Happy Friday, Friends! Today I am delighted to feature wickedly smart Valerie Frankel. Valerie has written 42 books to date- including such varied titles as From Girl to Goddess: The Heroine’s Journey in Myth and Legend, Henry Potty & The Pet Rock, Harry Potter, Still Recruiting: An Inner Look at Harry Potter Fandom, Dr. Who and the Hero’s Journey, Free Guide to Self-Publishing and Book Promotion: Inside Secrets from an Author Whose Self-Published Books Sold in Thousands, and new releases A Rey of Hope: Feminism, Symbolism and Hidden Gems in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and We’re Home: Fandom, Fun, and Hidden Homages in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I met Ms. Frankel when I answered her Call for Papers on Harry Potter and popular culture- my own essay “Harry Potter & the Child with Autism” was published in her book Teaching with Harry Potter: Essays on Classroom Wizardry from Elementary School to College. When I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I knew Valerie would have something to say about it! I asked her to share a little with us for today’s Friday Friends. Thank you, Valerie!
Why Rey Needs a Light-Chakram
Rey kicks butt. Everyone agrees on this issue. As she rescues herself on Starkiller Base at beats Kylo Ren at lightsabers, everyone’s clear that this is a warrior woman.
However, she’s not particularly proud of being female or interested in exploring that side of herself. On Jakku, people are valued for being strong and tough, free of any vulnerabilities. Thus she’s mastered hand-to-hand fighting with a distancing staff and concealing face mask for scavenging. In fact, Daisy Ridley studied bojutsu to fight correctly (“In the Shadow” 93). The prequel short story in Before the Awakening adds, “She wasn’t afraid of violence. She didn’t enjoy it but she wasn’t afraid of it. It was a necessary part of surviving on Jakku” (107). Her only mentor is the nasty Unkar Plutt who trades for food and water.
From here, Rey meets Maz Kanata and General Leia, but both only briefly. Each has only a few minutes to impart a lifetime of lost feminine wisdom. She tells Rey, “The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in,” as she guides her to a deeper understanding. Her deep understanding of the universe is tied into her feminine perception as she notes, “I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people.” One assumes there is much more to come – Luke trained with Yoda on Dagobah, and Rey needs similar training, though in her case, in the strength and perception of womanhood that she’s only barely begun to discover.
Han Solo is more of a mentor to her through the film. He welcomes her onboard as a co-pilot and respects her in a way he didn’t with farmboy Luke:
Han Solo: You might need this.
Rey: I can handle myself.
Han Solo: I know. That’s why I’m giving it to you.
Many remember the [original Falcon battle] scene and Han’s now famous response to Luke’s joy and astonishment – “Don’t get cocky, kid!” But when it comes to Rey, Han is all about encouragement. This is due in part to Han having a different relationship with Rey than Luke, more mentoring than rivalry, and him being at a different point in his life. (Moran)
In turn, she considers him a father figure, as Kylo Ren acerbically points out, and she’s devastated at losing him.
She ends the film finally accepting Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, which flies to her hand at a moment of crisis. She has pulled the sword from the stone and is thus heir to the legacy and power of the Skywalkers. But this is a strange metaphor for the questing heroine.
In fact, the women generally do not receive a magic sword, but something far distant. Lyra has a golden compass, Dorothy magic slippers. Lucy gets a healing potion because she is meant to be “the great healer” and savior as her brother Peter is the great warrior. Nonetheless, she proves in the second book and especially the second film that she is more chosen one than her brother. It’s not a lesser path, but it is a different one, based more in protection than in warfare.
Susan, the third Narnia sibling, gets a bow and becomes “the great archer” – this is a weapon, but one of distance with a moon shape often given to female chosen ones. This mirrors other distance weapons – Katniss’s many bows, Buffy’s own crossbow, and of course, Xena’s hoop-shaped chakram.
Some mythic women wield swords, but they’re generally the ones on the hero’s journey, with male mentor, allies, and enemies, like Rey. Buffy in her early seasons follows this pattern, dueling her evil boyfriend with a special sword before, seasons later, she abandons those trappings to seek the dark goddess out in the desert and learn the truth of being the Slayer.
Likewise, Rey feels like she’s just getting started. She’s already mastered the men’s skills, from fixing the Falcon to flying to fighting. The question remains: will she master the heroine’s path in the future, or continue along the classic hero’s path, unable to show girls there are other paths to heroism?
“In the Shadow of Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Entertainment Weekly: The Ultimate Guide to Star Wars, 2015. 92-93
Moran, Sarah. “Star Wars: How Rey Brings Balance to the Franchise.” SlashFilm, 21 Dec 2015. http://screenrant.com/star-wars-force-awakens-rey-female-characters/comment-page-1/#comments
Noto, Phil. Star Wars: Before the Awakening. USA: Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2015.
If you enjoyed this, it’s from the book. A Rey of Hope: Feminism, Symbolism and Hidden Gems in Star Wars: The Force Awakens http://www.amazon.com/Rey-Hope-Feminism-Symbolism-Awakens-ebook/dp/B01A6OP99Q The book is for sale in paperback and ebook, free through Kindle Unlimited. Also, check out We’re Home: Fandom, Fun, and Hidden Homages in Star Wars: The Force Awakenshttp://www.amazon.com/Were-Home-Fandom-Homages-Awakens-ebook/dp/B01A59W4XQ/