I don’t know why I’m doing so much Star Wars related stuff this week either, for the record. Let’s see if the rest of the week surprises us. Or subverts something. With this franchise right now that’s possible too.
Let’s start by saying for the record that I have no problems whatsoever with Daisy Ridley. Well, maybe that hip hop song she did on The Tonight Show that MechaRandom42 keeps digging out because it’s kind of lame, like everything the dance game from Star Wars Kinect wasn’t. Those parodies rocked, man! My favorite is “I’m Han Solo” and I’m so happy there’s a clear version out there now.
Sorry, had to. I’m not even a Jason Derulo fan.
Anyway, I don’t even have a problem with Rey as a character on her own. Granted I’m still waiting for the quarantine is over so my friends and I can finally watch The Rise Of Skywalker so maybe that will change my opinion, but what bothers me is how the character had little if any challenge and learned her Force powers so easily compared to every other male AND FEMALE Jedi character in the franchise. That’s on the writers and directors though. Rey had good potential but we live in a culture that we’re afraid to have women shown struggling except against the patriarchy. Some of the best woman protagonist struggled just like their male counterparts, and while sexism was part of it back then it wasn’t the only thing they fought against.
In the past we looked at the actors from the DC Universe Titans show and highlighted one key point about their defense: it didn’t come from a connection to the source material but that they loved making the series and portraying those characters. They didn’t care if they were inaccurate, they just really enjoyed it. It’s a disconnect because they couldn’t understand why fans were annoyed with a show they thought was well done because they didn’t care about the universe or its characters.
Now as far as I know Ridley is not a huge Star Wars fan or at least I haven’t heard her say she was prior to getting the role of Rey in The Force Awakens, so I’m not surprised she shares this disconnect when it comes to the sequels and this franchise. In a recent DragCast podcast (yes, hosted by a drag queen–really the only other choice was a drag racer though for all I know the drag queen could also drag race, RuPaul competitions aside) Ridley appeared during her birthday to discuss her career and her Star Wars character–and the reaction to her character. I wasn’t going to listen to the whole hour long podcast because the important details for our discussion was posted to other website, the most substantial of the newssites I follow being this article by Bounding Into Comics, and I’ll pull the quotes from there. I understand Ridley’s position but only because I know where it’s coming from while she doesn’t understand where the opposition is coming from. Let me help with that.
“I watched the documentary, the making-of this week, and it’s so filled with love, and I think it’s that tricky thing of when you’re part of something that’s so filled with love and then people…You know everyone is entitled to not like something, but it feels like it’s changed slightly. But I think in general that’s because social media and what have you.”
Ridley is then asked if the culture has changed due to social media with fans feeling they have a creative say.
She answered, “I don’t know. I think in general people share so much on social media that like if I went to it, well I don’t have social media, but if I went to a film and didn’t like it, I just wouldn’t tweet about it. But it’s such a conversation and it always has been again. So it’s sort of fine.”
I’ve noticed a group of voices saying that we shouldn’t be negative. If we don’t like something, say nothing. I don’t agree with that, and not just because I run a review and commentary site. I think we should be nice in our objections, or at least constructive and make clear WHY we’re upset about something Hollywood has done to a beloved franchise. We shouldn’t take it out on the performers when the problem is the writing and directing but we should be free to tell our friends and other followers “hey I just saw this and it isn’t worth your money and here’s the mostly spoiler-free way I can tell you why” because negative voices shouldn’t be silenced. Learning what we did wrong as creators is important too. How else will be get better, and if the creators ignore the fans completely be prepared for them to ultimately avoid your story or any story you make in the future based on the negative reaction to their treatment the last time you didn’t like something they did.
She then detailed that she was upset after reading headlines in reaction to moviegoers viewing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, “I guess now conversations are just more public, so there’s stuff I wouldn’t have seen, but honestly trying to scroll through my newsfeed in January and trying to not see Star Wars stuff, I’d see headlines and be like ‘Oh my god this is so upsetting.’”
She continued, “So it’s been tricky, but then it’s having that thing of I feel really proud of it, and I’m so thrilled to be part of it. It’s a funny thing.”
But why are you proud of it? As a movie? Fine, I haven’t seen it but the problem with the first two movies, especially The Last Jedi, was in how it failed to match up with previous continuity. Some were comparing it to the old expanded universe, now referred to as Legends, but many just looked at the movies and shows that came before (the last three cartoons not involving LEGOs and Forces Of Destiny webseries are considered canon to the DisneyFilm though I still treat The Freemaker Adventures as semi-canon in my head) and still saw major inconsistencies with the lore. It didn’t help that The Force Awakens retread old ground rather than going with George Lucas’ plan or that The Last Jedi showed a blatant disregard for continuity. Speaking of The Last Jedi, apparently Ridley understood the problems fans had with that.
When asked about the backlash the film received, she told USA Today, “I wasn’t surprised, no. It’s just a different thing.” She went on to say, “Everyone’s going to have an opinion now anyway on the internet, but I also think it’s fair.”
She added, “If people hold something incredibly dear and think they know how it should be and it’s not like that, it’s fair for people to think they were done wrong.”
Ridley did add the caveat, ““It doesn’t mean they were – ultimately, Rian’s a filmmaker and one person can’t dictate how a film is supposed to be – but freedom of expression, sure.”
I’m not sure what the caveat means. Rian Johnson did dictate how the film was. He’s the director, that’s his job. Kathleen Kennedy never really got in his way because he was doing what she wanted, just not what the fans wanted. I’m not going to get into Johnson here but as we saw last week he can use subversion correctly, just not in Star Wars. Note that she says up here “If people hold something incredibly dear and think they know how it should be and it’s not like that, it’s fair for people to think they were done wrong.” That’s all the fans who grew up with the franchise have been saying. Star Wars meant something to them. It’s something they grew up with. So when it feels like a rehash or outright antagonistic to the stories and characters they love, they’ll get upset if they mess up the lore no matter how good the movie may be.
Ridley had also previously admitted her own reservations with Johnson’s The Last Jedi script, “Well I, like Mark [Hamill], had some reservations about the script. I thought, ‘Where is John [Boyega]? He’s away from me, and I don’t want to be away from him.’”
Instead they messed up Flynn’s character arc by ending it too early because apparently Johnson and some of his defenders don’t know what a trilogy is. Really, I don’t remember the article, but one of the writers for one of the larger sites out there actually complained that Abrams left plot threads open. In a trilogy. So even Ridley didn’t like The Last Jedi, or at least part of it.
The tell however is in the last sentence. Not “where is Flynn when we need to see what he and Rey are doing” but “where is John, I don’t want to be away from him”. In this case it’s not another swipe at the Reylo shippers (some of whom are so messed up they want Adam Driver to divorce his wife and be with Ridley) but she wanted to work with John some more. Granted I think the movie should have kept them together instead of killing his character arc early in a plan that ultimately served nothing to the plot or the Resistance (at best it helped the First Order only slightly) but I get the impression that she wanted to act alongside Boyega and they do make a good team. However it goes back to that Titans discussion. She’s approaching this as an actor who enjoyed or didn’t enjoy making a movie and playing a character.
Like I said, I haven’t heard she was a fan or had any interest in the lore prior to this. Either she wanted a cultural icon on her resume, wanted the money and exposure, or just really liked the script and wanted to do it. That’s fine, but opinions are nothing new. Twitter has just made it easier to get them out spur of the moment, for better or for worse. Twitter wasn’t around when the same fans took issue with the prequels, when they had to make their own website or comment in other people’s website or some chat room that would only be seen by other fans and the press looking for something to write about. It’s easy to figure out why fans didn’t like the sequels either. Just ask them. Look past the jerk ranters to see what the more level-headed among the classic fans fans are upset about. It’s all in the story, not the actress.