Rey is the main protagonist in the new Star Wars film, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and she is fantastic. But too many of us are fixated on where she came from instead of how amazing she is, and how well she represents women-kind the galaxy over.
Google ‘Rey, Force Awakens’ or even just ‘Rey’, and you get a truckload of results about who Rey’s parent’s are, where she came from, who else she might be related to, why she is a Jedi, and a few stories about Hasbro leaving her character out of the new Force Awakens Monopoly game (bad move, Hasbro). But what we should really be focusing on is why, as a female lead in a huge, wildly anticipated, multi-million dollar sci-fi film, she is an absolute inspiration.
I’m sure all of the Star Wars fans out there have seen The Force Awakens by now, but of course, for the sake of those who haven’t, this article contains spoilers and should be avoided at all costs if you want to keep your Force Awakens virginity intact.
So, a teensy bit of background info: Rey is one of the first Jedi, or at least Force sensitive characters, to come about since Kylo Ren turned on Luke Skywalker and destroyed the new Jedi Order Luke was trying to build. She was left on the desert planet of Jakku as a small child, and is desperately waiting for her family to return and find her. She is a scavenger, and scours the desert plains of the desolate planet in search of scraps to sell in exchange for food rations. She keeps to herself, in her makeshift home inside an abandoned AT-AT, and doesn’t make a fuss about it.
At least until BB-8 rolls into her life and changes all of that. And thus, Rey starts her incredible journey to find the last Jedi. And here are my five reasons why it doesn’t matter whether or not she is Luke’s, or anybody else’s, daughter, but still kicks ass all the same.
1. She looks out for herself, but still cares about others
Rey is dependant upon herself for survival. She scavenges in the dry wastelands of Jakku for scrap from the remains of abandoned Star Destroyers and Imperial Walkers, left from the Battle of Jakku, where she essentially risks her butt climbing about like a pro to find parts and trinkets for trade. Rey looks after herself, and defends herself when necessary, but she also doesn’t turn her back when others are in need, even little droids. When BB-8 gets captured by Teedo, who plans to scrap him for parts, Rey doesn’t walk away, she argues with the scavanger and frees BB-8, and then allows him to follow her and stay the night with her for safety. But her trust in the good of others, as well as her kindness, doesn’t end there, Rey also agrees to help get BB-8 back to the Resistance, in order to complete his master, Poe Dameron‘s, mission. She does this, as well as helping get Finn off Jakku, doesn’t hesistate in saving Finn when the Rathtar gets him, and helps bring down Starkiller Base as well.
2. She kicks butt, all on her own, and doesn’t whine about it
Rey is very capable of looking after herself. She even tells us this, after she and Finn meet Han Solo, and he offers her a blaster, Rey instinctively tells Han that she ‘can take care of’ herself.
And she can. She is strong, brave, and defiant, as can be seen when Unkar Plutt‘s goons try and capture BB-8 from her at the marketplace in Niima Outpost; Rey fights them off almost effortlessly, with her epic staff skills. She also masterfully convinces Stormtrooper JB-007 (Yep, a quiet nod to actor Daniel Craig, who plays this character) to release her, as she taps into her Force powers with ease. Not to mention: she totally whoops Kylo Ren’s butt in their lightsaber dual at the end of the film.
Though she doesn’t say it, Rey is, as Kylo Ren informs us, very lonely; yet she doesn’t whine about it constantly, or cry because her friends have all gone off to the academy without her (but did you really wanna attend the Imperial Academy, Luke, really?). Rey just takes it all in her stride and makes the best of the situation she’s been put in. Sure, she obviously has dreams: a family she is waiting for, a rebel pilot doll in her hideaway; but she doesn’t feel the need to vocalise it, in fact, we don’t even know about most of these issues until she is facing Ren and he is reading her innermost thoughts. She is strong, and doesn’t wear her weaknesses around like a cloak, no emotions on this girl’s sleeve, no needy damsel in distress here. She just gets on with life.
Finally, little girls the world over, who hate Barbie dolls, have a real, action role-model to look up to.
Need I really say more on this point? One of the few downfalls of Leia, as kickass as she was, was that she had to rely on the men around her to get her anywhere, and in a fantastic turn of events here, Finn needs Rey to help him get off Jakku, and she does so on the iconic ship we have all come to love so much. Rey seems to be a natural pilot, and while we’ve known a couple of Star Wars heroes to have that trait before her (*cough*AnakinandLuke*cough*), I think the lack of explanation as to why Rey is able to pilot the Falcon only adds to her complexity and pulls us in to her characters further, leaving us wanting to know more. Regardless, though, of wanting to know about her past, the scene itself leaves you immersed in the action, the suspense and the downright epic flying that Rey pulls off in this scene.
It’s definitely one of my favourite scenes from the movie, I sit and smile like a 10 year old every time I watch it. But I love that Rey isn’t perfect, she doesn’t take off without a hitch, and she doesn’t act like she knows exactly what she’s doing; she’s a little unsure of herself, but brave enough to do what needs to be done.
4. She doesn’t need a man to guide her (or even hold her hand)
And being able to fly herself around, leads to another of Rey’s great traits, as previously mentioned, she doesn’t rely on the male characters for much at all. In fact, she tells Finn more than once to let go of her hand because she is more than capable of looking after herself. She can fight, she can fly, she can escape capture – all without the help of her male counterparts, the traditional ‘heroes’ of the universe. Even when Finn, Han and Chewie do show up to rescue her from Starkiller Base, she has already managed to get herself out of their clutches using her new-found mind-control powers, and they bump into her rounding a corner in a corridor, not even really needing their help. Even when faced with Kylo Ren in the final battle, as he tells her she needs a teacher and he can train her in the ways of the force, Rey still looks inside herself for the answers, for the strength to defeat him.
There really isn’t any strong point in the film, where Rey shows a need to be helped, saved, protected or guided by one of her male counterparts. I’m not saying that she’s an uber-feminist who looks down on men, or anything of the sort, but rather that The Force Awakens puts forward three new protagonists and holds them all in equal stead. And this is fantastic; while Leia was an amazing step forward, for female characters in sci-fi and fantasy, and for women in Hollywood at the time, it’s high-time a female lead could hold her own in a huge sci-fi blockbuster.
5. She can fill Han Solo’s boots, or Luke’s perhaps, whether or not she is related to either of them
Chewie isn’t always the easiest of characters to get along with, beat him at chess and he may very well rip your arms out of their sockets, but for reasons we aren’t necessarily aware of, he likes Rey. And at the end of the film we see them become co-pilots as they head off into uncharted space to find Luke. And she does. This is where we leave our protagonist, atop a cliff, in the wind, surrounded by ocean, facing the only known surviving Jedi Master, and not saying a word. Here, again, her defiance shows, and Luke can see it in her, he sees the good in her, the fight, much like he once saw in Han. She knows the Force, even if she does have a lot of training ahead of her, and she knows the good in the universe and is willing to fight for it. She IS the Heroine of our generation, and I’m certainly glad that Disney went with a strong female lead for this film.
As far as main characters go, Rey is definitely one of my new favourites, and as heartbroken as I am over losing Han; I feel comfortable knowing we have such strong new characters to carry us forward. While I know that Finn is a more likely stand-in for a Han type character moving forward, Rey is now the captain of the Millenium Falcon, and that must mean something! If nothing else, it just means she is pretty damn awesome.
So yes, Rey’s past is a mystery, for now. We know that we wont be getting any of these answers until at least December 2017 when Episode VIII is released, and that Disney and the films creators wanted it this way, as even Rey herself refers to her past as a ‘big secret’. But these are just a few of the reasons I think that Rey is still a complete, intriguing, kickass character, who is a brilliant role model for young girls, and a pleasure to watch on screen. Regardless of where she came from, I’m am super excited to see where Rey goes next.
Images via: here, here, here, here, here, here, here