My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to have been able to reserve tickets online to the early screenings, since Episode VII was only going to be shown for a week before the annual Metro Manila Film Fest took over. That story was interesting as well—it seems the fans’ faith was disturbing enough to create huge public backlash against the board of the MMFF, forcing them to agree to have this film shown earlier in the Philippines than the rest of the world.
I was more of a Trekkie myself and didn’t exactly like what JJ Abrams did to the new Star Trek films, but I was willing to give him another shot. So we sat down in the cinema with our hotdog sandwiches for breakfast—it was an 8 am showing—and we excitedly anticipated what was sure to be a great ride of a film.
As expected, Episode VII turned out to be much of what fans were hoping for in a new Star Wars film: nostalgic elements mixed with fresh new ones, as well as serving as a pure homage to Episode IV. However, I found myself not receiving its new protagonist Rey, portrayed by Daisy Ridley, as euphorically as most critics and fans did. While my boyfriend was going on just as ecstatically about how it was so awesome and everything, I ended up just asking, “Why did they make Rey’s life too easy here?”
From my honest point of view, Rey being hailed as the new Luke Skywalker—which a lot of die-hard fans are happily declaring—is doing the great Jedi a lot of injustice. She didn’t go through as much struggle in becoming the new hope as Luke did. In fact, Rey was getting the Disney Princess treatment from the behemoth that bought the franchise: everywhere she went, things would just conveniently fall into place for her. She would find the right people at the perfect time, and would trip over the exact things she would need to become a new Jedi hopeful and a part of the Resistance—just like that lightsaber in the Cantina that so happened to belong to Luke and Anakin. And right behind her, John Boyega’s Finn and BB-8 would be sashaying down the path that she so easily carved for them by kicking lots of First Order behind in true Mary Sue fashion.
Rey also somehow knew how to pilot the Millennium Falcon “garbage”, and when given the right information, almost-perfectly quoted the good old line: “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in fourteen parsecs!” Han Solo had to yell, “TWELVE!” in correction, but it’s almost as if that line was supposed to remind audiences that Rey actually wasn’t all that perfect, which unfortunately didn’t work at all. Furthermore, Rey had no trouble besting the villainous Kylo Ren in a mind-reading Jedi battle, and even managed to pull of the old Jedi mind trick on a First Order Stormtrooper, all without any semblance of training at all! It was very difficult to reconcile the fact that a man supposedly trained by the most respected and powerful Jedi knight out there would be sorely beaten by an amateur who had nothing but life going swimmingly for her.
I really thought, the only thing missing with Rey was the ability to sing operatically and use that to call dancing Ewoks to help her with cleaning the ship.
At the end of the day, Rey isn’t exactly the best example for a feminist character for one important reason: she was just too skilled and too adept to be human at all. It seemed that the reason why she stood out, besides being the first female lead protagonist in the Star Wars franchise, was because she was excessively overpowered. Would giving Rey the same flaws as, say, Luke, and Finn, risk her getting overshadowed by her peers? We see Luke grow up from “But I was going to go into Tosche station to pick up some power converters!” to “I’ll not leave you here. I’ve got to save you”; on the other hand, we see Rey just exhibiting her badass-ness right from the beginning of the first film alone. And, in a real-life position, doesn’t it actually contribute to the pressure women face to just be “perfect”? That any flaw in a woman will mark them as undesirable? That flawed men are tolerated, but flawed women aren’t worth noticing?
Disney already got a bad rap for setting impossibly high standards for females through their cartoons and princesses, and it seems like they are about to do the same thing to Rey. In exchange for not dressing up as scantily as Slave Leia, Rey was made to be this perfect, overpowered superhero that even Marvel or DC would frown upon.
Maybe—to give the benefit of the doubt—there will be answers as to why Rey is inhumanly gifted. Hopefully, these answers will be well thought out. Until then, here’s to looking forward to the succeeding Star Wars films, and to seeing more of Rey, Finn, and Poe.