Where is Hope for the Abused in Solo?

Solo: A Star Wars Story movie poster.

Spoilers for Solo: A Star Wars Story below.

When we first meet Qi’ra in Solo: A Star Wars Story, she is virtually a slave, running tricks in “these mean streets” for the crimelady Proxima. Qi’ra comes from a nebulous background, but despite having a rough life thus far, she is resourceful and markedly full of hope, a fitting companion for a youthful Han Solo.

In the initial scenes of the film, Qi’ra and Han run together in Romeo and Juliet fashion, dodging danger and dreaming of escaping together into a better life. They’re playful and brave, but reckless, fueled by adolescent love. Trouble is never far behind these two: upon a bold attempt to flee their home planet of Corellia, Han escapes and Qi’ra does not. This event seems to become a turning point in Qi’ra’s life, or perhaps, merely a confirmation of what she has always believed about the world and her basic value as a person.

Does Qi’ra, like many manipulated, fractured women, believe that she is irredeemable.

The next time Han sees Qi’ra, she is on Dryden Vos’s yacht. Everything from her appearance to demeanor has changed. Where she once was an edgy adolescent, brimming with hope, Qi’ra is now poised, worldly, and reticent. Han’s hope hasn’t dimmed, even after years of near-death encounters; but Qi’ra’s life has been harsh in other ways, and it shows. The most poignant, heartbreaking aspect of Qi’ra’s evolution is her confession to Han: “I’ve done terrible things.” And she considers herself worthless because of them. Even when, during a scene inside Lando’s superfluous closet of capes, Han tries to convince her that they can finally run off together, she refuses—not because she doesn’t see the good in him, but because she has lost the ability to see good in herself.

Much of her opinion of herself is because of Dryden Vos and her role as his lieutenant. He is the vicious leader of Crimson Dawn, the group that “rescued” Qi’ra, only to indenture her forever as a member of the syndicate. In fact, when Han asks Qi’ra how she got out of Corellia, her reply is simple: “I didn’t.” Though Qi’ra has some volition within her position as Vos’s underling, she has little true mobility and virtually no control over her person, even to the point where Vos has his crime syndicate’s emblem branded onto her wrist and neck. Audiences can detect this jilted arrangement almost immediately when Vos comes onscreen. He is physically possessive of Qi’ra, placing an arm casually/threateningly around her, and drawing her close enough to make Han question whether they are together. Clearly this is not a consensual arrangement for Qi’ra, but almost as clearly, we can see that she has learned to suffer through Vos’s behaviour in order to survive.

When watching the exchanges between Qi’ra and Vos onscreen, I was reminded of the caged look I have seen in the eyes of abused women, especially women who feel that they cannot escape from their abusers and must learn how to survive within these dysfunctional relationships. Qi’ra has a masked look about her, a veneer of toughness that she has built up in order to exist under the unthinkable rule of Dryden Vos. This facade only slips when she interacts with Han, who to her, is a long-lost reminder of a hope she once nurtured. Qi’ra tells Han that she believes he is “the good guy,” despite his attempts at a bad-boy swagger.

But even Han himself isn’t enough to break Qi’ra of the survivalist attitude she’s developed out of necessity. And this attitude includes a fundamental component that is often hardwired into the abused: a staunch belief that she is a bad person, someone beyond redemption. This attitude comes to fruition near the movie’s climax: Qi’ra seems to take Han’s side in a three-way “shoot out” that includes Vos, Solo, and herself. Using the very skills that Vos ingrained in her, Qi’ra kills the Crimson Dawn leader, freeing Han to escape. She tells her once-lover, “I’m right behind you,” as the lift doors close, and it’s excruciating to know that Han believes her.

Is this what abuse does to women who’ve experienced hopeless lives?

But Qi’ra was never going to follow Han. Instead, she removes a ring from Vos’s cold, dead hand and assumes his position, almost as though she is hardwired to do so. In the identity created for her by her abusers and reinforced in her own mind, there seems to be no possibility of a happy, good Qi’ra who is at peace with herself. She must truly believe that the only way forward is deeper into Crimson Dawn, and Han watches as Vos’s yacht soars into the atmosphere, disappearing from view.

Does Qi’ra, like many manipulated, fractured women, believe that she is irredeemable—that she has experienced or been forced to do too many terrible things to ever come back out of the darkness? Is this what abuse does to women who’ve experienced hopeless lives?

Qi’ra is a woman full of potential, a woman who has survived the unspeakable. But her survival has come at the price of personhood. Though Qi’ra is undeniably tough, resourceful, and brave, she cannot seem to shake the belief that she is beyond good, beyond saving. My hope is that Qi’ra’s tale will become a story of redemption, a story where she crawls back out of the maw of abuse and into the light of peace. There is hope for the abused and suffering, just like there is hope for Qi’ra. That hope can center around community, where people are willing to aid the abused in understanding they are valuable. It can come from finding their worth in a God who genuinely cares about people, whatever their past actions.  It can come from accepting they are loved. No one is beyond saving, if they are willing to be saved.

Christy Chichester

Christy Chichester

Guest Writer at Area of Effect magazine
Christy Chichester is an instructor at Penn State University, where she teaches Composition and Rhetoric, Writing in the Social Sciences, and Sci-Fi Literature. When she isn't teaching, writing, or grading, Christy can be found watching Star Wars, quoting Tolkien, or snuggling with her two pit bulls.
Christy Chichester

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