by Carolina Allen, Big Ocean Women founder
By now many of you have seen the epic movie Star Wars VII. If you haven't seen it yet, you need to. It’s really that good for many reasons, but in my opinion mostly because of Rey.
There have been few movie watching moments in my life where I have wanted to bust out of my seat and unabashedly salute a specific character. Watching Rey in this new Star Wars episode was one of those times for me. Ahh, Rey. You are my kind of hero! Why? Because your character reflects so many real life women, and it is refreshing to see facets of ourselves on the big screen. Rey is no doubt a powerful force for good, and so are we. Here are 6 reasons why.
1.) Her wardrobe is honest to her mission:
The first good look we get at Rey we find her repelling down the belly of a massive shipwreck. She’s dressed in muddled, dirty looking pants, tunic-shawl, headscarf, and goggles. She’s a shipwreck-scavenger which entails locating and hauling scrap parts through the dusty junkyard planet of Jakku. In other words, she is honestly dressed for the job. It seems so many potentially great female movie heroes lose a sense of credibility with their female audiences when their characters cater to the sex-obsessed industry and artificial-glamor-culture. Real life women (and young girls most especially), can sniff this out in an instant, and it’s not appealing to us. So kudos to Rey’s wardrobe decision-makers for reflecting what a real life hero (in a galaxy far far away) might actually look like. Thanks for promoting functional, practical, and modest clothes. Very refreshing indeed. But wait, there’s more!
2.) Rey is prepared for greatness by learning from the mundane:
Day in and day out Rey is on the constant lookout for spaceship parts she can trade in for food rations. Although she lives in a very harsh and oppressive environment, she is constantly learning and sharpening her skills. Her life isn’t easy as she painstakingly identifies and hauls her scraps across the the infernal dunes, but she seems to be learning all the while. Because of her grit and ingenuity, life in the junkyard planet becomes the perfect training ground for her magnificent future. Each day that she works and toils, she is sharpening her skills as an outstanding mechanic, pilot, and warrior. As an outlier, she chooses to learn from her environment and allows the struggle to work to her advantage. For everyday women worldwide, life isn't glamorous. For many of us care-work is at the heart of what we do, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. On some occasions life may even feel like a junkyard wasteland where we are fatigued and discouraged. However, there are victories in our struggles and many opportunities if we but choose to learn and fine-tune our skills and talents. There is treasure to be found in the seemingly mundane, a craft just waiting to be polished and refined. Rey shows us that we can be prepared for greatness from our everyday toils and labors.
3.) Rey shows us that defending and preserving life is a powerful choice:
In one of her scavenging trips, Rey stumbles upon the droid BB8 and saves him from a junk-scavenger who seeks to steal him away and sell him for "spare parts." Again she saves his life when she is offered a significant amount of food rations to trade him to the junkyard boss who is eyeing the wanted droid for the Imperial Army. This is not an easy decision for Rey, but in the end she makes the choice to preserve his life. She soon discovers that protecting BB8 is the spark that leads to her greatest adventure and mission. Little did she know at the time that the little droid holds a piece of the map leading to the long lost Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker. Saving the life of BB8 opened the doors not only for the next powerful phase in her life as an integral fighter in the Rebellion, but also as a catalyst for memories resurfacing, which are essential in her understanding her overall mission. Choosing life is not always easy. In fact, for many women it comes at a great physical, psychological, and emotional cost. However, there is always a far more rewarding spiritual increase when any life is preserved. Just as the seemingly valueless droid turns out to be one of her greatest friends and allies--a true treasure--so is the life of a new child. Every life has great value and potential. Choosing life adds to the force within us and allows for clarity in our great life missions. In preserving and nurturing life we can heal our past, and look to the future with faith and hope. Compassion isn't a weakness it's a power, and Rey demonstrates it beautifully.
4.) She isn't afraid of leading, and recognizes the value of teamwork:
Soon after Rey saves BB8 from exploitation, she is introduced to Finn. They are all soon discovered by the Imperial stormtroopers and desperately run away from being captured. As Finn attempts to "rescue" Rey by constantly trying to hold her hand, she repeatedly tells him to "let go." That's when he discovers she is faster and a far better fighter than himself and sees her as an asset to his survival. She is confident in her abilities and never hesitates to lead. When they discover the old Millennium Falcon, Rey's acquired skills begin to shine as she fixes and pilots the ship brilliantly. The scrappy Rey recognizes the tremendous value in teamwork and quickly begins to work with BB8, Finn, and later Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Big Ocean philosophy suggests that women are different and unique from men and are thus tremendously powerful and indispensable because of it. But here's the great thing, so are men! We are a feminist paradigm that understands and values men as similarly indispensable and valuable. This is a unique perspective different from many loud and ardent feminist philosophies that give little room for respect let alone collaboration with strong willed leading men. There is a beautiful moment of mutual respect and comradeship between Rey and Solo as they copilot the Falcon. Another beautiful friendship develops as she and Finn loyally look out for one another throughout the film. For Big Ocean, this interdependent relationship is celebrated and deeply satisfying.
5.) She trusts her intuition and is up for the challenge:
Many times throughout the movie, Rey flies by the seat of her pants, yet there is an internal confidence about her. In one scene, recognizing she has never actually flown a ship before, she pants under her breath reassuring herself, "I can do this. I can do this." She jumps in and handles the pressure because she trusts her “gut” and has the “grit” to do it. This “gut and grit” characteristic is essential to Big Ocean philosophy, which is to follow one’s intuitions and demonstrate heroic actions. Day in and day out we are chanting under our breath, "I can do this. I can do this." Truth is, we're doing it everyday! We are demonstrating our tenacity and courage as we follow internal promptings that may seem out of our comfort zone. Whatever seemingly impossible and daunting life challenges or opportunities we encounter, sometimes we just have to white-knuckle the fear and let our intuitions lead out over that first free-fall moment. Like Rey, soon we'll get a handle on the controls and breathe a little easier.
6.) The force is strong with her, and her mind can't be broken:
So this is my all time favorite moment in the movie, and the "source" of the guts, grit, and courage I mentioned above. To adequately express all I think and feel about the force will be for another post. But for now, suffice it to say the level of the force within her is completely inspiring. When Rey is captured and strapped to Kylo Ren's mind control torture chair, her inner power is so strong she not only manages to safeguard her mind, but she completely turns the tables on Ren. She manages to see his own weakness which further enrages him.
Rey's inner strength and light is a secret weapon within her. It is completely real, true, and phenomenal. She has within her an impenetrable shield that protects her mind and spirit. This force is a universal power that the Jedi Masters have harnessed throughout time. It is a spiritual force that speaks to one’s heart and mind. Understanding this cosmic language, and adhering to its promptings allow for a stronger presence of the force within oneself, as Rey so powerfully demonstrates.
Is this all make believe though? Another favorite moment in the movie, Han Solo solemnly declares, "It's true, all of it." I echo this declaration because I have felt "the force" or something very much like it in my own life. It has fueled my own internal power and has shielded and strengthened my mind. It has led me to accomplish many good things, and is currently aiding me in my life's mission as a wife, mother of five, and community-builder.
This very real universal language can be tapped into, and is the root cause of every great change for good in the world. Many women worldwide are believers of this kind of force and have a strong, innate capacity to feel and harness this power within them. To me, the force is faith. In fact, faith is the first and most important tenet of Big Ocean philosophy. It is what gives women their power and capacity to influence within their homes, communities, world, and generations. And that's what brings me to the last shout out to Rey.
7.) She glimpses her life mission and is not afraid of it:
There is a moment of crises when Rey first touches Luke's lightsaber and has vivid flashbacks about her past, and sharp glimpses of how they will relate to her future mission involving returning Luke's lightsaber and possible tutelage from the master Jedi. This experience shakes her to her core because she sees her own potential for the first time. She sees her past and her future in one overwhelming experience and it frightens her so much that she desperately attempts to run away. That is when she is confronted by the sinister Kylo Ren who is set to break her once and for all. The climax of the movie, when the "force awakens," shows Rey pushed to her limit near the edge of a chasm on a crumbling planet. With Ren's sputtering red blade pressing on her borrowed weapon (Luke's lightsaber) just above her neck, she is inches away from death. It is when she hears the word "force" that she quiets her mind, and allows the force to swell within her. She surrenders to the stillness and peace of the force all around her. This awakens her to what I liken to faith as she gracefully overcomes her imminent death. Ren's anger increases as his fear of failure takes hold with each of Rey's more confident strikes against him. She feels an increase of her power as she battles the dark side one on one, ultimately winning the saber fight and scarring his face. Although this battle is not finished (she is rescued off the imploding planet and is separated from Ren), it reactivates her confidence to pursue the beginning of her mission which is somehow involved with returning the lightsaber to (and perhaps training with) Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.
It is an overwhelming feeling to see who we are and what we can become. As we glimpse our true power, it is a threat to a very real "dark side." If ever we are on the brink of something great, rest assured there is an equal and opposite “dark side” reaction to that light, goodness, and greatness that we are on the verge of achieving. For every great dream and worthy cause, there will be opposition. We must stand firm and confront it with peace and love. As expressed by the Jedi Master Yoda, "Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering." It is true that love is the path to the force. Faith leads to peace, peace leads to love, and love leads to the force. May the faith be with you my dear Big Ocean/Jedi master sisters! Until then, may we continue the journey of our own greatness as we adhere to and develop the force and faith within us!