The Hero, The Villain and the Modern Fairytale

PART 1: THE FAIRYTALE AND THE COMING-OF-AGE

Not long after The Force Awakens was released an excellent paper titled “Death and the Maiden” was published addressing the potential of Rey and Kylo Ren — the hero and villain of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy — forging a romantic bond over the course of the narrative. The author, Ohtze, compared Gothic literature tropes and monster movie iconography to Kylo Ren and Ren’s interactions in The Force Awakens, highlighting the significance of the “bridal carry”. Ohtze came to the conclusion that Kylo Ren’s interest in Rey would remain one-sided because he is the “monster”; however, several months have passed since “Death and the Maiden was penned, and I have decided to analyze The Force Awakens from a very different perspective. After all, Star Wars is neither a Gothic tale nor a monster movie. It’s a fairytale, a children’s story.

Why do I say Star Wars is both a fairytale and a children’s story? There are concrete reasons grounded in narrative deconstruction and the history of children’s literature that I will describe further along in this thesis, but first observe these quotes:

“The movies are for children but some [fans] don’t want to admit that.”

— George Lucas

“[Lucas] then wanted to focus on making a film that was geared more towards kids, and combined elements of mythology and serials of the day, like Flash Gordon. Star Wars was meant to be a new mythology for kids trying to find their way in a bigger world, and [Lucas] felt that some of that was lost when westerns stopped being popular.”

— On the creation of Star Wars

“Star Wars is a fairytale. It’s a fantasy. At the heart of Star Wars is that idea of the Force, which is almost the antithesis of Science Fiction. It’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

— JJ Abrams

“Star Wars is more fairytale than true Science Fiction.”

— Mark Hamill
Obviously Word of God claims Star Wars to be a fairytale, but what exactly makes it so?

When most people think of fairytales they will immediately conjure up the image of one of a hundred famous Disney films. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, take your pick. Perhaps you are among the camp who views these ancient stories as cautionary tales from the long-distant past. Disney came along, plucked them from old storybooks and chapbooks and plastered family-friendly versions all over the big-screen.

I’ll tell you right now that neither of these interpretations is entirely correct. Yes, fairytales — and indeed, all children’s literature — originated in cautionary tales, but they have evolved over the centuries as much as any form of technology. Fairytales of old are no longer comparable to their 20th century counterparts. Today’s society is dominated by a love of entertainment in its many forms, and no genre is adored by more by both children and adults alike than the modern fairytale.

So what is a modern fairytale?

The Oxford English dictionary defines a fairytale as: “a children’s story about magical beings and lands.” Pretty vague, huh? Acclaimed fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien added to this definition in his book On-Fairy-Stories, summarizing the modern fairytale — or fairy-story — in his own, much less linear manner.

“What is a fairy-story? […] Stories that are actually concerned with ‘fairies’, that is with creatures that might also in modern English be called ‘elves’, are relatively rare, and as a rule not very interesting. Most good ‘fairy-stories’ are about the adventures of men in the Perilous Realm or upon its shadowy marches.”
As Tolkien declares, the greatest fairytales—that is to say modern fairytales—can follow man or fairy, mundane or fantasy, and are not limited by sub-genre. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is as much a fairytale as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Star Wars also fits this bill perfectly. It is about men and knights and princesses and monsters doing battle in the great unknown, in a galaxy far, far away.

That is not to say Star Wars is “childish”, just that it was always intended for families to enjoy together—to discuss, share and love as a collective unit. Pixar films are also meant for children, yet they tend to be appreciated far more by adults. That is because—like Star Wars—they can be enjoyed, deconstructed and analyzed on many levels. Star Wars invites all—young and old—to follow the journey of its characters. It is an children’s fantasy fairytale in the vein of The Once and Future King, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Prydain Chronicles or Percy Jackson & the Olympians, it just happens to be set in space.

Of course, Star Wars isn’t just a fairytale, it’s also a coming-of-age. The coming-of-age is a massive genre of literature and film that details the literal and metaphorical “coming-of-age” of its key characters. The genre is detailed in the following quote:

“[The coming-of-age is] all about the protagonist’s journey from being a child to being an adult. It is a journey that takes a young person from naïve to wise, from idealist to realist and from immature to mature. The path of the protagonist, or the main character, can vary from story to story. […] There will usually be pain and suffering along the way — growing up isn’t easy. However, no matter the narrative direction, the result is that the hero grows from his experiences and in some way loses the childhood innocence that helps steer him towards adulthood.”
Not only do coming-of-age-stories not dismiss any sub-genre, they leak into all genres as well. Both J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle are coming-of-age novels, but they couldn’t be more different. The Catcher in the Rye follows struggling adolescent Holden Caulfield as he attempts to recapture his foothold on reality after the death of his younger brother through a series of misadventures in 1950’s New York. Howl’s Moving Castle is set in a fantasy realm and details the adventures of Sophie Hatter, a young woman who is transformed into an old hag by a witch’s spell, and who must turn to the heart-eating wizard Howl for help.

These novels share nothing, minus the overarching coming-of-age theme. The same can be said of Star Wars. Just look at how many narrative classifications can be applied to Star Wars: fantasy, science fiction, western, action, adventure, romance, drama, fairytale, etc. Star Wars includes all of these elements, but it is a coming-of-age first and foremost. It details the physical, emotional and spiritual growth of its key characters as they overcome physical, emotional and spiritual obstacles. The “fantasy” serves as the metaphor the real human condition, the backdrop that allows us to explore the struggle between the Light and Dark within us all.

*Footnote: I do not believe Rey to be in any way related to Kylo Ren. The film itself debunked that theory, you just have to know where to look (see: Maz Kanata’s speech/Kylo Ren and Rey’s interactions). This is a children’s franchise, and the writers are not going to make the same rookie mistake Lucas and the team made in the 70’s.

PART 2: THE HERO AND THE VILLAIN

From this point, we will be discussing the bulk of this essay: the dynamics between heroes and their respective villains in fairytales and other works of children’s fantasy.

We must thus define the “hero” and “villain” in this context.

The Hero

The hero is the protagonist, the main character, the player with whom the audience identifies and about whom the story revolves, in whatever form he or she appears. He is not necessarily the knight on his horse sent to rescue the slumbering maiden and do battle with the dragon. In fact, in most cases, the maiden herself is the focus of the tale. She is the true hero. It is her history and dynamic with the villain that creates the milieu of the narrative. The hero does not have to be heroic. He or she can be, but when it comes to most fairytales and children’s stories, the hero is simply the principal character whose story has been constructed by the writer.
The Villain

The villain is the hero’s counterpart, the antagonist. They are the bad guys, the dark sorcerers, youth-deprived sorceresses and jealous older men. An engaging villain will often serve as the hero’s foil, a character whom the audience can contrast with the protagonist. The best antagonists will be as relatable as their respective protagonists. It was once said that a hero is only as good as his villain, and I happen to agree.
The hero and villain are caught in a never-ending dance that changes from genre to genre and target-audience to target-audience. Archetypes from children’s fantasy cannot be compared to archetypes from adult fantasy (see: Game of Thrones). When it comes to fairytales and children’s stories — which, as we must recall, includes Star Wars — heroes and villains share tried-and-true dynamics. Modern fairytales (or fairy-stories, as Tolkien referred to them) tend to be longer and more complex, but the hero/villain dynamics that became famous thousands of years ago are still made use of constantly today. They have withstood the test of time because they “work”. They are compelling. Why fix something that isn’t broken, am I right?

I’m now going to tell something of a personal anecdote. It concerns my experience with viewing The Force Awakens in theatres for the first time. I had a very unique perspective because I was one of the few who watched this film totally unspoiled. I had seen the trailer some months before and completely forgotten about it. I didn’t know what actors were playing what roles, I didn’t know the characters’ names, I didn’t know anything about the story. I knew one thing: the main character was a young woman.

Now, with no knowledge about any of the characters, Kylo Ren’s introductory sequence struck me in a very unusual way. The following assumption didn’t last long, but it was there, and my sister (with whom I saw the film) had it too! We both thought “he” (the “cloaked knight”) might be an older woman concealing her voice and physique in an oversized costume. Crazy, right? Well, no… actually, it isn’t. There’s a good reason why I thought that might be a potential plot-twist, and I’m going to elaborate upon why right now. It has everything to do with classic fairytale hero/villain dynamics, and two facets that decide practically everything about the potential nature of said dynamics: age and gender.

Why are age and gender so incredibly important where fairytale and children’s story hero/villain dynamics are concerned? Because they create boundaries, they lay down the law. Most of the time they tell you just about everything you need to know about the possible development that will occur between a hero their villain. That is because the “hero” (in the context of coming-of-age fairytales) is by definition a youthful humanoid. The villain must be moulded to complement and challenge the young hero, and we are left with three classic hero/villain dynamics. The hero/villain relationships in just about every fairytale ever written fit into one of these three categories. They are the “the Maiden and the Mother”, “the Son and the Father” and “the Beauty and the Beast”. You would be hard-pressed to find a fairytale that introduces a hero/villain dynamic that does not apply to any of the above. I can’t think of a single example.

The Maiden and the Mother

The first hero/villain dynamic — and possibly the oldest — is the Maiden and the Mother. It concerns fairytales that feature female protagonists, in most cases the maiden or princess. They oppose an older mother-figure (often false) who has become in some way twisted. She is the sorceress jealous of the maiden’s youth or beauty. The heroine must overcome the “mother” in order to come-of-age.
Famous examples include:

Sleeping Beauty – Aurora and the Evil Queen
Snow White – Snow and the Evil Queen
The Little Mermaid – Ariel and the Evil Sea Witch
Cinderella – Cinderella and the Evil Stepmother
Rapunzel – Rapunzel and the Evil Witch
Alice in Wonderland – Alice and the Queen of Hearts
Stardust – Yvaine and the Evil Witches
Howl’s Moving Castle – Sophie and the Witch of the Waste
Coraline – Coraline and the Other Mother
Inuyasha – Kagome and Kikyo
Spirited Away – Chihiro and Ubaba
Matilda – Matilda and Mrs. Trunchbull
The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy and the Wicked Witch
The Hunger Games – Katniss and Coin

The Son and the Father

The male version of the Maiden and the Mother, the Son and the Father concerns children’s fantasy featuring male protagonists. Many are modern, as fairytales were originally meant as cautionary tales for young girls, not necessarily as entertainment. Writers began to twist the Maiden and the Mother to suit male heroes, and the Son and the Father was born. Once again, this “older man” or “male presence” will often have a deep connection to the hero. Perhaps he killed the hero’s real father (i.e. Harry Potter, The Lion King, Avatar), or maybe he is just evil incarnate in the form of a masculine “presence” (i.e. Lord of the Rings). The hero must overcome the “father” in order to come-of-age. The “father” sometimes has an interest in the love-interest of the hero (i.e. Disney’s Aladdin).
Famous examples include:

Peter Pan – Peter Pan and Hook
Arthurian Tradition – Arthur and Mordred
Hamlet – Hamlet and Claudius
Star Wars Original Trilogy – Luke and Darth Vader
Star Wars Prequel Trilogy – Anakin and Palpatine
Lord of the Rings – Frodo and the Ring/Sauron
Harry Potter – Harry and Lord Voldemort
Disney’s Mulan – Mulan and Shan-Yu (Shan-Yu believed her to be a man)
The Prydain Chronicles – Taran and the Horned King
The Graveyard Book – Nobody and the Man Jack
Disney’s Aladdin – Aladdin and Jafar
Disney’s The Lion King – Simba and Scar
Percy Jackson & the Olympians – Percy and Chronos
Inuyasha – Inuyasha and Naraku
Final Fantasy VII – Cloud and Sephiroth
Avatar: The Last Airbender – Aang/Zuko and Fire Lord Ozai

*Footnote: I would like to point out that Star Wars has featured the Son and the Father dynamic not once, not twice, but three times in its history. The Original Trilogy gave us Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Luke had to overcome his fallen father through compassion in order to come-of-age. Similarly, Anakin Skywalker fell prey to Emperor Palpatine, his own father-figure in the Prequel Trilogy. The example happens to be an inverted one, as the Prequel Trilogy is the story of Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side.

“If you wanted a subtitle for these movies, it could be fathers and sons. While Palpatine isn’t, we must assume, Anakin’s natural father, he certainly is a father-figure for him.”

— Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine)
Again, in The Force Awakens, we are introduced to Kylo Ren, the son, and Supreme Leader Snoke, the father-figure and puppeteer. There is even a scene involving Ren comparing Snoke to his real father, Han Solo. Kylo Ren is a perfect representation of just how much tropes can be bent in modern fairytales. He is a villain with his own villain.

The insinuation I am attempting to make here is that Star Wars is — at its core — not the most complex narrative. It is a children’s story, a fairytale, and it follows fairytale guidelines without straying. When Star Wars introduces a hero/villain dynamic, the writers follow through with that dynamic. They use that dynamic to explore the nature of good and evil, of Dark and Light, of youth and experience. The entire history of the franchise tells us this.

Both the Maiden and the Mother and the Son and the Father surround a youth and an older figure whose gender echoes their own. So yes, upon my first viewing of The Force Awakens, I made the automatic assumption that Kylo Ren might have been a woman in disguise because I knew our story had a female hero. I have a background in children’s literature, children’s writing and fairytales, and I had always viewed Star Wars a children’s story and a fairytale. Assuming the hero (Rey’s) villainous counterpart would echo her with regards to gender was only logical. That, and Star Wars had never featured a female Dark Side user before.

So what hero/villain dynamic were we ultimately given in The Force Awakens? You’ll immediately see that Rey and Kylo Ren DO NOT fit into either of the above categories. Rey and Kylo Ren are not the Maiden and the Mother; nor are they the Son and the Father. They are a young woman and a young man, and there is nothing — I repeat, nothing — typical about that. Their dynamic eradicates the two most common and perfectly viable hero/villain fairytale dynamics… and leads us somewhere very, very different, in the direction of the third — and perhaps the most loved — hero/villain dynamic of all time: the Beauty and the Beast.

PART 3: THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

The Beauty and the Beast is a trope that has grown immensely popular over recent years, despite being thousands of years old. It is a fairytale trajectory that subverts the Maiden and the Mother and the Son and the Father by casting the villain as a youthful opposite to the hero.

If the hero is a young woman, the villain will be a young man. However, the Beast is never a true villain, he is an anti-villain or a tragic villain. He is temporary in all cases, a character slated for redemption with the influence of the hero. He is the handsome youth under a spell, punished for his wrongdoings. He is the villain, the love-interest and very often the foil in a single entity.

In these tales, the hero’s coming-of-age does not involve the destruction of the Beast. Quite the contrary, the Beauty must “overcome” the Beast through compassion, through understanding and through love. She must break the spell of his past and set him free.

The following are all examples of the Beauty and the Beast trajectory. In all cases the “beast” is first an antagonist of sorts, either a literal villain, an anti-villain or an anti-hero. He or she is a lonely, dismissive and (in almost all cases) violent character with a dark past. The Beauty and Beast’s story arcs lead them to eventually care deeply for each other, to understand each other and come to view each other as equals.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – Belle and the Beast
One Thousand One Nights – Scheherazade and Shahryar
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy and Spike
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Link and Midna (female “beast”)
Gossip Girl – Blair and Chuck (yes, Gossip Girl is a modern fairytale)
Inuyasha – Kagome and Inuyasha
Doctor Who – Rose and the Doctor
Wicked – Fiyero/Glinda and Elphaba (female “beast”/rare platonic dynamic for Glinda and Elphaba)
Avatar: The Last Airbender – Aang and Zuko (rare platonic dynamic)
Howl’s Moving Castle – Sophie and Howl
*Footnote: Despite the constant comparison between Rey and Ren’s dynamic and The Phantom of the Opera, I have NOT included the musical among my examples because Phantom of the Opera is neither a children’s story nor a fairytale. It is very much a Gothic narrative (see: how to identify a Gothic tale). The two therefore cannot be compared under the same light. Phantom of the Opera is a dark, tragic love story and Star Wars is an optimistic, idealistic family-driven coming-of-age fantasy. Furthermore, Kylo Ren is NOT Erik, not in character or role.

Star Wars contains as many Gothic elements as it does western elements, but that doesn’t mean anybody should be expecting Rey to be the daughter of the Lone Ranger.

That aside, why do I say Rey and Kylo Ren have been characterized and positioned by the writers to follow the classic Beauty and the Beast trajectory? Why is the fact that they are a young man and a young woman so important to understanding the future of their dynamic? This part of my essay will tackle just that.

If you’ve managed to get this far in this paper, you’re probably very aware of The Force Awakens, Star Wars and the characters Rey and Kylo Ren. Still, I will quote myself a few times from my first meta The Force Bond Awakens in order to re-introduce our hero and villain. A fresh reminder never hurts.

As has been repeated ad infinitum in various analyses, the three main characters of The Force Awakens can all be likened to children who were prevented from maturing naturally as a result of trauma. Rey was abandoned, Finn was stolen from his parents and subjugated to rigorous military training and Kylo Ren’s mind and personality were warped through his innate “gift” of Force-Sensitivity.

Rey: The Beauty

The lovely youth or maiden who stumbles across adventure in the unlikeliest of places, perhaps by falling down a magical well and being transported back in time (see: Inuyasha), being dragged into a magical world of spirits (see: Twilight Princess/Spirited Away), getting lost in the woods and finding her way into an ancient castle inhabited by a monster (see: Beauty and the Beast), or by being chosen as a Slayer in 90′s California (see: Buffy). The Beauty is the innocent soul—the hero—who is about to encounter his or her dramatic opposite. Archaic examples will often put less emphasis on the Beauty, but he or she is by definition the focus of every Beauty and the Beast dynamic.
A dormant Force-Sensitive who was abandoned as a young child, Rey grew up scavenging the wrecks of an ancient battlefield, waiting in vain for her family to return. Rey’s lonely existence is changed forever when she encounters rogue Stormtrooper Finn. The two become quick allies, fleeing together from the minions of the First Order. They commandeer the long-lost Millennium Falcon in order to escape Jakku, and their act of evasion soon leads them to old heroes of the Resistance Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia Organa. From this point, much of Rey’s journey involves her integration into Kylo Ren’s family and former life. It can be said that she serves as a replacement for the lost Ben Solo. She comes to view both Han Solo and Leia as parental figures, she inherits the Millennium Falcon and Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, and there is very much the suggestion that Rey will be apprenticed to Ren’s uncle and former Master, Luke Skywalker.

Rey is the classic Beauty, the quintessential heroine of the modern fairytale. She is as lonely, lost and heartbroken as she is brave, loyal and adventurous. She is a humble down-on-hard-times orphan working day-to-day in poverty just to feed herself. She is the nobody destined for greatness, the archetypical hero. If that doesn’t sound like the “maiden” from just about every classic fairytale I don’t know what does. She is even drawn into the story by her very own White Rabbit in BB-8. She is capable of communicating with this “animal guide” despite other characters not possessing this capacity (see: Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, etc). Like all “maidens”, Rey is the innocent child on the cusp of her very own perilous journey into adulthood.

*Footnote: Being classified as the “maiden” and the Beauty does not mean Rey is in any way a damsel in distress or a weak, useless female character who exists to “save” Kylo Ren. She is a young woman who is very much capable of taking care of herself (see: the whole movie). She is a modern maiden created for a 21st century audience who also happens to take the position of the hero, but she is still very much a maiden. Although the Beauty and the Beast trajectory involves the maiden’s influence on the redemption of the Beast, the maiden does not exist to absolve the Beast of all sin. He must do that through atonement (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Character archetypes are not intended to be an insult to feminism. Tropes are only as effective as the writer who manipulates them.

See example above. Link is technically the Beauty of this dynamic. Is he a weak, useless character used to redeem the beastly Midna? No. She atones for her mistakes and ultimately breaks her own curse.

Buffy was also a Beauty to both Angel and Spike. Goes to show how much great characterization can impact a tired trope. Buffy was not a prop in Spike’s redemption arc. Did she impact it? Certainly. Did she help him along the way? Of course, but Spike’s redemption was ultimately won through his own efforts.

Kylo Ren: The Beast

The youth cursed to take the form of a lonely monster, the Beast is the counterpart to the Beauty. He or she is often brash, and originates as a villain, an anti-villain, a tragic-villain or (most commonly) an anti-hero. His or her past contains much hardship. Perhaps they were transformed into a monster (see: Buffy, Twilight Princess, Beauty and the Beast, Howl’s Moving Castle) or born from a human and an inhuman (see: Inuyasha, Wicked). Maybe their wife was unfaithful to them and they began to detest women (see: One Thousand One Nights). No matter the cause, the Beast is cursed—literally or metaphorically—by his past, awaiting the nudge they need to find their way again.
Kylo Ren is the fallen son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. He was ensnared in childhood by the mysterious Snoke, head of the First Order. He was manipulated into betraying his family and leaving Luke Skywalker’s dream to restore the Jedi Order in ruins, earning the title “Jedi Killer”. Regarded as the ideal focal point of the Light and Dark, Ben Solo developed an obsession with his maternal grandfather, Darth Vader. He descended to the Dark Side, training under Snoke and becoming leader of the enigmatic Knights of Ren; however, he was never able to completely relinquish the Light from which he was born.

Kylo Ren is without any doubt the archetypical Beast, the youth under a sorcerer’s curse. That curse is not literal, but metaphorical — the curse of the Dark Side. He was manipulated and tortured in childhood, never given a chance to live. Supreme Leader Snoke lured him away from his family, indoctrinating him, training him and moulding him to his will.

Kylo Ren even possesses his own version on the infamous “rose” in Darth Vader’s helmet. He prays to the helmet, revealing his true sentiments to the “ghost” of his ancestor — that the pull to the Light will ultimately take him.

Physically, Kylo Ren is an interesting example of the Beast. He cloaks himself in layer upon layer of black, concealing even his neck, face and natural voice — hiding everything “human” about him, everything that makes him Ben Solo. He is not a beast who wants to be a man, he is a man who chooses to be a beast, both outwardly and through his actions. His personal curse is as much self-inflicted as it is the result of Snoke’s influence.

As is the case with all Beasts, Ren is the creation of his personal origin story and sins. Accepting what Kylo Ren represents to the Star Wars universe is quintessential to understanding his future role in the story, and his future with Rey, the Beauty to his Beast. Just as Kylo Ren does not adhere to a typical hero/villain dynamic, he is unlike any villain we have ever encountered in Star Wars. Kylo Ren is not Darth Maul or Count Dooku. He is not even Darth Vader. He is something new, an amalgamation of contradictory tropes that shouldn’t work together, but inherently do. He is the stoic man and the lonely child, the beast and the prince, the knight and the dragon, the Darkness and the Light. Kylo Ren is a walking contradiction contained in the package of the last Skywalker. He is the grandson of Anakin and Padme, the son of Han and Leia, the nephew of Luke. He is the Legacy of two Trilogies and six films. He is the most important character in the Star Wars universe.

IMPORTANT: All of this analysis would be completely invalid if Kylo Ren was NOT the legacy, but he IS. Kylo Ren’s origin, his characterization and his role in the narrative are what make him the Beast, the sinful monster who is about to be seduced by the Beauty’s light.

Bonus points for this. He might as well have said “There is no conflict.”

The Platonic “Beauty and the Beast” (Light Youth/Dark Youth)

There does exist what could be called a “platonic” trajectory of the Beauty and the Beast. It is a modern take on the dynamic that is bot rare and more difficult to summarize. I will title it the Light Youth and the Dark Youth. The bond forged between these opposites will almost always be a familial one.

Perhaps the best example can be found in in the Broadway musical Wicked (and the Disney ripoff Frozen). Glinda and Elfaba/Anna and Elsa are without any doubt a version of Beauty and the Beast, but because Glinda and Elfaba are both heterosexual females (and Anna and Elsa are sisters), their connections are sisterly.

Platonic Beauties and Beasts will ultimately follow very similar trajectories to their romantic counterparts, but their dynamic will not include any sexual chemistry or romance.

Other great examples of the platonic Dark and Light Youth can be found in Aang and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto, Gon and Killua from Hunter X Hunter, Koda and Kenai from Brother Bear, Haku and Chihiro from Spirited Away and Rin and Sesshomaru from Inuyasha. Note that the last two are debatable, as both Rin and Chihiro are children. The nature of their dynamics with their opposites are therefore much more open to interpretation, but the trajectory is still identical. One character with a tragic past, one with a blossoming light that can cast away the darkness.

Although the potential is laughably unlikely, if Rey does turn out to be Luke’s daughter, she and Kylo Ren will forge a similar, familial bond. However, I have reasons founded in hard evidence to discount this possibility. This evidence can be found in the film’s soundtrack.

During the bridal carry sequence on Takodana, John Williams made the conscious decision to awkwardly shove a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s famous Romeo and Juliet love theme rise just as Kylo Ren enters his ship with Rey. The theme is played straight and to the point, no mirroring or dissonance or other musical language that might imply any other symbolism than the obvious one.

An excellent comparison of the two.
Furthermore, Kylo Ren and Rey’s motifs contain very bizarre clues. The last three notes of Ren’s motif are the first three notes of Rey’s motif. Rey’s motif corrects the dissonance that can be heard in Ren’s. Rey’s theme “corrects” and “completes” Kylo Ren’s. Again, the meaning should be obvious. Rey “completes” and “corrects” Kylo Ren.

Perhaps more telling is the fact that the three notes that connect Kylo Ren’s and Rey’s themes are in fact the first three notes of Across the Stars, Anakin and Padme’s love song, in-reverse. I’ll let that speak for itself.

A comparison of “Kylo Ren’s theme”, “Rey’s theme” and “Across the Stars”.

PART 4: THE SCAVENGER AND THE MONSTER

In the final part of the essay I will focus on Kylo Ren and Rey’s dynamic as presented in the film — it’s inception, foundation and potential future as evidenced by the entire history of the Star Wars saga and thousands of years of fairytales and children’s stories. This will be the deconstruction of their separate journeys, and a commentary on the fact that they have been positioned by the writers to develop together in future films.

I must start where all stories start: at the beginning.

We meet Kylo Ren on Jakku. He is searching for the “map” to Luke Skywalker, his old Jedi Master. He “denies the truth that is his family” when he cuts down Lor San Tekka.

This scene is often used as “proof” evidencing Ren’s “unredeemable” nature, but I would like to talk about why it — and every other scene involving Ren in the entire movie — is foreshadows his redemption. This film represents the catalyst that will ultimately lead Kylo Ren home.

When does Ren actually murder San Tekka? When he mentions his origins, his family. This is the kind of interpretation we are only made privy to upon multiple viewings of the film. Ren wanted that map so badly he was willing to go against his master’s orders, yet in the very first scene he cuts down a potential key-witness, someone whose mind he could have probed for information? Surely San Tekka had seen the map before… but Ren killed him anyway. He killed him before he even knew Tekka had given the map to Poe, before he knew Poe was watching, before he was made aware of BB-8′s existence.

Ren is a character who reacts very much on instinct. His murder of Lor San Tekka reveals this completely. He kills the old man because of his words, his chastising, his reminder that Ren did not “rise from the Dark Side”. It becomes clear within the first five minutes of the film that Ren is far from indifferent toward his origins. Indifference is the opposite of love, hate is something very different. Hate denotes an emotional attachment, an investment. That investment is what allows Ren to feel a “pull to the Light”.

Ren proceeds to capture Poe and order the slaughter of the villagers, but something very strange happens just as he is about to depart. Kylo Ren spies a Stormtrooper deliberately disobeying him. And what does he do? He lets him go. This decision serves as the singular event that initiates the entire adventure. It is as much the catalyst as Finn’s awakening.

Kylo Ren’s introductory sequence is meant to be contrasted with the remainder of the film, because Kylo Ren’s character arc in The Force Awakens does not revolve around development. On the contrary, he is placed on a downward spiral that leads him to his absolute lowest point.

Ren’s characterization serves as a backdrop for Kylo Ren’s unravelling. He appears so similar to Darth Vader, but in no time at all you are faced with the realization that he is nothing like Darth Vader. That aloof, confidant man is quickly washed away. Ren is in constant turmoil, being torn apart by the two sides of the Force he happens to embody. He prays to his dead grandfathers’ helmet, begging it to show him the way. His eyes are teary behind his mask, his hands balled in fists, his true voice soft and quaky. He is lonely, afraid and in emotional and physical pain, far from at peace with himself.

Throughout much of the film, Kylo Ren appears to be absolutely obsessed with finding the map. The implication is that he has “personal interests” surrounding the map that deviate from Snoke’s plot. He is incredibly driven, following the map — and Rey, Finn, BB-8 and his father — to the forest planet Takodana. However, this interest is somewhat difficult to decipher, because throughout the film Kylo Ren also portrayed an unusual fixation on the “girl” — the “scavenger”.

Upon his arrival on Takodana, he hears word of the map, but ultimately follows the girl into the forest. It is at this point that Kylo Ren’s character trajectory truly begins to come into focus. He becomes the Beast to Rey’s Beauty.

We first encounter Rey on Jakku as well. She is a lone scavenger, a young woman who has been waiting fifteen years for her family to return. As previously established, she is brought into the adventure by Finn — the Stormtrooper whom Kylo Ren allowed to disobey his orders at the beginning of the film, and who betrayed the First Order. Rey escapes with Finn, meets Han and the others and is coincidentally brought to the exact location where Anakin’s lightsaber has been kept. Rey’s strong connection to the Skywalkers — and to Ben Solo — when she is called by the lightsaber. The weapon sweeps her into a Forceback that illustrates past, present and future — Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, the hall of Cloud City, the moment of her abandonment, a rainy battlefield and a snowy wood. She is pursued by a black knight through the vision — he stalks her, storming toward her, saber drawn. The knight is everything she opposes, her worst nightmare in the form of a faceless monster. Fear of her own capacity and of this knight leads Rey to flee the call of the Light, leaving her vulnerable. In the ancient forest of Takodana, she and the black knight with whom her life has become inexplicably entangled — Kylo Ren— are brought together for the first time.

The forest of Takodana is in itself highly symbolic. In age-old fairytales, the maiden almost always meets her prince in a forest. Forests are places of magic, of mystery. A maiden becoming lost in an ancient wood is very often a metaphor for an awakening, for the unknown that must be traversed in order for the maiden to come-of-age. Think Little Red Cap, who had to traverse the Path of Pins or the Path of Needles through the mysterious forest, and who was stalked by the “wolf”. The paths are a metaphor for the inevitability of maturation, the wolf an archaic symbol of male sexuality.

The fact is there has always been something a little “creepy” about the archetypical fairytale prince. He watches the long-lost princess dance from the shadows, stalking her through the trees. I find it hard to believe the writers didn’t draw inspiration from this classic trope, everything from “once upon a dream” to “visions are seldom all they seem.”
These are powerful, ancient tropes, and no competent author would choose to play with them aimlessly. And because this is a modern fairytale, we can expect the tropes to be twisted. Remember the wolf and the prince? Well, Ren isn’t just one of them, he’s both.

Is it a coincidence that Rey and Ren meet in the forest, that they share a moment alone with Ren stalking Rey like a wild animal, toying with her attempts to defend herself? Not at all. In fact, this is where the infamous “bridal carry” Ohtze references so often in Death and the Maiden comes into play.

I would like to veer off-topic for a bit in order to analyze Kylo Ren’s characterization a little more. Kylo Ren is a fascinating combination of Gothic literature and children’s literature. Even I can’t deny the similarities Ren shares with Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff, or indeed, Shelly’s Frankenstein. But the similarities are ultimately subverted because Kylo Ren also embodies tropes of a separate, contradictory genre. He is as much the lonely young boy shunted off to boarding school by his unassuming parents as he is the Byronic hero or the Big Bad Wolf. He is Toseland from The Children of Green Knowe, or perhaps even more accurately, Edmund from C.S. Lewis’ classic The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Sent away by his parents “for his own protection”, Edmund is manipulated, enticed and lured away from his siblings by the White Witch. Kylo Ren is as selfish as Edmund, pursuing his own “personal interests” above the orders of his supposed master. He is the boy eating Turkish Delight in the magical sleigh, hoisted by his own false regency. He is responsible for the death of the true father, Aslan, but of course, he ultimately saves the realm beyond the Wardrobe. He betrays the White Witch and, with the help of his family, frees Narnia from her tyrannical rule.

The Gothic literature comparisons are not entirely unfounded. In fact, they can be applied perfectly for about three-fourths of the film. The “bridal carry” scene is without any doubt an homage to the classic monster movie icon of the creature spiriting away the beautiful maiden. However, the trope is ultimately subverted because — as I postulated in Part Three of this essay — Kylo Ren is not “technically” a monster. Rey might call him a “creature in a mask” and a “monster”, but he is undeniably as human as she is. He is a young man who wants desperately to be more, but who ultimately can only conceal the “truth of his family” behind a mask. The second that mask comes off in the interrogation, Kylo Ren becomes a young man. The Gothic comparisons can no longer be applied from here on out, because Kylo Ren is not the Creature from the Black Lagoon or Frankenstein, and Star Wars is not a Gothic tale (see: Part One of this essay).

I think I’ll just let this speak for itself. As much as he might want to be a monster, Kylo Ren is still just a man.
In the interrogation, Kylo Ren watches Rey sleep, crouched on the ground like a small child. There is a sense of submission in him, with the slumbering Rey hovering above. Suddenly she wakes up, and the scene that follows is perhaps one of the most meaningful in the entire film. The sequence serves as the foundation of Kylo Ren and Rey’s hero/villain dynamic. It is what truly moulds them as the Beauty and the Beast.

The scene provides a heavy metaphor for the balance of power in its many forms — female power, male power, Force power, mental power, physical power, emotional power and, perhaps most troubling, sexual power. Kylo Ren looks at Rey’s body, at her lips, her face. He removes his mask — his shield, his line of defence that protects him from vulnerability — for her. He seems to briefly abandon his previous pursuit of the map in order to delve into Rey’s personal thoughts, discovering that he identifies greatly with her. His body-language and actions also betray him completely. He is attracted to her in some way, be that physically, mentally or through the Light Side of the Force she happens to embody. Kylo Ren is, without any doubt, being seduced by Rey’s Light.

And just to prove that the sexual chemistry is indeed there, I present Time Magazine’s review of The Force Awakens:

“In one of the movie’s finest moments, Ren—unmasked and intense—engages Rey in a major stare-down, an unholy duel between the light side of the Force and the dark. The sexual energy between them is strange and unsettling, like a theremin sonata only they can hear.”

The interrogation sequence is peculiar in many ways. In most cases of mind-reading, the audience is made privy to the thoughts and images in the victim’s head (see: Harry Potter). However, we do not see Rey’s thoughts — we hear them through Kylo Ren. He describes her loneliness, her fear, her desperation, her dreams, all while positioned centimetres from her face. There is an “intimacy” between them, a connection, even before Kylo Ren expresses that he “feels it too”.

Kylo Ren is rather beastly in much of this scene; however, the balance of power shifts completely when Rey enters Ren’s mind, emerging dominant over him. She sees his deepest fear, and he is completely taken-aback. The “beast” has once again become a “man”.

The rest of the film further cements Kylo Ren’s fixation on Rey. That fixation appears to transform into some kind of genuine infatuation by the film’s climactic conclusion. He has great admiration for her, and it is spelled out all over his face during their final confrontation in the forest on Starkiller Base.

Kylo Ren has, by this point in the film, unravelled completely. He has murdered his father in the belief that patricide would eradicate the pull to the Light within him. Han died loving his son, forgiving him, and hoping that he would come to forgive him too someday, but Kylo Ren is grief-stricken by the wicked act, weakened, horrified and shocked by his own actions. He shows his regret in his own way, by punishing Finn (the other “traitor”). He expresses that “Han Solo can’t save [him]”. He takes Finn down, and upon doing so, comes face-to-face with the Beauty once again. She grasps his legacy lightsaber, and for the second time, they do battle.

The sequence is breathtakingly beautiful, with snow falling all around them. They are in an ancient wood once more, and Rey is attempting to overcome her adversary — her dramatic opposite, her foil, the “monster” to her “scavenger”. Ren has no desire to harm her, and reveals his true — and perhaps subconscious — intention through a Freudian Slip. As the two forces clash, the planet crumbles around them, and they become caught in a deadlock on the edge of a great ravine. Kylo Ren then offers to show “[Rey] the ways of the Force.” Not Dark Side, but Force. Naturally, Rey has had just about enough of Kylo Ren, and somehow takes advantage of his sudden moment of weakness to defeat him. For a moment — and just a moment — she becomes the “beast”, branding him with her saber, scarring the visage of the young man. It is made very clear in the script that Rey — the maiden — nearly tapped into the Dark Side when she overcame Ren. And yet, as the planet continues to fall to ruin, the two share another moment, staring at each other before Rey is forced to escape. The fissure that separates them becomes a metaphor for everything they will need to overcome, for the physical and metaphysical divide that keeps them apart.

That is the true nature of Rey and Ren’s dynamic. They are equals. Neither is truly dominant over the other. They share in both dominance and submission, one appearing to weaken just as the other grows stronger. They are two sides of the same coin, Yin and Yang, one dark with a little light, the other light with a little dark. They are the Beauty and the Beast, but neither is truly all Beauty or all “beast”. They share in moments of both, the balance of power between them seeming to rise and fall like the mechanisms of a great scale

HOW THIS STORY COULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN DIFFERENTLY

Interestingly, the writers could have easily made “Ren” an older woman. “She” and Rey could have reflected the classic Maiden and the Mother trajectory, but the writers didn’t go in that direction. Similarly, they could have made Ren a much older man, eradicating all possible romantic tension. They even could have made Kylo Ren develop a fixation on Finn, in doing so creating a subverted prince and princess rescue dynamic. In fact, that would have made a lot more sense in the context of the narrative. Finn was the Stormtrooper Ren ignored despite witnessing him disobey his orders. Rey was just a Scavenger, as Kylo Ren himself pointed out. But no, the writers didn’t go down any of these potential — and indeed, more logical — routes.

Instead, they had Kylo Ren sweep Rey into a bridal carry, watch her sleep from a submissive position, show her his “dreamy” face, reassure her, get too-close-for-comfort, say things like “Don’t be afraid, I feel it too”, search her personal thoughts, cry, beat his own wounds, offer to be her teacher and develop a full-blown infatuation with her. They decided to subvert the “male dominance” trope by having Rey overcome Kylo Ren mentally and physically. They had Rey fill the void Ben left behind in the Skywalker family. They had Rey call Ren a “monster”, an synonym for the Beast. They had Rey, the hero, brand her villain, Kylo Ren, as though he was hers to possess. They had them stare at each other as the world was falling apart around them — lock gazes across a literal and metaphorical chasm.

Why? Why would any writers do this? All of the above is what incites fans to delve so deeply into their narrative “connection”. It is what makes so many educated people so interested in their relationship. It is what makes fans compare them to Belle and the Beast and Buffy and Spike. It is what makes their potential so compelling. But why make their potential narratively compelling in the first place? Why enable crazy people to write 30-page essays detailing their dynamic? WHY?

Why?

WHY?

WHY!?

I have studied children’s stories and fairytales for as long as I have been a lover of entertainment. I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said the foundation of Rey and Kylo Ren’s hero/villain dynamic is an anomaly within not just the context of Star Wars, but thousands of years of fairytales and centuries of children’s fantasy. It makes absolutely no sense to cast your hero and villain as a young woman and a young man (who is attracted to and has an infatuation with said young woman) unless you—as a writer—are intending to head in a very specific direction? There is no other, not one that has ever seen the light of day in thousands of years.

I don’t say that to suggest The Force Awakens’ dynamic should be anything but what it is. Rey and Ren are a young woman and young man in the same age bracket, one Light and one Dark, positioned to develop against, through and with each other. They are by definition the Beauty and the Beast, and everything about their interactions cements them as such.

When Star Wars starts a hero/villain dynamic, they follow through with that dynamic for the rest of the Trilogy (see: Luke and Vader/Anakin and Palpatine). Star War is not that original, and indeed, it shouldn’t be.

And this leads us to the true thesis behind this entire essay: why would any writers create a Beauty and the Beast fairytale dynamic and a one-sided infatuation between the heroine and the last Skywalker, the Legacy of three Trilogies and six films, the most important character in the Star Wars galaxy if not to go somewhere bold with it?

They wouldn’t, and that is why “Reylo” will not only be canon, it will be reciprocated. We just don’t know how the writers are going to get there.

THE MORALITY OF “REYLO”

Over the past few months I have witnessed what might be called a “vocal minority” speaking out about the potential of Rey and Ren forging a connection of any kind. I have not been personally involved with these individuals beyond a small handful of debates on my platform of choice, but a constant theme that seems to be reiterated to the point of genuine nausea revolves around the idea that “Reylo” as a character trajectory would be in some way “morally wrong” because Kylo Ren is a villain who “abuses” Rey in The Force Awakens. Now, if you happen to be one of these individuals, and you have managed to get this far in my paper, I applaud you. If I have not changed your mind yet, I have a question for you.

What problem do you have with one character in a fictional story learning to feel compassion for another character? You’re dismissing the entire notion of compassion because you think this character does not deserve to be forgiven, that he does not deserve to be loved, understood or given another chance, that he does not deserve to atone for his sins? I’m sorry, but Kylo Ren is not only a member of the Sequel Trilogy character trinity, he is Han and Leia’s son. His father gave his life to take away his pain and forgave him. Han Solo was both a murder victim and a willing sacrifice. He died loving his son, looking into his eyes and hoping that he would find his way home someday. Kylo Ren will be redeemed, no doubt about that.

Leia and Han’s son was abused, twisted and manipulated as a child. He was lured away from his family by a monster. He made disastrous decisions, he committed atrocious crimes, and yet his family still loves him. They see that there is still Light in him, that he struggles, that he is in turmoil, that part of him knows that Snoke is only using him. And yet this “vocal minority” wants to see their hero kill this man — the grandson of Anakin and Padme, the son of Han and Leia, the nephew of Luke, the man who is likely the last in the Skywalker line, the child whose death would spell lifelong grief for all of your previous heroes?

Have you wondered that perhaps this Trilogy is about the girl who ultimately puts the Skywalkers back on the right path? Who helps them through compassion, through understanding and through love? Who shows them that there is a reason to go on? Who guides the lost legacy back to his family, back to those who love him more than anything?

What in hell is wrong with that? That’s not Twilight. That’s not Fifty Shades of Grey. How is that “disgusting”, “supporting abuse” or a “bad message to little girls”? The answer: IT ISN’T.

Both Rey and Kylo Ren are characters who will have an incredibly positive influence on children. Just as Rey is a female character who is not defined by her gender, Kylo Ren is a male character who freely exhibits qualities that young boys are taught constantly to shy away from. He’s incredibly sensitive, brimming with emotion, in tears much of the time beneath his mask—he’s very feminine. More emphasis is placed on Ren’s appearance than Rey’s. The subversion of gender-roles and archetypes is handled gloriously with Rey and Ren because Ren is still masculine, and Ren is still feminine.

Rey and Kylo Ren are a “hero” and “villain” who are very appropriate for a modern audience. They are the perfect constructs of the modern fairytale.

There is no anti-feminist message in a character feeling compassion for any other character or in any human being feeling compassion for any other human being. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye about everything… indeed, there have been circumstances throughout history that have defined and redefined human morality. But without attempting to feel compassion for our opposites, how can we ever come to understand why we support our own beliefs? The world is not made of absolutes, just as the Beauty and the Beast is not a set-in-stone plot. It is a storytelling trope. The best writers will take what is loved about something old and make it new again.

That is what is so fascinating about Rey and Kylo Ren’s dynamic. Rey is not entirely the Beauty, and Ren is not entirely the Beast. They are a retelling fit for the modern era. They are Yin and Yang, opposites that can only exist in perfect harmony by accepting and understanding that they are not all of one thing, that they can only be truly whole at peace with each other.

They are both the Beauty and the Beast.

ON REDEMPTION

Based simply on The Force Awakens I would not call it a leap to suggest that much of this Trilogy is slated to surround the fight for Ben Solo’s soul. He was left a broken, scarred man, staring wistfully across the crack in the world at the woman who brought him to his knees. But… was there more to it than that?

Ring Composition — a narrative formula George Lucas made use of in order to construct the Star Wars storyline — suggests that Kylo Ren’s trajectory will be reversal of Anakin’s. While romantic love couldn’t save Anakin, he was ultimately pulled back to the Light by his son. Familial love did what romantic love could not. Similarly, familial love failed to save Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. Ring Composition states that Ren can only be saved by what couldn’t save his grandfather: romantic love.

Furthermore, there are countless examples of symbolism and foreshadowing acknowledging the redemption theme that will pervade the future of this Trilogy. I’ll include my favourites from the final script below.

And just then, the LAST BEAM OF SUNLIGHT streaming through the open hatch VANISHES.

Han actually smiles – and reaches out for the dark weapon – but with the light now gone, KYLO REN’S EYES FILL WITH DARKNESS.
At this moment, Kylo Ren murdered his father. Starkiller Base sucked the life from a sun, casting a shadow across the planetary weapon, and across Kylo Ren. The sun’s death heralded Ren’s darkest act. As hope was lost, so too were Ben and Han Solo. The sun, the son and father fell together.

But something amazing happened at the end of the film, creating one of the most meaningful and symbolic images in the Star Wars franchise.

The X-wings ROAR OFF, skyward as the MUSIC SOARS, the PLANET IMPLODES – THE SUNLIGHT IT CONTAINS BURSTS FORTH, and as we get further and further distance from what was Starkiller Base, we witness the REBIRTH OF A SUN. Light restored to a corner of the galaxy.

This is about as descriptive as any script is going to get. We witnessed the “rebirth of a sun”. Rebirth of a sun… or rebirth of a “son”? In English, the words “sun” and “son” happen to be the same. This is a pun that has been used throughout English literature to describe the “prodigal son”.

“I am too much I’ the sun.”

– Hamlet
In a story that surrounds the concept of Light and Dark as two sides of a coin and that involved a sun dying to symbolize the loss of hope as a character violently murdered his own father, having that same sun be “reborn” in a flurry of light is very telling. Kylo Ren was filled with darkness as the sun fell, but after being defeated by Rey (interesting how Rey’s name is also a pun on sun “ray”) he was “reborn” along with the new sun, his father’s eternal resting place.

Below we have an image of the famous interrogation sequence. Kylo Ren is watching Rey sleep. Her form is visibly glowing, light seeming to practically burst from her. Kylo Ren is in the shadows, all in black, admiring her light and majesty. He is quite literally being seduced by the thing he has been trying to avoid: the Light, which happens to take the form of a young woman: the Beauty is unwittingly seducing her Beast.

But we must always remember… even if she doesn’t want to acknowledge it, she “feels it too.”

DISCLAIMER FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE

All of my predictions are founded on the principal that the writers behind this Trilogy actually know what they’re doing (i.e. that they don’t suck). But honestly, they would have to really suck to screw this up. As in beyond any previous level suckage introduced in modern film (worse than The Room). Writers, please don’t suck. I just spent 30 pages discussing how competent you are. Be competent.

“Here endeth the lesson.”
– FrolickingFizzgig (also Spike)
#reylo#kylo ren x rey#reyben#the force awakens#meta#rey x kylo ren
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Death and the Maiden: How “Reylo” will be canon (but not in the way you’re hoping)

Ahem. This scene right here, basically. This, right here:

Originally posted by apolloawesomeness
See Exhibit A:

So I really wanted to leave this meta as is and let the visuals speak for themselves. I really wanted to leave it as is, to get across the symbolic impact of this scene, because it’s the driving force behind my theory and honestly the most important part in the movie. But in lit crit when you present your ideas, you need to back up the crux of your argument with evidence, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Before I get started, I wanted to thank all those in the fandom who contributed their ideas to this (honestly, it was one of the most stimulating discussions I’ve had on art history in ages). Additionally, I want to give a special shout-out to @a-shipper-despite-herself, who was instrumental in creating the collages. You’re a trooper.

What follows is an exhaustive, essay-length thesis-length deconstruction on the canon possibilities of Rey/Kylo (and all their variations), and why the symbolism in the film reinforces the erotic subtext between them (yes, you read that right. Erotic). The essay is a roundabout continuation of last week’s meta on Force Bonds and the similarities between Revan/Kylo and Bastila/Rey (which you can read here). Spoilers for TFA, EU/KotOR, and general craziness after the jump. Again, if you’re looking for surprises, don’t follow. I basically give everything away in detail.

NOTE: Apparently this thing is so big it crashes the mobile app. Either open it through a web browser on your phone or a laptop/desktop to get around it.

Keep reading
#fandom meta#kylo ren#rey#reylo#reylo meta#tfa meta#tfa#no one let me near an actual conspiracy forum#ever#hell will freeze over#and the world will be torn asunder#edited for spelling mistakes
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“Rey, I am your lover”: Villains, key relationships, and why Reylo matters
There are pages and pages of meta analysis on why Reylo could be and will be canon; the evidence is there and it’s incredible what the fans have done with it. Here is yet more evidence that the work of Star Wars as a whole should have (and even requires) a growing relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren. And strangely enough, it has to do with Snoke.

For this argument two assumptions have to be made. Both are totally plausible, and both are upheld by the model of the previous trilogies, though one is much easier to pinpoint than the other. These assumptions are that:

1. Rey will not create any major relationships in Episode 8.

2. Snoke’s goals can be at least partially (if not fully) determined by his actions in Episode 7.
The second point is definitely the more nebulous of the two but it turns out to be the most important thing to establish, so I’ll go into that one first.

What a Snoke Wants

Supreme Leader Snoke is without question the biggest (pun intended) bad guy in The Force Awakens—though I’m certain there’s much more to his character we have yet to learn. He’s this trilogy’s Emperor, a disfigured space Voldemort sneakily pulling all the strings. But besides his position, we know almost nothing about him. We only see him twice in the actual film, and he is represented by a hologram that may not even mimic his actual form. The only thing we really know about Snoke is what he is doing.

So what is Snoke doing?

The Supreme Leader has two main functions. The first is to head the entire First Order. But he isn’t just leading the First Order. He aggressively, even viciously opposing the Republic and the Resistance– he orders the complete destruction of the former in order to cripple the latter. These are groups that have the potential to protect and support any Force users; the Resistance its self is led by the highly Force sensitive Leia Organa. Becuase they counter the First Order which “rose from the dark side”, the Republic and the Resistance are inherently tied to the light side. This will matter to Snoke.

The other function that Snoke serves is to have trained and to continue to train Kylo Ren. But he isn’t just training Kylo Ren. Snoke has been grooming him, possibly since birth, conditioning him the way the Order would a Stormtrooper, stamping out any signs of rebellion (with varying success). Kylo Ren is one of the most powerful Force users known, and maintaining his allegiance is vital to Snoke.

So what do opposing the Resistance and training Kylo Ren have in common? A relationship with the Force. Snoke used young Ben Solo to destroy the Jedi Academy. When he learned that the Resistance would soon have the map to Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, Snoke had the Hosnian System destroyed in an attempt to strike down the Resistance. What Snoke wants is a monopoly on the Force. That is his central goal. There’s very little information that can be used to determine his motives, but his goals are embedded in his actions: he wants to control the Force and all Force users—and kill the ones that don’t comply.

Of course this is all speculation, but right or not, this theory isn’t so off base so as to render the entire argument useless. I may not be exactly right about what Snoke want, but he is interested in the Force. Of that we can be certain.

Snoke is the embodiment of the dark side, the greatest evil in the galaxy. In true Star Wars fashion, the baddest bad guy will either achieve his goal or be defeated by the end of the trilogy. And in true Star Wars fashion, his loss or victory will be brought about by love.

Rey-lationships

The second component of this argument is based on any new relationships that Rey will form in upcoming episodes. This is much simpler to qualify—Rey will be on Ach-To with Luke, likely for a good portion of the next episode. I’m certain she will meet new people, but there won’t be any major relationships for her introduced in the next episode. Who Rey’s family is won’t be revealed until Episode IX, so the major relationships that drive her forward are the ones she forms in Episode VII.

The Melting Pot: Snoke plus The First Order equals Reylo?

These two pieces come together when you consider them in the context of the prequel and original trilogies.

Each trilogy has a central force of evil, which is shrouded by a secondary villain or antagonist. There is also a single protagonist with well-loved companions. But most important to the story is what I call its key relationship. The key relationship deeply affects the protagonist enough to provoke change in their character; it is what ultimately causes them to take the path that they do, and by extension, what causes the rise or fall of the central villain. The protagonist’s victories and failures can exist without the key relationship, but their attachment that they develop truly drives their motivation, making each Star Wars trilogy a much more human story. The pathos of each trilogy is severely lacking without it.

In the prequel trilogy, Chancellor Palpatine is our main force of evil; his goal is to corrupt the democracy of the Republic and in turn give rise to the Galactic Empire. Our main character is Anakin Skywalker, and his key relationship is between him and Padme Amidala, whom he first meets in Episode I. Anakin’s obsessive love for Padme pushes him to join Palpatine and seek the powers of the dark side. This in turn leads to the rise of the Galactic Empire and dooms the fate of the Republic, fulfilling Palpatine’s main objective.

The original trilogy maintained Palpatine as the highest villain, having become the Emperor that heads the Galactic Empire. Luke Skywalker, our new hero, has a very deep friendship with Han and Leia, but his most significant relationship is between him and his father, Darth Vader. Though he doesn’t discover the truth of the connection between him and Vader until Episode V, the reality of that relationship is still present from the beginning. Luke and Vader’s fates are inexorably tied together from the moment Obi-Wan Kenobi says the name Darth Vader.

Episode VII gives us our new ultimate villain, Snoke, and we can reasonably deduce what (some of) his main goals are. We’re also introduced to the main character of the new trilogy, Rey, and we see the relationships that she forms: a fast friendship with Finn, brief mentorship with Han, a Bechdel-friendly connection between her and Leia, even a fondness for BB-8. These are all important to the story, but the only relationship with the potential to influence Snoke’s goals is between Rey and her enemy: Kylo Ren.

But What About…

Some may claim this is weak writing, to imitate this basic form in each trilogy. Consider then how different the prequels and originals are, and yet they still mirror each other. Episode 7 has huge parallels to both Episodes 1 and 4, while still being new and exciting—the characters alone are enough to set it apart from the previous films.

Drawing from the existing tradition of Star Wars doesn’t diminish the story, as long as it is done well, and Episode 7 definitely is. Upholding these patterns doesn’t make the story uninteresting; on the contrary, it gives a deeper meaning to each trilogy’s differences.

The other argument that needs to be shut down right now is that Rey coming to love Kylo Ren reducers her to a useless female love interest, only existing to redeem the fallen man. To this I say ugh. That conclusion comes from the most shallow possible reading of Reylo meta, and a misogynist one at that. Rey’s power doesn’t come from a romantic relationship, nor does being a woman in a romantic relationship diminish her character. Rey will continue to be who she is, regardless of any man.

While I find this to be a weak argument at best, it does raise an important question: why is Reylo always about saving Kylo Ren? The answer is even more significant: it’s not.

Redeeming Rey

Rey is an unbelievably complicated character and it makes her so wonderful to see. She hopes, she pretends, she fights, she dominates, she runs away, she trusts, she hates, she cries—she is a walking paradox and it makes her so beautifully relatable. Many Reylo critics will claim that for her to love Kylo Ren turns her into nothing more than a plot point in his redemption. But in this case, a relationship between them is more important to Rey’s arc of becoming a hero.

Rey is without question the main protagonist of the new trilogy (she’s Force sensitive with a murky background living on a desert planet—how could she not be). In the previous storylines, the central relationship of the main character fundamentally changes their path: it’s what drives them to make the choices that they do.

Rey has only just begun to realize her place in the galaxy, only beginning in her hero’s journey. But she hasn’t yet found her role. She’s taken the first steps, and now there needs to be something that will drive her forward through the rest of her development as a hero—a motivator, if you will. The only motivator currently strong enough to push her development is Kylo Ren.

Ironically, the real danger here isn’t in damaging Rey’s character, it’s in marginalizing the presence of Kylo Ren. Rey manages to form strong bonds everywhere she goes, and she could be related to anyone at this point. It seems his position in relation to Rey could be filled by anyone, but if you look back on the key relationships in the previous trilogies, it becomes clear how important he has to be to her.

Rey has to either defeat Snoke or join him. This will be set into play by the connection she has (or will have) with the partner in her key relationship, and that partner has to be Kylo Ren.

In order to understand how the key relationship has to work, let’s imagine that it develops between Rey and someone besides Kylo Ren, let’s say, Finn. Let’s say that Rey goes on throughout the trilogy and she and Finn become even closer friends, or maybe they even fall in love. Either way, they have an unbreakable bond that is the key relationship, the most important relationship in Rey’s life and in the trilogy. And because she loves Finn so much she…what? Keeps fighting with the Resistance? Keeps helping Finn? If the key relationship emerges with someone like Finn, nothing changes for Rey. She continues to do what she established in the first film. There’s no need to develop any further.

Now, I love Finn. He’s a fantastic character played by a fantastic man and I wish there were more of him in the media. But Finn and Rey are already on the same page. I already love their dynamic and I hope we see a lot more of it in the coming films, but a key relationship with anyone besides Kylo Ren just doesn’t make sense.

Key relationships have barriers. They have problems, deep problems. They force the protagonist to grow, to take on the qualities of a hero and confront the evil that faces them. This is key. The key relationship not only inspires character development in the protagonist, it creates the conflict with the villain.

Think about it. Anakin’s love for Padme gave Palpatine the perfect bargaining chip. Luke wouldn’t kill his own father, and Darth Vader wouldn’t let his son be killed: this marked the end for the Emperor. And love between Rey and Kylo Ren spells either disaster or success for Snoke.

The love and acceptance that Kylo Ren could gain from Rey, an equal, could replace his pseudo-relationship with Snoke. Rey is already such a powerful character, but to believe in Kylo Ren deeply enough to draw him away from the darkness makes her even stronger. Her incredible capacity to forgive would create not just a means of redemption for Kylo Ren but bring salvation for the entire galaxy.

On the other hand, Rey could come to love Kylo Ren enough to understand and agree with him, and even enough to join him. Love between them could end up drawing Rey towards the darkness of Snoke’s First Order.

If Snoke’s ultimate goal is a monopoly over the Force and Force users, a romantic attachment between Rey and Kylo Ren would either cause him to lose influence over Kylo Ren, or gain Rey. Gaining control over Rey would win Snoke the Force. But loosing Kylo Ren would be enough to throw these plans off track. Two incredibly powerful Force users on his side would mean disaster for the galaxy. But two Force users opposing Snoke together? That would be enough to destroy him.

In Conclusion: Why We Bother

This is why Reylo matters. Almost every possibility could be realized, and they all have so much power. Power to kill and power to save. It can build our hero up or let us all down. It could save Ben Solo or destroy the entire galaxy. Reylo can do what no other relationship can, and everything that a key relationship should do: it can make a mark.
#reylo#reylo meta#snoke meta#snoke#???#whats snoke doing here#maniacal laugh#i have you now
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The Romanticization Of Reylo
How our romanticisation of Rey and Kylo has changed Reylo, Why I Love Kylo Ren, (It’s not what you’re thinking.) And Character Archatypes.

I think we can all agree that when a fandom starts up on Tumblr, we tend to turn characters we love and adore into caricatures of the original. I don’t mean this as an insult. You see this all the time, and it isn’t a bad thing. We tend to turn the fandom represented form of those characters into exaggerated romanticised versions, and forget what the originals are really like until we experience the piece of media again. You may think I’m talking about comics, fan art, and fan fiction, and partly I am, but I’m also talking about the fandom wide consensus of a character’s personality. It took me a while to realise we as a fandom were doing this with Reylo, but I’m fairly certain we are. The thing that tipped me off to this was a realisation about all my OTP’s.

Reylo is the basic form of my every OTP. And that OTP is, a broken and wronged individual, still trying their best, with a strong set of morals. And then the dick bag that falls in love with them. I love the concept of these two broken people finding the support and love they need in each other, and ultimately bettering the person who had lost their way, and each other. I love this dynamic so much because Characters like Rey, (the ones that are still trying to be hopeful) are often lonely, and strangers to unrelenting I’ll sacrifice my life for you love. And characters like Kylo, once they truly look at this other person, often feel compelled to be that person, and look at that person; still pushing to be hopeful and good, like they’re the sun and stars. Okay, enough of that, so let’s talk about how we as a fandom have romanticised Rey, Kylo, and Reylo as a whole.

Rey

We’ve characterised Rey as a “rey” of sunshine, and BAMF. And while she is all of these things, Rey’s characters is much more broken, lonely, and scared than we admit in the fandom. I’m always reminded of this because of my specific requirements for an OTP. Rey is so much more angry than we make her out to be. (I’ll go into her “fall and rise” later in this meta.) Take these scenes into consideration.

At the end of TFA she very nearly kills Kylo. But she stops herself. She’s so much more angry, and close to the dark side than we like to admit. And that’s part of what makes Reylo so compelling.

Rey is someone who has lived alone for a long time, and the way she’s lived has taught her that even though she’s lonely, angry, and sad, she has to keep going. Her character is a fighter. So it was interesting to me when I came out of the cinema and found everyone referring to Rey as smiley and wonderful, when I saw a tough as nails girl, willing to do almost anything to survive. (see her almost selling BB-8) As a fandom we’ve latched onto a feature of her personally that we find the most endearing, and exaggerated it. Rey is very hopeful, and this is what we like most about her, this is what makes us want her to win.

Originally posted by coco451

Rey has been living in a cruel reality most of her life, which is what makes her relationship with Finn and Kylo so interesting. In Finn she finds someone who actually cares for her, and in Kylo she finds someone who almost needs her.

I honest to god, do not find it out of character for Rey to be tempted by Kylo’s interest in her. If Kylo’s interest in her grows, to the point where he spends most of episode eight bugging her to let him train her, it seems in character for this, lost girl, to almost revel in his obsession.

My point is, Rey is not the perfect “rey” of light some make her out to be. She’s hopeful, yes, but probabley because she doesn’t know of any other way to live. She’s a girl that lives in reality, but she also lives with hope.

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#reylo#not much else to say#I’m sure some one will tare apart this meta#I’m so dumb
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verysharpteeth
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“My Name is Bucky”- Fighting for Self in Civil War
There’s no moment in Civil War that breaks my heart yet makes me prouder of a character than the moment Bucky finally voices who he is to someone while being interrogated. Up to this point he has claimed he doesn’t remember Steve outside of reading about him, refused to explain why he saved him, and has actively acted in such a guarded way that Steve honestly can’t figure out whether he’s dealing with Bucky, the Winter Soldier or someone else entirely. After being recaptured, Bucky refuses to answer questions, staring silently ahead until the pivotal moment his interrogator calls him James Buchanan Barnes. It’s then that Bucky forcefully, clearly, and almost defiantly says “My name is Bucky”. While this is an important scene for Steve in realizing that Bucky has at least part of his memory back, it’s even more important in that Bucky finally reclaims himself. After decades of abuse, brainwashing, isolation, and torture we finally hear Bucky be able to claim something of himself again. He’s not the same person, but he’s decided who he is, and that’s Bucky Barnes, whoever that is now, whatever that entails. It’s a powerful moment. He’s in a containment cell being questioned and controlled once again and he throws out the one thing he can hold on to and is sure of: He’s BUCKY and they won’t take that away from him again.

It’s a theme we see consistently with him. In First Avenger he repeats his name and ID number over and over under torture. In Winter Soldier he insists he knows Steve even after facing the wrath and abuse of his handlers. And finally here as he once again stares down a tormentor and holds on to what he knows with two hands. He’s a man with nothing but what autonomy he can wrest from people far stronger than him and we consistently see him fighting tooth and nail to keep or claim something of who he is. It’s truly amazing how incredibly, stubbornly strong Bucky is in the face of completely overwhelming circumstances. If Steve is a character with a habit of refusing to stay down in a fight, so is Bucky. His easiest path in every occasion is just to comply, give his torturers what they want, but Bucky is defiant to the bitter end. If Steve won’t stay down physically, Bucky won’t mentally.

It’s why it’s so painful that almost the next moment he is desperately trying to break out of his cell (and the frightening part is he almost succeeds, proving just how much he’s been holding himself back up to this point) to prevent Zemo from reading the code that will make him lose himself again, that will turn him into a mindless weapon. His actions are painfully frantic, scared, and desperate as he literally rips apart a cell designed to contain a super soldier. For Bucky it’s not just the horror of what he’s forced to do, but that he has no control. He’s in the pilot’s seat but he’s not steering. It’s even sadder when we get to know this version of himself that he’s cobbled together. He’s wary and more somber, his actions in groups a bit tentative, but who HE is is still there. He’s kind in the interactions we see, almost shyly smiling as he haggles in a market, even telling T’Challa he’s sorry about his father while fighting. He’s terrified of capture and is a completely devastating force, but after seeing what he CAN do later on, it’s obvious in the first fight that he’s pulling his punches and trying to cause as little collateral damage as the situation allows. He’s not lying when he aggressively tells Steve “I’m not going to kill anyone”. This version of Bucky is dangerous, but he’s also a good man, or at least is trying to be. The minute he gets control of himself later on, the first thing he asks is “what did I do”, horrified, but needing to know. He instantly throws himself into stopping the other Winter Soldiers, doesn’t even pause in his attempt to help. This Bucky isn’t the flirt with a swagger we originally know, but he’s still the unwaveringly good man we first meet. In this movie we watch a man carefully trying to pick through the shards of his own tragedy and succeeding in piecing together someone with a strong moral code, a sense of humor, and an ability to make himself useful. Who the hell is Bucky? He’s still figuring that out, but he’s getting there one brick at a time. He’s responsible enough by the end that we see him selflessly allow himself to be put back in cryo until someone can figure out how to get rid of his trigger.

Juxtaposed to Bucky is Wanda, another person trying to figure out exactly who she is. Her powers are terrifying and it seems like everyone around her is trying to tell her who she needs to be. Vision wants her to tone down her abilities so people will see the person he sees without fearing her. His intentions are pure, but he doesn’t understand exactly what he’s asking. Tony wants to keep her under house arrest claiming even that she was broken out of “somewhere she wanted to be” when Clint comes to get her. Tony fails to understand her as well, mainly because he’s projecting what HE’D want if the roles were reversed. The Accords are partially him putting a leash on himself and he’s at a loss that someone else wouldn’t want the same thing. Wanda is forced to face her own guilt at the beginning of the movie. Not only is she part of what happened in Sokovia, she’s also responsible in part for the accidental deaths of the Wakandans. Part of her story is her trying to figure out if she can bear the weight of who she is. Much like Bucky she’s at a crossroads of control over herself. Can she do it? Her powers are so extreme she also has limited ability to direct their outcome. In the end Wanda also claims who she is. She’s scary, she has flaws, but as she says, she can’t control people being afraid of her, only her fear of herself. She also owns who she is, forging an identity that is her own.

By the end, both characters shoulder the responsibility of who they’ve decided to be. Wanda takes the weight of the magnitude of what her powers can cause. Bucky is willing to go back in cryo until he’s able to better control himself. The important part is that they’ve decided who they are, for better or worse.
#bucky barnes#cacw spoilers#meta
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buckyackles
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Bucky Barnes: The Commodity, The Emasculated, The Subaltern
Below is the paper I wrote for my Intro to Literary and Cultural Theory class about my favorite character, Bucky Barnes. It is a meta of sorts, using three different theories to discuss the natural of his being and the forces that shaped the WWII hero into the formidable threat, The Winter Soldier. The theories that I have used are: Marxism, Feminism, and Post Colonial theory. Please enjoy!

James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes is a well known character in both the Marvel Comic Universe as well as in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, mainly for his role as the great Captain America’s sidekick and as a rejection to the 1940’s rise of Hitler youth. Regardless of which universe Bucky Barnes is occupying, his tragic death and subsequent reincarnation remains the same: becoming the fabled assassin known as the Winter Soldier. While the Winter Soldier arch is indeed an in depth and continuous storyline that has been developing since 2005 in the comic universe, the character arch has just begun in the movies. Because of this infancy and subtle deviation from the original comic story line, the critically acclaimed movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, offers a new look at the character of Bucky Barnes and his more antagonistic alias, the Winter Soldier. The hegemony depicts Barnes and his alias to be the main villain working against the patriotic hero and his gang of superheroes in the film however, this is not true. In fact through the lens of Marxism, feminism, and postcolonial theory, it can be said that Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier is the victim rather than the villain due to his commodification, emasculation, and colonized self at the hands of Hydra, thus causing him to become a subaltern figure throughout the film.

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#bucky barnes#bucky barnes meta#steviebucks#again please let me know if you don’t want to be tagged in this#i’m sorry i keep tagging you in it!#my meta#look at me write
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capgal
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Bucky Barnes and Choice
Ahhh, I can’t help but think about how important choice is in Bucky’s narrative, especially given the overarching story in this movie. This is about choice, and taking responsibility for your choices, right? Accountability and all that.

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#Bucky Barnes#user cacw#sgtjimbarnes#cacw#jennspeak#spoilers#100#my meta
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andarthas-web
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Why #TeamCap is right
Or rather:

Why Steve Rogers is right. Philosophically and practically*.

Let’s start with a quote which is at the very core of Steve’s position on the Sokovia Accords and the subject of a council (or rather, in this case, a panel):

“We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”

This is Steve’s main concern.

Not the oversight per se….but the qualification of the people wanting to do the overseeing.

So….the central question is, is Steve right with this assessment?

Whose hands are the safest?

The hands of the Avengers (or rather Steve’s)?

Or the ones of a panel whose members are chosen by a group of governments?

This of course raises the question of what kind of qualifications ANYBODY should have who gets to make the calls on which missions to run and how to run them.

So……what kind of missions are we looking at, and what kind of qualifications should the people have who make the decisions?

The missions that the Avengers run belong in the category of counter-terrorism as well as emergency and rescue missions.

Usually against super-powered villains or villainous secret organisations like HYDRA or AIM which have a history of infiltrating governments and other organisations.

Here’s a suggestion where it comes to a suitable qualification:

experience with counter-terrorism and emergency and rescue missions
if it’s a counter-terrorist mission, in-depth knowledge about the terrorists in question
highly unlikely to be infiltrated or spied upon by the terrorists in question
highly likely to prioritize saving human lives
highly likely to respect human rights (e.g. willing to accord due process and a fair hearing even too criminals if possible)
good at getting good intel before making a decision
not in favour of pre-emptive strikes
Now…..

In CACW, we have a group of governments who not only want to hold the Avengers accountable through, say, something like mutually agreed upon guidelines and mission reports and reviews.

We have a group of governments who want COMPLETE control over the Avengers, over which missions they should run and how they should run them.

Now….never mind that this kind of COMPLETE control is all kinds of iffy, as outlined by @garotteandgoodnight and @athenadark here, here and here, this also raises the question of how qualified a panel appointed by those governments would be.

Well….these very same goverments already have a track record of creating a gremium intended to oversee others.

They created the World Security Council, which was charged with maintaining global security and fostering world peace while overseeing SHIELD.

And now, in CACW, they are trying to create a gremium to oversee the Avengers.

How well did that World Security Council do?

Well, they fucked up badly THRICE before the events of CACW.

Once when they decided to nuke NY (which only the intervention of the Avengers prevented from happening).

Once when they decided that project Insight was a good idea that they wanted to put in place.

And once when they let themselves be infiltrated and subverted by HYDRA.

There is no indication that if these governments created another Council, this time to oversee the Avengers, it would do any better.

Especially since during the events of Civil War, it quickly becomes evident that they believe that things like due diligence when determinating the perpetrator of an attack are kinda optional and that due process is something you can throw to the wind with somebody you think is a terrorist.

What was it again that Nick Fury said in order to justify Project Insight?

“The satellites can read a terrorist’s DNA before he steps outside his spider hole. We gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.”

Well, granted, James Buchanan Barnes stepped outside his shitty appartment to buy some plums at the market and as it turns out, he’s not actually a threat….but the governments of the world would like to see him neutralized nevertheless.

So no….Steve Rogers isn’t perfect.

But he still outdoes everybody else in the MCU where it comes to making smart, ethical choices.
#Steve Rogers#Bucky Barnes#CACW meta#TeamCap#CACW#cacw spoilers#Steve Rogers meta#WSC#World Security Council#quis custodes ipsos custodes?#should be somebody competent who doesn’t have their own agenda
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Is it too early to start talking about mid credit Bucky and what it all means? Because, honestly, some people seem to be uncertain about his future, but I don’t think there’s any need to be.

Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier is all chrome and black leather, a range of colours associated with weaponry, the bad guys. Not white. Never white. That is, until the scene where we leave him. SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT THE SYMBOLISM OF THIS OUTFIT HERE.

White trousers, white shirt, someone remarked he’s got bare feet in the opening scene, if the camera had panned back a little on the end scene, I’m fairly certain he’d be barefoot here as well.. He’s in ALL WHITE, the colour of innocence and purity and in western religious circles a colour symbolising the washing away of one’s sins. Renewal. I don’t know what’s going on behind him, but it’s giving off a golden glow, I swear they couldn’t have made him look more like an ACTUAL SAINT if they tried. You think this is the end for him? White is for new beginnings, not endings. Watch this scene again, the white, the gold, the serene smile. This scene is the baptism of Bucky Barnes. The boy is getting REBORN.

Is all this deliberate? I think it is, consider the juxtaposition they’ve given us in the opening and closing scenes of this film. The beginning, pre title scene of a man, Bucky Barnes being awoken from the ice, dressed in black, cloaked in darkness. Not yet the soldier, just the man, being dragged into a place of darkness and screaming agony and forcibly turned into the Winter Soldier, against his will. The ending, the man who was the Winter Soldier, dressed in white, bathed in light. Not being dragged, but choosing to go back into that ice to become Bucky Barnes again. The scenes mirror each other in every way, not just in the motions, but the lighting, the costuming, the tone; darkness and light, black and white, piercing screams and hushed, peaceful tones, coercion and free will. I know it’s just a silly superhero movie, but this is beautiful stuff right here.

Look, okay, I see Bucky as the heart of this movie, Bucky’s my fave, so maybe I’m biased, but I can only see a new beginning here. But you know what, even if this WERE the end of his story, I’d be happy with this. I couldn’t have asked for a more respectful treatment of my baby. And I think he’s going to be just fine.
#bucky barnes#marvel meta#civil war spoilers#my baby
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verysharpteeth
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“But I Did It”- Guilt in Captain America: Civil War
I came away from Civil War really struck by how overwhelming the theme of guilt was. It motivates people to do selfless things, it motivates people to do selfish things, and it’s the driving force behind the ultimate showdown between Bucky and Tony. What the movie does though is contrast the fashion people deal with their guilt.

Tony and Bucky are both people consumed by guilt. In both cases it’s guilt over things they ultimately had no control over. Tony couldn’t have predicted that his parents would die with so many things left unsaid between them and him, yet when we first see him he’s reliving that moment over and over. Tony is steeped in even more guilt when his actions in creating Ultron are thrown back in his face by a victim’s mother. He’s even guilty that his teammates hold him responsible for their containment. The crux of the issue is that Tony just can’t let it go. He’s willing to stare his flaws in the face, but he’s unwilling to forgive himself for those flaws, which leads to an issue I’ll get to in a second. Tony is stuck in an endless guilt loop. His attempts to fix things always seem to lead to more issues that lead to more guilt. He’s understandably frustrated because he’s just so driven to try to make things RIGHT that he’s willing to clash hard and often with people who don’t agree with his ideas. Ultimately the government might be right that the Avengers should have some limitations put on them, but Tony is so desperate to try to fix or at least ease his mind over what he feels like he’s responsible for that he makes agreements and does things without looking at every angle. He flogs himself over his mistakes, but he can’t even really articulate the real problem: acceptance that sometimes things happen no matter what and you’re going to have to live with them.

It’s Bucky who actually voices what is Tony’s issue as well as his. As Steve tries to tell his friend that it was Hydra’s fault and that “it wasn’t really you doing those things” during his assassin days, Bucky calmly and quietly looks up and says “but I did it”. It doesn’t matter to Bucky who MADE him do it. It doesn’t matter to him that he was just the weapon. What matters to him is that he did it. He has to live with that. He has to see something he caused happen in his mind over and over again. He ultimately takes responsibility, and in doing that he echoes something Steve says earlier about being willing to shoulder the blame over things that go wrong. What Steve doesn’t address is not just being willing to bear the consequences of mistakes, but being willing to move forward from there.

That’s the real issue. Not whose fault it ultimately is, but the fact that both Tony and Bucky, in their minds, DID IT. They have to live with that. They have to live with something that no amount of reassurance from outsiders can fix. All the love and understanding in the world can’t help someone who won’t move out of the guilt cycle. And in the end that’s why Tony, in spite of knowing Bucky had no control over his actions in killing the Starks, attempts to kill him. I think it would be easy to claim Tony is motivated purely by revenge, but I think it’s more than that. Tony of anyone should be able to understand someone causing something horrible inadvertently. He’s been in Bucky’s place. He’s caused damage without really knowing it. He KNOWS Bucky was programmed, even calls him the “Manchurian Candidate” at one point proving he completely believes Bucky had no control over his actions. Part of the reason Tony can’t accept Bucky’s moral innocence in what he did is because he can’t accept his own. Tony can’t consider forgiving Bucky because he can’t forgive himself. Tony’s generally a reasonable person, but he’s willing to flat out murder Bucky in the end even though he’s aware Bucky was just the weapon that HYDRA used to kill his parents. Bucky didn’t have a choice in the matter, Tony knows that, but he violently tries to hold him responsible in the same way he mentally holds himself. “Do you even remember them” he lashes out at Bucky, sure that the person involved in causing the determining factor in his life can’t understand the magnitude of what he’s done. Can’t understand the weight of feeling responsible for some many lives. He unwittingly echoes the woman who cornered him in the elevator earlier in the movie. He’s suddenly in her place reacting the exact same way.

“I remember them all.”

That line, right there. If Tony had been able to pause in his rage and grief for a second he would have realized that out of ANYONE he’s come across, Bucky gets it the best. Tony lives with all the ghosts of what he’s caused. So does Bucky. Bucky voices what Tony can’t. No matter what people tell you, you are still going to feel guilty that you did something no matter the reason and every incident can still be fresh and painful and seared on your memory whether it really deserves to be there or not. Maybe you had false information, maybe you didn’t have control, but it still happened. You still did it. You’re still going to have to live with it. And if you don’t forgive yourself to some degree you’re not really going to function. You can see Bucky trying to figure out how to live with himself. He can at least voice that he’s not sure he’s worth it, voice his uncertainty. You see him cringing at the scythe of destruction he is (ie. “what did I do”). You see him figuring out how to live with guilt without needing to punish himself.

Tony says the problem without really saying it. “And then, and then, and then”. The cycle over and over and over. He pushes people away because of it. He tortures himself because of it. And it will eat him alive until he is able to step forward.
#ca:cw spoilers#captain america: civil war#meta#bucky barnes
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The Hero, The Villain and the Modern Fairytale: why “Reylo” will be canon in exactly the way you’re hoping

PART 1: THE FAIRYTALE AND THE COMING-OF-AGE

Not long after The Force Awakens was released an excellent paper titled “Death and the Maiden” was published addressing the potential of Rey and Kylo Ren — the hero and villain of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy — forging a romantic bond over the course of the narrative. The author, Ohtze, compared Gothic literature tropes and monster movie iconography to Kylo Ren and Ren’s interactions in The Force Awakens, highlighting the significance of the “bridal carry”. Ohtze came to the conclusion that Kylo Ren’s interest in Rey would remain one-sided because he is the “monster”; however, several months have passed since “Death and the Maiden was penned, and I have decided to analyze The Force Awakens from a very different perspective. After all, Star Wars is neither a Gothic tale nor a monster movie. It’s a fairytale, a children’s story.

Why do I say Star Wars is both a fairytale and a children’s story? There are concrete reasons grounded in narrative deconstruction and the history of children’s literature that I will describe further along in this thesis, but first observe these quotes:

“The movies are for children but some [fans] don’t want to admit that.”

— George Lucas

“[Lucas] then wanted to focus on making a film that was geared more towards kids, and combined elements of mythology and serials of the day, like Flash Gordon. Star Wars was meant to be a new mythology for kids trying to find their way in a bigger world, and [Lucas] felt that some of that was lost when westerns stopped being popular.”

— On the creation of Star Wars

“Star Wars is a fairytale. It’s a fantasy. At the heart of Star Wars is that idea of the Force, which is almost the antithesis of Science Fiction. It’s a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

— JJ Abrams

“Star Wars is more fairytale than true Science Fiction.”

— Mark Hamill
Obviously Word of God claims Star Wars to be a fairytale, but what exactly makes it so?

When most people think of fairytales they will immediately conjure up the image of one of a hundred famous Disney films. Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, take your pick. Perhaps you are among the camp who views these ancient stories as cautionary tales from the long-distant past. Disney came along, plucked them from old storybooks and chapbooks and plastered family-friendly versions all over the big-screen.

I’ll tell you right now that neither of these interpretations is entirely correct. Yes, fairytales — and indeed, all children’s literature — originated in cautionary tales, but they have evolved over the centuries as much as any form of technology. Fairytales of old are no longer comparable to their 20th century counterparts. Today’s society is dominated by a love of entertainment in its many forms, and no genre is adored by more by both children and adults alike than the modern fairytale.

So what is a modern fairytale?

The Oxford English dictionary defines a fairytale as: “a children’s story about magical beings and lands.” Pretty vague, huh? Acclaimed fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien added to this definition in his book On-Fairy-Stories, summarizing the modern fairytale — or fairy-story — in his own, much less linear manner.

“What is a fairy-story? […] Stories that are actually concerned with ‘fairies’, that is with creatures that might also in modern English be called ‘elves’, are relatively rare, and as a rule not very interesting. Most good ‘fairy-stories’ are about the adventures of men in the Perilous Realm or upon its shadowy marches.”
As Tolkien declares, the greatest fairytales—that is to say modern fairytales—can follow man or fairy, mundane or fantasy, and are not limited by sub-genre. Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is as much a fairytale as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Star Wars also fits this bill perfectly. It is about men and knights and princesses and monsters doing battle in the great unknown, in a galaxy far, far away.

That is not to say Star Wars is “childish”, just that it was always intended for families to enjoy together—to discuss, share and love as a collective unit. Pixar films are also meant for children, yet they tend to be appreciated far more by adults. That is because—like Star Wars—they can be enjoyed, deconstructed and analyzed on many levels. Star Wars invites all—young and old—to follow the journey of its characters. It is an children’s fantasy fairytale in the vein of The Once and Future King, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Prydain Chronicles or Percy Jackson & the Olympians, it just happens to be set in space.

Of course, Star Wars isn’t just a fairytale, it’s also a coming-of-age. The coming-of-age is a massive genre of literature and film that details the literal and metaphorical “coming-of-age” of its key characters. The genre is detailed in the following quote:

“[The coming-of-age is] all about the protagonist’s journey from being a child to being an adult. It is a journey that takes a young person from naïve to wise, from idealist to realist and from immature to mature. The path of the protagonist, or the main character, can vary from story to story. […] There will usually be pain and suffering along the way — growing up isn’t easy. However, no matter the narrative direction, the result is that the hero grows from his experiences and in some way loses the childhood innocence that helps steer him towards adulthood.”
Not only do coming-of-age-stories not dismiss any sub-genre, they leak into all genres as well. Both J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle are coming-of-age novels, but they couldn’t be more different. The Catcher in the Rye follows struggling adolescent Holden Caulfield as he attempts to recapture his foothold on reality after the death of his younger brother through a series of misadventures in 1950’s New York. Howl’s Moving Castle is set in a fantasy realm and details the adventures of Sophie Hatter, a young woman who is transformed into an old hag by a witch’s spell, and who must turn to the heart-eating wizard Howl for help.

These novels share nothing, minus the overarching coming-of-age theme. The same can be said of Star Wars. Just look at how many narrative classifications can be applied to Star Wars: fantasy, science fiction, western, action, adventure, romance, drama, fairytale, etc. Star Wars includes all of these elements, but it is a coming-of-age first and foremost. It details the physical, emotional and spiritual growth of its key characters as they overcome physical, emotional and spiritual obstacles. The “fantasy” serves as the metaphor the real human condition, the backdrop that allows us to explore the struggle between the Light and Dark within us all.

*Footnote: I do not believe Rey to be in any way related to Kylo Ren. The film itself debunked that theory, you just have to know where to look (see: Maz Kanata’s speech/Kylo Ren and Rey’s interactions). This is a children’s franchise, and the writers are not going to make the same rookie mistake Lucas and the team made in the 70’s.

PART 2: THE HERO AND THE VILLAIN

From this point, we will be discussing the bulk of this essay: the dynamics between heroes and their respective villains in fairytales and other works of children’s fantasy.

We must thus define the “hero” and “villain” in this context.

The Hero

The hero is the protagonist, the main character, the player with whom the audience identifies and about whom the story revolves, in whatever form he or she appears. He is not necessarily the knight on his horse sent to rescue the slumbering maiden and do battle with the dragon. In fact, in most cases, the maiden herself is the focus of the tale. She is the true hero. It is her history and dynamic with the villain that creates the milieu of the narrative. The hero does not have to be heroic. He or she can be, but when it comes to most fairytales and children’s stories, the hero is simply the principal character whose story has been constructed by the writer.
The Villain

The villain is the hero’s counterpart, the antagonist. They are the bad guys, the dark sorcerers, youth-deprived sorceresses and jealous older men. An engaging villain will often serve as the hero’s foil, a character whom the audience can contrast with the protagonist. The best antagonists will be as relatable as their respective protagonists. It was once said that a hero is only as good as his villain, and I happen to agree.
The hero and villain are caught in a never-ending dance that changes from genre to genre and target-audience to target-audience. Archetypes from children’s fantasy cannot be compared to archetypes from adult fantasy (see: Game of Thrones). When it comes to fairytales and children’s stories — which, as we must recall, includes Star Wars — heroes and villains share tried-and-true dynamics. Modern fairytales (or fairy-stories, as Tolkien referred to them) tend to be longer and more complex, but the hero/villain dynamics that became famous thousands of years ago are still made use of constantly today. They have withstood the test of time because they “work”. They are compelling. Why fix something that isn’t broken, am I right?

I’m now going to tell something of a personal anecdote. It concerns my experience with viewing The Force Awakens in theatres for the first time. I had a very unique perspective because I was one of the few who watched this film totally unspoiled. I had seen the trailer some months before and completely forgotten about it. I didn’t know what actors were playing what roles, I didn’t know the characters’ names, I didn’t know anything about the story. I knew one thing: the main character was a young woman.

Now, with no knowledge about any of the characters, Kylo Ren’s introductory sequence struck me in a very unusual way. The following assumption didn’t last long, but it was there, and my sister (with whom I saw the film) had it too! We both thought “he” (the “cloaked knight”) might be an older woman concealing her voice and physique in an oversized costume. Crazy, right? Well, no… actually, it isn’t. There’s a good reason why I thought that might be a potential plot-twist, and I’m going to elaborate upon why right now. It has everything to do with classic fairytale hero/villain dynamics, and two facets that decide practically everything about the potential nature of said dynamics: age and gender.

Why are age and gender so incredibly important where fairytale and children’s story hero/villain dynamics are concerned? Because they create boundaries, they lay down the law. Most of the time they tell you just about everything you need to know about the possible development that will occur between a hero their villain. That is because the “hero” (in the context of coming-of-age fairytales) is by definition a youthful humanoid. The villain must be moulded to complement and challenge the young hero, and we are left with three classic hero/villain dynamics. The hero/villain relationships in just about every fairytale ever written fit into one of these three categories. They are the “the Maiden and the Mother”, “the Son and the Father” and “the Beauty and the Beast”. You would be hard-pressed to find a fairytale that introduces a hero/villain dynamic that does not apply to any of the above. I can’t think of a single example.

The Maiden and the Mother

The first hero/villain dynamic — and possibly the oldest — is the Maiden and the Mother. It concerns fairytales that feature female protagonists, in most cases the maiden or princess. They oppose an older mother-figure (often false) who has become in some way twisted. She is the sorceress jealous of the maiden’s youth or beauty. The heroine must overcome the “mother” in order to come-of-age.
Famous examples include:

Sleeping Beauty – Aurora and the Evil Queen
Snow White – Snow and the Evil Queen
The Little Mermaid – Ariel and the Evil Sea Witch
Cinderella – Cinderella and the Evil Stepmother
Rapunzel – Rapunzel and the Evil Witch
Alice in Wonderland – Alice and the Queen of Hearts
Stardust – Yvaine and the Evil Witches
Howl’s Moving Castle – Sophie and the Witch of the Waste
Coraline – Coraline and the Other Mother
Inuyasha – Kagome and Kikyo
Spirited Away – Chihiro and Ubaba
Matilda – Matilda and Mrs. Trunchbull
The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy and the Wicked Witch
The Hunger Games – Katniss and Coin

The Son and the Father

The male version of the Maiden and the Mother, the Son and the Father concerns children’s fantasy featuring male protagonists. Many are modern, as fairytales were originally meant as cautionary tales for young girls, not necessarily as entertainment. Writers began to twist the Maiden and the Mother to suit male heroes, and the Son and the Father was born. Once again, this “older man” or “male presence” will often have a deep connection to the hero. Perhaps he killed the hero’s real father (i.e. Harry Potter, The Lion King, Avatar), or maybe he is just evil incarnate in the form of a masculine “presence” (i.e. Lord of the Rings). The hero must overcome the “father” in order to come-of-age. The “father” sometimes has an interest in the love-interest of the hero (i.e. Disney’s Aladdin).
Famous examples include:

Peter Pan – Peter Pan and Hook
Arthurian Tradition – Arthur and Mordred
Hamlet – Hamlet and Claudius
Star Wars Original Trilogy – Luke and Darth Vader
Star Wars Prequel Trilogy – Anakin and Palpatine
Lord of the Rings – Frodo and the Ring/Sauron
Harry Potter – Harry and Lord Voldemort
Disney’s Mulan – Mulan and Shan-Yu (Shan-Yu believed her to be a man)
The Prydain Chronicles – Taran and the Horned King
The Graveyard Book – Nobody and the Man Jack
Disney’s Aladdin – Aladdin and Jafar
Disney’s The Lion King – Simba and Scar
Percy Jackson & the Olympians – Percy and Chronos
Inuyasha – Inuyasha and Naraku
Final Fantasy VII – Cloud and Sephiroth
Avatar: The Last Airbender – Aang/Zuko and Fire Lord Ozai

*Footnote: I would like to point out that Star Wars has featured the Son and the Father dynamic not once, not twice, but three times in its history. The Original Trilogy gave us Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Luke had to overcome his fallen father through compassion in order to come-of-age. Similarly, Anakin Skywalker fell prey to Emperor Palpatine, his own father-figure in the Prequel Trilogy. The example happens to be an inverted one, as the Prequel Trilogy is the story of Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side.

“If you wanted a subtitle for these movies, it could be fathers and sons. While Palpatine isn’t, we must assume, Anakin’s natural father, he certainly is a father-figure for him.”

— Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine)
Again, in The Force Awakens, we are introduced to Kylo Ren, the son, and Supreme Leader Snoke, the father-figure and puppeteer. There is even a scene involving Ren comparing Snoke to his real father, Han Solo. Kylo Ren is a perfect representation of just how much tropes can be bent in modern fairytales. He is a villain with his own villain.

The insinuation I am attempting to make here is that Star Wars is — at its core — not the most complex narrative. It is a children’s story, a fairytale, and it follows fairytale guidelines without straying. When Star Wars introduces a hero/villain dynamic, the writers follow through with that dynamic. They use that dynamic to explore the nature of good and evil, of Dark and Light, of youth and experience. The entire history of the franchise tells us this.

Both the Maiden and the Mother and the Son and the Father surround a youth and an older figure whose gender echoes their own. So yes, upon my first viewing of The Force Awakens, I made the automatic assumption that Kylo Ren might have been a woman in disguise because I knew our story had a female hero. I have a background in children’s literature, children’s writing and fairytales, and I had always viewed Star Wars a children’s story and a fairytale. Assuming the hero (Rey’s) villainous counterpart would echo her with regards to gender was only logical. That, and Star Wars had never featured a female Dark Side user before.

So what hero/villain dynamic were we ultimately given in The Force Awakens? You’ll immediately see that Rey and Kylo Ren DO NOT fit into either of the above categories. Rey and Kylo Ren are not the Maiden and the Mother; nor are they the Son and the Father. They are a young woman and a young man, and there is nothing — I repeat, nothing — typical about that. Their dynamic eradicates the two most common and perfectly viable hero/villain fairytale dynamics… and leads us somewhere very, very different, in the direction of the third — and perhaps the most loved — hero/villain dynamic of all time: the Beauty and the Beast.

PART 3: THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

The Beauty and the Beast is a trope that has grown immensely popular over recent years, despite being thousands of years old. It is a fairytale trajectory that subverts the Maiden and the Mother and the Son and the Father by casting the villain as a youthful opposite to the hero.

If the hero is a young woman, the villain will be a young man. However, the Beast is never a true villain, he is an anti-villain or a tragic villain. He is temporary in all cases, a character slated for redemption with the influence of the hero. He is the handsome youth under a spell, punished for his wrongdoings. He is the villain, the love-interest and very often the foil in a single entity.

In these tales, the hero’s coming-of-age does not involve the destruction of the Beast. Quite the contrary, the Beauty must “overcome” the Beast through compassion, through understanding and through love. She must break the spell of his past and set him free.

The following are all examples of the Beauty and the Beast trajectory. In all cases the “beast” is first an antagonist of sorts, either a literal villain, an anti-villain or an anti-hero. He or she is a lonely, dismissive and (in almost all cases) violent character with a dark past. The Beauty and Beast’s story arcs lead them to eventually care deeply for each other, to understand each other and come to view each other as equals.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – Belle and the Beast
One Thousand One Nights – Scheherazade and Shahryar
Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy and Spike
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – Link and Midna (female “beast”)
Gossip Girl – Blair and Chuck (yes, Gossip Girl is a modern fairytale)
Inuyasha – Kagome and Inuyasha
Doctor Who – Rose and the Doctor
Wicked – Fiyero/Glinda and Elphaba (female “beast”/rare platonic dynamic for Glinda and Elphaba)
Avatar: The Last Airbender – Aang and Zuko (rare platonic dynamic)
Howl’s Moving Castle – Sophie and Howl
*Footnote: Despite the constant comparison between Rey and Ren’s dynamic and The Phantom of the Opera, I have NOT included the musical among my examples because Phantom of the Opera is neither a children’s story nor a fairytale. It is very much a Gothic narrative (see: how to identify a Gothic tale). The two therefore cannot be compared under the same light. Phantom of the Opera is a dark, tragic love story and Star Wars is an optimistic, idealistic family-driven coming-of-age fantasy. Furthermore, Kylo Ren is NOT Erik, not in character or role.

Star Wars contains as many Gothic elements as it does western elements, but that doesn’t mean anybody should be expecting Rey to be the daughter of the Lone Ranger.

That aside, why do I say Rey and Kylo Ren have been characterized and positioned by the writers to follow the classic Beauty and the Beast trajectory? Why is the fact that they are a young man and a young woman so important to understanding the future of their dynamic? This part of my essay will tackle just that.

If you’ve managed to get this far in this paper, you’re probably very aware of The Force Awakens, Star Wars and the characters Rey and Kylo Ren. Still, I will quote myself a few times from my first meta The Force Bond Awakens in order to re-introduce our hero and villain. A fresh reminder never hurts.

As has been repeated ad infinitum in various analyses, the three main characters of The Force Awakens can all be likened to children who were prevented from maturing naturally as a result of trauma. Rey was abandoned, Finn was stolen from his parents and subjugated to rigorous military training and Kylo Ren’s mind and personality were warped through his innate “gift” of Force-Sensitivity.

Rey: The Beauty

The lovely youth or maiden who stumbles across adventure in the unlikeliest of places, perhaps by falling down a magical well and being transported back in time (see: Inuyasha), being dragged into a magical world of spirits (see: Twilight Princess/Spirited Away), getting lost in the woods and finding her way into an ancient castle inhabited by a monster (see: Beauty and the Beast), or by being chosen as a Slayer in 90′s California (see: Buffy). The Beauty is the innocent soul—the hero—who is about to encounter his or her dramatic opposite. Archaic examples will often put less emphasis on the Beauty, but he or she is by definition the focus of every Beauty and the Beast dynamic.
A dormant Force-Sensitive who was abandoned as a young child, Rey grew up scavenging the wrecks of an ancient battlefield, waiting in vain for her family to return. Rey’s lonely existence is changed forever when she encounters rogue Stormtrooper Finn. The two become quick allies, fleeing together from the minions of the First Order. They commandeer the long-lost Millennium Falcon in order to escape Jakku, and their act of evasion soon leads them to old heroes of the Resistance Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia Organa. From this point, much of Rey’s journey involves her integration into Kylo Ren’s family and former life. It can be said that she serves as a replacement for the lost Ben Solo. She comes to view both Han Solo and Leia as parental figures, she inherits the Millennium Falcon and Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, and there is very much the suggestion that Rey will be apprenticed to Ren’s uncle and former Master, Luke Skywalker.

Rey is the classic Beauty, the quintessential heroine of the modern fairytale. She is as lonely, lost and heartbroken as she is brave, loyal and adventurous. She is a humble down-on-hard-times orphan working day-to-day in poverty just to feed herself. She is the nobody destined for greatness, the archetypical hero. If that doesn’t sound like the “maiden” from just about every classic fairytale I don’t know what does. She is even drawn into the story by her very own White Rabbit in BB-8. She is capable of communicating with this “animal guide” despite other characters not possessing this capacity (see: Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, etc). Like all “maidens”, Rey is the innocent child on the cusp of her very own perilous journey into adulthood.

*Footnote: Being classified as the “maiden” and the Beauty does not mean Rey is in any way a damsel in distress or a weak, useless female character who exists to “save” Kylo Ren. She is a young woman who is very much capable of taking care of herself (see: the whole movie). She is a modern maiden created for a 21st century audience who also happens to take the position of the hero, but she is still very much a maiden. Although the Beauty and the Beast trajectory involves the maiden’s influence on the redemption of the Beast, the maiden does not exist to absolve the Beast of all sin. He must do that through atonement (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Character archetypes are not intended to be an insult to feminism. Tropes are only as effective as the writer who manipulates them.

See example above. Link is technically the Beauty of this dynamic. Is he a weak, useless character used to redeem the beastly Midna? No. She atones for her mistakes and ultimately breaks her own curse.

Buffy was also a Beauty to both Angel and Spike. Goes to show how much great characterization can impact a tired trope. Buffy was not a prop in Spike’s redemption arc. Did she impact it? Certainly. Did she help him along the way? Of course, but Spike’s redemption was ultimately won through his own efforts.

Kylo Ren: The Beast

The youth cursed to take the form of a lonely monster, the Beast is the counterpart to the Beauty. He or she is often brash, and originates as a villain, an anti-villain, a tragic-villain or (most commonly) an anti-hero. His or her past contains much hardship. Perhaps they were transformed into a monster (see: Buffy, Twilight Princess, Beauty and the Beast, Howl’s Moving Castle) or born from a human and an inhuman (see: Inuyasha, Wicked). Maybe their wife was unfaithful to them and they began to detest women (see: One Thousand One Nights). No matter the cause, the Beast is cursed—literally or metaphorically—by his past, awaiting the nudge they need to find their way again.
Kylo Ren is the fallen son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. He was ensnared in childhood by the mysterious Snoke, head of the First Order. He was manipulated into betraying his family and leaving Luke Skywalker’s dream to restore the Jedi Order in ruins, earning the title “Jedi Killer”. Regarded as the ideal focal point of the Light and Dark, Ben Solo developed an obsession with his maternal grandfather, Darth Vader. He descended to the Dark Side, training under Snoke and becoming leader of the enigmatic Knights of Ren; however, he was never able to completely relinquish the Light from which he was born.

Kylo Ren is without any doubt the archetypical Beast, the youth under a sorcerer’s curse. That curse is not literal, but metaphorical — the curse of the Dark Side. He was manipulated and tortured in childhood, never given a chance to live. Supreme Leader Snoke lured him away from his family, indoctrinating him, training him and moulding him to his will.

Kylo Ren even possesses his own version on the infamous “rose” in Darth Vader’s helmet. He prays to the helmet, revealing his true sentiments to the “ghost” of his ancestor — that the pull to the Light will ultimately take him.

Physically, Kylo Ren is an interesting example of the Beast. He cloaks himself in layer upon layer of black, concealing even his neck, face and natural voice — hiding everything “human” about him, everything that makes him Ben Solo. He is not a beast who wants to be a man, he is a man who chooses to be a beast, both outwardly and through his actions. His personal curse is as much self-inflicted as it is the result of Snoke’s influence.

As is the case with all Beasts, Ren is the creation of his personal origin story and sins. Accepting what Kylo Ren represents to the Star Wars universe is quintessential to understanding his future role in the story, and his future with Rey, the Beauty to his Beast. Just as Kylo Ren does not adhere to a typical hero/villain dynamic, he is unlike any villain we have ever encountered in Star Wars. Kylo Ren is not Darth Maul or Count Dooku. He is not even Darth Vader. He is something new, an amalgamation of contradictory tropes that shouldn’t work together, but inherently do. He is the stoic man and the lonely child, the beast and the prince, the knight and the dragon, the Darkness and the Light. Kylo Ren is a walking contradiction contained in the package of the last Skywalker. He is the grandson of Anakin and Padme, the son of Han and Leia, the nephew of Luke. He is the Legacy of two Trilogies and six films. He is the most important character in the Star Wars universe.

IMPORTANT: All of this analysis would be completely invalid if Kylo Ren was NOT the legacy, but he IS. Kylo Ren’s origin, his characterization and his role in the narrative are what make him the Beast, the sinful monster who is about to be seduced by the Beauty’s light.

Bonus points for this. He might as well have said “There is no conflict.”

The Platonic “Beauty and the Beast” (Light Youth/Dark Youth)

There does exist what could be called a “platonic” trajectory of the Beauty and the Beast. It is a modern take on the dynamic that is bot rare and more difficult to summarize. I will title it the Light Youth and the Dark Youth. The bond forged between these opposites will almost always be a familial one.

Perhaps the best example can be found in in the Broadway musical Wicked (and the Disney ripoff Frozen). Glinda and Elfaba/Anna and Elsa are without any doubt a version of Beauty and the Beast, but because Glinda and Elfaba are both heterosexual females (and Anna and Elsa are sisters), their connections are sisterly.

Platonic Beauties and Beasts will ultimately follow very similar trajectories to their romantic counterparts, but their dynamic will not include any sexual chemistry or romance.

Other great examples of the platonic Dark and Light Youth can be found in Aang and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Naruto and Sasuke from Naruto, Gon and Killua from Hunter X Hunter, Koda and Kenai from Brother Bear, Haku and Chihiro from Spirited Away and Rin and Sesshomaru from Inuyasha. Note that the last two are debatable, as both Rin and Chihiro are children. The nature of their dynamics with their opposites are therefore much more open to interpretation, but the trajectory is still identical. One character with a tragic past, one with a blossoming light that can cast away the darkness.

Although the potential is laughably unlikely, if Rey does turn out to be Luke’s daughter, she and Kylo Ren will forge a similar, familial bond. However, I have reasons founded in hard evidence to discount this possibility. This evidence can be found in the film’s soundtrack.

During the bridal carry sequence on Takodana, John Williams made the conscious decision to awkwardly shove a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s famous Romeo and Juliet love theme rise just as Kylo Ren enters his ship with Rey. The theme is played straight and to the point, no mirroring or dissonance or other musical language that might imply any other symbolism than the obvious one.

An excellent comparison of the two.
Furthermore, Kylo Ren and Rey’s motifs contain very bizarre clues. The last three notes of Ren’s motif are the first three notes of Rey’s motif. Rey’s motif corrects the dissonance that can be heard in Ren’s. Rey’s theme “corrects” and “completes” Kylo Ren’s. Again, the meaning should be obvious. Rey “completes” and “corrects” Kylo Ren.

Perhaps more telling is the fact that the three notes that connect Kylo Ren’s and Rey’s themes are in fact the first three notes of Across the Stars, Anakin and Padme’s love song, in-reverse. I’ll let that speak for itself.

A comparison of “Kylo Ren’s theme”, “Rey’s theme” and “Across the Stars”.

PART 4: THE SCAVENGER AND THE MONSTER

In the final part of the essay I will focus on Kylo Ren and Rey’s dynamic as presented in the film — it’s inception, foundation and potential future as evidenced by the entire history of the Star Wars saga and thousands of years of fairytales and children’s stories. This will be the deconstruction of their separate journeys, and a commentary on the fact that they have been positioned by the writers to develop together in future films.

I must start where all stories start: at the beginning.

We meet Kylo Ren on Jakku. He is searching for the “map” to Luke Skywalker, his old Jedi Master. He “denies the truth that is his family” when he cuts down Lor San Tekka.

This scene is often used as “proof” evidencing Ren’s “unredeemable” nature, but I would like to talk about why it — and every other scene involving Ren in the entire movie — is foreshadows his redemption. This film represents the catalyst that will ultimately lead Kylo Ren home.

When does Ren actually murder San Tekka? When he mentions his origins, his family. This is the kind of interpretation we are only made privy to upon multiple viewings of the film. Ren wanted that map so badly he was willing to go against his master’s orders, yet in the very first scene he cuts down a potential key-witness, someone whose mind he could have probed for information? Surely San Tekka had seen the map before… but Ren killed him anyway. He killed him before he even knew Tekka had given the map to Poe, before he knew Poe was watching, before he was made aware of BB-8′s existence.

Ren is a character who reacts very much on instinct. His murder of Lor San Tekka reveals this completely. He kills the old man because of his words, his chastising, his reminder that Ren did not “rise from the Dark Side”. It becomes clear within the first five minutes of the film that Ren is far from indifferent toward his origins. Indifference is the opposite of love, hate is something very different. Hate denotes an emotional attachment, an investment. That investment is what allows Ren to feel a “pull to the Light”.

Ren proceeds to capture Poe and order the slaughter of the villagers, but something very strange happens just as he is about to depart. Kylo Ren spies a Stormtrooper deliberately disobeying him. And what does he do? He lets him go. This decision serves as the singular event that initiates the entire adventure. It is as much the catalyst as Finn’s awakening.

Kylo Ren’s introductory sequence is meant to be contrasted with the remainder of the film, because Kylo Ren’s character arc in The Force Awakens does not revolve around development. On the contrary, he is placed on a downward spiral that leads him to his absolute lowest point.

Ren’s characterization serves as a backdrop for Kylo Ren’s unravelling. He appears so similar to Darth Vader, but in no time at all you are faced with the realization that he is nothing like Darth Vader. That aloof, confidant man is quickly washed away. Ren is in constant turmoil, being torn apart by the two sides of the Force he happens to embody. He prays to his dead grandfathers’ helmet, begging it to show him the way. His eyes are teary behind his mask, his hands balled in fists, his true voice soft and quaky. He is lonely, afraid and in emotional and physical pain, far from at peace with himself.

Throughout much of the film, Kylo Ren appears to be absolutely obsessed with finding the map. The implication is that he has “personal interests” surrounding the map that deviate from Snoke’s plot. He is incredibly driven, following the map — and Rey, Finn, BB-8 and his father — to the forest planet Takodana. However, this interest is somewhat difficult to decipher, because throughout the film Kylo Ren also portrayed an unusual fixation on the “girl” — the “scavenger”.

Upon his arrival on Takodana, he hears word of the map, but ultimately follows the girl into the forest. It is at this point that Kylo Ren’s character trajectory truly begins to come into focus. He becomes the Beast to Rey’s Beauty.

We first encounter Rey on Jakku as well. She is a lone scavenger, a young woman who has been waiting fifteen years for her family to return. As previously established, she is brought into the adventure by Finn — the Stormtrooper whom Kylo Ren allowed to disobey his orders at the beginning of the film, and who betrayed the First Order. Rey escapes with Finn, meets Han and the others and is coincidentally brought to the exact location where Anakin’s lightsaber has been kept. Rey’s strong connection to the Skywalkers — and to Ben Solo — when she is called by the lightsaber. The weapon sweeps her into a Forceback that illustrates past, present and future — Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, the hall of Cloud City, the moment of her abandonment, a rainy battlefield and a snowy wood. She is pursued by a black knight through the vision — he stalks her, storming toward her, saber drawn. The knight is everything she opposes, her worst nightmare in the form of a faceless monster. Fear of her own capacity and of this knight leads Rey to flee the call of the Light, leaving her vulnerable. In the ancient forest of Takodana, she and the black knight with whom her life has become inexplicably entangled — Kylo Ren— are brought together for the first time.

The forest of Takodana is in itself highly symbolic. In age-old fairytales, the maiden almost always meets her prince in a forest. Forests are places of magic, of mystery. A maiden becoming lost in an ancient wood is very often a metaphor for an awakening, for the unknown that must be traversed in order for the maiden to come-of-age. Think Little Red Cap, who had to traverse the Path of Pins or the Path of Needles through the mysterious forest, and who was stalked by the “wolf”. The paths are a metaphor for the inevitability of maturation, the wolf an archaic symbol of male sexuality.

The fact is there has always been something a little “creepy” about the archetypical fairytale prince. He watches the long-lost princess dance from the shadows, stalking her through the trees. I find it hard to believe the writers didn’t draw inspiration from this classic trope, everything from “once upon a dream” to “visions are seldom all they seem.”
These are powerful, ancient tropes, and no competent author would choose to play with them aimlessly. And because this is a modern fairytale, we can expect the tropes to be twisted. Remember the wolf and the prince? Well, Ren isn’t just one of them, he’s both.

Is it a coincidence that Rey and Ren meet in the forest, that they share a moment alone with Ren stalking Rey like a wild animal, toying with her attempts to defend herself? Not at all. In fact, this is where the infamous “bridal carry” Ohtze references so often in Death and the Maiden comes into play.

I would like to veer off-topic for a bit in order to analyze Kylo Ren’s characterization a little more. Kylo Ren is a fascinating combination of Gothic literature and children’s literature. Even I can’t deny the similarities Ren shares with Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff, or indeed, Shelly’s Frankenstein. But the similarities are ultimately subverted because Kylo Ren also embodies tropes of a separate, contradictory genre. He is as much the lonely young boy shunted off to boarding school by his unassuming parents as he is the Byronic hero or the Big Bad Wolf. He is Toseland from The Children of Green Knowe, or perhaps even more accurately, Edmund from C.S. Lewis’ classic The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Sent away by his parents “for his own protection”, Edmund is manipulated, enticed and lured away from his siblings by the White Witch. Kylo Ren is as selfish as Edmund, pursuing his own “personal interests” above the orders of his supposed master. He is the boy eating Turkish Delight in the magical sleigh, hoisted by his own false regency. He is responsible for the death of the true father, Aslan, but of course, he ultimately saves the realm beyond the Wardrobe. He betrays the White Witch and, with the help of his family, frees Narnia from her tyrannical rule.

The Gothic literature comparisons are not entirely unfounded. In fact, they can be applied perfectly for about three-fourths of the film. The “bridal carry” scene is without any doubt an homage to the classic monster movie icon of the creature spiriting away the beautiful maiden. However, the trope is ultimately subverted because — as I postulated in Part Three of this essay — Kylo Ren is not “technically” a monster. Rey might call him a “creature in a mask” and a “monster”, but he is undeniably as human as she is. He is a young man who wants desperately to be more, but who ultimately can only conceal the “truth of his family” behind a mask. The second that mask comes off in the interrogation, Kylo Ren becomes a young man. The Gothic comparisons can no longer be applied from here on out, because Kylo Ren is not the Creature from the Black Lagoon or Frankenstein, and Star Wars is not a Gothic tale (see: Part One of this essay).

I think I’ll just let this speak for itself. As much as he might want to be a monster, Kylo Ren is still just a man.
In the interrogation, Kylo Ren watches Rey sleep, crouched on the ground like a small child. There is a sense of submission in him, with the slumbering Rey hovering above. Suddenly she wakes up, and the scene that follows is perhaps one of the most meaningful in the entire film. The sequence serves as the foundation of Kylo Ren and Rey’s hero/villain dynamic. It is what truly moulds them as the Beauty and the Beast.

The scene provides a heavy metaphor for the balance of power in its many forms — female power, male power, Force power, mental power, physical power, emotional power and, perhaps most troubling, sexual power. Kylo Ren looks at Rey’s body, at her lips, her face. He removes his mask — his shield, his line of defence that protects him from vulnerability — for her. He seems to briefly abandon his previous pursuit of the map in order to delve into Rey’s personal thoughts, discovering that he identifies greatly with her. His body-language and actions also betray him completely. He is attracted to her in some way, be that physically, mentally or through the Light Side of the Force she happens to embody. Kylo Ren is, without any doubt, being seduced by Rey’s Light.

And just to prove that the sexual chemistry is indeed there, I present Time Magazine’s review of The Force Awakens:

“In one of the movie’s finest moments, Ren—unmasked and intense—engages Rey in a major stare-down, an unholy duel between the light side of the Force and the dark. The sexual energy between them is strange and unsettling, like a theremin sonata only they can hear.”

The interrogation sequence is peculiar in many ways. In most cases of mind-reading, the audience is made privy to the thoughts and images in the victim’s head (see: Harry Potter). However, we do not see Rey’s thoughts — we hear them through Kylo Ren. He describes her loneliness, her fear, her desperation, her dreams, all while positioned centimetres from her face. There is an “intimacy” between them, a connection, even before Kylo Ren expresses that he “feels it too”.

Kylo Ren is rather beastly in much of this scene; however, the balance of power shifts completely when Rey enters Ren’s mind, emerging dominant over him. She sees his deepest fear, and he is completely taken-aback. The “beast” has once again become a “man”.

The rest of the film further cements Kylo Ren’s fixation on Rey. That fixation appears to transform into some kind of genuine infatuation by the film’s climactic conclusion. He has great admiration for her, and it is spelled out all over his face during their final confrontation in the forest on Starkiller Base.

Kylo Ren has, by this point in the film, unravelled completely. He has murdered his father in the belief that patricide would eradicate the pull to the Light within him. Han died loving his son, forgiving him, and hoping that he would come to forgive him too someday, but Kylo Ren is grief-stricken by the wicked act, weakened, horrified and shocked by his own actions. He shows his regret in his own way, by punishing Finn (the other “traitor”). He expresses that “Han Solo can’t save [him]”. He takes Finn down, and upon doing so, comes face-to-face with the Beauty once again. She grasps his legacy lightsaber, and for the second time, they do battle.

The sequence is breathtakingly beautiful, with snow falling all around them. They are in an ancient wood once more, and Rey is attempting to overcome her adversary — her dramatic opposite, her foil, the “monster” to her “scavenger”. Ren has no desire to harm her, and reveals his true — and perhaps subconscious — intention through a Freudian Slip. As the two forces clash, the planet crumbles around them, and they become caught in a deadlock on the edge of a great ravine. Kylo Ren then offers to show “[Rey] the ways of the Force.” Not Dark Side, but Force. Naturally, Rey has had just about enough of Kylo Ren, and somehow takes advantage of his sudden moment of weakness to defeat him. For a moment — and just a moment — she becomes the “beast”, branding him with her saber, scarring the visage of the young man. It is made very clear in the script that Rey — the maiden — nearly tapped into the Dark Side when she overcame Ren. And yet, as the planet continues to fall to ruin, the two share another moment, staring at each other before Rey is forced to escape. The fissure that separates them becomes a metaphor for everything they will need to overcome, for the physical and metaphysical divide that keeps them apart.

That is the true nature of Rey and Ren’s dynamic. They are equals. Neither is truly dominant over the other. They share in both dominance and submission, one appearing to weaken just as the other grows stronger. They are two sides of the same coin, Yin and Yang, one dark with a little light, the other light with a little dark. They are the Beauty and the Beast, but neither is truly all Beauty or all “beast”. They share in moments of both, the balance of power between them seeming to rise and fall like the mechanisms of a great scale

HOW THIS STORY COULD HAVE BEEN WRITTEN DIFFERENTLY

Interestingly, the writers could have easily made “Ren” an older woman. “She” and Rey could have reflected the classic Maiden and the Mother trajectory, but the writers didn’t go in that direction. Similarly, they could have made Ren a much older man, eradicating all possible romantic tension. They even could have made Kylo Ren develop a fixation on Finn, in doing so creating a subverted prince and princess rescue dynamic. In fact, that would have made a lot more sense in the context of the narrative. Finn was the Stormtrooper Ren ignored despite witnessing him disobey his orders. Rey was just a Scavenger, as Kylo Ren himself pointed out. But no, the writers didn’t go down any of these potential — and indeed, more logical — routes.

Instead, they had Kylo Ren sweep Rey into a bridal carry, watch her sleep from a submissive position, show her his “dreamy” face, reassure her, get too-close-for-comfort, say things like “Don’t be afraid, I feel it too”, search her personal thoughts, cry, beat his own wounds, offer to be her teacher and develop a full-blown infatuation with her. They decided to subvert the “male dominance” trope by having Rey overcome Kylo Ren mentally and physically. They had Rey fill the void Ben left behind in the Skywalker family. They had Rey call Ren a “monster”, an synonym for the Beast. They had Rey, the hero, brand her villain, Kylo Ren, as though he was hers to possess. They had them stare at each other as the world was falling apart around them — lock gazes across a literal and metaphorical chasm.

Why? Why would any writers do this? All of the above is what incites fans to delve so deeply into their narrative “connection”. It is what makes so many educated people so interested in their relationship. It is what makes fans compare them to Belle and the Beast and Buffy and Spike. It is what makes their potential so compelling. But why make their potential narratively compelling in the first place? Why enable crazy people to write 30-page essays detailing their dynamic? WHY?

Why?

WHY?

WHY!?

I have studied children’s stories and fairytales for as long as I have been a lover of entertainment. I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said the foundation of Rey and Kylo Ren’s hero/villain dynamic is an anomaly within not just the context of Star Wars, but thousands of years of fairytales and centuries of children’s fantasy. It makes absolutely no sense to cast your hero and villain as a young woman and a young man (who is attracted to and has an infatuation with said young woman) unless you—as a writer—are intending to head in a very specific direction? There is no other, not one that has ever seen the light of day in thousands of years.

I don’t say that to suggest The Force Awakens’ dynamic should be anything but what it is. Rey and Ren are a young woman and young man in the same age bracket, one Light and one Dark, positioned to develop against, through and with each other. They are by definition the Beauty and the Beast, and everything about their interactions cements them as such.

When Star Wars starts a hero/villain dynamic, they follow through with that dynamic for the rest of the Trilogy (see: Luke and Vader/Anakin and Palpatine). Star War is not that original, and indeed, it shouldn’t be.

And this leads us to the true thesis behind this entire essay: why would any writers create a Beauty and the Beast fairytale dynamic and a one-sided infatuation between the heroine and the last Skywalker, the Legacy of three Trilogies and six films, the most important character in the Star Wars galaxy if not to go somewhere bold with it?

They wouldn’t, and that is why “Reylo” will not only be canon, it will be reciprocated. We just don’t know how the writers are going to get there.

THE MORALITY OF “REYLO”

Over the past few months I have witnessed what might be called a “vocal minority” speaking out about the potential of Rey and Ren forging a connection of any kind. I have not been personally involved with these individuals beyond a small handful of debates on my platform of choice, but a constant theme that seems to be reiterated to the point of genuine nausea revolves around the idea that “Reylo” as a character trajectory would be in some way “morally wrong” because Kylo Ren is a villain who “abuses” Rey in The Force Awakens. Now, if you happen to be one of these individuals, and you have managed to get this far in my paper, I applaud you. If I have not changed your mind yet, I have a question for you.

What problem do you have with one character in a fictional story learning to feel compassion for another character? You’re dismissing the entire notion of compassion because you think this character does not deserve to be forgiven, that he does not deserve to be loved, understood or given another chance, that he does not deserve to atone for his sins? I’m sorry, but Kylo Ren is not only a member of the Sequel Trilogy character trinity, he is Han and Leia’s son. His father gave his life to take away his pain and forgave him. Han Solo was both a murder victim and a willing sacrifice. He died loving his son, looking into his eyes and hoping that he would find his way home someday. Kylo Ren will be redeemed, no doubt about that.

Leia and Han’s son was abused, twisted and manipulated as a child. He was lured away from his family by a monster. He made disastrous decisions, he committed atrocious crimes, and yet his family still loves him. They see that there is still Light in him, that he struggles, that he is in turmoil, that part of him knows that Snoke is only using him. And yet this “vocal minority” wants to see their hero kill this man — the grandson of Anakin and Padme, the son of Han and Leia, the nephew of Luke, the man who is likely the last in the Skywalker line, the child whose death would spell lifelong grief for all of your previous heroes?

Have you wondered that perhaps this Trilogy is about the girl who ultimately puts the Skywalkers back on the right path? Who helps them through compassion, through understanding and through love? Who shows them that there is a reason to go on? Who guides the lost legacy back to his family, back to those who love him more than anything?

What in hell is wrong with that? That’s not Twilight. That’s not Fifty Shades of Grey. How is that “disgusting”, “supporting abuse” or a “bad message to little girls”? The answer: IT ISN’T.

Both Rey and Kylo Ren are characters who will have an incredibly positive influence on children. Just as Rey is a female character who is not defined by her gender, Kylo Ren is a male character who freely exhibits qualities that young boys are taught constantly to shy away from. He’s incredibly sensitive, brimming with emotion, in tears much of the time beneath his mask—he’s very feminine. More emphasis is placed on Ren’s appearance than Rey’s. The subversion of gender-roles and archetypes is handled gloriously with Rey and Ren because Ren is still masculine, and Ren is still feminine.

Rey and Kylo Ren are a “hero” and “villain” who are very appropriate for a modern audience. They are the perfect constructs of the modern fairytale.

There is no anti-feminist message in a character feeling compassion for any other character or in any human being feeling compassion for any other human being. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye about everything… indeed, there have been circumstances throughout history that have defined and redefined human morality. But without attempting to feel compassion for our opposites, how can we ever come to understand why we support our own beliefs? The world is not made of absolutes, just as the Beauty and the Beast is not a set-in-stone plot. It is a storytelling trope. The best writers will take what is loved about something old and make it new again.

That is what is so fascinating about Rey and Kylo Ren’s dynamic. Rey is not entirely the Beauty, and Ren is not entirely the Beast. They are a retelling fit for the modern era. They are Yin and Yang, opposites that can only exist in perfect harmony by accepting and understanding that they are not all of one thing, that they can only be truly whole at peace with each other.

They are both the Beauty and the Beast.

ON REDEMPTION

Based simply on The Force Awakens I would not call it a leap to suggest that much of this Trilogy is slated to surround the fight for Ben Solo’s soul. He was left a broken, scarred man, staring wistfully across the crack in the world at the woman who brought him to his knees. But… was there more to it than that?

Ring Composition — a narrative formula George Lucas made use of in order to construct the Star Wars storyline — suggests that Kylo Ren’s trajectory will be reversal of Anakin’s. While romantic love couldn’t save Anakin, he was ultimately pulled back to the Light by his son. Familial love did what romantic love could not. Similarly, familial love failed to save Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. Ring Composition states that Ren can only be saved by what couldn’t save his grandfather: romantic love.

Furthermore, there are countless examples of symbolism and foreshadowing acknowledging the redemption theme that will pervade the future of this Trilogy. I’ll include my favourites from the final script below.

And just then, the LAST BEAM OF SUNLIGHT streaming through the open hatch VANISHES.

Han actually smiles – and reaches out for the dark weapon – but with the light now gone, KYLO REN’S EYES FILL WITH DARKNESS.
At this moment, Kylo Ren murdered his father. Starkiller Base sucked the life from a sun, casting a shadow across the planetary weapon, and across Kylo Ren. The sun’s death heralded Ren’s darkest act. As hope was lost, so too were Ben and Han Solo. The sun, the son and father fell together.

But something amazing happened at the end of the film, creating one of the most meaningful and symbolic images in the Star Wars franchise.

The X-wings ROAR OFF, skyward as the MUSIC SOARS, the PLANET IMPLODES – THE SUNLIGHT IT CONTAINS BURSTS FORTH, and as we get further and further distance from what was Starkiller Base, we witness the REBIRTH OF A SUN. Light restored to a corner of the galaxy.

This is about as descriptive as any script is going to get. We witnessed the “rebirth of a sun”. Rebirth of a sun… or rebirth of a “son”? In English, the words “sun” and “son” happen to be the same. This is a pun that has been used throughout English literature to describe the “prodigal son”.

“I am too much I’ the sun.”

– Hamlet

In a story that surrounds the concept of Light and Dark as two sides of a coin and that involved a sun dying to symbolize the loss of hope as a character violently murdered his own father, having that same sun be “reborn” in a flurry of light is very telling. Kylo Ren was filled with darkness as the sun fell, but after being defeated by Rey (interesting how Rey’s name is also a pun on sun “ray”) he was “reborn” along with the new sun, his father’s eternal resting place.

Below we have an image of the famous interrogation sequence. Kylo Ren is watching Rey sleep. Her form is visibly glowing, light seeming to practically burst from her. Kylo Ren is in the shadows, all in black, admiring her light and majesty. He is quite literally being seduced by the thing he has been trying to avoid: the Light, which happens to take the form of a young woman: the Beauty is unwittingly seducing her Beast.

But we must always remember… even if she doesn’t want to acknowledge it, she “feels it too.”

DISCLAIMER FOR ALL OF THE ABOVE

All of my predictions are founded on the principal that the writers behind this Trilogy actually know what they’re doing (i.e. that they don’t suck). But honestly, they would have to really suck to screw this up. As in beyond any previous level suckage introduced in modern film (worse than The Room). Writers, please don’t suck. I just spent 30 pages discussing how competent you are. Be competent.

“Here endeth the lesson.”
– FrolickingFizzgig (also Spike)

VIA (WITH VISUAL AIDS): frolickingfizzgig.tumblr.com

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