Reylo and Female Empowerment

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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by Slade on Mon 20 Jun - 17:59

Brilliant essay!  I won't even try to highlight the parts that really struck me because there were so many.  A few random things running through my mind:

To what degree are "masculinity" and "femininity" learned behavior vs. innate?  I don't know.

I don't think I have ever seen any talk about a male character having to disown his masculinity in order to be seen as acceptable.  Going back to one of the points made in the essay, it seems that for a long time, some women (in fiction and IRL) felt that they had to be "masculine" or downplay their femininity somehow/to some degree in order to be taken seriously/seen as a strong person, etc. because we live in a society where "the feminine" is seen as a bad thing and being feminine is seen as being weak.  So for a lot of women, downplaying "femininity" became an act of rebellion and an act of empowerment.

But then, that very act of empowerment got turned on them to the point that it became *yet another* hammer used to bludgeon women into little boxes.  The message that women *could* choose to downplay femininity as one way to access various types of power got turned into the message that women *must* downplay femininity if they wanted to access those types of power.  And even more, not only must they downplay femininity, but *any* showing of femininity would be used against them as evidence that, AHA! they actually WERE weak, silly girls.  So any showing of femininity became forbidden, if the character was to remain "strong."   The choice to downplay femininity went from one viable resistance strategy to yet another weapon to keep women in line.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by snufkin on Mon 20 Jun - 23:57

In the same vein, an appreciation of Carrie Fisher's interview w/Rolling Stone when RotJ came out

Carrie Fisher’s Sound Thoughts on Princess Leia in 1983
Basically, Carrie Fisher rocks, and was smarter about mythology and feminism thirty years ago than most people are now.

Fisher would have preferred Leia to be scripted with a bit more nuance, then. Not just a leader, not just an angry woman who lost her home, but someone who had a few extra emotions packed in there. Then again, most of the Star Wars actors felt that way about their characters—Ford was famous for taking issue with the scripts and their lack of emotional flair. Subtlety was never Lucas’ strong point, and that worked out fine for the first trilogy (with a few line tweaks on the part of the actors). But it’s Fisher’s thoughts on Return of the Jedi that really spell out how her character was considered from a fan-pleasing standpoint:

“In Return of the Jedi, she gets to be more feminine, more supportive, more affectionate. But let’s not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies. So the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes.”
...
But all of this might have ultimately been due to fans perceiving her as an ice queen. Which is beyond depressing, because it is all of Princess Leia that makes her great. Leia facing down Grand Moff Tarkin with a petulant sneer, Leia rolling her eyes internally at Lando’s smooth-talking, and yes, Leia asking Han to hold her when she’s feeling down. The Leia at the end of the trilogy is our payoff for sticking with her, seeing her through the hardest times. It shouldn’t be a pandering move to fans who don’t understand that a woman who can come off harsh when she’s leading an underground rebellion against a fascist dictatorship is still feminine and attractive. And damned sexy.

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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by C.V on Tue 21 Jun - 1:24

snufkin wrote:
I reject this notion that including a romantic narrative in Rey’s story (or any heroine’s story), especially with Kylo, undermines Rey character and put forth that this is a dangerous opinion to hold. Romantic relationships are a huge part of people’s lives, including women’s, the idea that romance is contrary to progressive female characters is in my mind its own brand of subversive sexism, as is disregarding her gender and labeling it unimportant. By creating new hard and fast rules on what specifically must govern a “strong female character” we are limiting the scope of exploration of females in fiction and denying them the right to a full and diverse range of life experiences. It is a parring down of complexity, a potential threat to creative freedom and a roundabout affirmation that femininity is indeed bad.

Thanks for posting, the bolded is exactly what so many of us have noticed in the "Rey is a role model" type comments as an attempt to shut down and discussion of the larger topic at hand. And it is subversive sexism, she can be a hero and be worthy of respect, but only if she hews to safe/traditional morality. If it turns out Finn's LI is morally complicated, think that people would be having the same discussion about how he should stay single because he's a role model? Doubt it.

Also double standard, but the whole argument that she should be Luke's daughter because he "deserves" to have had a relationship and a child instead of being a celibate monk. Like he deserves it because he's the hero, but she doesn't?
@snufkin

@bold. exactly, i highly doubt anyone would be protesting that he isnt a good role model or that he should date someone more appropriate. Male characters are just not held up to the same standard female characters are.Male characters can be as diverse, complicated and have various types of relationships to different types of characters they want without the same criticism flung their way. they dont have a limit to who they can be as character or what types of story they can tell. i've said it before, but for some reason female character are given this duty to be a role model, act accordingly and have perfect morality. and if they dont they are a disgrace and it diminishes them. and that's very limiting and restricting to the stories you can tell with a female character and how dynamic and well rounded she can be. it just feels like there's this guideline on what a female character can and cant do. i dont want rey to be a role model, i dont want her to be some lone independent jedi goddess that doesn't need help from anyone or form interesting relationships with anyone. i mean if anyone wants that, then this is the wrong franchise.

also your on point about luke deserving a daughter.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by snufkin on Tue 21 Jun - 2:16

C.V wrote:
@snufkin

@bold. exactly, i highly doubt anyone would be protesting that he isnt a good role model or that he should date someone more appropriate. Male characters are just not held up to the same standard female characters are.Male characters can be as diverse, complicated and have various types of relationships to different types of characters they want without the same criticism flung their way. they dont have a limit to who they can be as character or what types of story they can tell. i've said it before, but for some reason female character are given this duty to be a role model, act accordingly and have perfect morality. and if they dont they are a disgrace and it diminishes them. and that's very limiting and restricting to the stories you can tell with a female character and how dynamic and well rounded she can be. it just feels like there's this guideline on what a female character can and cant do. i dont want rey to be a role model, i dont want her to be some lone independent jedi goddess that doesn't need help from anyone or form interesting relationships with anyone. i mean if anyone wants that, then this is the wrong franchise.

also your on point about luke deserving a daughter.
@C.V

Yeah it's comments about how she should be with Finn because he's the hero or that she should be Luke's daughter because they don't want him to have been single or that he deserves to have a family. And it's all couched under how she's a "role model." So gross and patronizing. She's not there to validate either character. Or Poe, the subject of other "oh she'll get together with him instead of the Emo Bad Boy." Nevermind that they're barely acquaintances! She's not responsible for performing emotional labor (just read this about Women's Emotional Labor) for any of the male characters, she's got her own life to look after and they're going to have to do it for themselves.

What I'd love to see, especially because DR is a Studio Ghibli superfan and has mentioned movies like Howl's Moving Castle several times in interviews is that Rey gets to be like a Miyazaki heroine. Many of whom get to explore romantic relationships as part of their heroine's journey and coming of age. And KK produced many of the English language releases and is also a booster.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by Saracene on Tue 21 Jun - 9:50

That was a great article. I admit, when I was younger I used to look down on feminine things and be really proud of the fact that I had interests which would be considered more traditionally masculine, before finally realising that I was simply buying into the feminine = inferior bs. There's just no point in getting the female characters out of the "you must conform to the feminine standard" box, only to imprison them in the "you can't be feminine" box instead. Which leads to all sorts of knee-jerk overreactions; I remember some Harry Potter fans objecting to Hermione glamouring herself up and wearing a pretty dress for the school ball! Nevermind the fact that she went right back to being the same old Hermione the very next day.

Also, I wonder if the resistance to romance for female heroines comes from the notion that there can't be a real power balance between male and female lovers, and a woman's position in a relationship is by definition a more passive one.

BTW, one of my favourite takes on femininity comes from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, where a female dwarf character rebels against the gender norms of dwarvish society where both male and female dwarves dress and present themselves the same (i.e. male), and wants to wear skirts and heeled shoes and such.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by Slade on Tue 21 Jun - 18:47

You may be on to something with your comment about M-F romances being seen as inherently imbalanced.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by CienaRee on Sun 3 Jul - 15:28

This is another interesting articale that talks about Padme and the burden she had to wear by being the only female character  and it made me think whether there would be so much expectations placed on Rey to be a role model and do no wrong if she wasnt the only female character in the ST as of and how is  Rey going to be recieved if she goes Dark/falls in love with Kylo when we have more female characters coming in the next episode.:


Kicked off by Joseph Tavano’s seismic essay “Padmé Didn’t Die of a Broken Heart”, the debate revolved around her own role in the story; not just the truth of what we see happening (on which I had my own thoughts), but whether a “broken heart” was a problematic way for a female character to die, and even if so, to what extent it’s forgiven by everything else we know about Padmé from the prequels.
Having conducted these kinds of discussions in the Jedi Council Diversity Thread for years now, I’ve seen versions of this debate (and the Slave Leia one) many times over with regard to many different franchises—in fact, it just happened a few months ago over the reveal of Black Widow’s forced sterilization in Avengers: Age of Ultron. What happens is, certain female fans come out of a film, or novel, or whatever, feeling that a female character acted in a way they disagreed with, so they go online to express their position (maybe more common is fans feeling that a female character just wasn’t utilized sufficiently, but that’s a different subject). Meanwhile, other female fans react to the same product more agreeably, and take issue with the former’s claims that “a real woman wouldn’t do that”, or “that’s a sign of weakness”, or some such. From their point of view, perhaps, the character was understandable, so to claim that Black Widow (for example) is sending bad or antifeminist messages is to suggest that people who didn’t emerge from AoU angry about her must themselves be antifeminist.
This isn’t very fair, of course. The issue with Age of Ultron, or to bring it back to Star Wars, with Padmé, isn’t that she does any particular thing or feels any particular way—it’s that she’s the only real female character in the damned thing.
Female characters are under no greater obligation than male ones are to be likeable, or reasonable, or even understandable. But Star Wars isn’t Schindler’s List—lots of fans, maybe even majorities, go into this kind of genre entertainment looking for role models, or at least someone to root for. When there’s only one solid, important, (charitably) three-dimensional female character in an entire trilogy of films, for a lot of people, she’s their only option. If you were raising a little girl when the prequels were coming out, and she dressed like Padmé for Halloween and had all the Padmé action figures and coloring books and whatever, it’s completely understandable that you might be pissed when this intelligent, bad*** character suddenly loses the will to live because her man done her wrong.
The competence of the prequels’ story turns aside, this isn’t a problem people are likely to have with Anakin himself, because if your kid doesn’t find moody, melodramatic Tusken-slayers all that appealing (hi), he’s still got Obi-Wan to root for. If you think Luke Skywalker is about as exciting as watery oatmeal (hi), you’ve still got Han and Lando.
To invoke yet another franchise for a moment, look at The Hunger Games. Katniss may be far and away the main character, but she’s very pointedly presented as kind of an unlikable person. She’s not particularly warm or outgoing, and the only reason the people of Panem come to believe in her is because of how authentically she comes across as giving zero fucks. I happen to enjoy that, but if I was a young female reader who didn’t, my interest might yet be captured by her compassionate younger sister Prim, or the ballsy, snide Joanna Mason, or the glamorous Effie Trinket, or Rue, or Coin, or Cressida, or Lyme.

Call me, Natalie.
The Hunger Games universe isn’t perfect, but what is has that Star Wars doesn’t is gender parity—or damn close, at least. It’s notSchindler’s List either; it’s still pop fiction and big-budget moviemaking, and its second- and third-tier female characters are no more vibrantly three-dimensional than your Mace Windus or your Wedge Antilles, but at least they’re there. The thing about megapopular genre fiction is that some portion of fans will latch on to even the most minor characters with all their might (if you just scoffed at my mention of Wedge up there, I’m talking about you), so even boilerplate, archetypal female characters with two or three lines count for a lot—and the existing Star Wars films’ lack of these is a real flaw.
As it is, Padmé doesn’t really have the luxury or being boilerplate, let alone unlikable, because she has the weight of her entire gender on her shoulders, and the prequels’ status as a feminist story (or, more likely, lack thereof) is entirely dependent on the decisions she makes, and those made forher. The big problem isn’t with those decisions, then, it’s with the fact that we don’t get to see any other women making any other decisions—or even offering their points of view. What does Mon Mothma think about Palpatine? Well, she’s leading the Rebellion later on, so no need to hear from her. How do Padmé’s handmaidens feel about her death? What do they think happened? Star Wars isn’t concerned with that, because they’re not crucial to its mythology; they’re just set dressing.
This is one reason why my studies of diversity have typically revolved around raw figures; whether a given character is positive or negative is always going to be open to interpretation, and debating which women’s opinions are helpful and which are regressive seems (to this man) about the least feminist thing possible. People are quick to decry the notion of quotas, because they’re an easy target—“this book doesn’t have any Pacific Islanders! There has to be one of everything!”—and while I sort of agree where race, ability, and so on are concerned, I don’t think expecting half of the characters to be women in any story not revolving around the United States senate or a rugby team in the 1970s is too much to ask. So yes, when The Force Awakenscomes out, I’ll be counting.
But to bring this full-circle, I didn’t set out to write a piece complaining about the prequels (or the OT, which is certainly even worse from a parity standpoint). My point here is that with all this weight on her shoulders, with so many unfair expectations, I don’t think Padmé’s a weak character at all. I think it’s a resounding testament to her awesomeness (and, yes, how Lucas wrote her) that despite all the ways in which she was bound to disappoint people, she’s still as beloved as she is. I love Obi-Wan, but loving Obi is easy. Loving Padmé requires tenacity, and determination. I think she’d approve.
http://eleven-thirtyeight.com/2015/08/the-parity-problem-or-why-padme-is-the-best-character-in-the-prequels/#more-7366

Here's also another artciale about Leia's slave outfit in RT and there are some interesting quotes by Carrie Fisher about why they made  Leia wore a slave  outfit in RTJ:

What’s shocking is that Fisher starts the interview by mentioning that many fans of the films view her character as “some kind of space b****.”
These days, with Leia’s firmly entrenched position in the Great SF Film Pantheon, it’s hard to imagine that people were so callous about her character. But according to Fisher, the Princess’ hard road in the rebellion made her less than thrilling to fans:
“She has no friends, no family; her planet was blown up in seconds—along with her hairdresser—so all she has is a cause. From the first film, she was just a soldier, front line and center. The only way they knew to make the character strong was to make her angry.”
So Fisher would have preferred Leia to be scripted with a bit more nuance, then. Not just a leader, not just an angry woman who lost her home, but someone who had a few extra emotions packed in there. … [I]t’s Fisher’s thoughts on Return of the Jedi that really spell out how her character was considered from a fan-pleasing standpoint:
“In Return of the Jedi, she gets to be more feminine, more supportive, more affectionate. But let’s not forget that these movies are basically boys’ fantasies. So the other way they made her more female in this one was to have her take off her clothes.”
Ouch. Alright, plenty of us ladies would argue about Star Wars being strictly a boy’s fantasy, but Fisher is correct in context; at the time that Star Wars originally came out, the population certainly agreed that these films were made primarily for kids and teenage boys, and they were marketed as such. So her point about being in the bikini is even more valid—it is hard to suggest that costume change is there for anything but male gaze.
http://fangirlblog.com/2015/07/slave-leia-sells-amy-schumer-boy-toys-and-the-star-wars-fandom-double-standard/

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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by Saracene on Fri 29 Jul - 12:06

Don't think this was posted yet - an article about Rey that I thought made some good points:

http://theflawlessproject.org/the-problem-of-rey-or-why-not-being-sexy-is-not-a-virtue/
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by ISeeAnIsland on Fri 29 Jul - 17:21

Saracene wrote:Don't think this was posted yet - an article about Rey that I thought made some good points:

http://theflawlessproject.org/the-problem-of-rey-or-why-not-being-sexy-is-not-a-virtue/
@Saracene

The article does make some good points. I particularly liked this bit:

Quote wrote:But sexuality, from one end of the spectrum to the other, is still sexuality, and not being able to tell what someone’s sexuality is because it’s repressed under layers of loneliness and years of isolation does not automatically mean someone is a good role model. That’s what Rey came off to me as: repressed. We saw glimpses of her true self, in her kindredness with Han Solo and her show of affection for Finn at the end of the movie. But they were just that: glimpses.

(Bolded is my own emphasis.) I think that this is something that a lot of us have touched on here with various posts. Rey uses her optimism as a coping tool for the staggering loneliness that she's dealt with over the years. Part of becoming a whole person for her will be dealing with that pain instead of pushing it out of the way and learning to build and nurture relationships with others.

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Hoping Rey is "riding solo" for the ST...
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by snufkin on Fri 29 Jul - 19:25

Oh God, the statement "purity culture poster child" and "Star Wars equivalent of home schooled" for the win! I think that's also part of what creeps me out about the insistence that she must be Luke's daughter, because it's literally insisting that she stays Daddy's Little Girl.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by guardienne on Sun 31 Jul - 13:59

When women are targeted for violence, that violence is overwhelmingly sexual. The Joker doesn’t just shoot Barbara; he strips her and takes nude, voyeuristic photos, transforming the violence into a symbolic rape. In the cartoon version, the main male antagonist of the first half hour keeps up a steady stream of sexual remarks directed at Batgirl. As a result, their physical confrontations are suffused with sexual threat – a threat almost never present when male heroes like Batman fight villains.

...

Violence against men works differently. When men are the target of violence, the violence is not generally sexualized, and, indeed, it’s mostly not even emotionally fraught. Heroes or villains kill other men casually, as a way of showing how tough they are. And heroes and villains suffer violence stoically, also as a way of showing how tough they are. For women in media, violence is sexual, exciting, and defines them – as when Barbara is shot and permanently crippled. For men, violence is nonsexual and establishes their strength – as when Commissioner Gordon endures horrific punishment, only to emerge unbroken and unbowed, his commitment to law and morality unshaken.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/jul/29/the-killing-joke-batgirl-violence-against-women-men

this is mostly about the killing joke but i thought it was intersting wrt TFA and the accusations of violence against rey.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by Saracene on Mon 1 Aug - 8:55

Eh, there was zero sexual violence in that Apocalypse poster with Apocalypse choking Mystique, and people got upset anyway, despite the fact that this was clearly a comic book supervillain choking an enemy, not a domestic abuse situation.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by snufkin on Sat 4 Feb - 21:24

Thought this was interesting. It certainly ties in with how a lot of the comments about Rey being feminist are simply that the previous trilogies, especially the PT, addressed gender though having the sole female character be a LI and also through explicitly code female outfits, be it the bikini or exposed abs. The article @CienaRee posted above is a point-by-point dismantling of this interpretation. Feminism isn't allowing a female character to be included and allowed to step outside of the stereotypical box, it's having a diversity of female characters and perspectives. Which Star Wars has been sadly lacking and that the ST is taking steps to address. I think that there will be backlash against Rey for stepping outside of these parameters because so many entrenched fans have been conditioned into this mindset thanks to the lack of female representation.

Star Wars’ Rey vs. Padme: The Force Awakens to a New Feminism

But where The Force Awakens really succeeds is in its treatment of Rey. She’s not a strong woman, she’s strong. Plain and simple. She’s not a female bad***. She’s a bad***. No other descriptor needed. Her femininity doesn’t define her. It’s not even really a big part of who she is.

Rey, for the entirety of The Force Awakens, is never once sexualized. She has no skintight bodysuits. No exposed abs. There’s not even a low-cut top in sight. Nothing about her outfits are feminine or form-hugging. She isn’t a girl warrior. She is a warrior.

For a male-heavy blockbuster sequel that everyone was hoping would demolish every ticket sales record, it’s a feat I’m betting movie marketers probably either labeled somewhat risky or horrifically stupid. Here is a leading female character, a sci-fi action heroine, who is never objectified. Nothing in her appeal has to do with her body.

No, Rey in The Force Awakens has the rare luxury of getting to be a strong, powerful heroine — without even a hint of sexualization in sight. It’s a only a facet of what makes her character and this movie, in general, so groundbreaking.

I'd disagree that this qualifies Rey and the TFA as groundbreaking. It's that the bar has been set really f**king low that not putting a female character through the typical Hollywood blockbuster tropes merits a gold star. That's why so many people are not enthusiastic about having the director of Jurassic World be in charge of IX. More important is that it's what Carrie Fisher had been raging against. You'd hope that part of her input for the ST was about that aspect of Rey's character and that it means more than just making her into another variation of the Strong Female Character trope.  It is also interesting how this type of analysis, along with Internet complaints, overlook the point of the mask coming off for Rey as a clear moment of the Female Gaze. Which very much has to do with gender and sexuality, just that it's not centered on the male characters. In fact I'd argue that's part of what makes Rey very much a feminist character, those parts of her are central to her and presented in a subtle/nuanced way that are part of her being a self possessed and autonomous character.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by CienaRee on Sun 5 Feb - 0:33

snufkin wrote:Thought this was interesting. It certainly ties in with how a lot of the comments about Rey being feminist are simply that the previous trilogies, especially the PT, addressed gender though having the sole female character be a LI and also through explicitly code female outfits, be it the bikini or exposed abs. The article @CienaRee posted above is a point-by-point dismantling of this interpretation. Feminism isn't allowing a female character to be included and allowed to step outside of the stereotypical box, it's having a diversity of female characters and perspectives. Which Star Wars has been sadly lacking and that the ST is taking steps to address. I think that there will be backlash against Rey for stepping outside of these parameters because so many entrenched fans have been conditioned into this mindset thanks to the lack of female representation.

Star Wars’ Rey vs. Padme: The Force Awakens to a New Feminism

But where The Force Awakens really succeeds is in its treatment of Rey. She’s not a strong woman, she’s strong. Plain and simple. She’s not a female bad***. She’s a bad***. No other descriptor needed. Her femininity doesn’t define her. It’s not even really a big part of who she is.

Rey, for the entirety of The Force Awakens, is never once sexualized. She has no skintight bodysuits. No exposed abs. There’s not even a low-cut top in sight. Nothing about her outfits are feminine or form-hugging. She isn’t a girl warrior. She is a warrior.

For a male-heavy blockbuster sequel that everyone was hoping would demolish every ticket sales record, it’s a feat I’m betting movie marketers probably either labeled somewhat risky or horrifically stupid. Here is a leading female character, a sci-fi action heroine, who is never objectified. Nothing in her appeal has to do with her body.

No, Rey in The Force Awakens has the rare luxury of getting to be a strong, powerful heroine — without even a hint of sexualization in sight. It’s a only a facet of what makes her character and this movie, in general, so groundbreaking.

I'd disagree that this qualifies Rey and the TFA as groundbreaking. It's that the bar has been set really f**king low that not putting a female character through the typical Hollywood blockbuster tropes merits a gold star. That's why so many people are not enthusiastic about having the director of Jurassic World be in charge of IX. More important is that it's what Carrie Fisher had been raging against. You'd hope that part of her input for the ST was about that aspect of Rey's character and that it means more than just making her into another variation of the Strong Female Character trope.  It is also interesting how this type of analysis, along with Internet complaints, overlook the point of the mask coming off for Rey as a clear moment of the Female Gaze. Which very much has to do with gender and sexuality, just that it's not centered on the male characters. In fact I'd argue that's part of what makes Rey very much a feminist character, those parts of her are central to her and presented in a subtle/nuanced way that are part of her being a self possessed and autonomous character.
@snufkin

Thanks for the articale.It's really frustrating to me why so many fans seem to think that Rey showing any feminine traits make her a weak character and it's great that TFA didn't show she had any?Have we been so conditioned to believe that the only acceptable female characters are the ones who are strong and kick a** because there's a lot of strenght in women showing their femininity and I feel like SW is afraid to show any female characters  who aren't stoic kick a** women(which was how  Leia was  portrayed back in the OT and while that was groundbreaking  back in the 70s it's not now) because they wouldn't be role models anymore.

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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by snufkin on Sun 5 Feb - 1:05

CienaRee wrote:
@snufkin

Thanks for the articale.It's really frustrating to me why so many fans seem to think that Rey showing any feminine traits make her a weak character and it's great that TFA didn't show she had any?Have we been so conditioned to believe that the only acceptable female characters are the ones who are strong and kick a** because there's a lot of strenght in women showing their femininity and I feel like SW is afraid to show any female characters  who aren't stoic kick a** women(which was how  Leia was  portrayed back in the OT and while that was groundbreaking  back in the 70s it's not now) because they wouldn't be role models anymore.

@CienaRee

The article @Saracene had posted above hits the target with how a certain % of the "Rey is a feminist because she's not sexualized" praise has less to do with feminism and more to do with modesty/purity culture. It's the same gross binary that Carrie Fisher brought up, of women being shown in blockbusters through gender and sexualization. So the opposite impulse is to repress all mention of that. She's on record saying that she wants Rey to fight against the "slave outfit," which was pushed on that character as a gross way of exploring her gender and also signalling that it's a story for young men. But at the same time, she seemed pretty straight forward that moralizing was an equally gross reponse:

Carrie Fisher wrote:To The father who flipped out about it, -"What am I going to tell my kid about why she’s in that outfit?" Tell them that a giant slug captured me and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him because I didn’t like it. And then I took it off. Backstage

I'd be willing to bet part of her coming-on-age that's been hinted for TLJ will have to do with her gender/sexuality if a certain dangerous dreamboat spends a lot of time with her. And that it'll be more overt than what we've already seen in TFA (it was more than just the Force awakening in those two, but hormones).
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by Acritiqua on Tue 7 Mar - 17:48

I agree with so much said in this thread. What I love about the (potential) romantic dynamic between Rey and Kylo Ren is his awe of her, and yes that he is the "princess trapped in the tower by the evil queen in need of rescue," that he is the more emotionally vulnerable one (his emotional vulnerability and volatility is a large part of why he is defeated at the end of TFA). The way I would see 'Reylo' playing out is not that Rey falls for Kylo Ren and redeems him, but that he falls for her and redeems himself because of it. Whether or not she then falls for him, I don't know... thus far she sees Kylo Ren as a monster, and given that he abducted her, invaded her mind, killed Han, and put Finn in a coma, of course she does!

But I really feel like the image of Kylo Ren kneeling basically while she is on the interrogation platform in the light is symbolic of their entire dynamic. She is the powerful one who he is in awe of, and I imagine will only become more in awe of with time. She is the one with the stronger will, which he will in many ways submit to. I thought this was evident in the fight at the end when he waits while she feels the Force. She defeats him after, and it only seems to increase his awe.

I mean, I don't understand how one could not see Rey as having the power in this dynamic.

I am not even sure that Kylo Ren would try to "seduce Rey to the dark side" especially given that he's the one who is constantly "being seduced" by the light. He may however reach out to try to bridge the gap between them as he did at the end of TFA. I could see him doing this far more than Rey trying to reach out to him. I mean, Kylo Ren is like Dark-Luke and Luke reached out to Vader. But he'll probably find that Rey only responds when he tries to go more towards the light in these efforts. This pull would of course war with Snoke's attempts to get Kylo to banish all sentiment, and lead him increasingly to a moment in which he "must choose." It will still be about what *he* chooses, not about Rey fixing him. He will have to fix himself.

Another aspect that I feel fits in so neatly in this is that Kylo Ren is concerned with his worth and strength. He fears he's not strong enough for Darth Vader's legacy. He probably felt he was falling short of whatever Skywalker legacy he saw himself as needing to live up to before he fell to the dark side. He struggles with feelings of inadequacy and impotency. Snoke capitalizes on all of this, making Kylo Ren prove himself in trial after trial probably, and Kylo does it because he needs to convince himself he's strong enough. If he encounters Rey who he sees as stronger but is in awe of, perhaps it could inspire him to let go of this constant race with himself to be strong enough, that he is always losing. Since this problem is what compelled him towards the dark side to begin with, letting go of it would offer a chance of redemption.

So he must surrender to Rey, and that moment in the interrogation scene where he sits lower than her, where she is exalted and he stares up at her... it all seems to kind of foreshadow this.

He I think will be willing to lose to Rey (to find something meaningful in this that is more important than how strong or not he is), to comply with what Rey asks, and if he does that, he can save himself. All he has to do is follow her and try to prove himself in the way he already does with Snoke--switch his allegiance.

This is all very one-sided. And it's more difficult for me to guess at Rey's point of view in this dynamic since where things have left off she has every reason to hate Kylo Ren and she has wanted to kill him, to destroy this monster. That Kylo Ren killed his father after asking for his help I think shows it's quite dangerous to try to help him. It's not that he deliberately was trying to deceive Han--he was conflicted to the point even he didn't know what he would do--but he is dangerous and unpredictable due to how conflicted he is ("tempestuous"). He would have to prove himself worthy of aid I think for Rey to consider offering it. But I think in his delusional, misguided way, the compassion he feels towards her might lead him towards thinking he needs to help her rather than seek her help. This is another path back to the light because it would be less selfish than his usual way of doing things.

I think Rey is taken aback by him a bit when he takes off his mask. And there is a strange connection between them interlinking their destinies... but in terms of how this works from Rey's point of view, I really don't know.

Overall, this kind of dynamic though isn't disempowering to the heroine at all imo. In fact, it's a story I feel like we rarely get to see. And in it the heroine is the strong one.

(I'm still trying to arrange my thoughts on this, so I don't feel I've expressed everything I'm trying to. The area where I'm confused is that usually the princess locked in the tower is pure and full of light, whereas Kylo Ren was corrupted... I still think his true place is in the light... But "rescuing" this character and what that would mean is where I am the most confused.)
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by snufkin on Sat 11 Mar - 1:44

For the Buffy fans, all of the 20th anniversary coverage brought up this article. Mostly about one's own coming of age in light of various female sci-fi/horror heroines. But interesting to consider with all of the praise given Rey for being strong and independent with the potential backlash if the writer and actress have her step outside of that box. There's a certain % of the praise for Rey right now which is definitely in the essayists words, they see her as "a perky audience-identification figure":

Ellen Ripley Saved My Life

What actually happened, in “Buffy” Season 6, was that the show stopped being about a perky audience-identification figure and started to be about a girl who faced things that could break her. Yes, it was upsetting to see the love interest attempt to rape the heroine. It was supposed to be. Because it was a scene of attempted rape. But we didn’t want that. Buffy was supposed to beat the monsters for us. All day, every day, all the time, and smiling.

This is another thing about Strong Women: We like them considerably more when they’re fictional, rather than, say, running a TV show. And we don’t like them to complain. A fetish for strong, spunky women might seem more productive than a fetish for girls who are sweet and harmless, but it can be a trap. “Strong” is often misconstrued to mean “strong enough to take anything.” “Strong” can mean “rough enough to play with the boys,” but it also has to mean “tactful enough to make the boys like you.” (That’s why it’s “strong.” And not, say, “b****” or “irrational.”) “Strong” can mean anything people want it to mean, but a lot of the time, what it means is that if you get overwhelmed or hurt, you’ve let everybody down.
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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by snufkin on Mon 17 Jul - 1:11

Another one, which sounds awfully familiar in terms of the fans angrily saying that she "has" to do ______ because she's a role model, the "Good Girl" expectation used as a form of social control on women

The thing about goodness, at least for girls and women, is that it must be continually reactivated: one good deed does not make you good for life; to prove your intrinsic goodness, you must be constantly manifesting it. (See, again, the roots in puritanism, and its concept of “the elect”). Being a good girl is like maintaining a perfect body: it requires constant vigilance.

It’s not fair that boys are assumed, naturally, to incline towards badness — but once touched with it, they can nevertheless excel, succeed, find love, grow out of it (or don't) and become a good boy or a good man. But bad girls are social problems, and social problems must either be solved (difficult) or excluded (far easier) in order to maintain the status quo. And these conceptions of goodness are rooted not just in whether or not you fold your hands nicely and listen patiently. Goodness, at least in its contemporary form, is wedded to bourgeois respectability.

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Re: Reylo and Female Empowerment

Post by Tex on Tue 1 Aug - 3:40

AnneNeville wrote:Without a doubt, one of the most evocative and unconventional aspects of The Force Awakens has to do with gender dynamics. We are given a heroine in Rey who is independent, strong, tinged with more than a little anger, hyper-competent and able to beat down her opposition. She is not made a sex object. She is shown as real, not made up, even grimy and dirty. She is a prime mover, acting not reacting. Rey is a survivor, and she is the marked by her Act III saber catch as the new "hero" of this trilogy.

On the other side, we have Kylo Ren, whose emotionality and vulnerability are emphasized at every turn. He is, as some have noted, the princess in the tower, imprisoned by the Snoke from childhood. The one who must be rescued from the Dark Side and brought home to the bosom of his famiily. He is actually a prince. And he is presented, in the shocking unmasking scene that got so many tongues wagging, as the Sex Object of this film, painstakingly beautified, coiffed, and presented for Rey's viewing pleasure.

We, as viewers, see a strong and independent woman get stronger and more powerful. She comes into her own, she matures. And at the same time, we see a character--Kylo Ren--who has been presented as incredibly powerful himself, respond to her coming of age. And he responds not with disgust, not with horror towards a powerful, non-sexualized woman. He responds with fascination, awe, amazement. He responds not to her beauty, but to her ever increasing strength, to her ability to match him, to overcome him at every turn.

I think that there is something incredibly erotic about this dynamic. So often, the sexual dynamics that girls are brought up with are ones where women attach themselves as an adjunct to a powerful man. In that dynamic, the man still has all the power, and the women are seduced by it and enjoy what benefits being attached to the powerful man can provide. They may influence and inspire, and thus get some of what they want, but they are not powerful in and of themselves. Their importance is predicated on being an object of desire, not an object of power . . . and the roots of the hero's desire is rarely shown to be primarily rooted in her own power and agency.

I think for some women, being the powerful one, the one who inspires awe in a male character who is portrayed as powerful and capable in and of himself, is very exciting. It's a chance to be the seducer (see: Kylo seduced to the light), the main actor in their relationship (rather than the "re-actor"). Women are so often taught that they are the vulnerable ones, both physically and emotionally. Rey and Kylo's dynamic is the reverse.

I really like this dynamic, and I see it rarely outside of some fanfiction. I hope and expect that the films will follow through with this theme.

I don't know of any mainstream entertainment that embraces a similar kind of romance. Force Awakens is a new kind of film for the mainstream media, one that make female strength irresistibly seductive, and presents a hero who desires not a prize, but an equal.
@AnneNeville

I've been chewing on this fantastic bit of writing for the last few days and it really hit the nail on the head for me. It encapsalted a lot of what's been floating around in my head since December 2015, but I haven't been able to articulate it as well as you have. From what I can tell this is an older topic that's sort of been laid to rest, but  just wanted to add my two cents. I do often wonder if audiences, not all, but some, were puzzled by Kylo's character and thus rejected him because of his sexualization. Of which might have made them subconsciously uncomfortable. I think, and I'm sure I've said this before that the fact that you have a male character like Kylo Ren, who embodies a quintessentially male power with his emotionless mask and big, red lightsaber, is then in awe of a young women, not because she is there to titillate, but rather because of her character, her strength, her ability to be his equal is just amazing.

This is why I root for romantic Reylo to be canon. I sincerely hope going into the next film that we continue to see these dynamics pushed more. Kylo reacts in awe to Rey's strength. I want to see how Rey will react to Kylo's vulnerability, to traits that are considered "female". As two characters poised to be representations of Ying and Yang I want to see a give a take between them. I want to see Rey's continued transformation from girlhood to womanhood that shows she can be feminine and a warrior. I want to see Kylo be a fearsome knight, but struggle with his choices and emotions. While some may feel romantic Reylo is not in the cards I think it would be a shame if they did not tap into this dynamic. At the end of the day you have a lost boy and a lost girl searching for a belonging, a belonging that can not be fulfilled by their family. How wonderful if they could find this belonging in each other.
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