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When I was young, I remember watching several of the Star Wars movies with my dad.  I wouldn’t say it was my favorite series, I definitely preferred the Disney Princess movies.  (I was six, ok?)  Regardless, this past winter break I agreed to go see The Force Awakens with my dad.  I truly did not know what to expect.  And I certainly never expected such a feminist hero to take center stage as the protagonist of a film series that was otherwise dominated by men.

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Rey is introduced to audiences as a scavenger on the desert and forsaken planet of Jakku.  She soon encounters a droid named BB-8 who is holding the secret location of the long lost Luke Skywalker.  From there she is led into the acquaintance of Finn, a Storm Trooper who escaped the First Order — the evil master race/army that arose from the Galactic Empire, which was previously helmed by the franchise’s super villain, Darth Vader.

From Rey and Finn’s first encounter, Rey makes it very clear she doesn't need a man’s help to conquer extraordinary odds.  She is anything but the ‘damsel in distress.’  Per typical action movie scene, the boy grabs the girl’s hand so they can run away from danger together, fingers interlocked.  Honestly, this convention never made sense to me because realistically, two people can run faster without holding hands.  Rey must have felt the same way because she makes it a point to yell that she can run just fine without Finn holding her hand.  With that, the tone of the movie is set.

Rey is brave, smart and resourceful – all attributes that can be credited to her years of survival on Jakku.  Moreover, she is incredibly skilled in galactic aviation, which can’t be explained as anything but natural born destiny.  Her aviation skills are shown in several scenes throughout the film and she even impresses Hans Solo, the infamous captain of the Millennium Falcon.

Rey makes it clear that she doesn't need a man’s help to conquer extraordinary odds.

 

Detailed in everything from the clothing Rey wore to the storyline centering around her, The Force Awakens is truly a film featuring a feminist protagonist, rather than just a female one.  Daisy Ridley spoke out to The Daily Beast about her character and said, ‘She’s brave and she’s vulnerable and she’s so nuanced... She doesn’t have to be one thing to embody a woman in a film.  It just so happens she’s a woman, but she transcends gender.  She’s going to speak to men and women.’

It’s not to say other Star Wars films lacked a female presence, after all there was Princess Leia and Padme (Queen Amidala).  While they were strong female characters, yet they were both portrayed as damsels.  ‘Rey, however, is a character for a time that is coming to a new peace with feminism.  A time that is replacing feminism-as-a-movement with feminism-as-a-way-of-life,’ wrote Megan Garber, of The Atlantic.

Rey is strong and independent, not in an ‘in-your-face’or ‘aggressive’ way that some feminists are described as.  Rey is just who she is.  She's not a man-hater, she's their equal.  And that depiction is thanks to the genius of director J.J. Abrams.  Abrams told Good Morning America, ‘Star Wars' was always a boys' thing.  I was really hoping this could be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to, as well.’  I think it’s safe to say both moms and dads will want their daughters to see Rey shine in The Force Awakens for many years to come. 

 

Gabriella Bower is a student at New York University. Her two passions have always been fashion and philanthropy and she works to incorporate both aspects into her life as often as she can. Read more of Gabriella’s work ranging from current trends to short essays and social justice oriented posts on her blog Read Between the Hemlines.

 

 

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