Sunday!; or, Maribou’s Star Wars Review; or, A Love Letter from Me in 2015 to Me in 1984

(Many spoilers follow. Also, while my intention is to just talk about MY experience as a film-goer and not to get into feminist politics per se, that whole “personal is political” thing means that some folks may experience this as a political post.  In keeping with the spirit of Mindless Diversions (and my own intentions), I’d encourage you not to read this post as an argument, and not to respond with one.  It’s just my story.)

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Dear 1984 Me,

One of my clearest memories from my 7th birthday is of Dad letting everyone at the party vote to decide if we’d all be seeing Return of the Jedi, or Care Bears.  I remember wishing I’d invited more boys to the birthday party, after the vote went down 9-2 in favor of Care Bears (much to my surprise!), and I remember my utter glee when it turned out that Care Bears was sold out, while Return of the Jedi still had lots of seats left.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the movie itself, but I do remember that I thought Princess Leia was the hero.  I remember thinking that for a while, but then I spent the next few years playing Star Wars with boys (most of my girl friends were more into Barbie, which was … okay, but not full of lasers and stuff), and getting told otherwise.  When the world finally invented the VCR, and I could rewatch the movie, I came up with my own insights into why my initial impulse was wrong.  Princess Leia was really cool.  She fought well, and she was a good leader.  But Star Wars wasn’t really about her – without her the story would be less wonderful, but it would still be the same story.  (Just, you know, with less misdirected affection on the part of the hero and less rescuing of the damsel in distress.  Which, uh… wouldn’t make it worse.)  I still loved Leia as a character – I will defend her importance, her awesomeness, and her amazing skills to the point of hoarseness, even today – but, once I added Star Wars to the pile of a million other stories where the best a girl could hope for was to be a wicked sidekick (even if she was running a whole darn resistance movement!), I found her story as troubling as it was inspiring.

When I arrived at the theater today, one of the first things I noticed was that there were two teenage girls behind me, giggling in excitement at 99 percent of the previews.  They were as stoked for the sci-fi films as for the fantasy ones, as excited about a cool fight sequence as they were about a gorgeous visual.  And the minute the iconic music started up, they dropped into utter, absorbed silence.

At the beginning of the movie, I was pretty excited.  The imprint of you in my head was pretty excited too.

A new droid!  A link to the past!  Sand dunes! Storm troopers! Hapless villagers.  But we were also a little puzzled.  A storm trooper showing compassion, showing conflict? What was that all about?  We were intrigued.  When the story cut to a mysterious figure, almost but not quite like a Tuskan raider in appearance, scavenging the ruins of a great battle from the past, we were both disappointed.  But when the face coverings came off to reveal a young woman, one who was strong and agile and physically daring, your head almost exploded in glee.  I was a lot more cautious than that.  I could feel myself tamping down your enthusiasm.  Not in the front of my head. The front of my head was caught up in the excitement, quickly starting to root for all the good characters and against the bad characters en masse (but a little bit for the possibility of at least one bad guy turning good, ’cause that’s a lot more likely in Star Wars than in real life) …. but the back of my head was busy bracing both of us for the inevitable let-down.  This bright, scavenging woman with gusto to spare and a strong moral compass won’t really be the center of the story.  She’ll turn into The Love Interest.  Or the Asexual Sidekick.  Or just fade in importance until everyone knows the real story is the story of two bros, Finn and Poe, and how they saved the universe with help from their kickass Strong Female Character Friend With the Androgynous Name.  Just wait.  It’s gonna happen.  Deep breaths.  Focus on what you like about the movie. Harrison Ford!  So funny!  The guy playing Finn is awesome!  Don’t pin your hopes on the girl, sweetie.  You know she’s going to be sent to the back of the spaceship before long.

But to my amazement, that didn’t happen!  Instead, the movie kept making Rey more and more bad-ass, more and more into the strange new adventures she was having, but also more and more human.  Full of doubt, overwhelmed, reluctant to accept help or to change her life. In need of mentors to guide her on the way. Rey was getting a hero’s journey of her own. One that didn’t happen off-stage, or as a subplot. One that was too big for a single film. The echo of you was smug, in my head: OF COURSE Rey deserved her own journey. Heck!  Princess Leia was the star of those other movies, no matter what the rest of the world thinks about it! Also, THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME LET’S GO SEE IT FIVE MORE TIMES.

My own reaction was a little different.  As the final scene rolled, Rey still not quite at the point of seeing that she is the hero now, I started to cry.  I was a bit sad – remembering the years and years that I spent, learning that your view of the world didn’t fit the world we had to live in, and that if we wanted to identify with the characters we DID identify with in all the stories, maybe we’d have to get pretty darn good at knowing how to think we were a boy… but mostly I was happy.  So happy for all the little girls I know, who will grow up in a world where there are LOTS of stories where girls can be the heroes, sidekicks, mentors, and random X-wing pilots who get 5 lines in the whole movie, and where that is not a big deal.  Just the natural way things are.  And happy, too, to realize that I could feel the returning of YOUR particular happiness, so long tucked away, at knowing that in imaginary worlds, not just the special ones we had to hunt for and be guided to, but also many of the ones that millions of kids all over the world would share, WE WERE THERE TOO.  All the way there, not just sprucing up the place a bit. And not just us, but all the rest of the people we loved. Finally, the world was remembering that we are all part of each other’s stories, just like we always knew it should be.

Thank you, 1984 me, for always fighting for that world, no matter what else we had going on.  I’m so excited to tell you that it finally seems to me like maybe someday, that one fight will be as irrelevant to kids your age as our great-grandmothers’ fights were to you.

Very much love,

Me

***************

Sooooooooo… what have you been watching, reading, listening to, or otherwise culturally imbibing this week?  I’ll have my non-Star Wars-y stuff in the comments section; please join me!

 

 


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Maribou is a voracious reader who also likes to watch, stare at, and listen to stuff. Occasionally she makes stuff, too. She works in a small liberal arts college library, and shares a house in Colorado with her husband Jaybird, five cats, and what looms ever closer to ten thousand books. ...more →

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42 thoughts on “Sunday!; or, Maribou’s Star Wars Review; or, A Love Letter from Me in 2015 to Me in 1984

  1. I enjoy reading the thoughts of people who encountered Star Wars as a kid. When the original came out, I was already a grad student. It was still cool, but I was already mostly a grown-up.

    Anyway, I finished Peter Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star and have started the sequel. It’s not that it’s that good, but the story moves along nicely, and when something has this many moving parts I’m curious to see if the writer can actually tie things up reasonably.

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  2. So in other news, I finished watching Continuum this week. Think I’ll watch it again one day. I really loved that show. (The 4th season was… not as awesome as earlier ones, but quite satisfying. Think they had been cancelled and then convinced the network to give them an extra 6 eps to wrap things up or whatever. I always wish, in a situation like that, to be able to watch the 9 season version that COULD have been…. Makes me wonder if next to Dream’s Library is Dream’s Viewing Room…) Still haven’t decided what to watch next, but by the next time I’m online I will have, so don’t worry about suggesting stuff. (I have LOTS of options, so many that it’s hard to narrow down…)

    Speaking of Dream, I STILL haven’t been able to bring myself to finish Sandman: Overture. (I know, I know.) Once again I read very many picture books this week, of which my absolute favorite was The Whisper, by Pamela Zagarenski. I know exactly which kid will be getting that one for her birthday. I’m in the middle of two very interesting, very different works of non-fiction. One is Point of Vanishing, the memoir of a guy suffering from what I would call PTSD after getting one eye permanently blinded in a pickup basketball game. Most of it is about living alone in the woods in rural Vermont for two years, though it’s about a lot of other things too. The other book is Phaidon’s collection Body of Art, a MAMMOTH collection of art depicting the human figure, stretching from prehistoric through very modern times. Organized not at all chronologically, but instead thematically, which is sensible enough and leads to satisfying juxtapositions. The little blurbs about the paintings are mostly insightful, with just enough howlers to let me feel clever when I can call them out for being dumb.

    I’ve been listening mostly to Christmas music podcasts, along with a few library instruction podcasts, and catching up on Mahvesh Murad’s wonderful series of sff interviews, Midnight in Karachi.

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    • Okay, let’s talk Continuum.

      I majorly lost connection and suspension of disbelief about halfway through the first half of first season when Kiera slept with Kellogg. That she had sex at all, no problem. She had (at least for a while) given up hope that she would ever return to her own time; she was feeling very lonely; she has a libido and agency. But she was also clearly still in love with her husband from the future, and not done “mourning” that loss. And she obviously did not trust Kellogg any farther than she could have thrown him (while not wearing her Greatest Canadian Hero supercop jumpsuit). She’d shown too much restraint and discretion in other decisions to have been that impulsive. If she was looking for a guy for solace and comfort, there was a perfectly handsome 2012 cop who knew and liked her, and had his own sometimes-libidinous nature disclosed, readily at hand.

      I like the cast, who are good actors and presented sculpted, nuanced individuals. The writing was clever enough, and didn’t address any of the time-paradox issues. But it was hard keeping my disbelief suspended after that bit that I describe above in the spoilers.

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  3. Daisy Ridley was amazing as Rey. Hers was the best performance in the film, and it wasn’t close, and there were so many good ones that that’s saying a lot.
    Nor is she any less a completely feminine young woman for being a badass. (Unlike Brienne of Tarth, especially in the books.) And it’s even sweeter that what unleashes the crowning jewel of her badassery is that she’s protecting the guy who almost got himself killed trying to protect her.

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    • Brienne works because she’s a blatant knock against “chicks in chainmail”…
      and because there are thirty other styles of fighting, each of which can have women fighters.
      (Though I personally miss the ninja archetype — it’s nice to see fighting styles where women are better than men).

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    • Nor is she any less a completely feminine young woman for being a badass. Funnily enough, one of the things *I* liked about the movie is that it didn’t seem to give a rat’s ask one way or the other about her femininity or lack thereof. It made no particular effort to convince us she was feminine, or to convince us she was not. (There were 1 or 2 gratuitous (IMO) cleavage shots, but that was it and possibly my noticing them reflects more on me than on the movie.) SO REFRESHING.

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  4. I want to read this but I Fear the Spoiler.

    (Don’t Fear) The Spoiler
    Romeo and Juliet
    Are together in eternity

    I will probably catch up on Ash Vs. Evil Dead and maybe wrap up the last three episodes of Master of None tonight.

    I read this little Stross story today, and now I want a movie based on it so bad (I wonder if what happened to the soldiers going through the portals was sort of a nod to King’s “The Jaunt”).

    Aside from The Thing, what other good Lovecraft-y sci-fi/military movies are there? The Mist, sort of, but that wasn’t great. Event Horizon, ditto. Re-Animator is good, but it’s more of a comedy.

    Heh – apparently there’s a film called The Call Girl of Cthulhu.

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      • Yeah, I thought about listing that (and Aliens), but even those aren’t QUITE what I mean, since the xenomorphs are ultimately a comprehensible and predictable biological threat – as Ash points out, there’s even a sort of beauty and elegance to their ruthless efficiency …I mean the whole “interdimensional madness” bit, with monsters that just seem “wrong”.

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          • I never saw Interstellar because it looked kind of dumb (there was a gigantic tidal wave or something in one of the previews that really put me off). Is it worth seeing? I didn’t read your spoiler.

            I’m pretty iffy on Nolan at this point – he’s done some films I love (Memento and Prestige) but I thought Inception was bleah, and the two Batmans I saw were pretty good, but he can’t stage a fight scene to save his life.

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            • The best part of Interstellar is that it doesn’t hold your hand. It expects you to at least have heard of relativity before. There is a freaking awesome robot. (I mean, seriously. One of the best sci-fi robots ever. They don’t make a production out of it either.) There is a situation on earth and they lean less toward having everyone explain it to each other as if nobody in the movie had heard of the situation they’re in than other movies in similar situations have done so. (“As you know, I am your uncle” speeches leave me vaguely irritated and this movie actually attempts to rely more on “Uncle Bob?” “Yes, Nephew Joe?” dialog.)

              That said, the movie has a lot of frustrating moments. Not all of which happen in the first half when frustration is more forgivable.

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    • Whoa, what are the odds? I was just about to come on here to talk about how I’d just come across Charles Stross’ work today; I just read through his first novel, Scratch Monkey, which is exactly the sort of transhuman/Lovecraftian mashup stuff that’s catnip for me. It’s available for free online, and I found it immensely enjoyable. It’s incredibly dark but in that Stephen King short story kind of way that’s weirdly satisfying, like insanely spicy food.

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  5. Well, I had started reading Little, Big, but I guess I am not in the mood for that right now, so change up.

    Which is Riddle of the Sands from 1903. Completely awesome.

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  6. This post reminded me to be happy to be a father of girls who are growing up with these kinds of characters. And also completely and totally honored I get to write in the same place you do. What a great end to my weekend.

    Oh, and I just got a big stack of books for my vacation. Brad Thor’s latest thriller, a David Baldacci, and the first two Robert Gailbrath novels.

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  7. SPOILER TALK — DEAD SPACE TO KEEP THIS OUT OF THE COMMENTS VIEW

    OK. So. In the theater where I was, the audience cheered when Rey beat Kylo. I was thinking “um, guys? She just kind of did some Dark Side stuff there, using her anger and fear to give her strength. That’s…really not okay.”

    So I’m calling it now–Rey does a heel turn about halfway through the next movie, and the third movie has her and Kylo feuding for the top spot in the First Order while Luke and Leia try to deal with them.

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    • You apparently saw a different scene than I did. In the one I saw, she realized partway through the fight that she was operating out of a dark place and deliberately emptied her mind of those emotions and regained control. So I’m not expecting a heel turn, but rather an attempt to bring Ren back to the light side. Kinda hoping it fails, as that will be more dramatically interesting.

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    • I agree with on this, exactly.

      As for the future, I think we’re going to see conflict between Rey and Luke as Rey falls in love with Finn, and Luke cautioning her to avoid forming too strong a bond of love with anyone because that love is what lured Luke’s father (who I think is Rey’s grandfather) to the dark side. If that is what happens, I’d further predict that Rey will respond with something like “Kylo Ren isn’t training to become a Sith Lord, and I’m not training to become a Jedi Knight,” and Luke will relent, deciding that letting Rey find her own way with guidance is better than trying to bind her to a Jedi code of conduct that has no relevance or meaning to her.

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