In 1983, I saw my first Star Wars film. “Return of the Jedi” was my introduction to the movie franchise, and I was hooked, because I wanted to look like and become Princess Leia.
I wanted to ride speeder bikes through the thick, green forests of Endor; hang out in a village with adorable Ewoks, save Han Solo from the carbonite chamber, and command The Force as skillfully as a seasoned Jedi Knight.
Almost every day, we went on adventures to other planets in a galaxy far, far away. He often saved me from disgusting aliens like Jabba the Hut, and I was a beautiful princess who sometimes saved him – a feminist before I knew the word.
We piloted space ships, killed alien creatures, and battled other evil forces with lightsabers, all underneath the big oak tree in my grandmother’s backyard.
She often watched us from the window climbing trees and the bars of the swing set. When we jumped from a limb or a bar, we weren’t hitting the ground – we were defying laws of physics and astronomy, bending space time and falling hundreds of feet down tunnels and mazes through black holes, landing in other worlds. My grandmother probably never realized her backyard was a portal to the rest of the universe.
If you were never a Star Wars fan, you may wonder why so many people have been commenting about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in your Facebook or Twitter newsfeed.
It’s because many of us have had to wait more than 30 years to see another decent Star Wars film. (If you’re like me, you tried to pretend the prequels with Natalie Portman didn’t exist, and believe they should be mass buried in the desert with the E.T. video game.)
I was even hesitant to watch the new Star Wars film because I thought it might somehow damage my childhood memories, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see my favorite characters from the original films reunited on screen decades later.
If you haven’t seen the film yet and intend to, you may want to refrain from reading any further. If you have, here are a few observations:
- It’s 2015, and George Lucas must have realized that women have become more empowered since 1983. If a woman has a real shot of becoming President of the United States, then she should also be a general in the Rebel Alliance to Restore the Republic. That was Princess Leia’s (Carrie Fisher’s) updated title.
- The lead character in the new film is a woman, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) doesn’t need to be saved by the male characters. She can handle herself, and proves this by successfully fighting off an alien who attempts to steal a droid she has encountered.
Rey also makes a point to tell one of the lead male characters to stop taking her hand as they run for safety. She doesn’t have to be led out of danger. She is a capable leader and pilot whose knowledge of flying space ships rivals and possibly exceeds space cowboy Han Solo.
Like Luke in previous Star Wars films, Rey is his replacement in the new film. She learns to access The Force within her to fight evil, and in the end, it is Rey who lightsaber battles Kylo Ren, a replacement for Darth Vader. She’s a woman with Jedi potential.
- Rey doesn’t appear to wear any makeup in this movie, which is quite a contrast from the looks that Carrie Fisher sported in the original movies.
Star Wars marketing executives permeated every industry you can think of to promote the movie before it began. Everything from macaroni and cheese to Cover Girl makeup was Star Wars-themed, but very little makeup was used on the lead character, another way to make the role less about gender, and more about character.
- Finn (John Boyega), an African American, has a prominent role in the new film, unlike Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian character in the first films. There is also a hint of a romance between Finn and Rey. And Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o plays Maz Kanata, another prominently featured character. Of course, the voice of James Earl Jones (Darth Vader), a Mississippian, has become the most iconic voice in Star Wars history.
- The characters and tone of the film shared similarities with the Indiana Jones films, and that is probably because of the Lawrence Kasdan connection. Kasdan wrote “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Return of the Jedi” and the new film.
- I watched the 3-D version of the film. The visuals were stunning, and it really felt like the Millennium Falcon might fly through the screen.
- Human aliens seem more believable when they have British accents.
- Even though many of the space vehicles in this movie look old and worn, like rusting classic Ford pickup trucks, they still easily start and fly. One of the vehicles Rey drove looked like a cross between a giant USB flash drive and an old tractor.
One of the things that Star Wars teaches, almost as effectively as Sunday School, is that evil – throughout history – has existed and will continue to exist. But we must believe in The Force to fight it.
Throughout life, we face and fight internal battles, and we have to choose wisely – consciously discerning good choices from bad.
Star Wars has taught every fan that The Force is within each of us, and if we can center ourselves, be mindful of the present moment, and find the confidence inside us that is our God-given birthright, we can prevail in this and other worlds.
We can fight grand battles against evil, but we can also find the strength to fight small, personal battles.
We can stand up to a bully. We can wage war against a chronic or life-threatening illness. We can ask for a raise, promotion or find a better job. We can be strong during our first military tour of duty. We can fall and get back up. We can make sound decisions and lead honorable lives if we believe in our own self-worth and power.
The Force is within us all. It always has been. It always will be. Sometimes, it just needs to be awakened.