New Star Wars: The Force Awakens Footage Promises Rey is “Strong,” “Kicks Butt”

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In the run-up to The Force Awakens, there’s been a lot of scrutiny on Rey and Finn as representations of a newfound “diversity” in science fiction — and a lot of reassurance that the pair will more than measure up to the pressure. You can hear some examples of that insistence in this recent featurette about Rey, in which Daisy Ridley tells us her character is a “strong woman who does her own thing and has her own story.” Her co-star John Boyega adds that Rey is “really strong — she can really kick some butt.” Earlier today, director J.J. Abrams took to Twitter to reiterate his hope that “girls and women see themselves in Rey.”

We’ve all felt floored by the sadly-still-revolutionary idea of centering a white woman and a black man as the two key protagonists in a massive franchise like Star Wars. There’s a lot of pressure on Daisy Ridley and John Boyega to surpass all expectations and be role models — and there’s also a lot of pressure on everyone else involved with the project, from the writers and directors (past and future), to the costume designers, the cinematographers, the prop-masters, and so on.

All of us will be bringing our “does this pass my personal intersectional feminism test” clipboard to the theatre, I presume? I kid, of course — but I tend to perform that sort of subconscious evaluation every time I engage with any media, whether I want to turn my brain off or not. Without even intending to do it, I’ll be calculating whether this movie passes the Bechdel-Wallace test, and when I walk out of the theatre, I’ll know its score. I’ll be analyzing each scene, in the back of my mind, to see if Rey and Finn have actual agency, or if they feel like tokenized stereotypes (e.g. “Strong Female Character” and “Cool Black Friend”). I’ll be looking at who’s in the center of frame, and who gets sidelined. I’ll inwardly ask, who got the most screen time? What types of actions did each character perform during their key moments? What were their moments of heroism, and their failures? I don’t want to over-analyze any of this stuff — but I can’t help it, and I doubt I’m alone in feeling this way.

I am excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens (obviously) — but all of this focus on Rey and Finn as somehow representational makes me feel a little nervous, because of course they’re going to fall short in some way. No one character can perfectly represent everyone — least of all two conventionally gorgeous Hollywood 20-somethings! Yet here we are, sharing quotes about how Rey will instantly become a role model for girls (and boys, although this is often said as an afterthought). We are being promised that she will be strong — but I care more about her narrative weight than whether or not she can swing a pole. And I won’t know whether or not she’s “strong” by my own personal standards until I see the film.

Join me in hand-wringing about this, folks. Or reassure me that I’m worried about nothing! But first, let me share the quote that reassured me the most, from John Boyega via The Verge about Rey:

It’s so funny because I’ve watched the movie, and I related to Rey a lot. A lot. It actually surprised me how much I related to her story and who she is, and the tones and process that she goes through. So for me, that’s so good that we’re able to get different versions of relationships between audience and the cast.

Okay, now back to agonizing. Agh!!

(via Polygon)

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Maddy Myers
Maddy Myers, journalist and arts critic, has written for the Boston Phoenix, Paste Magazine, MIT Technology Review, and tons more. She is a host on a videogame podcast called Isometric (, and she plays the keytar in a band called the Robot Knights (