for his son. Oscar bait.

Batman Loves Superman, with no more than a cursory glimpse of the Wonder Woman I’ve been waiting to see on the big screen my whole life.

I was reminded why the box office wasn’t for me. Why science fiction, why superheroes, why quests weren’t for me. Roe McDermott, film critic at Hotpress, had recently awarded the film five out of five stars:

[quote cite=’http://www.hotpress.com/Star-Wars/features/filmreviews/Review-of-iStar-Wars-The-Force-Awakensi/16337566.html’ title=’Roe McDermott – Hotpress’]J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan have perfectly balanced the old and new, the humour and heartbreak, and have updated the white, male-dominated universe to one filled with equals, not merely in the reductive sense of physical strength and skill with a lightsaber, but equal in vulnerability, in ambition, in need for love and deep reservoirs of courage. The characters in The Force Awakens are equals in their humanity.[/quote]

McDermott and I are old friends. We have a decade of long conversations about women in cinema behind us, and I trust her opinion and taste – but I was apprehensive, still. Worried, even, that the oncoming three hours would lead to three months of arguments with men at parties about why a film they loved left me out in the cold – again. Worried that this story would be the same as every story. I slid 3D glasses over my eyes and resigned myself.

Rey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens © LucasFilm

As expected, the initial orchestral swell had both me and my partner clinging hands and full of tears. There is something powerful about revisiting childhood at this scale, about the impact of fanfare. I expected to settle past the nostalgia burst and into the dull of Men Talking For Three Hours. 

Then, there was the bait and switch. Poe a dashing X-Wing Pilot, best of his kind. Finn, who frees himself from the violent, faceless bind of his life as a Storm Trooper. Poe’s hero mantle is passed onto Finn. We have never met either of them on screen before, and they are immediately likable. Where we expect Poe to flourish, he pulls a vanishing act. That was something, surely, at least. A change in tradition. Finn makes for a warm, empathic leading man, even amongst a powerful ensemble of iconic characters.  

Rey – another new face, is in the desert, bandaged head-to-toe. Her robes are off-white, they nod to Skywalker, suggest purity. She scavenges. She lives alone in the belly of a fallen AT-AT. She notches the days that pass on the wall, a litany of strikes. In the quiet, while the huge sun sets, she puts on a fighter-helmet and looks out over the horizon. She hears the flustered bleeps and bloops of a droid, and rescues him – and her adventure begins.

It dawned on me extremely slowly that Rey was, in fact, not a love interest, or a B-Plot. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for a gold-bikini scene. Waiting for her to have been written as all feist, no capability. Waiting for her to give up, already having given up on characters like her written by men a long, long time ago.

Finn takes her hand. She scolds him, twice – why does he keep doing that – then, when she realises (when we realise) it’s not just mere flirtation, but that his experience has earned him an understanding of how large-scale attacks work: she takes his hand instead. She won’t be led anywhere. They’ll be working in tandem.

Their back and forth is an ongoing delight, it lacks all of the forceful coercion of early Han/Leia interactions. Rey is more than competent, she’s downright gifted. She’s got a fluent understanding of piloting and repair: one that baffles the men around her – and more than a few critics, given the ongoing uproar amongst film-dudes and nerd-dudes alike. I read the Mary Sue allegations, scan Twitter and roll my eyes – She’s a self-insert, she’s no better than Bella Swan. She’s over powered, she’s unrealistically competent – she detracts from the authenticity of the story – I read these criticisms, scan Twitter and roll my eyes – in these remarks I feel the same unwritten sentiment over and over again. She’s a girl. She’s a girl. A Mary Sue is a derogatory term and trope used to traditionally describe characters in fan fiction, largely women, who are inserted by the author to represent themselves. A Mary Sue is, effectively, women writing themselves into an existence they have not seen enough of.  

Rey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens © LucasFilm

In an essay for iO9, Charlie Jane Anders addresses and deconstructs the Mary Sue complaint for what it really is: ‘Over time, the term “Mary Sue” has broadened until it means “any female character who is unrealistically talented or skilled.” Which is insane for a couple of reasons: It makes this “trope” so vague as to be meaningless, and this is also purely a way at tearing down female characters who are good at stuff.’

It struck me how many times the word ‘girl’ was called over action to describe, or seek, or note Rey’s participation throughout the story. Han Solo, all raised eyebrows, notes her as girl again and again. Kylo Ren smashes up a whole dashboard full of Serious And Complicated Looking Stuff with his red, crucifix looking lightsaber when informed that one of their Stormtroopers had absconded with the Skywalker-Map-Bearing-Droid and a girl. They’ve got the girl. The girl is getting away.

The word carried but each time it was used I did not feel it diminutive, as I usually do when men use girl to describe a fully grown woman. I stopped questioning why they didn’t say woman instead. It’s the same looseness of tongue that led C3PO to call Leia Princess, rather than General (and trust me, I nearly screamed with Actual Delight at that plot point). It’s force of habit, how almost no man in the plot can believe her ability. The girl? The hero. 

When I was growing up, a 90’s Super Nintendo Controller wielding little brat, all I wanted was adventure. Slowly and resolutely I learned that there were terms and conditions placed on my participation. That there were compromises that needed to be made in order for me to be brought along with the lads on the quest. Stay quiet, stay nice, stay small. Find compromises. My childhood was full of loud, bright video games in which I had no place. I played the Legend of Zelda and imagined Link, the protagonist, as a girl. Caught the solid 150 Pokemon in 1998, you know. Named my boyish sprite Sarah. Compromises. I wrote stories where girls were adventurers because I couldn’t find enough of them in my own life – I still write these stories, to this day. Because I have been sick of compromising for too long.

Rey does not compromise, and is not written into this story as a compromise.

Rey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens © LucasFilmThe awakening of the Force within Rey does not come via some terrible punishment, or some personal trauma that she has to overcome. She is not Black Widowed here, where her true power is revealed to come from her most profound wounds. Rey is given a luxury that comes so easily to male heroes – she simply turns a corner, finds a magical item (Luke Skywalker’s Lightsaber, no less) and it awakens the Force in her. Just that. No searing infertility, no rape, no revelation of past abuse, no heartbreak, no sacrifice. No heroine who’s validity is defined by what she has sacrificed, in the way of Katniss handing up her life for her sister, becoming a martyr for a revolution. In the way of Ariel, handing over her power to speak in order to walk on land. No poison apple, no needle on a spinning wheel here. Rey is Bilbo and the One Ring. Bastian in the bookshop. Harry, opening a letter. Rey doesn’t even get the mild inconvenience of being bitten by a radioactive spider to gain her powers – see you later, Peter Parker. 

Not only this, but Joseph Campbell, eat your heart out – she refuses the call to that power, just as many heroes running the Monomyth before her have. Though, as Laurie Penney noted earlier this week in her essay, What To Do When You’re Not The Hero Anymore for the New Statesman – ‘Campbell reportedly told his students that “women don’t need to make the journey. In the whole mythological journey, the woman is there. All she has to do is realise that she’s the place that people are trying to get to”.’

Rey is the place I, as a viewer, have been trying to get to for almost as long as I have been a reader, a viewer, a girl with a controller in her hand, desperately trying to connect to another world. I do not have to blur my eyes or name Rey for myself, here.

Rey is not defined by her pain, but her power. Hers is not a conversation about suffering. Her power comes from her courage and her participation, not from her trauma. In many ways, you could have sliced off her three ponytails and called her Ray and nobody would have known the difference. We all still probably would have had a fine time, the movie would smash at the box office, the world would continue undisturbed. But they didn’t. She remained a girl and the show went on – we left her on a stunning, silent cliffhanger, and we’ll see her again.

There is so much bargaining involved with being a woman in science fiction: often there can be only One Woman Of Importance on a same-faced backdrop of male characters. One gal on the team – a Smurfette, a token. A Leia. Notably, this year, Vulture put together this video compilation of every word of dialogue spoken by a woman who wasn’t Leia in the original Star Wars Trilogy. The airtime totals at 63 seconds. You’d need four times that to get a decent slice of toast off the grill.

Rey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens © LucasFilmThe Force Awakens begins to step up to this problem. Sure, the only conversation of note between two women is when Rey and Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o’s oracle, a funny and warm answer to the Yoda of Star Wars past) – and given that it’s about Luke Skywalker, it technically doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test – but Gwendolyn Christie looms tall as the silver-clad Captain Phasma, and Carrie Fischer reprises Leia with great depth. There are motions towards intersectionality, too – incidental characters are notably more diverse than the usual white, male background smattering of control panel operators, engineers and soldiers. Jessica Lachenal at The Mary Sue notes and cheers for Jess Pava, an Asian X-Wing pilot who appears briefly during the attack on Starkiller Base – ‘I was watching an example of the type of character I could be. And that was magic.’

She’s right, too. It is does feel like magic: and like any good magic trick, it made me want more. In the next story of this arc, I want to see more. I want the follow through: I want to know what happens to Jess Pava. I want more diversity, more women’s voices, more conversation. I want more not because I am disappointed, I want more because I liked what was beginning. Because it hinted at what was possible – what could lie ahead. 

The backlash from male viewers and critics across social media means we have to underscore the imperfection of this film. The dismissive ‘meh’. Many of the reviews of and essays about Star Wars written by women that have cropped up over the last month stammer a moment to reassure the reader that they aren’t saying the film is perfect. We have to say, ‘Well, it’s not perfect,’ as though to downplay our excitement or undermine our relief. As though to promise, oh no, I didn’t enjoy it that much. Perhaps this is an earnest critique, perhaps the ‘Not perfect’ is a compromise, a nod to male fragility, an pre-emptive evasion of their dismissal. McDermott refuses this, places five out of five stars on the piece. She notes that it gives us hope.  

As an engaged viewer, I’m not looking for perfection in cinema – I’m just looking for art that participates in conversation. I’m looking for reprieve, escape, entertainment. A flash of something magic. I want to go somewhere else for three hours and come back safe, changed, and better for the journey. And isn’t that what cinema is supposed to do, what art is supposed to do – affirm our place in the world, fill us with questions and courage and confidence. I went into the IMAX feeling tiny amongst the spaceships, and somehow, left feeling taller. That’s magic. That’s something to be excited about.

And maybe if this is just the first flicker of an eyelid in a larger awakening, if this is the first step into fantastic landscapes populated by women of all kinds – then maybe the future of cinema really is something to look forward to. Maybe that galaxy isn’t so far away. 

Edited by Sarah Waldron, titled by Roe McDermott.

[infobox style=’regular’ static=’1′]sarah-maria-griffin_imageSarah Maria Griffin is a writer from Dublin. She doesn’t live in San Francisco anymore. Her collection of essays, Not Lost, was released by New Island Press in 2013, and her first novel, Spare & Found Parts, is forthcoming with Greenwillow Press (Harper Collins) in Autumn 2016. Given the choice, she will still always put her own name in on a character select screen. She tweets @griffski.[/infobox]

46 Responses

  1. Sinocelt

    I went to see this movie with my sister. Toward the end, when Ray is knocked out and Finn picks up the lightsaber, we both had the same reaction: “Here we go. In fine, the girl still needs to be saved, even though it makes no frigging sense that Finn — who, unlike Ray, has no experience with edge weapons and doesn’t have the Force — should manage to beat Kylo Ren, hurt or not. He should get creamed. He … was? Oh. And Ray leaps back into the fray. Wow.”

    I did enjoy watching a movie in which the protagonist is a *competent* girl. I don’t think she’s more competent than most men in similar stories, either, except for the speed at which she learns to use the Force. In minutes, she learns to use Force tricks that took years for Luke to learn with the help of both Obi-Wan and Yoda successively. By next movie, we can expect her to mind-control the population of whole planets, and to move said planets at will within the galaxy.

    Reply
    • Alicia

      Something to note in her learning to use the force is that she pulls the mind trick and makes apparently great strides in training after Kylo actively uses the force on her and against her. So she feels it first hand and mimics it.

      Reply
      • Leah Petersen (@LeahPetersen)

        Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. And she manages to resist him. That is NOT an insignificant learning moment. And even without that her ability to use the Force quickly is no more egregious than any hundreds of male heroes who do that in pretty much every comparable movie.

  2. Sinocelt

    I went to see this movie with my sister. Toward the end, when Ray is knocked out and Finn picks up the lightsaber, we both had the same reaction: “Here we go. In fine, the girl still needs to be saved, even though it makes no frigging sense that Finn — who, unlike Ray, has no experience with edge weapons and doesn’t have the Force — should manage to beat Kylo Ren, hurt or not. He should get creamed. He … was? Oh. And Ray leaps back into the fray. Wow.”

    I did enjoy watching a movie in which the protagonist is a *competent* girl. I don’t think she’s more competent than most men in similar stories, either, except for the speed at which she learns to use the Force. In minutes, she comes up with Force tricks that took years for Luke to learn with the help of both Obi-Wan and Yoda successively. By next movie, we can expect her to mind-control the population of whole planets, and to move said planets at will within the galaxy. ;o)

    Reply
  3. Hannah Smith

    What a great article. It made me realize the things I had been yearning for in a movie that I didn’t know I wanted. It laid the reason for my overwhelming satisfaction when I left the theater after this movie.Thank you so much for your interpretation.

    Reply
  4. Chris

    Like the article! As a bloke I’m really glad to see strong female leads and balanced supporting cast. There’s nothing more frustrating for me than seeing the same ridiculous male super beefcake trope rolled out time and time again, especially when they chuck in a token “chick” and a comedy black dude side-kick. Good read, thanks

    Reply
  5. muse77

    I for one don’t have a problem with reys role in the film or how she’s a female , the problem (which doesn’t ruin it) is her ability to use the force and beat what seems to be an experienced user of the force with no training (that we know ourselves)
    Hopefully this is explained later as otherwise its inconsistent with the series and of neo in the matrix like levels (which was already explored with Anakin)

    Reply
    • meredith

      What Rey did doesn’t stray that far from the established rules of canon, though. When she fought Kylo he was heavily injured, she has an incredible use of the force, and she is used to fighting with meelee weapons. Luke also had an incredible use of the force, with no training he used it to destroy the Death Star. Nothing Rey did in this movie is something that couldn’t have happened to Luke in the original trilogy.

      Reply
    • Serena Browne

      If she is Luke’s daughter, which seems likely considering the clues (he would’ve left her on the desert planet when he vanished, showing the relative age between Rey and Kylo?) and he did somehow erase her memory (locked with the Force or because of trauma or young age, whatever), and considering that Jedi are supposed to start their training at a very young age… I’d say there’s a good chance Luke started her training when she was a youngling, and then locked her memory of it when Ben turned to the Dark Side, fearing she would do the same. So: she might have training already she just didn’t know how to access. I know that seems like a lot of ‘buts’, but considering the somewhat predictable pattern of writing in Force Awakens and it’s reflection of the origtrig, I don’t find it that unlikely.

      Reply
    • RyanH

      Anakin Skywalker used the Force with incredible skill all the time with zero training–podracing, piloting a ship he’d never seen before into a hangar bay at presumably supersonic speeds, blowing up an entire mothership. The Force used quite powerfully in a raw sense all the time in the SW universe. There’s ample precedent for it IMO.

      Reply
    • Johnlacuna

      As it looks likely that Rey is Luke’s daughter, she is a direct descendant of a true, fully trained Jedi. Kylo isn’t. And as someone else has stated, she probably had early training before the Jedi school was trashed and she was dumped on Jakku with Simon Pegg. And she spends half of that light sabre battle at the end defending herself. It’s only when she remembers to use the force that she fights back. It’s consistent with Anakin in episode I for me. And he’s not even related to a Jedi.

      Reply
  6. David Leeds

    There’s really no problem at all about the speed with which Rey learns to use the Force. She grew up with stories about the Force and the Jedi, while Luke did not. She already knew what the Force was supposed to be and what it could do. Luke did not. He needed an introduction from the very beginning, and got it from both Obi Wan and Yoda. Rey found herself in the deep end of the pool and figured out how to swim. Luke’s lightsaber awoke her ability. Kylo Ren in his arrogance showed her how a thing was done and promptly had it turned on him. And then she practiced, on poor lil old Daniel Craig’s stormtrooper. She didn’t even get it right straight off the bat, which really would have been unrealistic. But she knows already what the Force is supposed to be able to do and she can feel now how it works, of course she’s going to figure it out. Look at the life she had been living. The woman is resourceful.

    Reply
  7. RyanH

    This 40something white male who has 3 young sons and no daughters reacted with unrepentant, unconditional glee to the revelation that Rey is the central protagonist of the new trilogy. I am absolutely thrilled by it. And I was so happy to see that she kicks ass in her own right and needs no one to save her.

    Reply
  8. SaigeS

    This is an amazing piece and I completely agree with you. I couldn’t figure out why I wanted to see the movie a second time in theaters (which i did), given I am only a sane Star wars fan. But I think I was also stunned at the obvious star of the movie, the dignity with which she was treated and a glimmer of hope for hollywood/our society in general. I personally was so thankful that she was dressed normally (not pure seduction) and she was given the life of a real character, a hero. Humble, strong and passionate. Keep writing and keep encouraging women!!

    Reply
  9. Joshua Anderson

    There’s a lot of love for what Rey represents, but, unfortunately, I can’t must up the same enthusiasm for the character that we were actually given. As someone who liked, but did not love, the film, the problem was less with Rey and more with all of the characters in general. None of them had any character traits other than those that were necessary for the plot. Finn is the best of them, and his arc is over in the first five minutes of the movie. Poe is a bag of flour with a smirky face drawn on. Rey has one character trait (“determined”) that she wears throughout the whole movie. There’s the refusal of the call, but the audience isn’t told WHY the lightsaber freaks her out. I know that movies are serialized these days and we’ll probably find out later, but it made THIS movie less than satisfying.

    We need Rey. I have an eleven-year old girl who loves fantasy and sci-fi, and I want more than anything for her to have awesome characters to look up to. And she can only watch Naussica so many times. More the better! However, I think that need has created a knee-jerk reaction to criticism that’s just making everybody more angry at each other. Women were starving, were given a McRib, and now have to defend it because it’s all they’ve got. So I think it’s perfectly reasonable to celebrate Rey’s presence, but we should also be asking for more in the next movie.

    Reply
    • accioharo

      “Women were starving, were given a McRib, and now have to defend it because it’s all they’ve got.”

      This is so condescending toward female fans, and it’s not at all your place as a man to say something like that.

      Reply
    • Matt

      The character and story are on the level of the cast of A New Hope where the full story is only 1/3 told and sets up the even more epic exploits to come. I mean, there was a cliffhanger even.

      Reply
  10. Dave Moschler

    Thank you for an extremely well-written, eloquent, and passionate piece of writing! Your analysis and explanation of exactly why this is an important new beginning for story-telling and mainstream popular culture in general (and hopefully not just an anomaly for blockbuster films) is very much needed!

    I was reading an interview with Gwendolyn Christie in TIME’s cover-piece on the film where she talked about how the fact that Captain Phasma has no face time and instead is always covered up for the entire film was actually super empowering to her. She said because it’s one of the first female (super-villains, at that!) who is represented solely by her voice, acting, and physical presence, and not just her body.

    Keep up the awesome work!

    Reply
  11. Jeff B

    Her character was marked by trauma and sacrifice, though. You wrote that Rey is “no heroine who’s validity is defined by what she has sacrificed…” and “Her power comes from her courage and her participation, not from her trauma” — but she sacrificed her childhood to abandonment, having been left on a desert wasteland Jakku by her (probably Jedi-ish) family

    Reply
  12. judithfinn

    This was a wonderful article, and I’m so glad the film has such a positive and inspiring affect on you. I agree, film, and art, that, as you said can make us feel taller, is definitely something to celebrate. As an avid film fan, and a rather harsh critic, I left The Force Awakens with a huge smile, a woman jedi, a woman jedi who kicked butt and had the audience cheering along side her. And as the box office numbers rolled in, I was beyond excited about the success of a female led action film. Representation is everything, and when studios see that people will flock to a movie not just in spite of a female star, but perhaps in part because of it, we are moving in the right direction. money is a powerful motivator in hollywood, perhaps the only motivator. All of this being said, the film is not particularly strong. I am a star wars fan through and through, and while I acknowledge the decision to retell the original trilogy as closely as possible in order to fan service and get people in the seats, when Lucas failed to give his audience what they wanted the last time around… checking the boxes does not a good film make. I’m not saying I felt it was a bad film, far from it. I’d give it 3 stars, maybe a B+. The largest flaws, however, were with the new characters, with Finn and Rey. They were thin. They were not well written. They were given excellent performances, but the characters themselves were placed on the back burner in pre-production to insure that the millennium falcon got a round of applause, that Han Solo was just as wonderful as he was originally, that we were given a antagonist that would hold up to a trilogy (perhaps the best character in the whole film), the list goes on. I think it is possible to celebrate the victory of Rey while acknowledging that her character is not a well crafted one. I highly recommend you watch Max Landis’ youtube videos about this topic. I know the term Mary Sue has exploded across the internet, but his intention was not to demean women or their role in film, or any such thing. He discusses the flaws in Rey and Finns characters in a way that makes complete sense. You say you liked that grandness was thrust upon her, that she didn’t have to suffer like all the other characters you mentioned.. but that is how heroes are born in the traditional story arch. Struggle and failure is what leads to believable success. No stakes? No struggle? No where to go from here? That is not a story. And I am not saying there has to be a horror in her past, or great trauma, I do agree that trope is over used. But she can be saved. She can need help from the crew alongside her. Fighting off the men in the beginning of the movie is a great place to start. Let that energy and that ability show us that she can do this, that she can be the hero in the story. But from there on out she wins at every turn. She’s only in danger for a very short period of time… and then she has the ability to use the force in a way, to our knowledge, she has never seen it used, or been told that is how it can be used. She has never heard the line, ‘these aren’t the droids you’re looking for’. And yet it works on the second try. I think so much credibility, believably, and, yes, a quality that would get us on her side, cheering all the more, would be if she gets help from time to time when she direly needs it. Luke had help again, and again, and again. He never stopped struggling, and that is what made him an interesting character. His evolution was astounding. Again, I left the theater with a smile on my face, it was a fun time. It was an okay movie, and I say that as a bit of a film snob but a huge fan of all things Star Wars and fantasy galore. I’m not saying by any stretch of the imagination that your emotions about the film are unfounded or misplaced. Loving a movie is never wrong, having such a fantastic response to a film is why I love movies in the first place. And I don’t think criticism of Rey tempers that victory. It can take place right alongside it. These critiques are not, i should say are not ALWAYS, just a “a nod to male fragility, an pre-emptive evasion of their dismissal”- I think they can be part of an important discussion. I want the best of both worlds. I want Reys in every corner of the film world, I want people to go out to movies like this, and movies nothing like it, that have a woman inexcusably existing, thriving, leading, what have you… but I also want the Reys of this world to be better written. Because it affects the movie. Because I demand greatness every time I go into the theater. Rey could have been great, but she was not written that way. I don’t know why, but I do know it could have been done better, and the whole film would have been better because of it. I ask you, again, if you feel strongly enough about this issue to write the above, and again, may I say, so inspiring, article… you watch Max Landis’ videos, all of them, and see if you don’t agree. If you don’t think Rey would have been even more kick ass if she had skinned her knees in the process.

    Reply
  13. Ross Fitzsimons

    I like this piece and like the film – I was happy for my 7-year-old daughter to see it too, in no small part because of Rey. But please don’t depend on a third-hand reading of Joseph Campbell. He spent 38 years teaching at Sarah Lawrence College. Here he is telling Bill Moyers how he talked to his students one-to-one: http://youtu.be/TLKUFYAOoRI

    Reply
  14. Bookwyrm

    I feel so lucky that I stumbled across two incredible authors during my teens in the 80s. Marian zimmer bradley and Anne McCartney. MZB also brought in even more incredible authors. All of whom wrote with incredible female characters who were leads or supporting or anything in between but we’re always well fleshed out and real. They wrote in both sci-fi and fantasy genres so my greedy little imagination was supremely happy. I am glad that movies are hopefully moving to catch up with the stides these amazing women made in books and that some of the strides I’ve seen in video games also continue. I adored reys character as one with some true depth for once. Now if only they’d shown some women with some male slaves wandering around that bar… 😉

    Reply
  15. Thomas Monroe

    Mary Sue

    How dare you
    Hurl the epitaph
    Mary Sue

    Here’s news for you
    Your Rambos, Rockys,
    And Indiana Joneses crew

    Your Die Hards
    Blow Hards
    And Batmans too

    You accept their competence
    Charmingness
    And triumphs true

    But when a woman whoops
    And schools
    The bad guys you

    Call it unrealistic
    Too perfect
    And a contrived view

    Fuck you

    Mary Sue is every mother
    Who holds down a job
    And makes a home

    Mary Sue is every daughter
    Who pursues education
    And stares down a loan

    Mary Sue doesn’t accept
    Less pay for the same work
    Less respect from a lame jerk

    Who criticizes her ability
    Yet depends on her daily
    To take responsibility

    Mary Sue is your mother
    Grandmother
    And daughter too

    And it’s time you gave her
    The respect she’s due

    #marysue #rey #starwars #theforceawakens #poem #poetry #spokenword #feminism #equality
    #daisyridley

    Reply
  16. Steve Robbins

    Excellent piece. In a way, the title “The Force Awakens” could be seen as women as powerful, interesting, and strong roles without bullshit attached as an… awakening!

    As my fiancee and I look to have children in the next few years, it’s important to me that whatever sex our child is, that there’s a strong icon that I can point to and say either, “see, son? Women/girls can do anything,” or “see, daughter? YOU can do anything.”

    Reply
  17. Diane

    Rey was abandoned as a child and lived homeless, alone, and hungry for well over a decade. That does imply a certain level of abuse and heartache.

    Reply
  18. Eric Rift Becking

    At the risk of sounding like a white male telling a woman that she’s wrong…
    I watched the force awakens and came out with a lukewarm feeling. Even though the movie was 3 hours long the plot line felt confused. To me it felt like there were two movies that were competing with each other in order to reach the films conclusion. One story was basically episode 4 redux. Person on planet gets caught up in an adventure, is pulled through a series of fantastic events, and then destroys a death star. Story II looked something like the search for luke, in which you have the adventure pretty much as written, but without all the random bits about the deathstar v3. They gave just enough exposition to make me aggravated. A little bit less and it would have just been a mindless action movie… and a little bit more and it could have been really cool but without that little bit of extra exposition many of the characters wound up feeling under-developed. That all having been said, none of these are GENDERED critiques. I was happy to see Ren walk through the heroes journey, given that it’s 2016 it’s about time. But! Saying that a film is perfect just because they’ve finally put forth a strong female lead whose power isn’t grounded in tragedy seems detrimental to feminism… let’s just say that bit. This movie does a good job of putting forth a strong female lead and that’s awesome. Collectively we should ask for a movie that has both a strong female lead whose power isn’t grounded in tragedy AND a coherent plot with well developed characters.

    Reply
  19. Montello Johnson

    I’m glad Rey is such an inspirational character for girls and women. It’s going to be fun watching her character get even more powerful in the next movies. It is sad that Finn was so incredibly weak by comparison though. For black Star Wars fans, we got a guy who lied, and told everyone who would listen that he wanted to run away. I saw Finn on the poster with a lightsaber. I didn’t expect him to be the new Jar Jar Binks. Him losing to Kylo Ren is fine, but losing to a random stormtrooper? C’mon now, that’s just embarrassing.

    Reply
  20. Floris de Vries

    Don’t confuse common sense with male chauvinism.

    You will recognize a true Mary Sue once you experience badly written stories. You will find many (male) Mary Sues in Robert Heinlein stories. They always know everything better. A lot of US films have male protagonists that go superhero and can pretty much win entire wars on their own. Men are generally not very approving of that sort of nonsense either. Most of us, we really like common sense, you see. I had the slight same feeling watching Ender’s Game. The term is not a symptom of male chauvinism, it is fair criticism at written characters that are downright way, way too good to be true. It just happens to rhyme with that, hence it’s origin. I’ve talked with plenty of girls that absolutely hate Mary Sues because they simply crave good writing. Doesn’t matter if they’re male or female.

    Great female sci fi characters are Ripley and Sarah Connor. Princess Leia as well. Enough character, sense of humor, feisty, not too powerful but very strong, likeable, never boring. There’s plenty to be found in Joss Whedon’s writings as well although he tends to go Mary Sue at times.

    Terrible ones are like those in Aeon Flux or Ultraviolet movies (the animated Aeon is entirely different). The problem is believability and good writing, including character backstory. Boring characters, pretty but onedimensional. I also disliked Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, not boring but just way too skinny and not looking even barely athletic enough to be a believable female Bruce Lee. Real kick ass women like Cynthia Rothrock would just downright own her. Again, the problem is believability.

    The term Mary Sue comes from bad fan-fiction written by people that poured their, too good to be true, fantasies on paper. The term has not broadened, it just means a ridiculously overpowered and overfeatured character. While Luke Skywalker was arguably quite powerful Rey shows off skills ep. 4/5 Luke couldn’t hold a candle to. She is not overfeatured, but as far as skills go she is like Obi-Wan, R2D2, Anakin and Luke Skywalker (ep. 6) all in one. All extremely powerful characters on their own, so it’s way over the top. As a feminist with common sense one should have a problem with that kind of lack of believability. It does feminism more bad than good, both intelligent women and men do get annoyed by this sort of thing. Now, Daisy is absolutely great and the film gets away with it because we know there are unanswered questions about her origins. And sure there was some compensation that felt justified although not essential. And Kylo got shot by Chewie’s Bowcaster normal people would be more than dead.

    Rethinking the film like fanboys do I now understand she is probably a former powerful student in the force that was most likely banished and memory wiped like Revan was, in the old Knights Of The Old Republic videogame. Because of the look in his face at the end of the film, I suspect Luke may have trained her, although that should mean Kylo would have recognized her.

    This would lend the character much more believability and I sincerely hope some explanation like this will be given in the next film or they have seriously screwed up a potentially wonderful character and what women would be really happy with that? Now, let us enjoy more of Rey, let her go Dark Side for all I care but make the character work! Love Daisy’s work and I am looking forward to the sequel. Oh and I’m pretty sure both Phasma and Kylo will be back with a vengeance.

    Reply

Leave a Reply