Kate Crudgington

A Rey of Hope: Reflections On ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

I wouldn’t brand myself a Star Wars mega fan, but I was excited to see The Force Awakens when it premiered in cinemas earlier in 2016. When the credits rolled, I was overwhelmed with nostalgia and emotion, and realised I’d underestimated the impact the saga had on me as a young girl. Princess Leia was always my favourite character, and I still have the figurines of ‘Bounty Hunter Leia’ tucked away in a cupboard somewhere next to my brother’s plastic Millennium Falcon, and like most young girls with long hair; I attempted to replicate the infamous danish-bun-like plaits that Carrie Fisher wore like a pro, several times.

When the The Force Awakens was released on DVD on the 18th of April, my Mum & I made plans to sit down and re-watch the film together. Not only did I remember the plot (and the top notch gags) with surprising clarity, I remembered what happened to me at the cinema on the day I’d originally seen the film. I’d nipped to the loo post-viewing, and waiting in line directly in front of me was a young girl around 6 or 7 years old, adorned in full Rey attire, wielding a light sabre. The resurgence of this memory made me feel a blend of nostalgia, unusual maternal instinct, and most importantly; undiluted hope. (FYI: Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t simultaneously experience these things in a public bathroom).

The recurring image of the little Rey lookalike made me so happy, and I wondered how something so small had managed to lodge itself in to my long term memory. I thought about the character of Rey and how practical she is; her scavenging abilities, engineering knowledge – even the clothes she’s wearing – everything about her says ‘I can fix this.’ She feeds herself, fends for herself; and is generally a pro at surviving on a dire, sand-spewed, lonely planet. In her moments of fear and doubt, she inevitably triumphs because she has the knowledge, self-belief, and support of ‘The Force’. She may be fictional, but it’s refreshing to see a female character quietly defy the ‘damsel in distress’ stereotype in a multi-million dollar franchise. Rey is also intensely human. She cries in moments of mortal danger because she’s not immune to stress, but unlike the rest of us; she’s got a lethal light sabre and a Jedi mind to help her banish any kind of threat.

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked! I’ve addressed my nostalgia, I’ve suppressed my urge to coo over the memory of the smallest Jedi Knight on the Essex cinema circuit, and I’ve looked at Rey’s stellar character traits, but I haven’t explained why I feel undiluted hope. I looked at this little girl in her Jedi outfit, and thought: ‘She’s just seen Rey fix and fly the Millennium Falcon alongside the alpha Han Solo, befriend Finn (the ultimate ally), and defeat the deadly Kylo Ren in a light sabre battle. This little girl is going to grow up in a world full of girls like Rey, and boys as open-minded and daring as Finn; and that ray of sunshine was enough to fill this feminist with ‘undiluted hope’.

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