‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: Why Rey Matters Most

Daisy Ridley and Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Daisy Ridley and Harrison Ford in Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Lucasfilm

Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Of all the talking points and discussions following the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, few have come up as much as the topic of one of our new leads, Rey. Played by Daisy Ridley, her character is reminiscent of the early days of Luke Skywalker: A Force-sensitive orphan growing up on a desert planet, with dreams of a bigger world they have yet to explore. But despite her slightly derivative origin, Rey has proven herself to be a well-established character in her own right.

Rey has quickly become the eye of the storm in the realm of Force Awakens discussions, with various articles, message boards, and comment sections all digging into one of the many facets of her role. In just one movie, she proved herself to be a well-rounded, albeit mysterious character, inspiring debates across the outer reaches of the Internet. The Force Awakens was a movie wrought with unanswered questions, and yet still, many of the primary discussions have revolved around her, and her alone.

Rey as a “Mary Sue”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - International Trailer

Rey | Source: Lucasfilm

A “Mary Sue” is a term used to describe a female character who represents a certain level of wish-fulfillment. In its most pejorative form, it embodies any woman in film with an array of talents that seems unrealistically wide. This is of course absolute nonsense in the context of the Star Wars universe, as well as the greater cinematic landscape. Luke goes from whiny farm-boy to Death Star Destroyer in a matter of days in the original trilogy. Anakin is freaking 9 years old in The Phantom Menace, and he blows up an entire Trade Federation flagship by himself. Simply put, Rey isn’t a “Mary Sue” so much as she’s gifted in the exact same way as any number of male characters in the Star Wars saga.

Rey is the most progressive Star Wars character ever created

Rey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley

Rey | Source: Lucasfilm

In the year 2015, it seems odd that “progressive” essentially means “a female character who functions outside of classic gender stereotypes.” That being said, that’s exactly what Rey is in the realm of Star Wars. The franchise got close with Princess Leia in the original trilogy, but fell flat on their collective faces when they threw her into a metal bikini for Return of the Jedi. With Rey, we have a character who, at every turn, establishes her autonomy as the hero. Finn first encounters her getting beat on by a group of thugs, and before he can jump in to save her, she does the job herself. Later on, she gets kidnapped by the First Order, but manages to break herself out before Finn and Han Solo can complete the “damsel in distress narrative.”

All this comes to a head in the climactic duel between Finn and Kylo Ren. After Kylo quickly dispatches Finn, the real battle begins, as Rey calls Luke’s lightsaber to her hand with her newly discovered Force powers. The two briefly go back and forth, before Rey taps even further into her abilities. She rallies back, overpowering her well-trained opponent, before landing a decisive slash across the face of Kylo Ren. It’s a thrilling moment for both the audience and the character alike, further establishing herself not as someone in need of saving, but as the one doing the saving herself.

The mystery of Rey’s family

Rey - Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Daisy Ridley

Rey | Source: Lucasfilm

This is perhaps the biggest unanswered question The Force Awakens leaves for us: Who is Rey? We know she’s waiting on Jakku for her family, and has been since she was a small child. Furthermore, we see she’s well-attuned to the Force, and both heroes and villains alike seem to recognize her importance in a way that suggests someone knows who she really is. In a story based largely around mysteries of lineage, this has led to one popular theory: That Luke Skywalker is Rey’s father.

This twist has the potential to take us in a couple directions. If it’s true, it makes her Kylo Ren’s cousin, and Leia’s niece, doubling down on the family drama of the new-look Star Wars in a way not even George Lucas did. More than that, it makes her a member of the galaxy’s most powerful Jedi lineage, while suggesting an erstwhile romance for Luke in the 30 years since Return of the Jedi. This also produces a major issue, as a reveal that almost seems too obvious and convenient. Though if Rey isn’t related to the Skywalker clan in any way, that begs the question of who her real family is, with very few (if any) possibilities left. Whatever her origin actually is, the answer already serves as the driving force behind Episode VIII. 

[Update, 6/22/16: Added script leak rumor about Rey’s past.] While many previous rumors about Rey’s family revolved around whether or not she was a Skywalker, a new rumor reported by ComicBookMovie suggests that Rey might be “The One” who will bring balance to the Force, as predicted by the Jedi Order. Per the source (identified only as “Stormtrooper Larry”) there is a scene in Episode VIII that shows how the Jedi Order was founded after two children (a boy and a girl) come into contact with a mysterious tree. This scene supposedly also shows Rey’s parents, and Luke is not one of them. While there’s no way to know if this rumor is accurate, ComicBookMovie notes that the source of this leak previously revealed pictures form the set of the film. You can read the full script leak here.

Luke Skywalker - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Luke Skywalker | Lucasfilm

[Update, 11/29/16: Added rumored Luke Skywalker dialogue.]

According to sources cited by YouTuber Mike Zeroh, one of Luke Skywalker’s lines of dialogue from the as-yet-untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII has been leaked. The line is supposedly directed at Rey and reads:

You contain the spark that will rekindle the fire.

While this quote has yet to be confirmed, it would align with previous rumors that suggested Rey was a key figure in the reemergence of the Jedi.

More than any of her co-stars, Daisy Ridley is the central presence of Disney’s revamped Star Wars universe. She proved herself to be the closest thing The Force Awakens has to a main character, she transcends gender stereotypes, and when it was all said and done, Rey was the hero of the entire movie. It’s exciting to imagine what could potentially come next for her, whatever that may be.

Additional reporting by Nathanael Arnold

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