Because why should a hero’s story be reduced to romance?
Spoilers from The Last Jedi are contained within this article.
The Star Wars cast are all pretty damn amazing. They’re the cast the mega franchise deserve but often overlooked is Daisy Ridley (who plays Rey), who is leading the whole thing and continuing to smash barriers in the industry. Ridley won praise first for her revelations that she lives with endometriosis and so lives with chronic pain and other symptoms. It’s a rare thing for actors to ever discuss but now Ridley is also bringing the necessary nuance to a series that has been obsessed with forced romances.
Ridley has came out against her character Rey getting into a romantic relationship with Poe. Her comments too were incredibly thoughtful about how relationships can be explored and evolve.
“I think friend relationships can be romantic in their gestures and intimacy and all of that. So, I think, hopefully, if Rey and Poe get to have some scenes together and stuff that there will be intimacy, but I think, for me, it doesn’t have to be romantic.”
As much as fandoms tend to love a good ship, the relationships desired are often incredibly simplistic – usually sexual and romantic. Perhaps the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, was most guilty of this when he threw together Anakin and Padme despite the actors sharing no chemistry and the entire plot being incredibly creepy. Padme was reduced to Anakin’s obsession despite having been a major political force, and let’s not forget that she knew him when he was just a boy (and somehow Padme never aged that entire time). Star Wars doesn’t really do great romances. Let’s not even get into how the cliched main woman was made to look like she was choosing between two hero guys, only for one to turn out to be her brother. The problem with Star Wars though is that it always persists in trying to sell these crappy romances. It even cropped up in the otherwise brilliant The Last Jedi; Finn and Rose had no chemistry but yet were still given the most boring kiss ever. Rose was kickass for saving Finn just because she wanted to, but then they threw in a really predictable and bland romance plot.
Star Wars though is simply symptomatic of the wider story industry. Whether it’s film, TV, books or music; they’re all obsessed with amatonormativity. The assumption that all humans desire that one person, and that it is an ideal we should all strive for is toxic. It’s erasing aromantic people and ‘othering’ them. Aromantics should feel represented but stories also do have a duty to be diverse. Stories demand creativity. When they’re all bland and repetitive then it sucks.
Ridley has offered far greater nuance to the situation than writers often give. Friendships can be romantic. Friendships can even evolve into partnerships such as queerplatonic relationships or alterous. Not everything has to be strictly romantic and sexual. It’s possible to support a ship that is based around friendship, or may not be entirely romantic, or may even explore romance in a different way to what’s conventionally depicted. The possibilities are endless, but the biggest point is that Rey is the damn hero of the whole thing – her romances should always be secondary to her own story. She doesn’t need anyone. Rey is doing pretty good on her own, and she’s even starting to realise that now.
Ridley has given aromantics hope of being represented, but she’s also giving fans reason to have faith in Star Wars romances too. They’ve long been forced and utterly terrible. Let’s hope Abrams listens and focuses on Rey’s story, rather than who Rey can romance.
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