Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers one of the most satisfyingly strong female protagonists in any major motion picture, making it a great leap forward in how women are portrayed onscreen. Unfortunately, it tells us repeatedly—in case moviegoers didn’t notice. Do we really need that kind of instruction?
Gender equality is a big issue, and we may see it most in media. Women have been objectified in film since the beginning, but a shift is happening. This was especially evident in the Star Wars franchise. I had never really watched a Star Wars film before the release of The Force Awakens, but with it quickly approaching, I decided I would schedule a viewing of the original three films (Episodes IV, V, and VI).
Once the task was complete I felt I was ready to jump into Episode VII. I’m actually pretty glad I did it. Of course The Force Awakens included many nods to the original films, which I would have missed otherwise. Watching the film full of a theater with actual Star Wars fans also provided for an endearing experience. These fans have been waiting years for this moment and the wait seemed worth it. There was one thing I wish the film didn’t do: repeatedly tell us women are every bit as capable as men. Now, hear me out. Women are obviously as capable as men, but we shouldn’t need a movie to remind us time and time again.
When we first meet Rey, the female protagonist, we watch her climb through a wrecked space ship scavenging for parts to sell for rations of food. She’s got a staff on her back, and it appears she’s been looking out for herself for quite some time. She is an independent woman in every way. Then arrives Finn, the male protagonist. In a misunderstanding Rey knocks Finn’s ass to the ground– literally. After talking things out, they come to see each other as allies. Soon after, storm troopers arrive and begin an attack on Rey and Finn. Finn grabs Rey’s hand and he pulls her into a sprint . Rey pulls her hand away and yells, “I know how to run! I don’t need you to hold my hand!” The audience laughs and the movie continues.
This happens once or twice more (the whole, don’t grab my hand thing). They make their escape on the Millennium Falcon (little known to them) with Rey in the pilot’s seat and Finn armed to fire at the enemy . Once again Rey tells us she is capable (of flying a ship, in this case) even though she’s a girl.
I am so happy to see women treated like human beings in these big budget movies. It’s been long enough of a wait. However, I would like us to move past telling people that women are human beings and just write them as human beings. The Force Awakens showed us diversity doesn’t degrade a good movie. But, we didn’t have to be reminded that Finn is Black or that Poe is Latino. I would like us to be able to respect women as people and not have them have to continue to struggle to tell us they are people.
Of course, as I am writing this article I am realizing this is exactly what we need. We need strong female characters not only showing men, but also telling men they are capable of being just as strong. Rey has to tell us she is strong for the little girls growing up today. Rey has to remind us she is capable for the women who truly know the sexism of the past and of today. Rey has to drill it into the heads of people who still cannot see these issues. Star Wars: The Force Awakens gives us what we need at this moment in time, and a new hope for the future of women in film.
We’re not sure who created the beautiful featured image of Rey, however we found it on Fresh Wallpapers. If you know who made it, please let us know so we can credit the artist directly!