The following article -"The Hero We Need Right Now" is by Steve Dunk
.The Hero We Need Right Now
In literary terms a hero typically exhibits goodness, a kind heart, and inherent virtue. They are often alone in the world in one way or another; many are orphans and because of this have experienced significant loss. Such is the story of Rey as she works her way through life doing her best to rebuke the “damsel” archetype. She rejects the notion that she requires saving or someone else’s help which we witness several times throughout The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
She’s spent her first 19 years struggling against negative or malevolent forces, such as inherent evil or injustice. Unbeknownst to her this would all lead to an effort to restore balance and fairness to the universe.
This is a virtue that has been self-taught through natural acts of self-preservation and a lifetime spent dreaming that one day her family or support system would return to Jakku. She’s of the opinion that she doesn’t need help, because “helps on the way”, all the while she’s unwittingly attaining the exact skillset she’ll need for a grand adventure.
This of course is a wonderful parallel to Luke’s preparation for his “Call to Adventure” where he is unknowingly preparing for his journey under the watchful eye of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. This stage of Rey’s life compliments Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, specifically “Initiation of the Hero Child” and the “Withdrawal from Family for Preparation” to a tea.
Which is why she shows true courage in The Last Jedi opening herself up enough to be honest about the fact that she needs someone’s help sorting out this “thing” that’s inside of her.
"Something inside me has always been there and now it’s awake...and I'm afraid. I don't know what it is, what to do with it and I need help."
~Rey, The Last Jedi
While this instance of truth and catharsis displays a brief glimpse of vulnerability and a willingness to accept a helping hand, this doesn’t exactly make her Helen of Troy. In fact, true courage comes from looking inwards and one’s acceptance that through honest self-reflection we are in fact fallible and in need of occasional guidance to fulfill our destiny.
These “character” defining moments blow up our preconceived idea of what it means to be “heroic” or a “Jedi”. Rey doesn’t fit the mold and that’s exactly the point. Just look at how she wields a lightsaber. It’s a combination of 2 or 3 of the classic forms and even throws in a reverse or “forehand” grip for good measure. Her talent with a bow staff also, indicates we could see her utilizing two lightsabers which would mean even another form in the mix.
This new form of Star Wars storytelling is expanding our world view and is meant to challenge our belief system. Because of this “outside the box” form of characterization, the new mythology has delighted some and confounded others.
And just like Rian Johnson’s version of Luke Skywalker, Rey’s not going to fit neatly into a category of how we want our Jedi’s to act and feel. It’s a wonderful example of character development from the opening bell where we see Rey, resolute and determined to stay the course yet, in soft and quiet moments we see her as simply a young girl day dreaming or looking up at the stars. Watching freighters come and go off world, wondering where they’re going and who’s on board. Not unlike a young Luke, whose young romantic heart ached for something more. As he looks at the binary setting suns on Tatooine, he yearns to be a part of something special; he too has something inside of him that needs guidance. An inexplicable fire and yearning that needs resolution.
And whether you liked The Last Jedi or not, you can’t deny that’s what Star Wars has always been about…looking up at the stars, dreaming and accomplishing wonders. These Star Wars stories are filled with heroes who can do impossible magical things that most people can’t thanks to the Force. This is the essence of Rey, she makes us believe the unbelievable because her devotion is so strong.
Her greatest fears, her lineage, supersede any physical threats that she encounters which makes her truly fearless in the face of practical danger. This aloofness may appear foolhardy or arrogant, but to her, the root of her sadness doesn’t stem from a rational fear. It comes from the realization that she’s nobody to no one, and that she may be alone in the universe.
While naïve about her parents and slightly unsophisticated on the politics of the universe she’s certainly no fool. Think Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. She’s a very thoughtful and good person who acts with the best intentions and generally worries about the essential goodness and evil of others. Her quiet strength and dignity are profound in a way few Star Wars characters are and at times you forget she’s a child still, after all she’s only 19 years old during The Last Jedi.
Her virtuosity and strength are overwhelming to the viewer at times and many have referred to her character as a “Mary Sue” which is ironic given the source of the term originates from Star Trek. A “Mary Sue” is a character who typically seems unaffected by the events surrounding them and is seemingly overly skilled with little or no training.
And while I would agree there are instances of this in film history, Star Wars employs abstract story mechanisms one of which is the Force. Luke himself was able to Force pull his lightsaber out of the snow hanging upside down in a Wampa cave, where did he learn to do that? Rey, above anything else, is a believer and a believer who happens to be very strong with the Force can accomplish amazing feats whether you like it or not.
Through sheer determination and strength of will Rey is finding her way through this crazy journey. She’s made and will continue to make mistakes but that’s true of anybody who’s on their way to greatness. There’s still so much we have yet to learn about her, heck, we don’t even know her last name. We’re not even sure if Rey is her real first name. It could have been an adopted moniker she snagged from a recovered X-Wing pilot helmet that belonged to Captain Dosmit Raeh. Was this anonymity her doing or is something greater at work here?
Whatever truth gets revealed and whatever gains she continues to make through to the end of Episode IX and beyond, I truly believe we’re looking at the early stages something special. For this first time as a lifelong fan of Star Wars (Class of 77’), I feel like I could be a Jedi, and that’s what Rey has done for the legions of fans around the world. She makes dreams a reality.
The Last Jedi changed the way we look at the Star Wars universe and in turn changed the way perceive our heroes, the Jedi and their place in that universe. And in a universe full of heroes, she may be our greatest yet.
Till next time…MTFBWY.