I am furious. I am irate. I am seething. I am fuming. I am so unbelievably angry.
I just saw Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker and I am furious about several key aspects of the movie. This is long, get ready.
Spoilers ahead. Obviously. Final Warning
Okay. First and foremost, what truly inspired this rage filled writing is the end of the movie where Rey and Kylo Ren kiss. This angers me beyond belief for several key reasons.
- The deeply flawed redemption of Kylo Ren
- The parallels between Kylo Ren and the villains of today
- Romance and chemistry vs. obsession
The kiss was between Kylo Ren (a bad guy) and Rey (good). It was probably meant to symbolize that Kylo Ren had redeemed himself, but that simply is not the case. Kylo Ren was not sufficiently redeemed by the end of the movie. He just wasn’t. He did not have a meaningful redemption.
In order for a redemption arc for a character to be truly meaningful, it has to originate with the character. Kylo Ren showed absolutely zero interest in redemption at any point during most of this movie as well as the two previous ones. He was offered more than his fair share of chances to abandon the Dark Side and the First Order, but he universally refused them. Everyone else was trying to save Kylo Ren from evil, but he ignored them and dove further into the Dark Side. At NO POINT did he realize on his own that he was wrong. At NO POINT did he apologize, forsake the First Order, or do anything else to show that he knew that he was in the wrong. Others can try all they like to make a person see reason, but at the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the individual to recognize the error in their ways AND to begin to remedy all the harm that was done. Kylo Ren did not do anything to address the harm he caused in the past. He never clearly renounced his time as Supreme Leader of the First Order. While he may (or may not; I’m personally not convinced) have ended up on the right side at the very end, this does not mean all of his past sins can be forgiven. Without acknowledging and remedying past wrongs, Kylo Ren was not sufficiently redeemed and he should NOT have been rewarded by getting to kiss the object of his obsession.
Secondly, art does not exist in a vacuum and there are obvious parallels between the villains of the modern Star Wars and the villains of today. Kylo Ren is obviously similar to entitled white boys of today, whether that takes the form of Neo-Nazis and other members of the Alt-Right, incels and other violent misogynists, and/or school shooters and other domestic terrorists. Regardless of which modern threat you choose to liken Kylo Ren and the First Order to, it is incredibly dangerous to say that, with the bare minimum of effort and no acknowledgement of wrongdoing, they can be vindicated and get the girl. This is absolutely unacceptable, and I am furious that a multimillion dollar company would decide to give tacit approval of terrible behavior.
Finally, even if Kylo Ren was sufficiently redeemed, and even if he wasn’t a clear metaphor for entitled young men in our society today, I would still be furious at the kiss between Rey and Kylo Ren because it simply does NOT fit with Rey’s character and the established chemistry. It just doesn’t. In previous movies, Rey has made her loathing and disgust of Kylo Ren clear. She repeatedly rebuked his advances and Kylo Ren ignored the fact that she wasn’t interested and persisted. In the most horrifying version of this, Kylo Ren actually gets inside of Rey’s head and sees her thoughts, even though Rey very clearly does not want him inside her head and tells him to get out. Kylo Ren does not respect her boundaries in this situation, or ever and it is unbelievably creepy that he is able to eventually wear her down and get what he wants, even though this is not something that fits with Rey’s previous characterization and attitudes towards the Supreme Leader of the First Order. This was not love or chemistry, it was one-sided unrequited obsession, and to legitimize and reward that behavior is disgusting. This goes back to viewing Kylo Ren as a metaphor for the larger evils in our society. This movie sends the message that one need only continually pursue a woman while ignoring her clear disinterest or disgust, and eventually you will wear her down and she will give in. This is horrifying.
But even if you ignore all that, or explain it away by saying that there everyone involved had a change of heart that simply wasn’t explained on screen, it was just bad writing because there wasn’t any chemistry between Rey and Kylo Ren whatsoever. None. The movie had very clearly establishing chemistry between Rey and Finn and all of that was thrown out for shock and to appeal to the whiny and entitled male demographic. Neither of those are good reasons to undermine all of the very legitimate relationships between characters that were healthy and justified.
Kylo Ren didn’t love Rey. he didn’t care about her as a person. To him, she was just a prize to be won, a pawn to move to the Dark Side to get him more power. She was just something to obtain to prove that he was right. If Kylo Ren had actually cared about Rey as an independent person, if he had truly loved her, he would respect her boundaries, respect the fact that she is not interested, and leave her at peace. This never happens because Kylo Ren does not care about Rey’s wellbeing. Kylo Ren does not care that his presence brings Rey anguish. He wants to be with her and nothing can possibly stop him because he is not in love, he is unhealthily obsessed and will stop at nothing to possess the object of his obsession. This is not romantic, it’s creepy, and it shouldn’t be rewarded.
Kylo Ren is an entitled teenager with an obsession with repeating the horrors of the past who had anger issues. These people exist (far too prevalently) in society today. They are not good people, and should not be allowed cheap, easy, and surface level redemption after minimal effort. And they should NOT be rewarded for this minimal effort by wearing down the object of their obsession until she gives them what they want. This narrative is disgusting and horrifying when viewed through this context and I am rightly furious.
“But wait!” you say. “What about…”
- Didn’t Rey make Kylo Ren (Ben) good when she did that force healing thing after stabbing him? Isn’t that why he is no longer on the dark side?
I honestly do not care if that’s what happened. In fact, if that’s what happened, it’s almost worse because it puts the burden of redemption on the victim and not on the person who actually inflicted the harm and again, that’s not good storytelling for a redemption arc.
- Wasn’t Han Solo a bad person before he met Leia? Didn’t he also change and get rewarded with a girl?
Nope. You’re confusing morality with legality and they are two entirely different things. Sure, Han Solo broke laws and was a little rough around the edges, but he was a good person, he wasn’t in charge of the entire evil empire. Morality in Star Wars is generally pretty cut and dry. The Dark Side is bad. The people opposed to the Dark Side are good. When Kylo Ren was on the Dark Side (and he wasn’t just some lowly soldier, her was literally the Supreme Leader of the First Order) he was bad and because he never adequately forsake the First Order or worked to fix the harm he had caused while he was in the First Order, he is still bad. At best, if you really want nuance, he is a very dark gray. He is not even a little bit good. Han Solo was consistently on the good side. The two are not comparable.
- Shouldn’t we be doing something to help the aforementioned groups of bad people in our society? They shouldn’t be permanently labeled as evil, right?
I do believe that everyone is capable of good and that all people have the capacity for growth and change. However, I also think that violent misogynists shouldn’t see the narrative of “oh just keep trying to win over the girl and if she doesn’t respond to your attempts to being her down to the same level of evil and prejudiced as you, just wait for her to show you the smallest sliver of kindness and then do the absolute bare minimum and then BOOM, she’ll be yours.” That’s not how these things work. Yes, redemption is possible, but if you have been in charge of an organization that eliminated entire planets and waged massive war resulting in countless deaths, your redemption should be a little longer and more involved than what was shown in the last third of the movie.
So that is why I am angry about that part of the movie. On the whole, however, I did actually like most of the movie. To end this with a bit of positivity, here is a list, in no particular order, of things I liked.
- Poe’s outfit
- Literally any scene involving Poe
- The friendship between BB8 and that new cute droid
- Babu Frik, especially Babu Frik’s voice
- Actually most things, it wasn’t a bad movie, except for the issues with Kylo Ren and Rey
- Finally, because it’s worth repeating, Poe’s outfit. That was well done. I really liked that.
That’s all. Please let me know your thoughts because I’d love to continue ranting with like-minded individuals or refuting any additional arguments from people who weren’t angered by this particular scene.