Helen Cox is a UK author. She made her on-screen debut in The Krankies in 1990. Given the choice, her Mastermind topic would be Grease 2 and when someone asks her if she is a god she says 'yes.' Oh, you want to know about her books? Best click some of the links below.
Well, hello there. You seem like a nice person, so I’ll level with you. The following post contains ALL THE SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If you haven’t yet moseyed down to the multiplex to see it, this isn’t the blog post you’re looking for. You need to be elsewhere. The Mos Eisley Cantina perhaps? I hear Hoth is an out-and-out Winter Wonderland at this time of year. Or if there’s a bright centre of the universe you could visit the planet that’s farthest from. But you can’t stay here. The probability of navigating this post without reading a spoiler is approximately 3720 to 1…
Right. In my book True Love is Like the Loch Ness Monster (And Other Lessons I Learnt from Film) I discuss in-depth the educational value of movies such as Teen Wolf Too, Mannequin on the Move and Stay Tuned. You know, the greats. In this post, I’m taking a closer look at the lessons learnt from The Force Awakens. About women; their capabilities, and relationships with the opposite sex.
There are an intimidating number of columns out there already dealing with the question of whether or not The Force Awakens is a good film so I won’t be delving into that here. But one thing the film did get right, to my mind, was its female protagonist, Rey. We’re taught so much through this impressive and well-defined character. My top 5 lessons learnt are listed below for your reading pleasure.
Lesson 1: You don’t have to dress like a beauty pageant contestant to be beautiful. Yes. This first point is fuelled by the irksome fact that for some time the only Star Wars action figure available through the ToysRUs website sported a gold bikini (I’m not against gold bikinis generally, you understand, but like everything there’s a time and a place). In The Force Awakens, Rey is definitely more Miss Functionality than Miss Congeniality but that doesn’t diminish her beauty. Even in her grey/sand/whatever-colour-that-actually-is action garb (based, I think, on the stylings of Mumm-ra… maybe he’s Rey’s father), Rey stands tall, proud and athletic. Dressed to defend herself or complete a day’s hard graft in the unforgiving desolation of Jakku, she’s not bending to the whims of male fantasy. She’s got more important issues like ‘will I eat today?’ and her attire reflects that. Seems to me, teaching people there are many forms of beauty outside the realms of fashion magazine pin-ups can only be a good thing.
Lesson 2: You can be a woman and be a breadwinner. Rey is the on-screen embodiment of a self-sufficient woman. In a climate like that of Jakku, it would be easier to crawl under a rock and die than it would be to survive as a penniless orphan-child. Rey however, chooses survival. Searching the sands for metal and debris she will later exchange for food, she’s not afraid of hard, physical labour and doesn’t expect anybody else to provide for her. Regardless of your gender or background, using the skills you have and developing skills you don’t in order to be truly independent is a lifestyle choice worth considering. I think when I was a lass they called this strange tick initiative. Not sure what they call it now.
Lesson 3: Family is important but it doesn’t define you. Initially Rey is reluctant to follow her heart into the blankness of space. She’d rather stay on Jakku and wait for her family to return. Life however, has other ideas and on her journey Rey realises she has strength and power she never dreamed possible. This element of the narrative has numerous applications. One obvious, feminist parallel is women juggling family and a career but there maybe many reasons why the family situation you come from might deter you from enterprises you wish to pursue. In this story, Rey is coaxed onto a journey of self-discovery that will redefine the way she thinks about herself. She voluntarily leaves the idea of family behind for a greater purpose. Although this is Star Wars, a narrative dogged by links to family, so far Rey has got where she’s going without the certainty of blood relatives around her. In some ways, this makes her resilience even more admirable.
Lesson 4: Just because you don’t need a man (or woman) doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite them into your life. Sure. If pressed. Most of us could probably survive without input from the opposite sex. But is that in anyway a desirable way to live? Rather than casting men as an enemy ready to repress, young women need to see models of how to interact with men in meaningful ways. I mean, other than marrying them as is the Hollywood standard (without wishing to point out the obvious, young men might also benefit from models showing how to interact positively with women), and The Force Awakens does deliver this. Rey feels Han Solo is ‘the father she never had.’ He offers encouragement, guidance and shows genuine admiration for Rey, in his own way. When it comes to Finn, a romantic storyline would have been easy but the pair choose friendship instead. Rey makes her feelings explicit when she says: ‘We’ll see each other again. I believe that. Thank you, my friend.’ This is one of the most heart-warming moments in the film; it showcases Rey’s humility and gratitude. She doesn’t need Finn’s physical strength to survive but she does want him at her side for companionship, support and love. And he feels the same about her.
Lesson 5: You might be really good at mechanics. Yes. Even if you’re a girl. Sci-fi is a pretty good genre for stumbling across female mechanics but they can be stereotypically masculine in their representation. Rey may know how to bypass the compressor on the Millennium Falcon but throughout the story she also retains her femininity. Sending a clear message: you don’t have to fit into a clearly-defined space. You can be a blend of many attributes and in fact, if you are you’re likely to be a stronger person for it.
Not everyone has embraced the more complicated elements of Rey’s character. For every article about the paint-by-numbers nature of The Force Awakens plot-line there’s an article about how Rey’s ‘hypercompetence’ makes her unrelatable. Forgive me. But I don’t remember any such critique on the hypercompetence of Jason Bourne. Yes she’s a woman seemingly with her own hyperdrive built-in but why should anyone have to apologise for a competent portrayal of womanhood which will be seen by millions of children forming their understanding of that very idea? Come on. Let’s be mature enough to accept what we’re being offered here. A New Hope. With an added Rey of light.