The summer before 4th grade, my dad rented all of the Star Wars movies. I reluctantly agreed to watch them with him. 13 hours and 17 minutes later, I was in love. I promptly began searching for Princess Leia costumes and sticks to use as lightsabers. Coincidentally, McDonald’s Boy Toy at the time was Star Wars keychains. For a month, I begged to go to the fast food joint as frequently as possible.
“Remember, I want a four piece chicken nugget, fries, Coke, and a Boy Toy. Don’t forget the Boy Toy!” I would call from the backseat of our car. Eagerly awaiting my Darth Vader or Yoda keychain, I could only pray that I wouldn’t receive one of the dreaded Girl Toys. Tears were guaranteed if I received any of the boring, pink toys assigned to my gender.
My collection of keychains grew, but that was where my Star Wars merchandise stopped. Even though I was willing to order a Boy Toy at McDonald’s, I just wasn’t comfortable enough to enter the boy’s section in Walmart- where all the Star Wars toys resided. With a lack of merchandise available to me, my love for the movies was soon forgotten. I returned to the familiar realm of Girl Toys and Hannah Montana. And that was that.
When the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie was announced in 2012, I refused to allow myself to become excited. However, when it was announced that Lupita Nyong’O would be in the movie, I was flung once more into my love for the saga. Lupita has always been one of my favorite stars and she provided me with the push I needed to finally allow myself to become excited for The Force Awakens. I’m so glad, especially since the movie was far more incredible than I had ever dreamed.
As The Force Awakens came closer and closer to it’s release date, I grew more and more excited. Gifs of Daisy Ridley and Lupita Nyong’O soon covered my Tumblr dashboard and I checked constantly for any new information concerning the film. The movie was released December 18 and I spent six agonizing days avoiding spoilers until I could finally see the movie with my entire family. When the day arrived, my crutches were momentarily transformed into silver blasters and my lob into Princess Leia buns. I was more than ready.
I entered the theatre with very high hopes and very buttery popcorn. Two hours and sixteen minutes later, I exited the theatre with hands greasier than Kylo Ren’s hair and a smile brighter than a lightsaber. My expectations had been shattered- in a good way. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was outstanding.
The movie in itself was incredible and the special effects were remarkable, but that wasn’t what I was oh so impressed by. What really got me was Rey. Yes, there have been female characters in Star Wars, but a male has always been the main lead. Rey changed that. We have a main character who is a woman and a 3D one, at that. Even in my excitement, however, I was incredibly fearful that she would fall into the dreaded Strong Female Character trap.
Strong Female Character- A gorgeous yet tough young woman who has no semblance of emotions and when it really comes down to it, lets a male character steal the spotlight. Must also have a love interest whom she initially shows disdain or hatred towards. Snarky comments are a requirement, often directed at said love interest, but she isn’t actually mean. Just feisty. While in battle, makeup and hair must be perfect along with fighting technique.
Not this time. Rey takes that ridiculous notion and crushes it beneath her dusty yet functionally clad feet. Rey kicked butt. Rey cried. Rey made some tough decisions. Rey made some bad decisions. No, she wasn’t perfect, but that’s what made her a perfect character. What really makes a female character strong is allowing them to be more than their appearance and abilities. Strength doesn’t mean that you can’t have feelings, but when women are put into roles of power, they are often depicted to be marble statues. We are more than that. Women can have feelings and still be strong. Give a girl a personality, a struggle, opportunities to make decisions for herself, and times when she doesn’t always make the right decision. Give her more than good looks, snappy comebacks, and physical strength. Male leads almost always possess numerous different qualities that transform them into the well-rounded characters we know and love. Female leads seemingly can’t have it all.
With a main character who is a 3D woman, it will open up the Star Wars franchise to girls of all ages. Women who were once told “Star Wars is for boys” now have proof that the saga is for us all. Little girls will find lightsabers in their Happy Meals and Star Wars toys will eventually bleed into the Girl Toys section of Walmart. Unfortunately, this has yet to happen.
#WheresRey began trending after consumers noticed a valuable character missing from sets of action figures and other toys. Rey had been left out of nearly all Star Wars merchandise. When she was lacking in a release of Star Wars Monopoly, Hasbro responded that Rey was excluded to avoid ‘spoiling a main plot line’. What this would ‘spoil’ is beyond me. If you are going to buy a Star Wars themed game, you must enjoy the movies to some degree. In fact, I would even go as far as to suggest that most consumers have already seen the movie if they choose to purchase this version of Monopoly. After being called out on this horrendous decision, Hasbro announced that Rey would be included in the next release of the game. Other toy sets have also kicked the main character to the curb, but thankfully, this was not without retaliation. Rey will soon join her other cast members in the toy aisles thanks to the outrage of fans that seem to be lightyears ahead of the toy companies.
While a female main character won’t solve all of the Star Wars gender bias, it will certainly help. But, it’s not all up to J.J. Abrams. It’s up to the fans. If it weren’t for the #WheresRey outrage, who knows if she would ever have been included in the merchandise? After all, Rey isn’t the first Sci-Fi/Adventure female lead to have been forgotten. Just look at Black Widow. It’s the duty of the consumers to keep companies in check until they get it through their heads that girls enjoy superheroes and Jedi just as much as the boys.
My long-forgotten love of Star Wars has been reignited and I’m counting down the days until Episode 8. I’d like to thank Lupita Nyong’O for giving me that extra push I needed. I’d like to thank Daisy Ridley for portraying a character that will change the way girls across the world experience Star Wars. Finally, I’d like to thank J.J. Abrams for giving me a strong female character and not a Strong Female Character. Now, please excuse me while I google how to turn my short mop of hair into Rey’s gorgeous bun faux-hawk.