Men and women are equal, but not the same. To me continually forcing women into the role of a female Rambo, and calling it feminism or female empowerment is wrong. Men and women are different, and we should celebrate this gender diversity. To me Leia is a much better representation of female strength, and empowerment than most of what the current batch of movies have given us. It should not just be about beating up people, and being in places of power. It should be about having a moral compass, showing resilience, and being an inspirational leader. That’s what Leia was to me, more so than any of the other classic characters, or the new ones. Leia stood up to Darth Vader, despite the fact that he could break her in half. That is true strength.
Ehhhhhh men and women have biological differences that set them apart, sure… but I think these are often overstated, as the majority of the differences between the two genders are caused simply by cultural norms and mindsets.
Are women, on the whole, physically weaker than men? Sure! Do I think that Daisy Ridley could right now beat up literally any dude on this site? Not a doubt in my mind. Point being, it depends.
I can’t speak to “female Rambo” because I must have missed that reboot (or otherwise can’t seem to think of any characters that fit that description… except maybe Sarah Connor but I thought guys were cool with her). Even if the argument is that women should be less represented in the military ranks because of biological shortcomings or whatever, in terms of SW background roles we’re mostly talking about people in leadership roles or people sitting at desks. I can’t really think of a single good reason why there shouldn’t be a roughly equal amount of women in those roles in a fantasy film that is supposed to be divorced from the deep-rooted historical Earthly ideas of gender roles.
The issue here to me is, that Star Wars mostly represented just that even before Disney took over. In the OT women were at the top in the Rebel Alliance. There were also plenty of women in desk jobs. The PT featured female pilots, and Jedi Masters. Padme was both a queen and a senator. Then there’s Ahsoka Tano, and Asajj Ventress in Cloen Wars, who both became fan favourites.
The problem with what came before wasn’t that women were literally nowhere to be found. It was that the ones there were basically token females.
In my mind Rey perfectly embodies the idea of an empowering female character. Her character is not defined by her physical strength at all. What makes her strong is her inner strength: her resilience, her independence, her determination, her ability to strive to do the right thing even if she’s not always sure the best way to get there, her compassion for her friends, and her struggle to grow to believe in herself when all her life she’s been told she’s nothing. Those who focus on her “overpowered” abilities are, of course, looking at the wrong thing entirely.
I think her being overpowered is exactly what stands in the way of her being empowering. The creators were so obsessed with creating a female role model, that they made her too perfect. As such she doesn’t earn her great powers, but just recieves them apparently just because she’s a female protagonist. She had to be better at everything than anybody. God forbid, if she actually needed anyone’s help. Luke survived the Death Star run, because he was rescued by Han Solo. Not so for Rey, she can rescue herself, and I’m sure if Finn, Han and Chewie didn’t come to her rescue, she would have found a way to get of SKB herself. She doesn’t need Luke’s guidance. She will train herself, and become the greatest Jedi ever.
Of course she needs help, she learns important lessons from everyone along the way. Don’t forget, if it was all up to her, she’d still be on Jakku.
Ultimately the point of her strength in both films is that it is a power within her that she need only need believe in herself to tap into. Which is of course the same way it was for Luke. But Rey’s filled with insecurities.
You can debate the tact with which her powers are utilized in the films (I’ll even concede there’s a couple minor fumbles in TFA in this regard), but you’re obviously misconstruing the intent. She doesn’t have powers just because she’s a female protagonist (it honestly seems like you’re just kinda making an argument to fit an agenda when you say that). Plenty of people have complained about JJ Abrams shortcutting his protagonists in other films to success so it’s probably pretty safe to say this isn’t done just because she’s a woman.
Because I can’t sleep, here’s the three main pressure points of her skills in TFA (where I’ll argue if anything narrative shortcutting is more to blame than simply making Rey overpowered):
- She flies the Falcon to safety. Forget the fact the she almost crashed it when it first took off, and had more trouble with two TIEs than we’ve ever seen anyone have in any of these films, this apparently shows that she’s the best because they made it out alive. But isn’t that how movies work? If you think it should’ve been more challenging, is that really an issue of her being a Mary Sue or of the filmmakers not making a more complicated scene?
- She uses the mind trick to escape. This one annoys me, I’ll admit it, just because it comes out of nowhere with not much reasoning. But did they do this just because she’s a girl? I mean on the one hand kinda, if Lucas turned the damsel in distress trope on its head in 77, then JJ had to push that to the next level here. And I appreciate that. But is her using the mind trick actually the filmmakers trying to show us that she’s the “best evar”? Or is it them not being able to think of another quick way to escape that also shows she’s become awakened in the force?
- She uses “the Force” to beat Kylo. Now narratively this makes sense that she’d have this moment where she taps into this force within her that Maz told her about. Logically it makes sense that she should be able to beat a critically injured Kylo. Execution-wise, though, there’s an issue again where it kinda comes out of nowhere. So the issue is less the fact of the matter that Rey won, and more simply the way it was done. Does the apparent ease of her accessing the force in this moment make her a Mary Sue? Or is it again the writers not thinking of a more elegant way to include a “use the force” moment here? Then the planet breaks apart and the two are separated. Essentially a kind of Solo rescue-ish moment, though obviously without the emotional punch because it is an arbitrary and contrived bit where scenery has a big character changing moment rather than a human… and it happens after the fight is over.
My point ultimately being, the claimed ease of these moments does nothing to take away from the character’s main struggles in the film - finding her identity and self worth. If her journey was all about obtaining physical strength and becoming the most powerful Jedi, then I probably wouldn’t even be arguing with you. But that’s not what it is about at all.