With the release of The Force Awakens and the forthcoming Rogue One film, the use of a heroine in-lieu of the traditional male lead has caused a lot of head-scratching from the so-called devotees of the franchise. There are several reasons that this is the case, and perhaps it is time to shed a little light on the situation.
Star Wars, in general, has been comprised of numerous films spanning decades of time. While the original trilogy (4-6) featured a shared lead male role with Han and Luke, you cannot deny that the opportunities for defeating the Death Star, and ultimately the believed destruction of the Empire could not have been possible without Princess Leia.
But with Episode VII:
The Force Awakens, the franchise wanted to give its new audience a rebirth to a familiar story. Much like Luke in Episode IV, Rey comes from a low standing. She is someone that is unclear of her role in the larger picture but realises that she needs to do what she can to thwart The First Order (a mirroring of The Empire from the original trilogy).
This day and age, more than almost any other point in history, is about equality of women and men. The most significant and popular franchises of books and films currently are featuring strong female leads. With this changing tide, the upcoming films for Star Wars needed to follow suit.
Rey personifies the same kind of spirit and tenacity seen in the prequel trilogy with Luke and Leia’s mother, Padme. It would only be fitting that, with the vast belief that Rey is the daughter of Luke Skywalker, she might take after her grandmother and aunt.
All this being said, expect more strong female characters in the upcoming Rogue One and through the completion of this current trilogy. Finn is going to take on a supporting role to the abilities that Rey soon learns how to master, with the help of her new mentor of course.