I always loved Luke Skywalker. The Hero. The Good Guy. I realize that might not be ~ cool ~ to admit now, but I can’t help myself. Even as a 9-year-old girl, I had a thing for sweet, innocent cinnamon rolls — fictional characters who are too good for this world, too pure.*
And that’s essentially who Luke was in A New Hope. He’s The Chosen One, the young everyman who gets caught up in a hero’s journey. I loved Luke Skywalker because I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I saw myself in him; I wanted to go on a fantastical hero’s journey. I wanted to pilot an X-wing Starfighter. More than anything, I wanted to be the hero.
Seventeen years later, a new Jedi awakened — and young girls finally got the hero they’ve been looking for in Rey, a lightsaber-swinging badass from Jakku.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered box office records and expectations, but its greatest contribution to pop culture was giving young girls a hero they could root for, and emulate, in Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Rey is brave, compassionate, a fantastic pilot, a skilled mechanic, and, not to mention, extraordinarily gifted with the Force. She is The Chosen One. It’s her destiny. She doesn’t jump into the rear of a starship when things get hairy — she slides into the pilot seat and flies the damn Millennium Falcon herself.
Rey empowers young girls to feel strong and, most importantly, feel equal in a society that regularly treats women as lesser than their male counterparts. It was empowering to watch her, knowing that 9-year-old me would have been as obsessed with Rey as 26-year-old me is with BB-8. (Again, I love cinnamon rolls.) And I have Daisy Ridley to thank for that.
It should be stated that Ridley is superb in everything Star Wars throws at her, from action, to comedy, to carrying scenes with more emotional weight. She is the effervescent new face of the franchise. So it’s no surprise the actress is nominated for four MTV Movie Awards this year for her stellar performance, including Breakthrough Performance, which has an indomitable track record for honoring future mega-stars.
I also admire that, as Rey, Ridley is never once rescued by a man. In fact, she doesn’t need rescuing at all, which is perhaps the most powerful image we can show young girls and boys. A girl can take care of herself, even when she’s captured by the First Order and tortured by some emo Bad Guy. She’ll pick up that lightsaber and get to work. Case closed. And when all is said and done, she’ll take her rightful place in the captain’s seat of the freakin’ MILLENNIUM FALCON and continue her quest to fulfill her destiny. Because that’s what heroes do.
Make no mistake: Rey will become for this generation of children what Luke Skywalker was for the previous one — The Hero. And it’s about time.
So, if you, like me, want to see Daisy Ridley take home the MTV Movie Award for Best Hero for her performance as Rey, then don’t forget to cast your vote for our favorite Padawan before voting closes on March 20.
*Let’s not forget Luke spends the majority of Return of the Jedi being a total badass and no one ever talks about it.