The Franchise Has (Finally) Awakened

The Franchise Has (Finally) Awakened
By Tess Fox

 

*mild spoilers ahead*

As a kid, I grew up watching The Land Before Time. It was an innocent kid’s show, about a group of dinosaur friends trying to get to the Great Valley, a legendary valley where all the dinosaurs lived.

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To this day, I have only shared this childhood experience with boys. It seemed that I was one of the only girls watching these movies, despite them being pretty gender neutral. I watched “girly” movies too, the Barbie movies were a staple in my house as well as the Disney princesses. Then my dad showed me Star Wars. I fell in love.

Again, I talked about Star Wars with the boys at school. I did my hair in weird Princess Leia buns and made cruisers with my brother’s Legos. My brother and I also had many lightsaber duels.

The franchise has had a reawakening recently. Disney bought Lucasfilm,  the production company founded by Star Wars creator George Lucas, for $4 billion dollars.

This included the real world Holocron database of over 17,000 characters in the Star Wars universe. Disney CEO Robert Iger understood continuing the Star Wars legacy required further development of standing characters as well as the introduction of new ones. This happened with the release of The Force Awakens in December.

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At first, the film stirred the pot, with internet trolls claiming the film to be “anti-white.” One of the main character roles went to a black actor. The casting was to right the wrong of the original films which relegated black characters to secondary roles. These trolls seem to have forgotten that the rebels in the original films were accepting of all colors, races, and space creatures. Maybe they should revisit The Empire Strikes Back for some of Yoda’s doctrines of fear and suffering:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

The Force Awakens continued to shake things up with Rey, a strong, fearless female protagonist as the main character. She does NOT want to hold hands with Fin, her male protagonist counterpart, and her weapon is a long staff rather than Leia’s and Padme’s dainty blaster. Despite her lack of training, Rey is very handy with a lightsaber.

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During several chase scenes, Rey is annoyed when Fin tries grabbing her hand while they run. Scoffing, she says, “Stop grabbing my hand!” I think I’ve been waiting to hear a woman say that to her male counterpart for as long as I’ve been alive. Even though Fin is her “love interest,” Rey doesn’t have a big kiss scene because that’s so not what she is about. They hug once, and she kisses him on the forehead while he’s recovering from a lightsaber wound. Kudos for having no makeout scene! The film show that girls can do more in movies than be the love interest.

Rey is the only person that Han Solo trusts with the Millennium Falcon, Han’s ship in the original film. She drives as well as he does too! At the end of the film, Rey takes over Han’s smuggling job with Chewbacca, the Wookie.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) is joined by several other female leads; General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Captain Phasma, the antagonist, is one of the only female villains out there in Hollywood with the exception of the villains in Disney princess movies.

I think the best part is that Rey is just as much for boys as she is for girls. Girls are always going to imagine themselves as the lead, just as I did when I placed myself into the Star Wars story when I was a kid, in spite of its lack of female leads in the original films. By finally having a lead female role, Star Wars is giving more girls a chance to join the boys in pretend lightsaber battles and in fighting the Dark Side. They no longer have to be afraid of breaking the mold.

It also serves as a reminder to the “grown ups” convinced that female roles are inferior that Rey is one of several strong female characters in the franchise, not just an exception.

With a female lead and many supporting female characters, The Force Awakens passes the Bechdel Test, a test created by comic-strip artist Alison Bechdel. The original comic features two women discusses their personal requirements for seeing movies.

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JJ Abrams, director of The Force Awakens, took note of the flaws of the previous movies. By adding real female characters, he has helped change the fan culture and the culture surrounding the franchise. He said: “And honestly, Star Wars should be for everyone. That’s the whole point.”

Now it is.

 

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