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The Force Awakens: Why Rey is Special
Being an avid fan of the galaxy far, far away, I was counting down the days until The Force Awakens for a year, and loved every moment of the film. It brought me back to the roots of what's great about Star Wars, and made me feel like I was back on the couch as a toddler watching the originals for the first time. But, to my dismay, the were still people who weren't impressed by it with claims that it was too similar to Star Wars (A New Hope) and that Rey was much too similar to Luke. While there's a whole lot to be said and argued upon on the first statement, today I want to tackle the latter, and explain what makes Rey a special character, and why any similarity to Luke is just a wink and a nod from the creators.
Jakku and Tatooine share the similarity of being the beginning of both Rey and Luke's journey, and for all intensive purposes are the same place story-wise. Both are barren, desert planets with low populations, poverty, and crime. So, it is usually assumed that Rey and Luke are the same as well. But I believe this couldn't be further from the truth. Luke grows up as a farm boy. He lives with his aunt and uncle tending to moisture vaporators, fixing droids, and messing around with his friends. Rey grows up completely alone. Her family left her, she has no friends, and lives in complete poverty relying on meager food portions. The difference? Luke has to leave his family and become independant when everything changes, Rey has learned her independance, but instead of leaving her family behind, she has to find one.
This basic idea is what the character of Rey is built off of, and what sets up both her character arc through the movie and the theme of friendship that it displays. We can now see that Luke and Rey are on opposite ends of a spectrum, with Rey being independant ("Stop holding my hand!"), but needing a figure to mentor her, and Luke needing to learn his independance.
Sure, there are obvious similarities between the two, they both can pilot, they're both force sensitive, and so on. The likeness of them is completely intentional, and fits in line with mixing the new and old throughout the movie. These connections bring back thoughts of the original trilogy, while at the same time introducing new ideas.
So, does her quest end? She finds an equal with Finn, sadly things don't work out with Han, but The Force Awakens finishes with something powerful. The moment we were all waiting for was given to us in the final scene, when Luke lets down his hood and stares into the eyes of our new hero. By making Luke the mentor that Rey finds in the end, the movie creates an interesting intersection of journeys between them. Luke's search for independence and aspirations to be like the great Jedi before him and Rey's search for family blend into an amazing setup for the events of the next installment in the saga. Whatever people say, I think Rey will always be unique and complex, and hold an important place in the world of Star Wars.
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you agree, disagree, have other ideas, etc. I'd love to hear them.