What Rey Means To Me: ‘Star Wars’ delivers an iconic new character

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This is probably the millionth Star Wars article on the internet about Rey and either how she’s not a “Mary Sue” or how important her character is for a new generation of fans. Why we also decided to write about her is because from a young perspective, we wanted to share the impact Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in particular Rey’s character, has made on us. We were born after the original trilogy was released. We were very young when the prequel trilogy hit the big screen. We knew the iconic phrases and plot twists before we ever watched them. We didn’t have the full experience of Star Wars… until now.

When Rey first pops on screen, tilting her head inquisitively with those huge goggles, it’s hard not to have fallen a little in love right then and there. When she wields a light saber and fiercely battles Kylo Ren at the end, I found it incredibly hard to not stand up and cheer each of the three times I saw it in theaters.

Having a female character lead the biggest movie franchise in the history of cinema is a big step forward, and I asked some of my fellow staff writers to share just how monumental it is for Star Wars to give both fans new and old a character like Rey.

Bri Lockhart writes:

I spent a good portion of my first viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens grinning like an idiot. Every time one of the members of the latest Star Wars trio entered the scene, they proved themselves incredibly endearing — Poe, the best pilot in the galaxy; Finn, the runaway storm trooper; and Rey, the scavenger with a destiny bigger than she ever imagined. However, Rey was the one who truly had my undivided attention; I was enthralled by how her gender is simultaneously completely irrelevant to the story and the most important thing about her. She’s not treated differently than any of the boys, and even ends up being the one wielding the Force on the side of good — something unheard of on screen by a named female character in the previous six movies. She’s incredibly capable, ruthless when she needs to be and incredibly kind. Rey’s journey as a protagonist, as a lady Jedi and a hero serves to let little girls know that they’re just as important and visible as boys in this universe.

Allyson Johnson writes:

I didn’t watch Star Wars growing up (and really only saw the trilogy for the first time in the past two years or so). I was more of a DC Animation type of kid and was drawn to characters such as Hawkgirl, Artemis and Raven. Even then, without being able to put words to contextualize what I was doing, I was being drawn to these powerful, nuanced and female characters, of whom there were few on television, particularly in television geared towards the younger crowd.

All of this is what made Star Wars: The Force Awakens not only fun to watch, but monumental. While there is no need to diminish Princess Leia’s role in the original series, she was, at the end of the day, a supporting character. Rey is our leading lady and the person who the story revolves around. She’s a scrapper, who has taught herself how to fight, how to survive, all the while not losing sight of her untouched basic kindness. She is everything that you want your heroine to be and so rarely get.

Beyond my own excitement of simply getting a character such as Rey onscreen, I am more excited for the young girls around the world, a generation of them who get to grow up with Rey as a role model, in the ways that boys have had the likes of Peter Parker for decades now. Little girls need to see themselves represented, and to have that representation come in the form of arguably one of the biggest films ever released, is amazing (and the same can be said of John Boyega and Oscar Isaac’s casting). Representation matters, having role models matter, especially ones such as Rey that teach you that you can survive and learn and be curious and that those are commendable actions.

Rey isn’t a cure all for popular culture (nerd culture, specifically) and its want to be a “boys club” first, but it’s a hell of a start, and I’m thrilled by the notion that little girls everywhere are going to look up onscreen, see Rey, and think “I can be that.”

Alana Jane Chase writes:

I saw my first Star Wars film 13 years ago. I was eight and fascinated, buzzing with that wonder unique to the young and innocent. I wanted to be a Jedi. I wanted to be strong with the Force, take down the Stormtroopers and defend the galaxy. I would often pull my long hair up into a tight bun, leaving down a small section to be braided à la Anakin Skywalker. My brother and I would duel with our toy light sabers — mine was always blue — and claim we were Padawans. For my 13th birthday, I asked for a Star Wars Lego set and built the entire Imperial Star Destroyer in one weekend. My neighborhood friends — mostly boys, as I grew up with my brother — told me, “Star Wars isn’t for girls,” that there was no place in that universe for a saber-swinging heroine, that I wasn’t allowed to be a Jedi like the boys could be. It was their world, and as a child, I was starting to believe I had to take “no girls allowed” as a final answer.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens broke new ground. It was the film I wished I could have seen when I was young. The lovely Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) were fantastic additions, both of whose backstories I want to know more about. But there was something so momentous about Rey (Daisy Ridley) that I found myself beaming while witnessing her moments of triumph. Like the male leads I had seen before, Rey is headstrong, independent, supremely talented and a Force-sensitive fighter. But she’s also compassionate, good-natured and slightly vulnerable. She’s everything I wanted to see in a lead character as a young girl, the hero my eight-year-old self needed and a symbol of new hope for the franchise. Episode VII truly feels like my own, a world in which I could belong.

Hannah Atkins writes:

I wasn’t much of a Star Wars fan in my childhood — I watched some of the original trilogy as a young kid when it was shown on TV, but it didn’t particularly excite me. However, it was impossible not to be caught up in the hype for The Force Awakens and I ended up taking my younger (male) cousin to watch the movie, since he really wanted to go.

When we left the cinema, I think my grin was double the size of his. I loved it. I was so incredibly entertained. It had some glorious banter, great action sequences, plenty of homage to the original films and most importantly, some brilliant new characters.

There’s really not much I can say about Rey in particular that hasn’t already been said. The poor woman has been dissected and discussed every which way across the interwebs.

What I will say is this: Rey is strong, capable, compassionate and competent.

Indeed, her competency throughout the movie has been criticized as “unrealistic.” And I will counter with the fact that we’ve seen countless upon countless movies where the male protagonist has magically been able to acquire new skills and defeat the baddies without breaking a sweat, and somehow his prowess is never the subject of discussion. Also, might I add that the “realism” argument is slightly irrelevant in a film dealing with aliens, interplanetary travel and mystical powers.

But I digress.

Women make up half the world’s population. One hundred years into filmmaking, it’s about damn time that we get to see ourselves represented on the big screen, and not as a damsel in distress, or to further the male protagonist’s story or to be the sexy heroine in spandex, but as a woman on her own mission, as her own person, with her own agency and back story and plot.

Representation matters.

I leave you with two quotes that capture the nuances of the situation far better than I can:

“The people who are upset that the faces of fiction are changing are right to worry. It’s a fundamental challenge to a worldview that’s been too comfortable for too long. The part of our cultural imagination that places white Western men at the center of every story is the same part that legitimises racism and sexism. The part of our collective mythos that encourages every girl and brown boy to identify and empathise with white male heroes is the same part that reacts with rage when white boys are asked to imagine themselves in anyone else’s shoes.” [Laurie Penny]


“Science fiction is about possibilities; it’s about imagining alternative futures and envisioning worlds that transcend the constraints of current reality. In many of the futures portrayed in science fiction, film and television people achieve extraordinary feats of accomplishment…maintaining racial diversity in science fiction film and television is about more than just being “politically correct,” it is about showing people of all races shaping and participating in the future in meaningful ways, as important characters, contributing to the advancement and accomplishments of humanity.” [Alexis Charles]

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Gabrielle is 27 years old and lives in Chicago. She enjoys writing about film, TV, and books, but occasionally writes about music as well. In addition to writing for TheYoungFolks.com, she also the editor-in-chief and a co-founder. In her spare time, she’s either watching more movies and shows or reading more books, while continuously checking Twitter, which she may or may not be addicted to… Feel free to email her your thoughts, ideas and questions.
  • F Calvin

    Han shot first.

    • William Eguizabal

      Told ya!

  • Booba Fett

    What Rey means to me is that if I’m a female I don’t have to work for anything, I’m just automatically blessed with Jedi superpowers with no training whatsoever! So, girls, whatever you want in life will just come to you, because, well, you’re girls!

    • You mean like Luke or Anakin?

      • Jason Topher

        Both had training before using force abilities. Why is this ignored

        • SamH

          Because Anakin used the force as a podracer. It’s why he was the only human who could compete. And he makes robots too!

          • Jason Topher

            its stated in the movie that people strong in the force had superior instincts, which means they get a leg up in certain areas, like reflexes and “gut feelings”. those are traits, not skills. Anakin uses no force abilities like mind control or telekinesis in the pod race. just good reflexes.
            He builds robots because hes smart and grew up as a junkyard slave, tearing apart robots and repairing ect. nothing to do with the force

        • Because the training Luke goth in ANH consisted of 30 sec pep talk by Old Obin Wan about let the force in and calm his emotions, nothing different from what Maz Kanata did to Rey after the flashback scene, what training Luke had to Force Grab the Lightsaber in the cave on the first minutes of ESB? i’ll wait…

          • Jason Topher

            Actually they trained on the millennium falcon. The scene with the floating orb shooting at Luke showed that. The travel times in the movies were never established, but it seemed implied (to me) that it took days/weeks to move from system to system, especially since tatooine is on the “outer rim”. So Luke was training with Ben for at least a few days before doing anything with the force. But if you interpret the time as hours, then yeah you’d be right. I interpret it to make sense, so I’d say at least days. The difference is Rey has never met a jedi, and simply guesses her way to superiority. Unless the next movie shows she was trained and lost her memory (a fan theory)

          • So we can accept implied things for Luke training but not for Rey? for me is heavily implied she was trained as a Younglin, if is not in the movie you can’t use, that’s the argument of people using the Mary Sue term, Max Landis said himself it is Fans coming up with excuses

            So you can’t say the travel took one month, all i saw of Luke training in ANH were 30 seconds of him deflecting blasters shots

          • Jason Topher

            That logic makes no sense, Luke was explicitly shown to have a teacher, then being trained for however long it takes to get to Alderaan (this is shown, therefore I can say it, also I said days weeks or months, not just ” 1 month” read the post). unless every planet in the galaxy is 20 minutes away from each other, its a logical assumption based on what we see that they would be training the whole trip.
            You are comparing a fan theory to what actually happened in the film. Apples to oranges. That theory is possible, one of the more likely ones (seriously read my post i already said “Unless the next movie shows she was trained and lost her memory (a fan theory)”), but there’s nothing except a vague vision to support it. if you can insert arbitrary theories in wherever, you can justify anything.

          • It’s clearly shown in the movie in the flashback scene that her being left in Jakku had some connection with the Jedi academy massacre, she was wearing outfit that clear resembles Padawan Attire, is a logical assumption, i don’t think the Trip for Aldeeran took more than hours, but again you can’t use the argument of what is shown in the Movie for Rey, and making assumptions for Luke

            We can assume too that part of the Luke “training” in the Millenium Falcon was Force Telechinesis? because he pulled the lightsaber in the cave before he even met Yoda

          • Jason Topher

            I’m not going to repeat it again, Obi wan explicitly, not implied, trained Luke. In the very least informed him of the various abilities of a Jedi, even if the trip took hours. This would definitely include telekinesis, he at least knew it could be done, id assume obi taught him as well. I interpret the alderaan trip taking days or more, enough time, since everything in the galaxy should not be hours away from each other. But since we cant prove that either way, I guess we’re done there. Let me put it like this: name a flaw of Rey’s.
            Luke had his hand held until he boarded the deathstar by obi wan, then gets his hand held by han during deathstar prison break, his uselessness was evident for awhile. Rey is great start to finish in every skill, as well as being a moral paragon.
            and for the third time, that fan theory is possible. Cant say i recall the flashback that clearly. But whats with her amnesia then? though I do have a personal bias against amnesia as a plot device. must have been a really great youngling to know all that stuff

          • I’m not going into this debate again i can list dozens of Flaws in Rey, nothing against you that is well thought and civilized, but i had this debate too many times in the internet after the movie was released, i’m not convincing you and you not gonna convincing me, so why bother?

          • Jason Topher

            sounds fair

  • will sh

    Force Awakens was just plain narratively bad. Don’t let a little girl power disguise that for you. Demand a good movie for your heroine.

  • Jason Topher

    There are certain theories that could explain her, but it seems to me she is nothing but a Mary Sue. No training, didn’t even know what she was and bam, advanced jedi powers. Pretty sure females and males both need to actually work at something before they can be good at it. Particularly before they best someone who is already good at it.
    I’ve never Speed skated, I wouldn’t expect to be able to win a gold medal at it on my first try either. Even if I had a great speed skating biological parent.
    Seriously, what is Luke going to teach her? shes already exhibited everything he learned over the course of 3 movies from 2 Jedi masters, and done it in 5 seconds by herself. Maybe she will teach him? by the next movie she should be all-powerful at this rate

    PS: i have no problem with the Lightsaber fight, that was explained by kylo being wounded at the time, also kylo is not done with his training either. I’m purely surprised by her force abilities despite lack of teaching.

    • Allyson Johnson

      You mean like Luke or Anakin? Or any action franchise ever with a dude?


      • Jason Topher

        Luke and Anakin both had training from Jedi masters before using any force abilities, whats the comparison? Anakin lots, Luke little, but both had some. Rey had none.

        • Allyson Johnson

          Yes, but its explained and shown that due to living alone and having to survive on her own that she has built up skill sets that have helped keep her alive including fighting and flying..Its not as if she ended the film a master or anything for christs sake.

          • Jason Topher

            Yes, that explains her toughness, fighting skill, mechanical knowledge and pilot skill perfectly. Which is why I did not mention those things as issues. In fact I clearly stated:
            “I’m purely surprised by her force abilities despite lack of teaching.”
            scavenging/fighting/flying has nothing to do with instantaneous force abilities. I’ve got no problem with her other skills, they make perfect sense.

          • Odin the Wanderer

            And Luke, despite not being previously trained, using the force to guide a missile into a hole in the Death Star while piloting made a lot more sense.

            You guys are just cherrypicking things to complain about.

          • Jason Topher

            He had been trained by both Yoda and Kenobi actually, as previously stated. Literally had Kenobi talking to him in his head when he did that. Also, he didn’t guide it, he aimed using his instincts, as kenobi clearly says in the movie.

            The only issue there is he seems to jump into an x-wing and know hows to fly it instantly. the whole But that’s got nothing to do with the force so it seems pretty unrelated.

          • Jason Topher

            Trained by obi-wan at that point actually, for a day or a week or however long it takes to go from the outer rim to Alderaan. Further he did not force-guide the torpedo in, he used the force to aim. Arguably OP but at least there’s a working theory and not 0-100 skill.
            Only odd bit being that he can inherently pilot a x-wing like an expert, and take command of his own squadron. But that’s not the force so I didn’t mention it before. T-16 thing being a thin excuse i guess

          • Odin the Wanderer

            lol absolutely nothing in the movie indicated that he was trained with the force, he was trained with a lightsaber on screen and established as a good pilot, making up things to fill in plot holes and defend inconsistencies isn’t doing much for your arguments.

          • Jason Topher

            Are you serious? He literally puts on a blinder helmet and blocks lasers. He is blind and deflecting lasers with a light saber. How is that not the force? “absolutely nothing” indeed

          • Odin the Wanderer

            Thank-you for your useful services as resident Star Wars historian for The Young Folks, however you filling in the gaps with your own contrivances isn’t going to do much to convince me.

          • Jason Topher

            K well I guess if you are going to rewrite what actually happened in the movie to pretend you are right, nothing possibly could.

          • Odin the Wanderer

            lol, I’m not the one rewriting here . . .

        • SamH

          Anakin, master droid builder, used the force in pod-racing. Also, when did Luke have the training to make proton torpedoes do a sharp turn?

          Rey learned the force by mimicking Kylo. It helps that she’s already in touch with her feelings. Her lightsaber style is based on her previous weapon. She’s probably the best explained force sensitive – some people are just more intuitive than others.

          • Jason Topher

            Iukes torpedos are not effected by the force, he only connects with the force to aim. The sharp turn was somthing to do with magnetic fields if I remember right, anyway If it was the force they would have showed him waving his hand as they always do when he uses telekinesis. If that had been the force I’d say it was dumb though.
            its stated in the movie that people strong in the force had superior instincts, which means they get a leg up in certain areas, like reflexes and “gut feelings”. those are traits, not skills. Anakin uses no force abilities like mind control or telekinesis in the pod race. just good reflexes.
            He builds robots because hes smart and grew up as a junkyard slave, tearing apart robots and repairing ect. nothing to do with the force.
            As for mimicking kylo, fine, but your saying Rey learned to use advanced abilities in seconds after seeing/feeling then for the first time ever. How can kylo be a threat to her when she can do anything he does and better after he trained for years? Ive seen many hours of soccer but I can’t score a hatrick in the world cup, no matter how intuitive I am. Unless I was a Mary sue

          • SamH

            How would energy torpedoes be drawn into a thermal exhaust port? How would it do the empire any good to have a magnetic field that draws in everything to the Death Star’s weak point?

            This sounds like a bit of Jedi handwaving on it’s own.

            Also, part of learning the force has always involved “search your feelings and reach out”. This is easier for some people than others. But even Luke, who is pretty oblivious until Jedi, is able to learn force pull in Empire, with no training whatsoever.

            What would he have learned if he wasn’t so ridiculously thick?

            What’s happening in Returns is simply that we’re seeing Kylo as the underdog, instead of the hero. He knows he isn’t the best, and it’s tearing him apart. He will do anything to get better.

            The creators have already said we’re going to watch his journey.

            As for Mary Suedom and Rey, that’s not how it works. A Mary Sue has no weaknesses. They don’t run away from visions in a panic. They don’t insist on waiting for people who aren’t going to ever show up, to the point where the audience wants to slap some sense into her. It’s not shown that they could be destroyed, if the Sith Lord would just force push her over and over again, instead of trying to join forces.

            You don’t get to redefine it as anyone who’s unrealistically competent in escapist fantasy, just because the hero is a woman this time.

          • Jason Topher

            Luke was trained by Ben briefly before Empire actually. A lot of your post doesn’t make sense, “what would he have learned if he wasn’t so ridiculously thick?” like, if he was not unintelligent, he would not have learned, what?

            I looked further into it, it considered a graphical error by many that Lucas made. Torpedoes original concept was to drop in, if you watch the planning sequence its more like a bombing run. Then lucas did the trench thing and bombing didn’t work, but they were stuck at that point so they just kinda did it. I guess you can decide for yourself, for me it was aiming. Further consider this: the rebels did not plan for the force when attacking, so it makes no sense that the torpedoes would come from that angle, and if they did there must have been a way for a non-Jedi to make that shot. Therefore, force not required

            I don’t any of those things as flaws, you just restated things she did in the movie and tried to make them sound negative. She waits because she’s brave, who hell wanted to slap her? And runs from crazy visions because who doesn’t. Whats bad about her character, or her abilities?

            Don’t make assumptions about me because you disagree, nothing I’ve said indicates that I have a problem because she’s a girl. All facts from the movies.your stuck in Argumentum ad hominem. If the article was about Kylo I would have some issues too, since he’s basically an apprentice level and doing crazy stuff vader couldnt do. But it’s not, so I didn’t. What the hell did I redefine? she’s flawless and the hero = mary sue, maybe she’s arguably only 99% perfect. i just dont see anyone being able to threaten her at this point. I’d say kylo is too but hes prone to losing control and gets beat. Same with fin, gets beat and gets saved by Rey.

          • SamH

            Remember, Luke and Anakin saw visions too, and they ran towards them. Rey is the first force sensitive to just completely lose it and get the Hell out of there. Her constantly wanting to go back to her home planet and wait for the people who abandoned her wasn’t heroic in the least. And she really, really, looked tempted by the dark side.
            As for Luke being thick headed – he argued, he whined. He fought to keep the force out, without even being aware of it. It wasn’t until Jedi that he was mentally where Rey begins. She’s not fighting the force – she’s hungry for it.
            And that might cause all kinds of problems later on…

          • Jason Topher

            I dont see them as comparable since those visions were of people anakin and luke trusted, or they already had knowledge of the force and that they were strong in it. Kinda knew what to expect with visions from their previous TRAINING. They knew what they were basically. Rey’s like, wtf is going on, why would this happen? I am a jedi? heh?
            I dont remember her being tempted whatsoever, just kylo being like ill teach you, and her defeating his mind attack. Ive only seen it once though, i dont see a offer as a temptation. Luke was tempted, he almost killed his dad in fury. What was rey’s struggle here?
            And yes, luke is useless for a while, flawed. Therefore NOT mary sue. You even say that Rey starts off as mentally good as Luke is AFTER becoming a jedi, which was after training. How does this advance your point? It literally suggests the opposite.

      • Jack Spat

        no, not like any of them. Enjoy your feminist pandering, and empty PC fiction.

      • Jack Spat

        If you can use “dude” as a sexist pejorative then it’s fair that “broad”, and “chick”, should be acceptable ways to address women. Good job feminists! You’ve fought gender inequality with sexism. Awesome!

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  • Rainfall

    Plot twist, Rey is sent to Luke to train him!

    • SuperCool


  • Global Awareness

    This article is funny and shows that the writer really doesnt understand Star Wars. Rey will turn to the Dark Side and become a Sith Lord just like Anakin her grand father. Kylo Ren (her cousin) will be ultimately pulled to the Light Side and in Episode 9 they will fight each other representing the opposite sides of the Force. Perhaps she will get her redemtion by teaming up with Kylo to kill Supreme leader Snoke but who knows. There is definitely a twist in this awaiting the fans.

  • Jack Spat

    Rey was a bland Mary Sue, and no more memorable than Qui Gon Jinn. And in the real world, do women often go off to the battlefield to fight wars? In the US they’re still exempt from the draft. What’s really amusing about hearing the millennial left talk about culture and history is how little they seem to know about both, and how now every adventure story pre-Rey is racist and populated by “white dudes”. Do any of these people understand that in western culture the preponderance of white male hero stories served a single purpose: to encourage young men to leave their families and go off to fight wars, and protect the realm, and WOMEN. Women were not sent to fight. First reason is they had their own role to play, caring for children, and creating the next generation, second, they’re not physically or mentally cut out for it the way men are. Call this sexist, but it’s simple truth. In short, a lack of female heros exists because they serve no purpose to society, and now it seems we’re just pandering. Meanwhile, men in large numbers are the ones who are still called up to fight in far off lands while women still stay home, but now their myths are disparaged, and their roles downplayed in favor of politically correct fiction.

    • Melberne

      First, you said it yourself ” do women often?” Maybe not often, but they do. Second, in the real world? Bruh, this is a FICTIONAL story and we havent even seen the other 2 films yet that fully explain Rey. Also, many women do not have/need/want a man to take care of things and are called to action and rise to the occasion when they need to bc of their circumstance, just like Rey.

      • Allyson Johnson

        Enjoy your MRA rally

        • Jack Spat

          I’m not an MRA. Apparently you have no argument.

      • Jack Spat

        “maybe not often”. How about almost never? I’m aware it’s a fictional story, and then went on to explain why men are represented to such a large degree in fictional adventure stories. “We haven’t seen the other two”, is becoming a cop out for poor writing. You use the term “bruh”, you lose points.

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