I recently sat down to watch (not for the first time) the latest installment in the Star Wars series and something struck me about the main heroine, Rey. Contrary to those seeking to place Rey in the context of American cultural feminism, there is a strong case to be made which compares her to Saint Joan of Arc. Rather than a feminist icon charging into the masculine role of guardian and protector, Rey struggles deeply with the call to do battle.
Here are a few reasons why Rey should be interpreted as a warrior Saint, rather than a progressive feminist:
- Just because a female finds herself in a role or position usually held by a male figurehead does not mean that said female is a feminist. For anyone that has watched, The Force Awakens, Rey doesn’t pursue the role she finds herself in by the end of the movie, standing face to face with the last Jedi in existence. She is pushed into this position by fate, circumstance, and a higher calling. This is not identical to, but it may be similar to that of Saint Joan of Arc’s mystical experiences prompting her to do battle. Moreover, it would be a far cry to try and claim that Saint Joan was a feminist because battlefield heroics are usually attributed to the masculine protector, which leads me directly into my next point.
- Rey isn’t fighting for equal rights in the Jedi order. She isn’t seeking to blaze a new path for women to hold/fill positions often held by men. She isn’t protesting the need for more women to be allowed in “The Resistance.” She isn’t complaining about the lack of equal recognition in “The Resistance” effort against the First Order. She isn’t seeking equal pay for equal work on the battlefield. None of these feminist mantras are found in the narrative.
- Rey doesn’t want the responsibility associated with her new found ability. She tries to run from it, hide from it, and do whatever she can to resist the reality of her responsibility and calling. This is common among people that recognize a higher purpose, but are initially fearful about the intensity of the call to duty. Only at the end, when there is no one left to stand against the villain Kylo Ren, does Rey finally pick up a light saber and accept the fact that she has a duty to fight evil.
These points indicate that, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is not a movie seeking to indoctrinate us into feminism. This movie does not, in my view, secure the crippling feminist implant within the psyche of our young male populace. As usual, Star Wars is a movie about the ongoing battle between good and evil, the responsibility of those called to stand against it, and the human struggle to recognize the duty one must fulfill when a calling is recognized. Let’s not surrender ground in the culture war when we can baptize an iconic message and use it to discuss one of the Church’s greatest Saints.
Saint Joan of Arc was called to be a warrior-Saint. According to my interpretation of Star Wars, this is also the calling for Rey.
– Lucas G. Westman