I’m no Star Wars fan… by any means. But soon after those Redbox missives hit my inbox, we were watching The Force Awakens on DVD. While it’s a fun ride, this isn’t a movie that’s going to change the world. In fact, it’s more a mirror of our first-world group psyche; and when compared to older Star Wars flicks, is reflects some old truths told in a new-world way.
The Force Awakens is Rey’s story. Strong-willed and determined like Princess Leia — but no longer the moon orbiting a more powerful man — Rey embodies the female, or yin, force awakening in all of us. In fact, she surpasses and replaces the “solo,” swashbuckling yang force of Han Solo… literally watching him die at the hands of his son, Ren (Darth Vader, Rev 2). We witness the awakening of her power throughout the arc of the movie.
When Ren captures and tries to overpower Rey, she soon succeeds in getting him to take off his mask. We are surprised to see a lonely, effete man-child behind that eerie disguise. Had we really been afraid of him? The illusion is dismantled. And in that moment, we acknowledge that un-masking and truly seeing something for what it is empowers us.
All deception is maintained by mutual agreement between deceiver and deceived… It only holds sway as long as we allow fear, social mores, desires or other distractions to keep us blindfolded. But Rey doesn’t play that game. (She also doesn’t try to use brute force — another illusion, as there really is no such thing — to overpower Ren.) Instead, she asks to end the deception… and suddenly we are all able to see that their bold forcefulness and lonely vulnerability are two sides of the same coin: like good and evil, like Rey and Ren themselves, and even like their names. As Rey demonstrates for us, it is by asking to see and accepting what is shown, that we awaken our power and access The Force.
Rey learns quickly. No one sits down to explain this power to her, and she doesn’t wait to be taught. After just a glimpse of her new ability, she develops it like a toddler learns to walk: she tries, fails, and immediately tries again. Initially attempting to imitate Ren, she soon finds her own voice. We feel her body and tone relax. No longer striving to control, she accepts the power within and around her, and allows herself to be the vessel through which it flows. And just as there is no stopping us when we find our own “flow,” Rey quickly outwits her guard and is free.
The story continues, and Rey reverts to her former ways… using her intelligence, courage, fortitude and personal strength of character to accomplish incredible feats. (Great powers are seldom bestowed upon victims and weak characters, after all.) Only when she is close to perishing in a desperate light-saber battle does Rey remember The Force. We see her relive that initial moment of realization and acceptance that had allowed her to overpower her guard. And together with Rey, we all recognize that The Force can be called upon any time. Like Rey, we visibly relax, breathe and smile. And it is at just that moment, when Rey realizes her true, unceasing power, that the planet itself changes, forming a bottomless chasm between Rey and her enemy, Ren.
Once she knows that she can, Rey no longer needs or wants to slay Ren, and can now retreat with honor. We know they will both return to fight again, through generations, for eternity. There is no courage without fear, no good without evil, and no yin without yang. In this worldly existence, however, they are consigned to different camps, destined to the Sisyphus-like struggle of endlessly breaching the chasm.
We also know that Rey’s awakening has made the world a different place. When the resistance forces return home after a successful battle, the centerpiece is Leia and Rey, women of different generations and world-views, supporting each other in their grief. We sense that the outer successes of the bold, yang fighters are crucial to survival of a world that, nonetheless, revolves around a yin center that quietly knows, embraces and accepts. We come full-circle from the earlier Star Wars movies with, perhaps, a broader sense of good and evil, success and power. May the force be with you.
What did you think of the movie? Of Rey? Of this interpretation?