The newest installment in the Star Wars franchise is doing great things for feminism. Almost 40 years ago the first Star Wars film came out, and boy have things changed since then. What was once a Film series that could be considered sexist has been given a new burst of life that will please feminists everywhere.
Feminist criticism is the dissection and critiquing of cultural sexism in all forms. Women have struggled for equality for all of existence, and with the help of feminism, they have brought pressing matters to light. Essentially, sexism has stemmed from ideas purveyed through many different mediums. There has been language that has oppressed females, books that have oppressed females, and even posters. Basically anything that can spread a message is and has been able to spread the patriarchy established in society.
Many people take in media without any thought and don’t really realize the implications that many messages hold. I, for example, didn’t know what feminism was when I was a child, so I didn’t think anything unusual of the original star wars movies. If you really look at them, you can argue that the first Star Wars trilogy just extends the sexism of the past in a new space age form. George Lucas (the film’s director and the man behind Star Wars) continued the ideas of the past with the usual “men save princess from the villain” plot. While the concept may seem harmless, they ideology behind it harms women. Princess Leia is portrayed as a helpless princess that needs strong men to come and save her since she can’t do it herself.
The idea of men being superior to women is shown in this classic star wars poster. The imagery is strong, and can be understood by anybody glancing at it.
The hero Luke Skywalker is standing tall, raising his lightsaber towards the sky, while princess Leia poses by his knee. Luke is shown with his shirt open, exposing his muscular body that is there to save the princess. Leia, on the other hand is partially kneeling with a dress that exposes her legs all the way up her thigh. She is in a semi sexualized position, while Luke is in one of power.
The new Star Wars movie has a much more neutral poster that can be accepted by all genders. All characters are positioned about equally, with no real hero looming over everybody else.
Rey is shown in an aggressive stance with her staff in a combat position, unlike Leia, who’s blaster is being casually held. Rey’s representation also lacks the Sexualization that Leia had in her poster. Rey is dressed modestly like every other character featured in the poster.
Throughout the whole movie, Rey is portrayed as an independent, free thinking person with strong character. She was abandoned as a child, and had to fend for herself on a dangerous desert world. She is shown as quick thinking and strong willed, somewhat like princess Leia, but her strengths are emphasized much more than Leia’s ever were.
There is one scene in particular that highlights feminism to a whole new degree. Rey has found a droid (BB-8) that both the new order and the resistance are looking for, so she and the droid are now wanted. The two of them are traveling through a marketplace when they get attacked. The other protagonist of the movie, Finn, is in the area and sees what is happening. Finn witnesses Rey getting attacked and he is eager to fight off the assailants and save the day for the girl.
Finn soon realizes that Rey can fend for herself when he sees her fight off her attackers with her staff. The movie actually makes a joke out of this scene, since he is so obviously trying to be a hero, but she is more capable than he had thought. In the old movies this may not have been the case, but here Rey fends for herself.
Furthermore, Rey then thinks that Finn is a threat too, so he has to run for his life from her. She is able to run him down and now the tables have turned. She helps him up and they soon have to run away together.
The new Star Wars movie really nails the female protagonist. They create a character that is a role model for women without overshadowing men at the same time. Many times people will try to carry out feminism by making females stronger or more powerful than men, just switching who is sexist, but The Force Awakens does a great job of not letting that happen. The movie portrays the characters as equals, just like they should be.