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Star Wars Heroes: A Closer Look

Ever since the new wave of Star Wars movies were released fans have been debating about the new characters, the heroes and the villains – but it is especially Rey who is scrutinized and sometimes unfairly criticized as being a Mary Sue. However, there’s still this feeling by quite a few fans that Rey lacks something. Or does she? And if she does, what is it? Click through for a closer look at Star Wars heroes!

The Heroes of Star Wars

 

Note: if you don’t want to read the somewhat lengthy article, there’s a brief summary at the end, scroll ahead then! But I encourage you to read the article so we can have a more informed discussion in the comments!

I’ve been wondering lately why there are quite a few comments from Star Wars fans who are rooting for Kylo Ren to actually have the upper hand and to win at the end of Episode IX. Some even had this feeling during The Last Jedi and hoped the First Order would just win to get it over with.

Star Wars always had fascinating villains but – to my knowledge – even though Darth Vader is a fan favorite and Darth Sidious quite popular too, no one really actually wanted them to succeed. We rooted for the heroes to be victorious and we felt the pain when Anakin succumbed to the dark side and was ultimately defeated by his best friend and father figure.

Why is it then that quite a few people seem to root for Kylo Ren and hope he succeeds? Why don’t all fans root for Rey and the Resistance/Rebels?

Is it because of gender? Not at all. Apart from a few confused people I don’t think anyone wants Kylo to succeed because he’s a man and Rey a woman.

Also, just to deal with this argument very quickly, Rey is not a Mary Sue. Everything she does is explained in the movies or – which is unfortunate – in the novelizations. It was established in the prequels that force senstive people have unnaturally quick reflexes and see things before they happen, which is why little Ani was such as great pod racer, the only human, actually. Rey could fly the Falcon through the Force. And later the scriptwriters decided it was a good idea to have her learn of the Force and specific skills through her connection with Kylo Ren when he tried to interrogate her. Whether or not this is a good idea is not relevant, what is relevant that Rey is no more or less a Mary Sue than any other Star Wars Hero. So let’s put this behind us. This argument won’t matter anyway in the further discussion, since the issues with her lie deeper.

I think there’s another reason why some people would rather root for Kylo than for Rey.

Let’s talk about character motivation. For this I will merely take a look at the central hero of each trilogy.

 

Anakin Skywalker

  • is a slave and wants to be a Jedi, he wants to be free and see all the planets in the Galaxy
  • learns that he actually is force sensitive because midichlorians literally created him and that he may be the Chosen One to bring balance to the Force
  • holds his dying mother in his hands which creates the wish in him to defeat death, to never let anyone else he loves die
  • is in a secret relationship with Padme and will do anything he can to save her. His Force visions give him reason for concern and Darth Sidious shows him there might be a way to save Padme from possible death. Which ultimately lets him fall to the Dark Side

 

Luke Skywalker

  • lives on the most boring planet in the galaxy and wants to escape his humdrum existence
  • learns his father was a powerful Jedi and that the same power lies in in him too
  • learns that Darth Vader actually killed his father and now Luke wants revenge
  • later learns that the second most evil person in the galaxy and sworn enemy actually IS his father
  • has the ultimate goal of saving his father and to bring him back to the Light Side

 

Rey

  • lives on another most boring planet in the galaxy but wants to stay there because she waits for her parents
  • learns that she is a powerful Jedi, because of… reasons?
  • wants to turn Kylo Ren to the light side because of…. reasons?
  • learns that the Force is somehow responsible for her powers so there is balance to the rising darkness

 

I think this quick list clearly shows what’s up with Rey. Whereas both Anakin and Luke had deeply personal motivations for any of their actions, Rey has no personal connection to the overall story at all.
Anakin did all the things because of fear and love and Luke did everything because of his ultimate hope to save his father. But why exactly is Rey doing what she is doing? Are we led to believe that Rey wants to save Kylo Ren just because? Throughout The Force Awakens Rey states how she must return to Jakku so she can wait for her parents. So does Rey do all the things simply because she is a good person? Sure, in the real world there are countless people who do heroic deeds because of their own inner convictions and not because they have some personal connection to the matter.

However, I argue that this utter lack of any deeper personal connection of Rey to anything in the movie makes for a somewhat unsatisfactory heroine and boring storytelling. And this is why I think quite a few people root for Kylo Ren. Because Kylo Ren has what all the other Star Wars heroes usually have. Personal motivation – and not just some abstract belief to do the right (or bad) thing.

 

Kylo Ren

  • has issues with both his father and mother, the reasons are not given, but perhaps because they both abandoned him and gave him to Luke when he was still a child. And because Snoke whispered to him through the Force
  • had to see how his uncle Luke contemplated killing him for just a split second
  • admires his grandfather Darth Vader and feels that Darth Vader ultimately failed when he returned to the Light Side. He wants to finish what his grandfather started, rule the galaxy and bring ultimate peace

 

Kylo Ren has deeply personal motivations for anything he does in the movies. He doesn’t do it just because he’s evil. He is connected to the other characters on a very deep level.

Rey, on the other hand, is actually a nobody, if we are to believe The Last Jedi. She is no one. She appears to be more of a tool the Force created, a counterweight to the rising darkness, than someone who has any personal connection to the story and characters around them or any own agency. There is no love. No hate. While Anakin was even created through the Force and was supposed to be the Chosen One he always had his own deeply personal motivations for doing the things he did.

Anakin loved Padme and wanted to save her.
Luke loved his father and wanted to save him.
Rey…. is no one and, as far as we know, loves no one. And we have to believe that she does what she does because she’s a good person. Also, she’s the only hero who is lost and doesn’t know what her role in all of this is. She literally tells Luke that she needs someone to show her the place in all of this. And this is the crux: the audience is also waiting for the story to tell us where Rey’s place is in all of this. And as it turns out: Rian Johnson wants her to be a nobody.

While it has a certain appeal to have a complete nobody to be a hero it also makes for a boring story, since it removes all personal motivation. Kylo Ren killed someone Rey knew for about 24 hours. While this is sad, Han Solo never was someone of importance to Rey. So we have to assume that Rey does all she things because of friendship and loyalty. While these are admirable and heroic traits they can’t compensate for the fact that Rey is a nobody, without any deeper connection at all to any of the other characters.

And this is why I feel some people don’t like Rey that much as a hero. Where’s Rey’s Darth Vader or Padme?
And when we look at all the female heroes… Leia was connected to the Rebellion through her father and then had to see the destruction of her home planet with all her loved ones, her family and all of her people. Which gave her reason enough to want to defeat the Empire and a deeply personal motivation as well, on top of the more abstract motivation to just do the good thing here.
Padme was also a ruler, she ruled over her home planet and had to see how hostile forces tried to invade her home and seize power. Her love for her home and people, and later the Republic, was her own personal motivation for the things she did. On top of that her love for Anakin influenced many of her later decisions.

Rey has none of that. Also, whereas both Leia and Padme lead the way and told others around them how to proceed, Rey does none of that. Actually, she’s the only female hero in Star Wars to ask someone else to show her the place in all of this.

Which is why Rey is not only the most uninteresting hero in the franchise, she’s also a rather weak character. Her motivation for trying to save Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi lies completely in the dark. Does she love him? If so, the movie doesn’t tell us and doesn’t show us. Why does she bother with any of that? Why does she want to save Kylo? Because the Force tells her to? Because she thinks it’s the good thing to do? Because she likes him? The movie gives no reason at all. And now we are approaching part 3 of the trilogy. At this stage the two previous trilogies had all the cards on the table and character motivation was very clear.

Rey, at the end of The Last Jedi, is still a heroine that has no personal stakes in any of the things going on around her. Sure, she cares for her friends, she hates evil, she wants good to triumph, but these are all just abstract motivations, nothing that engages her on a deeply personal level. The only new main characer in the sequel trilogy who has any of that is Kylo Ren.

So, it’s probably not surprising why some people root for him. Not because they are misogynists and can’t stand women in Star Wars. But because the scriptwriters for both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi failed to give Rey a deeply personal reason to be involved in all of this. If Rey succeeds… so what? If Rey fails… so what? What would any of that mean to her, what would it change for her? If Anakin failed then Padme would die. If Luke failed then his father would forever be on the Dark Side and evil. Any civil war or rebellion was merely the background to a deeply personal story. And this deeply personal story is something the writers forgot to give Rey. The story seems to be more about the Rebellion than whatever motivations the heroine has.

Which leads to the final question: would JJ Abrams ever have the guts to pull the carpet from down under us by making Kylo Ren the main character and protagonist in Episode IX? Or will he try to retcon some of the things The Last Jedi did and give Rey some personal connection to the story? Because without it, Rey’s victory will feel somewhat hollow. What changed for HER? Nothing. She will still be a nobody. In the sense that she will have had no deeply personal stakes at all in any of it.

Summary

  • Rey is a somewhat boring and unsatisfying heroine and character because she lacks any deeper personal connection to both the other characters (other than friendship and camraderie) and the overall story
  • The previous main heroes, Luke and Anakin, had very personal motivations for the things they did
  • Kyo Ren is the only new main character that has a more personal connection to both the other characters and the story. Which is why some prefer to root for him. Not because he’s male and fans hate women, not because he’s evil and some fans just love the Dark Side, but because he’s the only one in the sequel trilogy who has any personal investment in any of the things going on. Kylo has issues with his father and mother, an uncle who tried to kill him, if only for an instant, he has a grandfather he admires, he has a clear goal
  • Rey, however, seems more like a tool, wielded by the Force to counter the rising darkness. She lacks personal motivation. She doesn’t even know her place in all of this. No other Star Wars hero before didn’t know their place after the end of movie number 2. If the good side wins nothing will change for Rey. Not on a deeply personal level. Compare that to the consequences of both Anakin’s and Luke’s decisions. Life and death of loved ones, wife and father. The fate of the galaxy was tied to these deeply personal relationships. Rey: has none of that

 

How do you see things? Do you think I am on to something? Or do you think I am completely wrong? What are your thoughts? Leave a comment!

 

 

 

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