** Spoilers ahead. I was careful not to ruin any big reveals, but the nature of the post requires a minor spoiler. Proceed with caution. **
I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday and it was so many things I’d hoped for and one unforgettable thrill. In the climactic battle, Rey, the scavenger from Jakku who has consistently been competent and talented and brave and strong, she summons the lightsaber. Luke’s lightsaber. And I burst into tears.
Because she was holding a lightsaber. It’s hard to explain, unless you were a young female geek who spent much of your childhood casting around for heroes that look like you. There are some notable standouts: Eowyn. Aerin Firehair. Xena. But most of the time I had to content myself with identifying with Bilbo and Luke, and countless other men on their hero’s journeys.
I like the original trilogy, but I recently saw a video that compiled women who talk in the Trilogy excluding Leia. It was embarassing. 1.03 minutes, and only really had Aunt Beru, Rebel Alliance Chief Communications Officer Toryn Farr, and Mon Mothma’s monologue. I do love Leia Hutt-Slayer, to be sure, but I always wanted more. To me, Star Wars was a universe strangely devoid of women. I wanted star battles and lightsaber fights and all the heart-throttling excitement…I just wanted a girl there. Or two.
I almost bought a poster of Rey before I saw it, but I hesitated. I mean, what if the promise of the trailers is not fulfilled? What if she’s just another token girl? But she’s not sexualized, she’s not there to be romanced. She was not the reward or the princess in the castle or the forgotten sidekick.
/She/ was the hero. She was the Chosen One. She was the one the movie closed on. And Leia, she was a strong leader, didn’t crumble under a crushing blow. And there was a female X-Wing pilot! And a female guard captain, Captain Phasma, with the First Order! The movie is threaded with amazing female characters.
While I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work, I’ve not always been the biggest J.J. Abrams fan. But I will always thank him for this. For giving her a lightsaber.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a poster to go buy.