Emma’s Random (Reylo) Thoughts Part 4: Response to Comment

Frank Pellett was nice enough to comment on my third Reylo post, when I (finally!) posted my views and what I think Disney should do next.

I’m not against Reylo cause it makes her weak, I’m against it cause it makes her -common-. Despite the history, people of opposite genders interacting should not mean that everyone is falling in love with everyone else. It perpetuates the myth that men and women can’t work together closely without developing a relationship.

The love story has been thus far beautifully one-sided, with Kylo creating all the pressure in every “romantic” interaction between them. His actions haven’t been of a potential romance, but of a stalker, especially in the scene of the monster/bride carry.

I hope the next movie lets her remain in control of her own story. Whether that means she does fall in love with someone or continues just getting stuff done while everyone falls in love with her, so long as it’s her story, I’ll be happy.

I actually agree with most of the post.  I agree that the interest between Rey and Kylo Ren is definitely portrayed as one-sided, and that the sexual interest portrayed in the monster imagery has malevolent undertones.  That’s not a bad thing.  The tension and danger between the protagonist and the antagonist must come from somewhere, and Disney, for better or for worse, decided to destroy any tension between the two in the first movie by having Rey defeat Kylo Ren twice.  (Rey has been widely criticized as a Mary Sue, and I am inclined to agree.)  Die Hard is a great movie because we feel that the protagonist is in danger throughout the entire film.  If we watch Rey confront Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi and think, “Well, she’s already defeated him twice, no need to worry,” that’s a problem for the film.

I definitely agree that Rey must remain the protagonist in the films.  That was one thing that upset me so much in Collider Video’s discussion of whether or not Kylo Ren is redeemable.  They discussed Leia and Luke ad naseum, but only mentioned Rey in passing.  Rey must be the protagonist in the films.  This is all the more pertinent now that Carrie Fisher has died.  Since Rey is the protagonist, the fate of the antagonist must be up to her, whether she kills him, marries him, exiles him, or whatever.

However, I do disagree with the first part of his comment, listed below.

I’m not against Reylo cause it makes her weak, I’m against it cause it makes her -common-.

This comment makes more sense when taken in conjunction with his comment on my second Reylo post.

Or we could buck all the trends and not have her hook up with anyone. It’s ok for a male character to not have a love interest, why not a female character?

The poster believes that it is uncommon for a female character to be shown without a love interest.  While I agree that it is common for women to be the love interest in these kinds of films (action/adventure, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller) to be a love interest to a male protagonist, but I disagree that it is uncommon for female protagonist to be shown without a love interest in these types of films.

A quick survey of these kinds of films reveals examples.

1 Ripley, from Alien

2 Sarah Connor, Terminator 2 Judgement Day

3 Lucy in Lucy 

4 Clarice Starling, Silence of the Lambs

5 The Bride, Kill Bill Volumes I and II

6 Maya, Zero Dark Thirty

7 Evelyn Salt, Salt

8 Imperator Furiosa, Mad Max Fury Road 

On the other hand, it is more difficult for me to think of an action/adventure, sci-fi/fantasy/thriller film where a female protagonist has a love interest and they end up together.  The only ones I can think of is The Hunger Games series.  There are action/adventure films where a female protagonist does briefly become involved with a man (Sarah Connor in Terminator, Angela Bennett in The Net, Lisbeth Salandar in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lara Croft in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life ) but they usually are alone by the end of the film.  There is a good reason for this.

1 The Woman Warrior must be alone because the archetypal Woman Warrior is a virgin, or has renounced marriage.

The idea of the Single Woman Warrior is nothing new.

The ancient Greeks imagined an entire tribe of warrior women called the Amazons.  According to some legends, the women would cut off or burn off one of their breasts in order to better aim their arrows.  Homer wrote of Amazon women fighting in the Trojan War, and described them as “those who fight like men.”  Before Achilles proves himself by defeating Hector, the tamer of horses, he must first fight and dispatch an Amazon warrior.  The Greeks portray them with spears, bows and arrows, and even wearing pants.

amazon-women

While the Amazon women were not virgins (they would go off to neighboring tribes once a year to have sex purely for the sake of procreation), marriage was absolutely unheard of among the Amazons.  Men were not permitted to even live in Amazon territory and all baby boys born to Amazon women were killed or exposed (abandoned in the forest or hills to die).

We also see this tradition in the stories of the goddesses Athena and Artemis.  Artemis is the Virgin Goddess of the Hunt.  If a man happened to see her naked, she transformed him into a stag and shot him.  Athena is primarily known as the goddess of Wisdom, but she was also a Goddess of War, and a Virgin Goddess as well.

 

athena-statue

The story of Atalanta also tells of a young Greek princess who was raised by hunters.  She hunts, wrestles, and races like a man.  When her father wishes her to marry, she challenges the would be suitors to a foot race.  When they lose, as they all do, she impales them with her spear.  (The Greek gods eventually put a stop to Atalanta’s fun by using trickery to bring about her marriage.  I suppose with Atalanta impaling all the Greek men left and right, they had to do something.)

A (slightly) more modern example of this is in the story of St. Joan of Arc.  According to sources at the time, prophesy held that a virgin would deliver the French from English rule.

Joan of Arc, a peasant girl, began to hear voices that she would identify as St. Michael the Archangel, and  Ss. Catherine and Margaret (both virgin saints) who inspired her to preserve her virginity.  Joan testified at her trail that she had vowed to God that she would remain a virgin.  This was not simply a private concern of hers.  Before her trial began, Joan was physically examined for proof of her virginity, and the women who examined Joan testified that they found Joan’s hymen intact. (I believe that when she started serving with the French army, the king also had her examined to determine if she was a virgin, but I am not sure about that.)

If Rey remains single throughout the film, this will not be a new idea.  Quite the contrary; it will be a very old idea, as old as the Iliad and the ancient Greeks.  It will be an idea as old as the St. Joan of Arc, who to this day, is commemorated on the Catholic Liturgical Calendar as St. Joan of Arc: Virgin and Martyr.

Speaking of St. Joan of Arc, Virgin and Martyr, I want to bring up another way in which Rey will be an archetypal character if she remains single.

2 Considering the religious overtones to the Force, if Rey remains single, she will be an archetypal Religious Virgin.  

The use of virgins in religious rituals is very ancient.  The Romans employed the Vestal Virgins to keep the sacred fire of Vesta (goddess of the Hearth) lit at all times.  The Vestal Virgins joined the order before puberty and served for 30 years, after which they were permitted to marry.  During their time of service, they took vows of chastity and they would be buried alive if they broke their vows.

The sanctity of virginity was also adopted by the Christians.  Early Christianity (pre-Constantine) is filled with legends of virgin martyrs, women who refused to marry despite torture (eyes gouged out, breasts cut off) and who were eventually murdered in increasingly grotesque ways.  These ideals continued into the Middle Ages, where St. Clare of Assisi leaves home to join St. Francis, cutting off her hair, founding an order of nuns, and defying her father when he tried to force her to leave the convent and marry.  They continued in the New World, where St. Rose of Lima doused her face with lye, permanently disfiguring herself, in order to make herself too unattractive to marry.  Indeed, these ideas continue to this day.

 

By forgoing marriage, these women believed (and still believe today) that they would gain great graces from God and would receive greater rewards in heaven for their sacrifice.

Of course, Western religions are not the only religions that encourage celibacy and revere celibates.  Buddhism also has monks and nuns who observe celibacy.  Hinduism also has holy men and women who observe celibacy in order to escape the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Now, why is any of this relevant?  It is relevant because Star Wars has always loosely borrowed from religious traditions.  In Star Wars, Darth Vader is told, “The Jedi are extinct.  You are the last of their religion.”  The Original Trilogy contains themes of temptation and redemption.  The prequel trilogy borrows the idea of the Virgin Birth and the Messiah from Christianity.  Another idea that they borrowed was the ideal of celibacy for the Jedi.  The Jedi are forbidden to form attachments of any kind, therefore marriage is out of the question. (I have heard that George Lucas modeled the Jedi Order off of the Jesuits, but I do not know if this is true.)  In Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope, Obi Wan Kenobi is described as a hermit, someone who abandons the world and human society to seek union with God.  The Jedi uniform even looks a bit like a religious habit, especially the habits of the Dominicans and the Carmelites.

jedi_high_council

dominican-friars

carmelite Friars.jpg

 

If Rey remains single in the new Star Wars series, we may do well to see in her echoes of another ancient character, the kind praised by St. Ambrose of Milan more than 1500 years ago.

And my task begins favourably, that since today is the birthday of a virgin, I have to speak of virgins, and the treatise has its beginning from this discourse. It is the birthday of a martyr, let us offer the victim. It is the birthday of St. Agnes, let men admire, let children take courage, let the married be astounded, let the unmarried take an example.

(St Ambrose of Milan, Concerning Virginity)

The poster believes if Rey stays single, Disney will “buck the trends.”  I disagree.  There is definite precedent in films for a woman in these kinds of films to stay single.  More importantly, if Rey to stay single, she will follow ancient trends of the Woman Warrior Virgin and the Religious Virgin.  A single Rey would symbolize both.

Does this mean that Rey should get a boyfriend?  Not necessarily.  It depends on what serves the story best.  If Disney does keep Rey single, however, then Disney needs to understand that Rey will not be breaking new ground.  Quite the contrary; Rey will stand in a long line of Woman Warrior Virgins and Religious Virgins and this must shape their portrayal of her.

To be honest, I wonder how well Disney could handle the Religious Virgin archetype in this day and age.  That is a little troubling because the Woman Warrior figure is often portrayed as a femme fatale. Even so, I am too reticent to see Disney embrace the significance too quickly, since I am convinced they would botch it. The era of The Song of Bernadette is long over.  Disney would probably do well to ignore this symbolism and focus on the Woman Warrior.

st-therese-as-st-joan-of-arc

(St. Therese of Liseux , Virgin and Doctor of the Church, dressed as St. Joan of Arc, Virgin and Martyr) 

 

Postscript: You know what would be groundbreaking?  Giving Rey a female friend!  For the love of God, can Rey please have a female friend?  Pretty, pretty, please?

 

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2 Responses to Emma’s Random (Reylo) Thoughts Part 4: Response to Comment

  1. Pingback: Emma’s Random (Reylo) Thoughts Part 5: Virgin Rey | emmasrandomthoughts

  2. Pingback: Emma’s Random (Wonder Woman) Thoughts | emmasrandomthoughts

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