I wasn’t paying much attention to Star Wars: The Force Awakens because, at the risk of my nerd card, I’m not such a Star Wars fan. I like episode 5 well enough, but not much else.
Without giving away any spoilers, Rey is a scavenger on the dessert planet Jakku. She is a scavenger, not a female scavenger. She is a woman, and that is not her defining characteristic. She is a survivor. She is the hero of The Force Awakens.
What struck me the most was one of the first scenes in which she appears. She’s eating a meal alone outside her home and she eats with savage intensity, biting and tearing into her bread. It’s clear she doesn’t think to care what she looks like when she eats. I saw this scene and realized: this is a female character you don’t see on screen. She isn’t a rejection of femininity because she isn’t a character who is aware that she is breaking gender taboos. She is a scavenger and a survivor who happens to be female. Why would she have time to think about what she looks like when she’s eating? Why would she care? Being feminine hasn’t crossed her mind as something to accept or reject.
I love Rey because that type of implicit feminism (the kind where gender doesn’t matter) creates complicated human characters, not “strong female characters” who tip toe around the real male hero, always conscious of their female status.
That’s not Rey. Rey is the real hero!
Thank you, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for awakening viewers to what a feminist character looks like in a big name film. Thank you.