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The universe of Star Wars is full of heroes, villains, antiheroes and everything in between. Across the various mediums, from films to comic books, video games and everything else, those heroes have occupied various spaces, come from different walks of life, from different corners of the galaxy, and have been members of different species, models (for droids), and genders. The films have traditionally been centered around male characters like Luke and Anakin Skywalker, with the only female character of any prominence being, of course, Princess Leia (and to a lesser extent, Padmé Amidala). For well over thirty years, this was all fine and good. That is until something shifted.
With the revelation of Leia being a part of the powerfully force-sensitive Skywalker family line in the original trilogy, the implications and possibilities of that seemed endless, giving rise to many questions. Would we be seeing her wield the force at before all was said and done? Would Luke succumb to the lure of the dark side, resulting in Leia coming to his rescue in the fight to stop Darth Vader and end his plans for domination of the galaxy? Would Leia join Luke as a Jedi?
It was ultimately decided by the powers that be that Luke’s journey from farm boy to Jedi, and the reconciliation with his father take precedence over anything else. Fair enough. Too many subplots can hinder a perfectly good story. The original trilogy is a perfectly fine tale with a defined beginning, middle and end. It works so well, it continues to ensnare legions generation after generation.
These days, however, there has definitely been, for lack of a better term, an awakening. And for the world of Star Wars, that is quite a big deal. The female hero moving front and center into her own story has finally arrived, and not a moment too soon frankly. Nevermind, female-led stories is nothing we haven’t already seen before. From Aliens to Terminator 2 to the Kill Bill series, kick-ass ladies have certainly made strong impressions in cinema throughout the years. However, in a post-Katniss Everdeen world, one would have to imagine that when conversations began for making more Star Wars films, that the notion of having a story center around a female character might have seemed excitingly fresh, even popular.
The Force Awakens comes complete with a strong package to get off the ground in a big way. It’s nice to see the most of the old gang on screen again, but the film allows a lot of space for the newcomers to breathe and shine. One of the most notable and popular characters is, of course, Rey. She is a very strongly drawn out character. Young and fresh-faced, ready to led a new Star Wars trilogy for a new generation.
On the surface Rey leading her own trilogy is one thing. The deeper implications of that are huge. Especially now, where it isn’t uncommon to see a woman take part in occupations or activities that traditionally belonged to men. Little girls everywhere are going to be taking notice. Bare in mind that we will see Rey use the force and fight in two more movies which will make three movies in the Star Wars universe that will have a woman in the lead. However, when you see another film in the Star Wars universe like Rogue One, with another female character like Jyn Erso as a focal point, then you begin to see something else. You begin to understand some message being sent, even if you can’t quite articulate it at first. A message that isn’t out to preach or prove that women can be just as good or better than men at anything. It is a message that simply states that women have stories that are just as worthy to be told and experienced as their male counterparts. It is essentially a message about true equality. This is what the rise of the heroine in Star Wars means.
Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises around. Both men and women are fans, right? Generations of boys and girls have literally grown up with Star Wars in their lives. Luke Skywalker has become the quintessential everyman, but just as boys ran around with their toy blasters and lightsabers in an attempt to emulate Luke on one of his adventures, you can be sure that not every girl wanted to be like Princess Leia. Shouldn’t the films be a more accurate representation of the fan base that is nearly split right down the middle, according to studies conducted by Lucasfilm?
You could make a strong case that they should. They should make the effort to progress further than the earlier films did. Since we never really got to see Princess Leia pushed to her fullest extent as a rich and complex character (you would have to look up the many Expanded Universe stories for that), we have instead Rey and Jyn Erso taking charge and representing a type of changing of the old guard that continued to keep women characters like them sidelined.
Will Jyn be as popular as Rey? We’ll find out soon enough.