Going in the shop tomorrow.
I find it laughable that people insist on interpreting Finn’s desire to hold Rey’s hand as subconsciously misogynistic. And if I weren’t concerned about the real world implications of that, I’d roll my eyes and keep it moving.
However, I can’t react flippantly because it disturbs me that fans are purposely ignoring the obvious and reading Finn’s actions as ambivalently reinforcing gender roles simply because he tried to help Rey. It disturbs me, because although these characters are fictional, the way we react to them mirrors the way we react to people in real life.
I’ve read a number of articles about hypermasculinity over the years, especially in relation to black men. Men in general are hypermasculinised in society, but the concept is particularly applied to black men because of how black people are dehumanised. We as a society see black people’s physical strength, aggression and sexuality as even more heightened, not because these things are highly concentrated in black bodies, but because of stereotypes [stemming from hundreds of years of inequality].
These stereotypes don’t begin and end with the degradation of black men because black women are also masculinised. White women were (and still are) seen as the embodiment of femininity. Femininity was associated with delicateness, pureness, and vulnerability, thusly black women were defeminised in order to justify the harsh treatment and physical and sexual abuse they endured during slavery. [Note, this is part of the reason why the “strong black woman who don’t need a man” caricature–amongst other things–exists today.]
Essentially, hypermasculinity serves to elevate masculinity as superior, but also serves to distance men from having emotional responses gendered as feminine. Black women and men are primarily affected by this characteristic. And since that is the case, there are insidious and subconscious ideas that disallow black people from being viewed as needing care and emotional reassurance. We’re not allowed to be afraid and we’re certainly not allowed to be weak.
I see this underlying insidiousness in the way people talk about Finn’s cowardliness and supposed emasculation in the narrative. I see this in the way that people infantalise Finn (because a grown black man has no business being sensitive). I see this in the way that people can’t seem to accept that Finn grabbed Rey’s hand in part because he was scared.
Now, I don’t know if it’s the film’s fault for not delving enough into his backstory, but Finn’s clearly an empath; he’s a character who cares about people to the point where he’s reprimanded for it. He witnesses Poe’s torture and instead of finding another means of escape, he rescues Poe because his life is in danger too. When he lands on Jakku, he sees people attacking someone who’s outnumbered (
outplanned) and he wants to help her, but then realises that she can handle herself. He runs from her when she pursues him, but then they’re attacked by The Order.
Despite Rey misinterpreting his actions, despite his fear of his captors, he doesn’t leave her behind because he knows what The Order is capable of. [There are documented stories about how horrific it is to be indoctrinated as a child soldier. Children are forced to kill in order to desensitise them. They have to kill their friends, and sometimes their family members if they won’t obey (or they have their loved ones lives threatened). It takes a lot of bravery and strength to run away from that environment, and people absolutely have to go into hiding to avoid recapture.]
Finn wanting to protect someone else from this fate is completely understandable. Finn wanting to run and hide is completely understandable. He doesn’t try to protect Rey because of some misplaced notion of chivalry toward women, he does it because that’s how he reacts to fear. He grabs Rey’s hand because they’re both running from something that makes them afraid. He grabs Rey’s hand because he assumes that if he’s terrified, she must be too. He recognises that in that moment, Rey’s just as vulnerable as he is; this is the same reason why he rescues Poe. He sees people in danger and genuinely wants to help them.
This acknowledgement of Finn and Rey’s mutual vulnerability is solidified by the fact that Rey softens when Finn asks if she’s okay. She later takes his hand because she realises (as the audience should) that Finn doesn’t have ulterior motives–that even though he just met her, he already cares about her because it’s in his nature. This is one rare instance where a narrative presents a scene as it’s meant to be interpreted and does it in such a deliberate way that it annoys me (on so many levels) that people don’t get it.
^^^All of this!
There is something SUPER fucked up about the fact that I saw a Duracell battery commercial that featured a little girl dressed up like Rey and excitedly playing at being a jedi, but that same little girl would find it next to impossible to find an actual Rey toy.
i guess i’m star wars trash now