Where are the Damsels in Distress?

*This article contains minor spoilers from the recent movie, Star Wars: the Force Awakens.

 

When we first meet Rey, the leading lady of the billion-dollar movie franchise, Star Wars: the Force Awakens, she appears to be anything but a damsel in distress. In fact, when co-star John Boyega’s character, Finn, runs into her, he literally runs into her. Well, he runs into her very intimidating staff, which greets him with a sharp whack across the face.

Anyone who watches this seventh installment of the iconic movie series Star Wars will notice that Rey can indeed hold her own. And although Finn attempts to rescue and protect her upon their first meeting, she seems determined to be independent, even pulling away when Finn takes her hand to lead her from trouble.

Rey’s initial behavior makes sense to many viewers. Having been left on the desert planet Jakku for what appears to be several years, it is easy to understand why a young woman would learn to defend and stick up for herself so fiercely. So why then—at the moment that most girls light up at her fiery, strong-willed, courageous personality—do the boys roll their eyes in distaste? While they’re asking, “Where are the damsels in distress?” the girls are thinking, “Rey is a character I can look up to.”

Each is justified in their reaction, but neither should let it shape their view of women and men’s true roles.

Rey may be able to fight, but as the story progresses, the audience discovers there is more to her than a rough exterior. Finn does succeed in rescuing Rey, but in more ways than just “defeating the dragon.” They care and lookout for each other equally. They become friends. What’s important isn’t that Finn rescue her from the bad guys while she waits patiently, but that he behave as all men should: protective of the women in their lives.

By the end of the movie, they’ve changed each other. Both become more vulnerable, especially Rey. She even embraces Finn when he comes to save her.

The important thing isn’t “Damsels in Distress” or “Knights in Shining Armor.” It’s the realistic characters, wounded and searching for something more, and the importance of their friendship in leading them to that discovery.

-Ruthie F.

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2 thoughts on “Where are the Damsels in Distress?”

  1. I noticed the same phenomenon.
    Rey expands the narrative mythology by being a female in one of the greatest male hero roles in the history of storytelling (Luke). She is definitely someone to look up to. But I love the look on her face when she first meets Finn. “I’ve never met a Resistance fighter before.”
    The other thing I love is that they don’t make a big fuss about how Rey is a girl who doesn’t need a man to support her. They don’t have to be feminist, as long as they’re non-anti-feminist. Rey is still flawed. She hits the wrong button in the Millennium Falcon catacombs – the worst button she could possibly hit, and she does kind of need a guy to save her in the end (to an extent, and now I’m shutting up because spoilers).
    And Daisy Ridley and her stunt double are role models and people’s celebrity crushes for entirely different reasons.

    Like

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