Tuesday, December 22, 2015

They Have Always Misunderstood Our Heroines

Mr. Snarky and I went and saw The Force Awakens last night, and I really enjoyed it.

I can't write about some of the things I'd like to write about after seeing the movie, though, because that would require spoilers, and I don't want to do that yet. I am, to be honest, a little annoyed at the timing of the release of this movie. I get that Christmas time has become a big release time for movies, but the timing made seeing the movie feel like just another thing on my to do list, between "finish Christmas cards" and "plan holiday menu." Scheduling in an evening to see the movie really just added to the stress of this week.

I won't be the one to spoil the movie for those of you who are sensibly waiting until after the holiday rush is over.

But I had to see it sooner. It is Star Wars. I loved Star Wars as a kid. I had the action figures, and Luke's land cruiser, and a whole bunch of the trading cards, which I kept in an empty Velveeta box. I loved Luke the best. Not in the "I want to be with him" sort of way- in the "I want to be him" sort of way. I pretended I had Jedi powers (didn't we all?) and always tried to trade for the Luke cards. I was five when the first Star Wars movie came out. I don't remember whether I was bothered by the fact that the character I wanted to be was a boy. As I got older and realized that I was supposed to have picked either Luke or Han to "like" I was embarrassed by my choice of Luke as a favorite, because everyone thought Han was better. But in truth, I never "liked" either of them in that way. I wanted to be the hero, not date the hero.

So, yes, I'm glad to see Rey in the new movie. I won't say more (no spoilers and all) but yes, I do think it is utter BS that there is a shortage of Rey toys.

A colleague and I were discussing the difficulty of scheduling in time to see a movie at this time of year, and cynical 40-something women that we are, we decided that the timing of this release and the shortage of Rey toys are just two aspects of the same problem: the people in charge didn't think this movie was for us. (Because, yes, of course I want a Rey action figure for my desk. Duh.)

Maybe, just maybe, they thought this movie was for my daughters, although the way they've done their toy tie ins makes me skeptical. (Here is a really good- and also very spoiler-filled rant on this topic.)

I think, though, that people didn't expect us 40-something women to be all that into this movie. We like Jane Austen movies, not space operas, right? We don't want kickass heroines, we want love stories, right?

They misunderstand our heroines. They have always been kickass. We love Elizabeth Bennett not because she marries Mr. Darcy in the end, but because she had the courage to turn him down in the middle. We love Jane Eyre not because she marries Mr. Rochester at the end, but because she had the strength to leave him and stay true to her principles in the middle. We love Anne of Green Gables not because she finds true love at the end, but because she learns to love herself along the way.

We may not have been able to articulate this when we were 12- but to be fair to us, by that point, society had pretty well convinced us that girls are supposed to want love stories. I can't speak for anyone else, but it never occurred to me to wonder why I gravitated to some love stories and hated others.

In retrospect, the stories I loved, and read over and over and over, were the ones whose main characters I most admired. Our heroines have always been women who fight for what is right. They have always been strong women from whom we take inspiration in our own battles to stay true to our inner compass and make a little more room for ourselves in the world.

So yes, I enjoyed The Force Awakens, and I cheer the arrival of Rey into our popular culture. But I've had strong female role models all along.

Since I apparently can't have a Rey action figure, maybe I'll buy myself a Lizzy Bennett action figure instead.


  1. DH and I saw the movie last night! Put the Littles to be, had Eldest babysit, and went to a 10:10 pm show. It was glorious.
    I really enjoyed the movie. It was very well done, J.J. Abrahams obviously can make appealing scifi/fantasy. The young actors were excellent, and there were funny moments, in the best Han Solo spirit. I would say that the tall main villain was probably the worst of the cast. And there were a bit too many parallels in the story between the "old" and this one, which I suppose it a treat for most fans. But overall it was a very good movie, it has a true Star Wars look and feel, and I imagine the fans are not disappointed.

    Totally with you on our heroines. We like the characters who kick butt, we are not all just waiting to have fall in love and have a family. I have never wanted to be anyone's love interest, always the hero.

  2. Hey, I wanted to be Luke, too! Star Wars was one of the only movies I can remember my parents taking us to more than once. The second time, I wore my white turtleneck and white jeans. My mother said I looked ridiculous, but I knew I looked like Luke.

    Years later, as I was walking across my college campus to compete in a fencing meet, wearing my fencing whites and carrying my electric foil, I realized that few people get that close to their childhood dreams.

    Now, though, I'd rather be Leia. She's smarter, snarkier, and a better shot than pretty much everyone else.

  3. Loved the movie, and loved this post. It's an interesting and (I think) true perspective about what makes the heroines in "love stories" admirable and appealing (to readers, not to the "heroes" in the stories).

    Incidentally, I always wanted to be Han (wasn't interested in "liking" anyone): I wanted to fly the Millennium Falcon and have scrapes and adventures all over the galaxy with Chewy.

  4. Julia1:15 PM

    Yes! This reminds me of why I dislike the Uhura character in the new Star Trek movies so much. She is presented as Spock's girlfriend first, and oh by the way she's also an amazing and accomplished linguist/translator. So even though she has more lines in the new Star Trek movie and does more stuff than in the original series, I think her character is worse in the sense that she is less her own person. It is so unnecessary.

  5. Not related to the post, but in line with the discussion... we thought the Leia character was totally believable and fully fleshed, but Han hadn't changed at all which just wasn't believable. He was still young Han but with grey hair and wrinkles. I thought he would have gotten fat and done more of his shady stuff behind a desk (though I admit he might not have been smart enough for that to happen... I always cringe at how easy it was for Luke et al. to bamboozle him in the first movie), but DH thought he would have matured and grown in the intervening years like Leia did.

    (I've always identified with C3PO. Sure, he/it is as whiny as Luke but he's whiny about the right things!)

    Wait... Spock and Uhura are dating?


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