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Isolation, Abandonment, and Desert Planets: How I Connected With Rey’s Loneliness

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I grew up with siblings who were too old for make-believe or hide-and-seek, so I spent much of my childhood entertaining myself. My imagination was a fertile place where ideas bloomed like flowers. I kept myself busy by inventing eccentric characters and unusual worlds. However, pangs of loneliness struck when I reached adolescence, a time where I was trying to figure out my identity and place in the world. There was always a deep-seated need to connect with others, but I never fully realized it until I saw The Force Awakens.

I saw my own loneliness in Rey, the movie’s central protagonist. The most poignant scenes were the ones in which the scrappy scavenger was alone and fending for herself. Though Rey’s background is still a mystery, a hot topic for fans of the franchise, those silent moments at the beginning of the film unveil the very core of her character. As I watched her prepare her own dinner and scarf it down alone, I felt this profound connection with her. There were so many nights where I silently ate by myself. 

I frequently crave interaction and human connection, but it’s difficult to make friends when you suffer from social anxiety. It’s almost impossible to express yourself when your words stick like tar to the roof of your mouth. I was always the quiet kid in class, the kid that never raised her hand or uttered a single word. I had the desire to be both visible and invisible.

The need to be seen and understood was always bumping shoulders with the urge to vanish and distance myself from those who might do me harm. Nobody bothered to get to know me, but then again, I never bothered to open the door. When Rey runs away from Maz, the miniscule alien that understands the Force, she’s actually running away from a better future. I’ve definitely closed the doors on better opportunities because I was too afraid. Though Rey’s circumstances are much different from mine, her vulnerabilities don’t define her and that’s one thing we have in common.

Rey’s strong and capable and there’s a lot to her. She gets herself out of sticky situations, and she doesn’t shy away from her weaknesses. My favorite scene is the one in which she takes the lightsaber from Kylo Ren, the film’s antagonist. The moment the lightsaber connects with her hand, it’s like she’s holding a deadly serpent instead of an elegant weapon. In other words, she has a visceral reaction to it. It’s obvious she doesn’t want to fight with the lightsaber, but she has to in order to survive. Sometimes we have to accept our lot in life, even if it frightens us to our bones. But fear and sadness should never detract from our value as human beings.

I didn’t discover my own inner strength until my late twenties. Instead of a lightsaber, I was hesitant to wield a pen. Writing scared me because it meant I had to unearth certain truths about myself. I was also afraid to bare my soul to the world-wide-web, as it can be a cesspool of despair, but I knew I had the power to do it. Whenever I sit down in front of a computer, the words always flow out of me with relative ease. I never realized the words were there the entire time. I just had to find the best way to communicate them.

Rey’s inner strength likely stems from years of isolation in a merciless environment, but I can’t say for sure. I can only offer my interpretation of the film’s visual cues and the way it utilizes silence. I know I relate to her sense of loneliness, but I find myself connecting with her resilient personality too. Though she struggles with serious abandonment issues, she’s still human at the end of the day. She’s not a stoic hero, and I’m damn thankful for that. There’s been a lot of criticism regarding Rey, as some believe she’s a flat or overpowered character, but I beg to differ. She’s far from perfect, and so am I. 

The Force Awakens is about finding your humanness. Rey’s loneliness didn’t obliterate her humanness or her need to reach out to others. Kylo Ren, on the other hand, tries to rid himself of pain and sadness because he wants to be seen as strong. But Rey embraces those emotions. I was a lonely kid, but I never gave up on myself. I carried on and found, through years of self reflection, my own voice. I figured out how to elevate my voice so it could reach others.

It might be cheesy to say, but: it’s important to stay hopeful. Hope, as I’m sure many of you know, is one of the major themes in the Star Wars franchise. It keeps us going day after day, even when we feel like giving up. Maybe Rey and I are driven by the same hope and optimism. I just don’t know. Rey seems to subsist on the hope that her family will return to Jakku, but her story changes and she ends up finding a new family. I always felt disconnected from my peers, but I found meaning in online communities. I was more comfortable expressing myself in text, so that’s what I did. Like Rey, I clung onto hope and survived through it all.

(image: Lucasfilm/Disney)

Ashley Barry has written for high traffic websites such as The Mary Sue, The Tempest, Paste Magazine, and ZAM. She recently launched a new segment on her YouTube channel called It’s Fucking Tea Time, a podcast where women discuss pop culture over tea.

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