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Growing up, I was not a cool kid.  Far from it actually.  While other 90s girls were shopping at Limited Too, talking about which member of ‘N Sync was ‘going places’, and reliving the magic of the Lizzie Maguire Christmas Special (featuring Aaron Carter in all his ‘I Want Candy’ glory), I had my sights set, well, a little higher…  Or so I thought.  Turns out dreaming of intergalactic space travel doesn’t necessarily make you an ‘it’ girl when you’re in the 5th grade and your peers are just discovering the wonders of AIM, shaving one’s legs, and of course, boys.  I was, and continue to be, a die-hard Star Wars enthusiast and as a wee middle schooler, my obsession manifested itself in utter geekdom, complete with Star Wars comics, action figures, and highly anticipated midnight premiers of the prequels (which retrospectively were nothing short of terrible, but it’s all I had, ok?). 

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Needless to say, when I saw the first trailer for The Force Awakens, I cried.  Nostalgia rushed through me as I was reunited with my old friends Han, Chewie and Leia, who had helped me navigate some of the trickiest times in my pre-teen life.  As a fan, I was going home.  With all that emotion and anticipation building, it would have been easy for the film to be a let down.  It would have been tragic, but easy, for JJ Abrams to make one slip up, and crush the dreams of the little me so ready to battle the Dark Side once more.  It could’ve been over-hyped, over-produced, and poorly written…  but it wasn’t.  It was a phenomenal film with record box-office numbers for good reason.  It was a tease for all future installments of adventure in the universe I love so much.  It was a new beginning.

Upon exiting the theatre, along with around 250 of my new closest friends, I couldn’t help but notice the demographics within the audience.  Unlike when I was a kid, being the seemingly sole female who harbored a love for all things out of this world, I found myself surrounded by little girls.  Girls anxious to get to the theatre for a second round of Rey and Finn’s antics.  Girls reenacting epic lightsaber battles while waiting for their parents to exit the restroom.  Girls debating whether or not something really big that happened in the film should have happened in the first place (I would spell out what they were fighting about, but it’s a major spoiler, and while I would hope you’ve seen the movie for yourself, I am aware that some people do, in fact, live under rocks and thus I wouldn’t want to be the one to ruin the film for you).  I was elated.  Star Wars is cool.  Thanks to JJ Abrams, a team of amazing creatives, and a script that hallows a woman as a hero, Star Wars is on-trend for everyone, regardless of age or gender.

The best part?  As if the kick-ass female protagonist, Rey, wasn’t enough of a win, off-screen the cast boasts a slew of empowering, inspiring, and simply wonderful women that are changing the game for little fans everywhere.  They are instigating conversations, standing up for what they believe in, and delivering performances aimed at defaming the old damsel stigma.  They are heroes.

They're standing up for what they believe in and delivering performances defaming the old damsel stigma.

Lupita Nyong’o  

Best known for her 2013 Academy Award Win for her breathtaking work in the historical drama 12 Years A Slave, one could watch The Force Awakens, and miss Lupita’s giggle inducing performance.  In the film, Lupita portrays Maz Kanata, a wise and oracle-like CGI alien, destined to help our heroine, Rey, come to terms with her destiny.  While Miss Nyong’o’s performance is brilliant and serves as an almost Yoda-like substitute within the scope of this film, it is her poise and grace in the light of tricky social subjects that make her Hollywood royalty.  Recently, Lupita spoke out in light of the 2016 Oscars diversity controversy.  Being the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to win an Academy Award, Lupita chimed in during an interview with NBC News saying that this years Oscar exclusion is ‘a symptom of something else… What we are asking for is really for more stories to be told… I think that’s it’s good for all of us when we hear a diverse number of stories… it is more reflective of the world we live in.’  This conviction for diversity in storytelling is not new to Lupita.  In 2009, Lupita made her directorial debut with the short documentary In My Genes, a piece focused on racial tension experienced by individuals with albinism in Kenya, and she continues to champion and work on projects with powerful and conversation-inducing subject matter such as race and sexism.  Currently, she is preparing for her Broadway debut in Eclipsed, a show that centers around the captive wives of a rebel officer during the Liberian Civil War, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what is sure to be another groundbreaking performance.  Whether she’s flirting with a Wookie or inspiring others in an interview, Nyong’o is a force to be reckoned with both in the Star Wars universe and beyond.

Carrie Fisher       

No list of inspiring badass women behind the camera would be complete without original franchise royalty, Carrie Fisher.  At times crass and quick for a laugh, at age 59, this princess of comedy has been making recent waves in the Twitter-verse by drawing awareness to the stigmas and relentless amount of body-shaming women face in Hollywood and frankly, within the current social climate in general.  In light of The Force Awakens opening in theatres, Fisher divulged that the studio urged her to lose 35 pounds before they’d be willing to crown her princess again. ‘They don’t want to hire all of me, only about 3 quarters!’  Additionally, since the film’s release, Fisher has faced shocking amounts of what can only be called cyber bullying with regards to her aging.  Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and even Ellen DeGeneres were all quick to jump to the defense of the actress, but after many comments and tweets from haters, Fisher finally put a seemingly final end to the debate by taking to the internet to say, ‘My body is my brain bag, it hauls me around to those places and in front of faces, where there’s something to say or see… Please stop debating about whether or not I have aged well…My body has not aged as well as I have. Blow us.’  Yep.  That sounds like an appropriate response from the woman who singlehandedly strangled Jabba the Hutt while wearing that infamous and ridiculous gold bikini in Episode VI.  

Stand proud, my fellow Jedi warriors, Star Wars is in vogue and some amazing ladies are at the helm.      

Daisy Ridley

Daisy Ridley, the greenest to the business on this list, plays the protagonist of The Force Awakens.  She is already making a lasting impact well beyond her role as Rey.  While she delivers an inspiring and heroic performance (one I can’t wait to see her reprise in upcoming sequels) she recently made the news with her decision to step behind the camera and produce for a change of pace.  The project in question?  A documentary titled The Eagle Huntress, a true story about a 13-year-old Mongolian girl who faces 'insurmountable odds to become the first female eagle hunter in the midst of 2,000 years of male-dominated history.'  After seeing the film herself, Ridley was quoted by Dateline as saying ‘I feel audiences and young girls around the world will be inspired by her story and I am so proud to share her journey with the world.’  It is not lost on the film’s director and other producers that having Daisy Ridley join the team as executive producer would do wonders for the film’s exposure, which has been called ‘an epic tale of female empowerment’. Recently, thanks to Ridley’s financial backing, the film was picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classic and director Otto Bell was quick to praise both her fictitious persona and her newfound role as producer: ‘like so many other theatergoers around the world, I was blown away by Daisy’s recent portrayal of an empowered female protagonist. I’m thrilled she’ll be bringing that same energy to supporting a real-world heroine…’  With the number of women working behind the camera being so dire (only 25 percent of the producers working on films in 2015 were women) it’s safe to say Daisy Ridley is taking giant steps to establish herself as a Hollywood powerhouse, doing wonderful work onscreen, while living by example and empowering other females to branch into the world of film production.  Rock on, Rey!

Now that the dust has practically settled on the Millennium Falcon’s dashboard, and now that this die-hard fan has to wait with baited breath for the DVD and Blu-ray release of The Force Awakens (you just know the extra features are going be unreal!), in the mean time I’m planning on keeping a watchful eye out for Lupita, Carrie and Daisy’s next projects and interviews.  They are doing big things…  maybe not as big as defeating the First Order… Just kidding.  These ladies are the real deal and have made a forever fan out of this writer and out of women and girls around the world!  So stand proud, my fellow Jedi warriors, Star Wars is in vogue and some amazing ladies are at the helm.

 

Polly Hilton is a theatre maker, avid movie watcher, and long time bSmart writer. She is currently living the dream in NYC and is pursuing personal creative goals while working as a consultant for the Tiger Foundation. When she’s not writing a musical, going for a walk, sipping coffee, or hanging out with loved ones, she can be found at the controls of her XBox 360 playing an epic round of Disney Infinity (a worthy guilty pleasure).    

 

 

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