First things first: This post has spoilers, and lots of them, and big ones. If you have not yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens and you do not want to have major reveals spoiled for you, please do not read this post yet. For those of you who are willing to stick around, the rest is below the cut.
I have so much to say about The Force Awakens.
I could spend a few thousand words telling you about how much it meant to me to see people from an amazingly wide spread of ethnic backgrounds filling every part of this movie’s world. I could tell you about hearing that music again, and how my heart melted when I heard Leia’s theme. I would love to spend some time talking about how BB-8 was everything I needed it to be and so much more. I could probably spend hours telling you how much better this film understands nostalgia for the original trilogy than the prequels ever could (and also reminding you that I unabashedly adore the prequels, too).
But right now, I’m here for Rey.
I drove home after the movie was over, and in hindsight that may have been a mistake. I sat down in the driver’s seat of my car, banged my fists against the steering wheel several times and then cried the entire way back to the house. While driving. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I asked my boyfriend between sobs:
“You didn’t know Rey was the Jedi, did you?”
“No,” he said. “No one did!”
“Yeah,” I heard myself agree. “But it’s so fucking obvious, though! Look at what she’s wearing the entire movie and in all the promotional materials. She’s practically screaming ‘I AM A JEDI.’ But nobody realized it.”
I mean, look at this lady.
Beige head-to-toe with tattered remnants trailing below her knees that make no practical sense at all unless they’re meant to mimic the appearance of Jedi robes. And yet despite all the things that seem like such obvious tells after the fact, it wasn’t until about half an hour into the movie that it dawned on me.
Rey is dressed the part and she comes from the same humble beginnings – alone and in poverty on a desert planet – that we saw previously with Luke and Anakin. We hear, again, about her uncanny skill as a pilot despite her lack of training. We’re shown her compassion very early on when she rescues BB-8 and, in that same scene, see the first hint that perhaps the Force is with her.
It wasn’t until that scene – when Rey pulls an old Rebel pilot’s helmet over her head with the blast shield down and hears something a little too far away for her to hear, a cry for help from a droid who just happens to be carrying a map that leads to Luke Skywalker – that I finally caught on. Rey is the Jedi.
And even then I couldn’t quite believe what the movie was certainly telling me. We had seen John Boyega’s Finn wielding a lightsaber in one of the trailers. Surely, if anyone in this new crop of characters was going to be the Jedi, it would be him. And yes, in a truly amazing moment, Finn gets to fight with Luke Skywalker’s lost lightsaber. So let me take this moment to point out that Boyega’s casting is also important and inspiring, and that Finn is a wonderful, complicated, unusual sort of hero who Boyega fills with perfect charm and humor.
But in that moment when Finn wields the lightsaber first, even though we know without question by that point in the movie that Rey is a Jedi, I doubted it again. Maybe Rey isn’t that sort of Jedi, I heard myself reasoning. Maybe she’s more of a caster-type than a traditional melee fighter, I thought ridiculously.
But then Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber came to Rey.
I live in a small, middle-America sort of town. It means that my local theater didn’t sell out of the 7 p.m. showing of The Force Awakens until a few hours before the movie began. I got to see the movie with a full theater of fans, but I was very fortunate in that I didn’t have to wait in any lines to do so. The audience was a good one. We laughed at all the punchlines, gasped at the big reveals, and clapped when the good guys won. And because, as I said, I live in a small, middle-America sort of town, that audience was mostly made of up nerdy white men.
But when Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber came to Rey, the entire theater burst into cheers and applause. (I was trying to cheer and applaud but I was mostly crying by then.)
I point this out not because we need nerdy white men in small, middle-American towns to love a character like Rey. These guys love Jedi, just like the rest of us do. Whether they were going to love the new Jedi in town was never really a question. Rather, the point is that they will love Rey, just as much as they love Luke or Obi-Wan before her because she is a Jedi.
And for those of us who love Jedi but who have never truly seen ourselves represented as one before, we will love Rey even more. (And, if you’re like me, also cry a lot.)
I spent the drive home, again, crying – but also repeating over and over again, “I can’t believe Rey’s the Jedi.” Never in my wildest imaginings had I thought we might see a woman literally pick up Luke Skywalker’s weapon and fill his trilogy-spanning heroic shoes. But this is the world we live in now. This is the world in which Rey is the Jedi.