I still haven’t seen the latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. From everything that I have read, I am bound to hate this one more than Mary Sue Awakens. I really started to think about why and then I ran across a conversation on Mr. Wright’s site where people were discussing Sarah Connor from Terminator and Ripley from Alien/Aliens.
Someone came close to differentiating between KTB’s (killer tough babe) and Rey from Star Wars.
The thing that Ripley and Sarah Conner have in common as KTBs, and that most miss, is their motivation.
Ripley and Sarah are mother bears protecting their cubs, and nothing is going to stop them.
While this has some truth in it, it doesn’t go far enough. What is essential is the storytelling. What is crucial is the thing that makes it a principle of character development for both male and female characters.
I call it The Crucible. This idea is not new to me. I am applying a well known concept that is as old as story telling itself. But it is the element that is missing from the character and character development of Rey from the new Star Wars franchise.
What is missing from the new Star Wars series is basic storytelling.
Here is the comment I left at Mr. Wright’s site. I could elaborate, but this should be common knowledge. Note the two KTB’s are both from Cameron. Abrams doesn’t understand character development in general nor female in particular.
I was thinking about the part discussion going on about KTB’s (killer tough babe) here (although it seems to be a dead thread now). The thing that is missing, the thing that distinguishes a Sarah Conner and a Ripley from a Rey is a crucible.
The quintessential example (for me) is Sarah Connor. In the beginning Connor is just young waitress living the mostly carefree life of a single woman who goes out with friends. And if it were not for the intervention of Reese, the first Terminator would have been a short 2 minute clip of a woman getting her head blown off by a time traveling cyborg – The End, please exit theater. She’d have struggled to defend herself from a drunken Seth Green let alone a heavy metal alloy Arnold.
James Cameron knows how to tell a story (most of the time) through character. By the time we get near the end of the first movie when she is screaming to Reese after he sustains a debilitating injury “on your feet, soldier!” Sarah Conner the KTB is almost forged. When we meet her in the second film, lean and mean and menacing, and overpowering other human men, we buy it. We saw her transformed, we were given the evidence (it also helped that Cameron was smart enough to show her working out vigorously in the beginning of the second film).
Sarah Connor had a killer cyborg come back in time to kill her and she lived to tell about it – don’t F*** with Sarah Connor.
The same goes for Ripley in Alien/Aliens.
But the real point is that it applies to men as well as to women. The fault in the Rey character is not that she is a woman. The fault is terrible storytelling. Luke gets his clock cleaned in his first bout with Darth Vader even though he had at least some training with a Jedi Master. Mary-Sue-Rey takes on and bests proto-Sith Ren having just touched a lightsaber for the first time. Luke’s defeat at the hands of Vader is the crucible that forges him into the Jedi (almost) that he appears as in The Return of the Jedi.
In the first Star Wars we learn early on the Luke has piloting experience and thus we buy his being able to pilot an X-Wing, and we are able to buy his destroying the Death Star because he had Obi-Wan as force mentor in the cockpit. Rey “just knows” how to handle the Falcon, she “just knows” stuff about fixing it somehow. She goes through nothing, faces no crucible, is forged in no fire, suffers nothing for her powers.
I don’t think the character follows from the dictates of feminist ideology so much as it follows the pipe dreams of a slacker generation that doesn’t know anything about what character takes, just as they know nothing about man. It is the “safe-space” view of human development. That if you give someone a pillow, fast food, endless pep-talks on how good they are, this is what leads to success.
Abrams had an inkling (perhaps subconscious) that this wouldn’t totally fly which is why Rey lived alone and orphaned and traded imperial scraps for food. But that coin is not enough to buy the power needed that she displayed. Just as Sarah Conner growing up in foster care wouldn’t have been enough.