Fisking “An open letter to Rey from Star Wars”

OK. I am going to post a link a few lines down the page. You…probably will be happier if you don’t read it. But…we both know you’re going to. It’s by a chap named Nathan Alberson, writing on a website called Warhorn media, which appears to be a group blog by members of a church. Honestly, I mean no personal offence to Nathan or his fellow bloggers, I’m sure they are fine people in many ways. But, the post in question is…well…it’s misguided to say the least. Here, go read, then come back.


UPDATE: the original post seems to be down. Too much traffic!

Charming, huh? Nathan’s overall argument seems to be that films, by showing women as heroes, are behaving corruptly, because women are actually “the weaker sex”. This post went up in March, but it seems it was re-linked a few days ago, from whence it has gone viral. That’s a good example of a self inflicted Sword of Damocles. Nathan put this pile of turds up on a high ledge, forgot it was there for a month, and now is acting surprised that he has found himself covered in shit.

Sigh. So I’m going to fisk some parts of the post. The full thing is just too poorly written and repetitive to do it all. I’ll take on the parts in which Nathan makes his key points. Nathan is in bold.

Dear Rey from Star Wars,

Also Princess Leia. And Wonder Woman. And Sarah Connor and Trinity and Imperator Furiosa and Beatrix Kiddo and Black Widow and Katniss Everdeen and River Tam and Gamora. And Feminist Elf-Kate from The Hobbit. And every character undertaken to help pay Milla Jovovich’s mortgage. And the godmother of them all, Ellen Ripley. If you are an empowered fictional female warrior type, this is a letter to you.

Bzzzzt…wrong. Female heroes go back a whole hell of a lot further than Ellen Ripley. Go read up on your classical Greek myths and Amazonian warrior women. Hippolyta fucking ROCKS. She’s also the archetype for Wonder Woman, who also pre-dates Ripley by some decades. Your problem here Nathan is that you’re lazy, and even though you complain about it in this very post, you’ve never bothered to look beyond the patriarchal entertainment industry. Get off your butt, read and watch more widely and more diversely. You will see how little you know.

Let me start by saying I have enjoyed many of the movies that you ladies have been in. I hope you won’t think I’m being patronizing if I say you are all beautiful, talented, intelligent flowers of your respective civilizations. My hat is off to all of you.

Your fedora.

It really is. And as a sworn gentleman, I’m loath to cause you any pain or embarrassment. In fact, if I may be so bold, I’d like to save you from pain or embarrassment.

Save your gentlemanly pity for yourself Nathan. You’re the one about to cause yourself a shitload of pain and embarrassment here.

So you see the pickle I’m in. I feel a bit like it’s my job to tell you your slip is showing. Or like I’m one of those knights in those paintings where the knight is rescuing the, uh, rather unclothed lady who is tied to a tree. True chivalry demands action in both those cases, but you can’t do it without causing the lady in question a little of the old p. and e.

I present that last paragraph without further comment.


In any case, it’s going to seem like I’m being hard on you all, but I’m only doing it because I care about you. And I hope if you read through to the end you’ll see that I’m actually being much harder on myself and other men.

So let’s talk.

This is Nathan setting up that his massively patronising diatribe is actually an attempt to RESCUE women from those ungodly Hollywood types. Sorry Nathan, this doesn’t work that way. You’re being an immense dick to a whole huge bunch of people, saying it’s for their own good only makes you MORE of a dick.

I know the whole world is ladling on the adoration for your brave contributions to modern womanhood. However, you are behaving, all of you, in ways that do not befit your sex or glorify God. Frankly, and I’m sorry to have to say this, I really am, many of you look ridiculous. Your friends and family and fans may not laugh at you. But the angels do and history will. What you’re doing might be good politics (of a sort), but it’s bad biology, bad theology, and bad storytelling. It lies about who you are as a woman and how God made you. And it makes for lousy movies and TV.

OK Nathan, we get it. You hold a fundamentalist worldview. And your fundamentalist worldview makes you see women as weak. Fine. But let’s be clear. It’s your belief system, the stuff inside your head, that leads you to see women that way. This is about you.

Okay, that’s the nastiest part. Now let me explain.

Let’s talk about biology first, who you are as a woman.

The most obvious things are the hardest to defend. You can write whole textbooks proving something unseen and unexpected like gravity or photosynthesis. But how do you prove the existence of Mt. Everest besides saying “Look, there it is?”

That’s why I feel dumb saying this, but:

Women are the weaker sex. They may be the smarter sex, they are often the wiser sex, they’re probably the more industrious sex, they’re definitely the prettier sex. But they’re also the weaker sex.

It’s telling you need to employ such a cheap rhetorical strategy here. Women are the weaker sex because it’s just obvious, and the obvious doesn’t need supporting with evidence, amirite? Again, Nathan, you need to get out of the little bubble you exist in.

I know we’ve all seen German Olympic wrestling ladies that could wrestle me to the ground faster than you can say “steroid abuse.” But most women I meet are smaller than me. Their arms have less than half the bulk and heft of mine. It’s how they’re built. Rey, I’m sorry, but I did not believe for a second that a little girl like you really beat up those thugs on Jaaku. It was almost like it was choreographed or something.

I hate to beak it to you Nathan, and I fear you’re so brain washed by action movies that this will actually be a revelation, but nobody, male or female, can do the things that heroes do in movies. Spend some time in an A+E ward, you’ll see that people are fragile. Male or female. These films you like are a total fantasy. So why shouldn’t women also be the heroes of the fantasy? Rey beating up a bunch of thugs is no more or less realistic than John McClane killing a room for of terrorists in Die Hard, they’re both a fantasy. This is about all the rubbish going on inside your head Nathan, that seems to make you believe fantasies with male heroes are more “realistic”. That alone should tip you off that you have a real problem.

It’s not just a matter of small bodies versus big bodies. Women are the weaker sex because they’re more timid and emotionally vulnerable and tender-hearted than men. God made them that way.

Remember what I said about this being about the mess of stuff in your head Nathan? At some point you’ve been taught this, and you’ve believed it in good faith I am sure. It’s even possible some of the women in your community conform to it because they’ve been taught it to, but OH MY GOD BOY YOU NEED TO GET OUT INTO THE WORLD AND MEET MORE PEOPLE. I strongly suspect your own response to the internet falling on your head will demonstrate who is more emotionally vulnerable here.

I could quote more scriptures about women being vulnerable in ways that men aren’t. About women being designed by God to be wives and mothers. About Eve being made as Adam’s helpmate. I’m not going to bother doing that because you ladies are all capable of reading your Bibles.

There’s quite a lot of bible quoting going on in the post. Yes, we know Nathan is a fundamentalist, we know those are his beliefs, and from his beliefs come his view of the world. All the bible quotes do is reiterate what we know – in Nathan’s head there is a bunch of stuff that leads him to believe things. None of that makes what he believes either true or accurate.

And even the makers of the movies you ladies are in couldn’t get away from these sorts of considerations. Roger Ebert complained in his review of The Matrix that “[Trinity] has a sensational title sequence, before the movie recalls that she’s a woman and shuttles her into support mode.” You remember that, right, Trinity? You fell in love with the hero and helped inspire him to kill the bad guy with a kiss? What were the filmmakers thinking, starting you out so strong and then reducing you to that?

Funny you should home in on The Matrix here, the from which Men’s Rights Activists draw their Red Pill metaphor. What’s that you say Nathan? That Trinity becomes a more realistic character as she is made a helper to Neo? WHO CAN FUCKING FLY. Because flying men, that’s just the height of realism.

What I’m getting sick of is the men that think it’s cool and sexy to make you be the way you are. The men who refuse to tell stories that encourage and ennoble other men to protect and care for the weak ones, the vulnerable ones, the hurting ones—the women and the children, the widows and the orphans.

This is where Nathan starts to reach his point. Hollywood is acting corruptly by making films that encourage and ennoble women, because it should only be making films that encourage and ennoble men. Remember, this is all about the inside of Nathan’s head, where women are weak and men, as we will see, are made for war. So Hollywood is bad for not showing the world the way it is in Nathan’s head. In every. Single. Film. Because most films? They do show the world the way Nathan wants to see it. But even the few that don’t are simply unacceptable.

As men, we were born with bodies and minds crafted for war. We are the warriors, the peacekeepers, the protectors—the bloodshedders, when the time is right. Every man is a father, whether of his own children, or the people that work for him, or the folks he leads at church. As such, he must be ready to uphold what is virtuous and punish what is evil.

We are the Spartans from 300, is what Nathan is saying here. Nathan has really hung his ass out here – I’m guessing it’s not the ass of a warrior – but I’m not going to kick it. Let’s be kind and say this is just more evidence that Nathan lives in his own inner world made of fantasy action movies.

Real life is (often) more prosaic than the fantasies you ladies were created to sell.

Just to reiterate this point Nathan, but male heroes are also fantasies created to sell things. They’re just encoded to appeal to you, so you accept them without question or critical thought.

So it helps for men to be encouraged and allowed to feel good about being the protectors and defenders.

Yes Nathan, it also helps other people to feel god about being in those roles as well.

Answer: entertainment matters. The things we like, even the fictional things, mean something about the condition of our souls. If you’re a man of God, you’re a man of God twenty-four-seven. You don’t get five minutes a day to indulge in pagan fantasies, to abdicate masculine responsibility, if only in your mind.

Many of the older generation will argue that my generation takes its entertainments—our movies, our TV shows, our books, our music—far too seriously. With all due respect to the older generation, and much respect is due, I think they’re dead wrong. We don’t take them half seriously enough.

Movies are great. I love movies. But a movie is never just a movie. A story is never just a story. The good stories ennoble us. They make us, in their own humble way, better men and women. The bad ones have the power to mutilate our souls.

What’s sad here is that if Nathan thought about it just a little bit harder, he’d realise that this is exactly the reason his thesis is wrong. Entertainment does matter. It’s telling that Nathan can only think of it as entertainment, when really what he’s talking about here is art. Nathan is stuck in a very narrow worldview, and the part not handed to him by fundamentalist beliefs has been handed to him by the entertainment industry. Again, get off your lazy backside Nathan and engage with some real art. As is so often the case with people caught in such narrow ways of thinking, Nathan can see there is a problem. But because he’s not willing to examine his own responsibility for the problem IE his own lazy consumption of “entertainment” and his own way of seeing the world, he has to turn the blame onto the victims.

Movies and TV were a big part of how I learned who women were. And they lied to me.

No, Nathan. You weren’t lied to. You were just too lazy to engage with better art than the constant diet of fantasy escapism you seem to have grown-up on and now mistake for reality.

Look ladies, I’m not saying it’s all your fault. You’re just doing what you think you’re supposed to. The actresses who played you were just submitting to their industry and their directors and producers and agents. Which is what you’d expect. Everybody has to submit to somebody. For most women it’s going to be a man. These particular women choose the men who told them if they degraded themselves they’d be free. And they’d be inspiring others to be free.

This is where Nathan shows his real agenda. And it’s nasty. Submission and degradation, all in one paragraph. And look how perverse the “logic” becomes at this point. Movies that show women empowered and ennobled are actually degrading . But movies that show women submissive and degraded are actually ennobling! Nathan believes women would be more empowered by accepting their naturally submissive position to men. Remember, this is the hat-tipping chivalrous knightly gentleman from earlier.

Because I need all you fictional ladies to help me out. Because I suck. I’m passive. I’m weak. I don’t need more excuses. What I need is something to fight for, someone to fight for, someone to protect. If you rob me of that, you rob me of my dignity as a man.


My eyes! My eyes! The blazing bonfire of whining self pity has blinded me!

I’m going to stop fisking at this point. I actually feel a little uncomfortable for Nathan. The rest of the post embroiders this closing argument about women in submissive victim roles, and men in dominant hero roles, and how men need this in order to develop self respect. What’s embarrassing for Nathan is what he isn’t saying aloud, that everybody else can see he’s thinking. He wants to be a dominant male hero, he enjoys living that fantasy out in films, and films with empowered female heroes don’t let him do that.

I hope Nathan recovers from having the internet collapse on his head. He’s really just stating the kind of things MRA type folks say a lot, with a twist of religious fundamentalism on top. But now and again it’s worth picking such faulty arguments apart just to see how easy it is.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

9 thoughts on “Fisking “An open letter to Rey from Star Wars”

  1. Whenever I see stuff about “the weaker sex” I am reminded very much of the seventy thousand female Soviet soldiers who fought at Stalingrad as snipers, tank drivers, pilots, infantry troopers and artillery gunners. I wonder if the tens of thousands of German soldiers who died there would agree they were the weaker sex. Somehow I think not.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. May I applaud you for getting about five paragraphs further into the letter than I could cope with?

    Also, I do hope one day he is being cornered by a gigantic tarantula, one about 5 feet across, and a female warrior with both laser gun and spear walk past going “Nah. It would only cheapen and degrade him to rescue him at this stage. He ought to be able to get out of there using his own masculine abilities.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. He forgot to include, in addition to Wonder Woman, both Xena AND Judy Hopps in his diatribe against action heroines. How can he call himself any sort of a fanboy OR pop culture critic?


  4. Damien, my hat (knitted) is off to you. How you ever managed to read past the third paragraph, let alone read with enough attention to Fisk, well, I wish they made a product called “My Eyes! My Eyes!”(R) that was actually an eye and brain detergent, because I’d start a crowdfunding campaign to fund your purchase of that product for you for the rest of your life.

    I was eating when I started reading the original; I snorted so hard at the sheer ignorance/idiocy/delusional thinking that I almost had chicken salad come out of my nose. Not pleasant – but a sybarite’s delight compared to reading the rest of that piece.

    I wonder if, should I start heavy drinking now, it will be soon enough after the event to wipe the memory of reading that mole-rat’s turd of a post out of my consciousness.

    That the aliens, or even our robot overlords, could look at the author, look at me and presume we were of the same species is embarrassing….



Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s