In 2005, I frowned in the movie theater when Padmé Amidala died in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I was 8 years old.
I grew up close to my little brother and my cousin. I usually refer to them as my brothers because it takes longer to explain that my cousin is my cousin, so I will refer to them as my little brothers in this blog post.
They were obsessed with Star Wars. It was a family thing. Every time we went to Blockbuster we borrowed a VHS of a Star Wars film and we watched the heck out of it. Every birthday for five or six years was Star Wars themed, and all the gifts were Star Wars related. My hair was very long when I was little, and my parents would braid my hair Princess Leia-style. Once, during a very bad cold, I found a Kleenex tissue in my bed that was shaped like the Millennium Falcon and I called my brother over to look at it. I lived through so much Star Wars in my childhood that if I was cast in the movie and a talk show host asked me what my first memory of Star Wars was, I would tell them it was coming out of the womb.
But Star Wars was not always my favorite. Even though I was the older sister/cousin, I did not feel like I could relate to these intergalactic male politicians that my little brothers aspired to be. Yes, the action was exciting, and I did like a good Anakin scene, but I felt something was always missing from the movies.
I wanted to see a woman kick butt for the same amount of screen time that all the other male characters had. My favorite character was Padmé Amidala, and what made me like her was Attack of the Clones, when she escaped the clone factory and fought alongside Anakin and Obi-Wan in that arena. To see Padmé wielding a gun next to Anakin and his light saber was very cool. But as Padmé grew more and more important, her life expectancy diminished, and my favorite character died the first time I ever saw Star Wars in a movie theater. For a long time after that I resented Luke and Leia because the older movies seemed to ignore her life and relevance to Luke and Leia’s existence (except for that one sketchy time in A New Hope where Leia claims to remember Padmé). I did learn to like Luke and Leia, but Padmé was my first favorite female character in Star Wars and to see her killed as I was learning how to identify female figures was disheartening.
The one thing that kept me holding on to Star Wars was the gift of the Force. Literally. Whenever my brothers were gifted a light saber, so was I.
I had three light sabers growing up. In fact, they are all currently in a bin in my closet. Two were blue and the third was Mace Windu’s purple light saber. Now that was cool. Giving me my own light sabers was the coolest thing my parents did for me during the Star Wars era of my childhood because when I played with my little brothers, I didn’t pretend to be Padmé giving birth and dying in a corner. I pretended to be a Jedi.
While I was away at college this past quarter, I would call my younger brother at home and say “Did you watch the trailer? Have you seen the cast? Do you know what it’s about?” And over the course of three months I realized I was the most excited for the movie out of my entire family. I had this feeling that it was going to be a game-changing movie, and I was right!
So fast forward to 2015, where I am 18 years old. I am internally sobbing tears of joy inside the theater of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens because Rey is the character that I was waiting to see as a little girl watching Star Wars with my brothers. My wish for some good ol’ feminism was fulfilled. Rey is the character that I pretended to be when I had light saber duels with my brothers in the drive way at six years old. Rey is the character that I knew in my heart existed. In 2005, I felt her presence. Sure, in Star Wars time she was not born yet, but I knew she was somewhere out there! I was not going to be let down by this franchise that had my family obsessed! I titled this blog post “In 2005, I Told the Force To Wake Up” because I was a little girl who looked at Star Wars and shook it and yelled “WHERE IS SHE?” There was something else coming and I knew it was Rey.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future movies but I hope, for Rey, that they are filled with the same adventure and semi-successful battles that Qui-Gon, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Luke, and Han experienced during their journeys. I hope Rey has a long life. I hope she accomplishes everything that she is meant to accomplish. I hope she discovers the meaning behind her life, her family, her situation, and her powers. Most importantly, I hope she gets to kick so much butt!
This is Rey’s time to shine, people!
And this also my time to geek out over it all. I collected Padmé Amidala merchandise when I was younger (I have a tree ornament of her from Attack of the Clones, I had the Queen Amidala doll, and a handful of action figures), but recently (after seeing the movie twice!) I have purchased two posters of Rey, acquired a Millennium Falcon shirt, a POP bobble of Finn for my dorm room, AND I am planning a trip to see The Force Awakens at the El Capitan theater- the place of the Los Angeles premiere!
Strangely, my little brothers (now 17 years old) did not find The Force Awakens as entertaining as I did. Hmm. It is disappointing that they have never felt the same way I have about the leading ladies of Star Wars (cough, we know why), but I am going to make sure that they watch the new movies as many times as I had to watch the original trilogy with them, because they are going to learn to appreciate a strong female lead.
I could also rave for another 1,000 words about John Boyega and his portrayal of Finn, and Oscar Isaac and his portrayal of Poe Dameron because this movie is important and such a breakthrough, but my love for John Boyega & Finn and Oscar Isaac & Poe is another blog post to be written. Rey is my hero, and I am so excited for this new generation of Star Wars!