Christopher Reeve was my first movie star crush (and maybe my first crush in general). As I watched him in Superman, I desperately wanted to connect to Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane so I could pretend to be Superman/Clark Kent’s girlfriend. But I couldn’t. And not just because I always found Margot vaguely creepy. It’s because even as a young girl, I wanted to be the person doing the thing, not the person cheering on the person doing the thing.
I wanted to be brave enough to hunt down a great white shark, not be the scared wife on the marine radio calling to check in.
I wanted to help a cute, waddling alien get home, not be the cute, lisping little sister getting in the way.
I wanted to skip school and end up on a parade float in Chicago singing a song by The Beatles, not be the fringe-jacketed girlfriend looking on with love in her eyes.
It’s not that I wanted to be the guy. I simply wanted to be someone who was active instead of reactionary.
I didn’t want to be saved, I wanted to do the saving.
But the movies I watched as a kid (and until last week, actually) featured women who were relegated to the sidelines or only defined by their relationships with men. The hot girlfriend, doting mother, bitchy ex-wife, ditzy coworker, fat and sexless best friend, hooker with a heart of gold.
Even badass Sigourney Weaver in Alien still had to walk around in her drawers. Teeny panties and a thin white tank top. She got to play a role where she was the hero, but she had to show a little T&A in exchange.
And in the decades since, that’s been a pretty consistent exchange rate. “We’ll let you kick some ass, but you have to wear shorty shorts and a half shirt while doing it. And make sure you’re always slightly nippy.”
As I watched the female characters in The Last Jedi do the saving, some dressed in drab but sporty clothes and others in more refined (but not tit-tastic) garb, I felt elated. I thought of my niece Molly and how much I wanted her to see this movie. I thought of my nephew Rowan and how much I wanted him to see this movie. I thought of 10-year-old me and how much I wish she could have seen this movie.
The female characters in The Last Jedi aren’t women “acting” like men, whatever that means. They express their emotions. They shed tears. They show love. They’re nurturing and protective and strong. They aren’t completely unfettered from relationships with men, and nor should they be, but they aren’t defined by them either.
At my ripe middle age, it was incredibly gratifying to see female characters who are fully formed, completely human and capable of not only saving themselves but saving others as well. If I had a daughter, I would take her to see this film.
May the force be with you.