Wait? Girls Don’t Have To Be Sexualized in Movies?

I saw Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens in theaters. The plot line follows Finn (a former Storm Trooper, part of The First Order) and Rey’s (the daughter of a couple that were taken by The First Order when she was younger, who also turns out to be a Jedi Knight) journey to get BB-8 (a droid, like Luke Skywalker’s R2-D2) back to The Resistance because it is carrying a chip that they need. Meanwhile The First Order is also interested and is trying to get it as well because it helps complete their plan to defeat The Resistance! Through the movie, we learn that the new “Darth Vader,” Kylo Ren is the son of Princess Leia and Han Solo. What’s more is that we find out, while captured under The First Order, that Rey is a Jedi Knight, and the force is strong within her as she takes on Kylo Ren to defeat him. The movie ends with Rey traveling to an island and facing someone, whom we assume is Luke Skywalker since he also had the same robotic hand. Disney shot the movie and it falls under the fantasy/Sci-Fi genre. The movie used its genre conventions by creating a community of life in space, either on a spaceship or on different planets. Also, many characters in the movie are completely different species that we have yet to ever see in real life, on top of the amount of robots and droids throughout the story. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens breaks cultural barriers by placing a female as the lead in a long-awaited film with such a large fan base, yet still lacks in other areas around race and creating a monster out of the enemy.

This film brought out the little girl in me that grew up loving Star Wars all over again. As a girl growing up and playing with neighborhood boys and reenacting the movie’s scenes, I can’t help but feel so happy that they had Rey in the movie. Rey portrays an independent, strong female that is not dependent on any man to help her. She portrays a female hero that is not just an inspiration to girls; she is an inspiration to all because of her strength, determination, and power of The Force. bell hooks’ talks about the effects of an absence of oneself in cinema in The Oppositional Gaze, this could be true of finally seeing a role like Rey. Rather than sexualizing and pointing out that she is in fact a girl like they do to Princess Leia in previous movies, barriers are broken when we see Rey as a strong, main female character, not because we see her with fewer clothes on, or within the Male Gaze.

Rey_survival_gear.png

(Google)

On another note however, there are still some critiques and representations in the film that lack. For instance, there are no main characters in the movie that are female and of another race. The same concept from bell fits in here. When there is a lack of diverse characters in the film, we only see the ones we do and associate them as the “desired look.” In a way, it is “perpetuating white supremacy” especially in a movie that is taking place in a fantasy, futuristic universe that could be breaking all barriers (hooks, 119).

A third critique to bring up with the film is what they make of the enemy. We have seen in previous Star Wars films that even Darth Vader himself is “human” and has a heart but had been pulled to the dark side. The same remains for Kylo Ren in which we see the conflict he has with his guilt for his evil power but also wanting so much power that he has no guilt of anything. The funny thing is, The First Order almost relates more to the film as how the United States may be represented in military films. They are an overpowering force that has the raddest and baddest equipment and technology. In the article, ­Military Orientalism at the Cineplex: A Postcolonial Reading of Zero Dark Thirty, Marouf A. Hasian, Jr. discusses the idea of “American exceptionalism” in which they can make an exception for what they do, how many they kill, and whatever cost it takes to protect themselves (and their country) (Hasian, 466). We can see in the first seconds of this clip, how The First Order is completely destroying and killing where they have landed, all to get a piece of the map they are searching for.

(YouTube)

The film creates meaning because we are attached to the character of Rey, as someone who is waiting for her parents to return (though it is unlikely), we are drawn to her strength, her intelligence with being a pilot, and her power when she discovers Luke and Annikan’s light saber and the Force in her. We see ourselves in her because we see her as ordinary and with strength within her. I was particularly drawn to this movie for that exact reason, I see myself in her. Furthermore, the movie was well structured and well designed, including all of the characters from previous movies. I remember the entire time watching the movie, thinking how incredible the film would be in the IMAX Theater.

I saw the movie in a theater in La Crosse, WI at 11am on a Saturday. Because of the time of the day and the fact that this movie came out 4 months ago, there were only two other groups in the theater. The movie theater was an old theater for plays and there are tables at each group of four seats so the groups in the theater were largely spaced out. They serve food such as appetizers and pizza and bring it out to you while the film is being watched. My ticket was $3 and because it was priced so low (and I didn’t eat anything before) I got breadsticks and a pizza with my friend.

I think my collective film experience drew me into the movie more. It is a long film and I am also usually not a fan of going to see movies at a theater, but I had long waited seeing this movie and the food sure helped a lot too! I went with a friend and it was almost like we were in the theater ourselves because I never heard any reactions, even laughing from the other groups attending the movie.

 

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