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Rey Is a Failed Hero

When it comes to heroes in literature, they have something in common: a journey. Here are the broad strokes of the Heroes Journey:

1. Call to adventure out of the ordinary world

2. Crossing the threshold to the realm of the unknown.

3. Appearance of Helpers and Mentor

4. Ordeal

5. Death and Rebirth

6. Reward.

7. Return with the Elixir or Special Knowledge.

I hate to break it to you all, but in The Force Awakens Rey is little more than set dressing. Ray goes on the journey, but as a passenger. Not as one choosing to be on the path. Her character is weak, reactive and if she was removed from the story it wouldn’t change much of anything. She doesn’t drive the story forward…yet she’s prominent in the movie without doing much.

Let’s look at the Heroes Journey and Rey.

1. Call to adventure out of the ordinary world

Does Rey get the call? No. When we first meet her, she’s just a scavenger on Jakku. Not doing much of anything but eking out a living whilst maintaining perfect skin in the desert heat. She comes across BB-8 and stops him from getting scrapped for parts. Does BB-8 tell her about the Resistance and how he’s carrying vital information? Nope. Not even a holographic snippit a la ‘Help me Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.’ She’s content to do the scavenger gig, no desire to leave Jakku.

She’s forced out of the ordinary world when Finn pops up and Strom Troops start shooting at them. This is important. Rey isn’t the one making decisions, she’s herded onto the Millennium Falcon and then her amazing pilot skills come out of nowhere (different discussion).

A part of the Call to Adventure is when the Hero refuses the call. This doesn’t always happen, and it’s normally brief (Luke opts not to go with Obi Wan, then he returns home to crispy family and changes his mind).

Finn calls Rey to go with him to the Resistance, and she opts out. Wanting to return back to Jakku because she thinks her parents will come back soon. Eventually. Keep this refusal in mind.

2. Crossing the threshold to the realm of the unknown.

We get this when the Millennium Falcon leaves Jakku and it goes on to Maz Kanada’s bar. Standard, but remember that Rei isn’t the one who’s decisions brought her there. She got caught up in the action and she’s stuck. She still wants to go home.

3. Appearance of Helpers and Mentor

Han Solo and Chewy. Right? But how does Han ever mentor Rey? She knows how to fix the Millennium Falcon better than Han…who’s had that ship for decades. Han later offers to take Rey under his wing and she…refuses. She wants to go back to Jakku. Rey’s not being the hero. She doesn’t want the journey or the adventure, she wants to go home. To back track. This isn’t driving the story forward.

4. Ordeal

CGI monsters on Han’s freighter. Fine. Then Kylo Ren shows up and captures Rey because she might know where the map is. Then she has her interrogation bit where she knows how to use Force mind powers out of nowhere and better than someone who uses that power on a regular basis (different discussion). Then she mind tricks 007 into letting her loose. Don’t believe me? Check IMDB. Let’s step back to Luke Skywalker to contrast the Ordeal. When Luke is on the Death Star, he learns that Leia is on the station. What does he do? He convinces Han and Chewey to go break her out. Note that Luke is proactive here, he’s the one driving the action. He’s growing as a character. He may bungle a bit, but that’s growth for you. Now I present to you a picture of Rey literally being carried from scene to scene:

Who was making proactive decisions during this part of The Force Awakens? Finn. He tricks Han and the Resistance into attacking Star Killer base and goes off to rescue Rey.

5. Death and Rebirth.

Do I need to label this part with a spoiler? Read at your own peril. Han goes the way of Obi Wan, but does this matter so much to Rey? She didn’t want to be his student and Finn’s the one that came to rescue her. Han is there for Kylo. There’s a parallel between Rey and Luke in that they both saw their mentors die, and were reborn when the Force fully manifested in them: When Luke uses the Force to guide the proton torpedoes into the exhaust port (Giggity) and Rey uses the Force to become a lightsaber savant and beat Kylo Ren (another discussion).

This part sort of checks out for Rey at first glance. But Luke made the decision to jump in that X-Wing and blow up the Death Star. Rey was trying to get off a dying planet and a nut case with a lightsaber was in her way. There’s not a lot of character agency in running out of a burning house. That’s just what one does.

6 & 7. Reward and return with the Elixir or Special Knowledge.

Rey get’s Luke’s lightsaber and the force is awake in her. That should be it, right? Not so fast.

Let’s get to the last image of the movie. Rey standing in front of Luke holding out his lightsaber. She’s not asking him to train her. This isn’t Luke searching for Yoda on Dagobah. Rey doesn’t want it. She doesn’t want the Force. She still wants to go back to Jakku and be a nobody. General Leia sent Rey to Luke to get him back into the fight against the First Order. No one even suggests Rey has a destiny to fulfill. What a let down. How can I root for a hero that doesn’t want to be a hero and is littler more than a passenger through the movie? Where’s the character agency?

I’ll tell you where, it’s with Finn. Finn rejects the First Order after choosing not to kill for them. He breaks Poe out. He decides to keep running from the First Order and later has a change of heart about his place in the galaxy after Rey’s kidnapped. Then he gets the Resistance into gear against Star Killer Base. Then he leads a rescue mission and helps blow up the Conveniently Accessible Design Flaw and tries to throw down with Kylo Ren, even though he knows he’s out classed. Finn makes the plot move forward, not Rey. So what? Rey isn’t much of a hero. The key points of the Hero’s Journey are around her, but she’s not the one making decisions or growing as a character. At the end of the movie, she still wants to be a scavenger on Jakku. Where’s Luke at the end of A New Hope? He’s a leader in the Rebellion and the Force is with him. He’s not the farm boy we met, he’s a warrior with a mission and a goal.

Can you tell why fan enthusiasm waned after EPVII? There were questions about her parents, Snoke and her deal with Kylo to wonder about in EPVIII, but the less said about that movie, the better.

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