Editor in Chief of Naked Politics
There are plenty of reasons to geek out about this new film. For me, aside from all the cool action scenes and beloved characters old and new (BB8 is already my favourite non-speaking character ever!) the political and social points underlying the new film have got me buzzed. Here are my top four reasons why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is politically important.
1. The main protagonist is a female- and she’s badass
Rey is a scavenger from the planet Jakku, who spends her days collecting scrap for a pittance after being abandoned by her family. She brings something often unfamiliar to the film industry: a woman who doesn’t constantly need saving.
Whether it’s old-fashioned Disney films like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, or modern thriller franchises like Taken, we’re used to seeing the damsel in distress, who ultimately will always need a man to save her. Not this chick though. There’s a point in the film when Rey is captured by the First Order and Han Solo and Finn go on a mission to save her, only to find her scaling a wall having already escaped. She pretty much saved herself from the dark sides clutches already. Similarly when Finn first meets her she’s mid-ambush. Before he’s even had a chance to reach her, she’s already fought off the bad guys trying to steal her new robot pal.
Refreshingly, her problems do not revolve around her love life or her looks, as most female protagonists in other genres do. She’s vaguely reminiscent of Tarantino’s Kill Bill, but it’s even better because Star Wars reaches a much wider audience. Powerful, strong female leads are a rarity in film, so it’s great that young girls as well as older women can see a woman in a non-stereotypical role for a change and be reminded that we are so much more than the one dimensional characters we are often presented as.
She’s got brains on her as well. She’s a pilot and knows the engineering ins and outs of the Millennium Falcon (a spaceship for all you non-geeks). Also, notably Princess Leia is now no longer a “princess” but is General Leia instead, which has completely different connotations. “Princess” reminds me of sweet, fluffy niceness, but General sounds, let’s face it, much more badass.
It’s so important that girls grow up having female role models that can do things for themselves too, so they know we don’t have to rely on anyone else to things done. Fellow feminists definitely have something to smile about in this film.
2. Bombing the bad guys alone won’t defeat a bad ideology
If Star Wars has taught us anything, it’s that the dark side is never truly defeated with violence alone. The resistance dropping bombs and destroying the death star has not stopped it reforming as the First Order.
We see the same parallels with our own reality. We are in a perpetual state of war with extremism, an ideology that has not been defeated by airstrikes, but merely reforms itself under a new guise.
3. Sometimes, the reasons why people do bad things are very complex
One of the best things about this film and the Star Wars series in general, is that the bad guys are never painted simplistically. Kylo Ren’s back-story as it unfolds throughout the film is pretty awesome and it’s a great twist to find out how he is connected to the other characters and how he became seduced by the dark side. We see him struggle with his new ideology and his occasional feelings towards goodness.
We see the same thing in life; sure some people seem to just be inherently bad, but most have complex circumstances, embroiled in difficult social situations that generate a toxic climate that can influence what someone believes in and how they behave later in life. Not that it excuses them of course, but makes their story more believable and more realistic. By understanding how people become so extreme in their beliefs, we can do more to counter it.
4. Having a black leading role in a major fantasy film breaks a racial glass ceiling
Finn is the other main character in the film, a storm trooper who goes rouge and decides working for the dark side ain’t going to be all it’s cracked up to be and abandons the First Order.
It almost didn’t occur to me until I starting watching the film, but I can’t think of one blockbuster fantasy film where there’s a black person in a prominent role. So it’s great to see the makers of Star Wars doing their bit to fix that! Before any Daily Mail readers cry: “it’s PC gone mad”, I don’t think that having proper representation of different kinds of people and reflecting the diversity that we live in when it’s the year 2015, is too much to ask. And no, John Boyega was not chosen just to tick a diversity box, he’s funny, believable and convincing in the role as well.
In sum, the political force is strong with this film (sorry, it had to be done). So if you haven’t already, check it out!