This blog contains spoilers for The Force Awakens.
I’d heard all of the stories. And they’re true. All of them. Star Wars does inspire girls. And it’s great! Up until the release of The Force Awakens I didn’t have much firsthand knowledge of how influential Star Wars is for young girls, but now I do and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve always known Star Wars is for everyone. I just hadn’t seen all that it can do until recently. And, yes, diversity matters in Star Wars.
Leading up to The Force Awakens release I couldn’t wait to see it with my sons. I had waited years for it. Seeing it with my boys is why I teared up during the first teaser trailer, for the premiere on December 17th, and every viewing after. I expected that. I never thought I’d be able to take them to see a new Star Wars movie, and it was one of the most fun weekends of my life. My kids have grown up with Star Wars, and the sequel trilogy especially will be “their Star Wars”. I’m thrilled to be able to experience it with them. What I didn’t expect is how much my twelve-year-old niece, Hudson, would love The Force Awakens also. She hadn’t seen any Star Wars movies until last fall when she started watching them with my wife, our kids, and me. We even finished her first ever viewing of Return of the Jedi on December 18th in our car on an iPad on our way to the theater to see The Force Awakens. The sequel trilogy is also going to be “her Star Wars” also.
As we left the theater on the night of December 18th, Hudson couldn’t contain herself. She was so excited that she had just seen “the best movie ever!” She needed to know more about Rey, she thought BB-8 was the coolest droid ever, and she couldn’t believe Kylo Ren could kill his own father. And did I mention that she needed to know more about Rey? She had already decided she is going to be Rey for Halloween and had plans to do her hair like Rey’s the next day. Also, she couldn’t wait to see The Force Awakens again!
I thought that her excitement may dissipate a little, but it hasn’t. It’s only grown. It reached the point that my sister, Hudson’s mom, asked (jokingly, I think) if Hudson could move in with me, because all she talks about is Star Wars. I started getting texts from Hudson asking if Rey was Luke Skywalker’s daughter, and, if not, is she related to anyone else. Like most of us, she can’t wait to find out. She started asking when episode VIII will be released, and she can’t believe she has to wait almost 18 months to see it. I’ve tried to explain to her that in the past we had to wait at least three years in between each Star Wars movie AND we didn’t have reserved seats in the theater. Kids have it so easy these days.
On the night Hudson saw The Force Awakens her second time, with one of her friends, she texted to tell me that Rey is her favorite Star Wars character and Daisy Ridley is now her favorite actress. When I asked Hudson why Rey is her favorite character she said, “Rey is my favorite because she is tough and she tries to do things that she didn’t know she was able to do.” So why are girls needed in Star Wars? Case closed. I told her that the cool thing about Rey is that she proves that girls can be smart, funny, tough, caring, cute and know how to fight, among many other things. Her response: “You totally get me.” Probably not, but now I do totally get why diversity and strong female characters are needed in Star Wars.
Hudson’s favorite scene in The Force Awakens was Rey’s lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren. So, yeah, girls can love fight scenes. Did Rey know she could defeat Kylo Ren? Maybe not. Was she afraid to try? Probably, but who wouldn’t be? Did she try anyway, even after seeing what Kylo had done to her previously and what he did to Finn? She sure did, and hopefully when Hudson and all kids, boys and girls, encounter a situation in their lives that seems daunting they can think of Rey and know anything is possible. Rey didn’t know she could fly the Millennium Falcon, she didn’t know she could use a Jedi mind trick on a stormtrooper, and she didn’t know she could retrieve a lightsaber with the Force, but she did those things anyway. Rey also showed that it’s ok to be flawed. She wasn’t a perfect pilot, but she never gave up. And she clearly wasn’t perfect with a lightsaber, but she didn’t back down. She did mess up sometimes. Heck, she released three rathtars, but ended up turning that mistake into a positive. Star Wars isn’t about being perfect.
I didn’t doubt it before, but now I’ve seen the effect of female characters in Star Wars. Star Wars may just be a story, but it’s a story that matters. Sure, Hudson may have grown attached to Poe or Finn or Kylo. They are all great characters. But she definitely has an attachment to Rey. I loved Rey after the first two times I saw The Force Awakens. She’s a fascinating character and was acted perfectly by Daily Ridley. But after my third viewing with Hudson, Rey became one of my favorite characters also.
Do you have any stories about how Rey has had a positive impact in someone’s life? I’d love to hear them. And please leave a comment below, contact me on Twitter @ryderwaldrondds, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for reading my blog! Remember to listen to Coffee With Kenobi because:
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