Star Wars: Success With Positive Female Role Models
December 25th, 2015 | by Jenny Krohn
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a smash hit at the box office, but beneath the hype there are important elements of the franchise that should be remembered when assessing its effect on fandoms and its parent corporation – Disney. Our Jenny Krohn explains.
Note: This article contains significant spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars has long been a part of many people’s lives, and one of the areas where it has done particularly well in the past is that of providing a strong, female, role model. So much so that, when one mother found that her young daughter had an unhealthy obsession with Disney princesses, she turned to Princess Leia as one means of helping her daughter branch out her imagination (somewhat ironic, now that Leia can officially be considered a Disney princess).
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Leia was a strong character from the very beginning, where she is seen secretly placing an encrypted message into the memory of R2D2 while her ship was under attack. Cool under pressure, she sassed her attackers and even withstood torture; eventually giving away misleading information, when her home planet was threatened. This fortitude continues throughout the original trilogy, culminating in her killing a certain vicious slug that forced her to wear a gold bikini.
But Leia is also kind, which is particularly shown in the way that she interacts with the Ewoks. She befriends them, and is the only flesh and blood member of the Rebel party to not very nearly get eaten by them. Even as an older, more seasoned leader, in The Force Awakens, Leia is strong and capable, commanding as a general. She is also still very much a kind-hearted human being, as shown in the way she relates to Han and the hope which she holds for their son.
It is clear now that the three sagas (original trilogy, prequels and sequels) are written as mirrors of each other. In The Force Awakens, we have a young person who is living a life that they are not satisfied with, dreaming of something bigger. A young person who is a talented pilot and has a strong link with the Force. We also have a strong young woman who doesn’t shy away from telling someone off if she feels that she is not being taken seriously.
So how does Rey hold up as a positive female role model?
Rey is a scavenger, who quite literally pulls her own weight from the very beginning, when we see her lugging her hoard onto her hover vehicle and taking it back to the market to sell. When Finn enters her life, she takes charge of the situation and refuses to be led by him. In the final fight, she holds her own against Kylo Ren (not in small part due to her experience fighting with a staff, which we see early on), who has had training in the use of the Force but is clearly not as powerful or as skilled as he wishes to be.
Rey is clearly determined. Once she recognises that she can feel the Force, she begins to use it. If it doesn’t work at first, she keeps trying until it does work. Ultimately, it is she who goes to find Luke Skywalker, showing her resilience.
But she is also kind.
She refuses to have her hand taken without her permission, but she will offer it to someone in need. She helps those who cannot help themselves, whether they are living or robotic. She is a well-rounded, decent person who feels deeply and does not give up in the face of adversity.
Ultimately, Leia and Rey come together in a moment of understanding. Though they only met very late in the story, they still feel kindness, empathy, and a sense of camaraderie for one another.
Both understand loss, and both understand what it is to hope. They are two women who are not in competition with each other, but are fighting on the same side and will, hopefully, continue to do so.
In conclusion, Rey is a worthy successor for Leia’s legacy of badassery and general awesomeness and Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues the fine work of the series in promoting positive female role models.
Jenny Krohn is a Contributor to ComiConverse: Follow her on Twitter: @NimthirielRinon