The Feminist Awakens: Maz Kanata

Note: This post will make no sense if you have not seen the movie, also Spoilers!

Preface: So those of you who don’t know me in real life and only follow my blog may be surprised that I like things other than church, social justice, and divorce. A few things: I like to consider myself a Renaissance woman. Another way of saying it: I’m a big nerd. I wasn’t always because I wasn’t privileged to grow up in the age where girls were allowed to be nerds. So I’ve “uncloseted” myself over time.

Here’s the shocker: I am a HUGE Star Wars Fan. I do not usually engage in conversation outside of people I know because 1: Star Wars fans are fearless in criticism and 2: because as a woman I inevitably get mansplained. That’s not “the woman card” that’s reality.

Introduction: My boyfriend (more on that later) wanted to write a series on The Force Awakens Characters. Yes we saw it on opening night, yes we went back the next day (and a few times since), yes we are taking the kids again tomorrow. We are writing the character blogs to cross pollinate, here’s the two written so far: Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. This is not a debate on the backstory or actress Lupita Nyong’o or any of that, this is a character post.

As soon as he asked there was no question who I wanted to write about Maz Kanata. 

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First, let me say, I know this woman. She used to live next door to me. A strong badass woman who is full of wisdom, she is extremely old, but you also knew she could kick your ass any moment.  She’s saucy and playful- “I like that wookie”, she is the definition of eccentric.

She is the woman I strive to be when I’m over a thousand years old. She is perfectly made: from her scarf, glasses, hand sewn vest, bangles, high wasted pants, down  to her macramé boots. Her shoulders slump from slight osteoporosis, she’s got a post-menopausal pooch and boobs (if she had any) that have disappeared. What’s not to love?

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When the trailers were first released hers was the voice you heard, it was comforting, soft, and intriguing. Immediately after the first film I was flooded with emotion over Maz. She is Women Wisdom, Sophia, she is the guide we have been looking for.

Not only does The Force Awakens have a female lead, it has a female voice, literally and figuratively, and in my opinion, it’s about bloody time. Leia is the general, but is also the old guard, still haunted by her past “princess” status (Thanks Han and C3PO).

Rey has no time for chivalry, to Finn’s astonishment, she’s survived on her own too long. When Kylo Ren reads Rey’s thoughts he focuses on Han as “the father she always wanted” but I believe he was looking for info on Han, the scenes right before her capture prove, she may have been wanting a father, but what she needed was a wise womanly mother.

In many ways the Force Awakens was the death of the search for the father. All of the 6 prior to this have been about the making of a father (Anikin) and the search for the father (Vader), AND the death/disappointment of said father. The force awakens continues this theme by the death of a father (Han) and the theme of a very disappointing father/father figure. It’s continuing an idolization of fatherhood, but the shift of voice declares the age of women. I am curious to see how this plays out between Ben Solo and his mother.

I like a few things about Maz and her part in the canon. First, she is old, very old, older than Yoda. Yoda until this point in the series has been the oldest and wisest. He is the ultimate source of zen. Maz, is not a jedi knight, she had no time for that. She has deep respect and is force sensitive, but her job is a guide. She wasn’t part of any super sonic light saber fights, she did what she had to do when battle came, but she understood this was not her fight and got the hell out of the way. She does not need the status of master, but is the one important people come to for guidance, I like that.

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Her place is serving in the bar, talking to interesting/scary people, and reading into the souls of others. She doesn’t care how shady you are (she has both First Order and Resistance spies in her midst). She keeps everything and has somehow acquired Luke’s original blue light saber. She is not giving away any of her own secrets, but she knows all of yours.

She lives in a temple which she has turned into a bar (this by the way, is a popular thing happening around the world due to many a empty churches…). She has flags from all the galaxies decorating it. (Buddhist prayer flags anyone?). She calls the First Order “beasts” and has survived through the Dark Side (in all their various forms) throughout all these years. Her bar will not, after the childish Ren gets ahold of it. You can see her contempt for his disrespect and lack of empathy (without ever seeing him).

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She has no time or patience for Finn’s lying or Han’s stubbornness, she does, however, have great sympathy for Rey’s struggle. This is not a male/female difference. It is a contempt of the futile and a respect of the existential. She has lived long enough and knows from experience that the search Rey is on is a search of the soul, the essence of being. She is Rey’s first teacher. Rey has her “cave experience” in Maz’s storage area and Maz gives her instruction on how to better control the force.

She see’s Rey’s future better than she does. She embraces Rey’s heartache and gives her assurance of the future. To do this she removes her glasses, maybe for some “magical power” her eyes possess or simply as sincerity. Rey is a little girl who was abandoned and hurt, then had to grow up WAY too fast to survive. Maz is the first to see her pain, and I mean, really see her pain. You can see her own hope that Rey will embrace her destiny sooner rather than later and there is disappointment when she cannot.

(I could not find the picture I wanted here, the one where Rey closes her eyes while fighting Kylo Ren. She is on an embankment and faltering, but she remembers the force and closes her eyes. She is channeling and it’s Maz’s instructions she’s following.- All this pics are of Rey on her knees losing…)

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During the battle, the last time we see her, she is going for cover, fighting while she can. She gives the lightsaber to Finn knowing it’s not for him, but believing it will get back to Rey and eventually she will be trained by Luke. Woman Wisdom will appear again, she is not gone. She is the voice guiding Rey to the light.

I believe she will advise Leia, or at least… appear again to tell the story of how she acquired the lightsaber (please, PLEASE don’t let that just hang out there!) She is too interesting of a character not to return, she is the voice of narration and tough love, she, along with Luke, I hope will be the source of her teachings.

6 thoughts on “The Feminist Awakens: Maz Kanata

  1. Absolutely agreeing with you here. Have to add, though, that so she called to my mind a combination of Stella in Silverado (another Lawrence Kasden script) and Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas. Both played by Linda Hunt, fwiw.

  2. I quoted her last Sunday in the sermon. “The belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead. I am no Jedi, but I know the Force. It moves through and surrounds every living thing. Close your eyes… feel it. The light… it’s always been there, it will guide you.”

  3. Pingback: My Buddy: Poe Dameron | derricklweston

  4. Wasn’t the original Star Wars movie based on Joseph Campbell’s writings? Do you all Star Wars followers agree with Mr. Campbell’s philosophy of life?

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