Saturday, December 17, 2016

EDITORIAL: Why Rey Should Be A Skywalker

Hello Star Wars fans! As another December rolls around we are blessed with another Star Wars film with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In light of the “Star Wars mood” I wanted to write an editorial on an issue that has been rampant in the news lately and related to the film we got last year, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. That issue is the parentage of Rey, our female heroine from this new trilogy. This editorial will discuss some of the conversation about her lineage and will then argue why she should, for the purposes of story consistency, be a Skywalker.


This conversation really started prior to the release of The Force Awakens when we first got the character names and were told that those characters without last names had those excluded for specific reasons. This applied, of course, to Finn, whose naming origin was answered directly in the first act of the film. It also applied to Rey as well. Unlike Finn, however, director J.J. Abrams and company did not see fit to reveal the information being withheld in his initial film. Thus, the speculation began. A decent number of fans operated under the belief, at the time, that Rey is a Skywalker and that that would soon be revealed. A non-trivial minority felt differently, however. Each fan theory started to feel crazier than the next. After a while people tired and conversation quieted or moved onto the identity of Supreme Leader Snoke.

Fast forward to early 2016 when we learned more about Rogue One and the character of Jyn Erso, portrayed by Felicity Jones. Some Star Wars fans naturally jumped to the belief one British brunette heroine must be related to another (i.e., Jyn and Rey are related). Wrong. Fairly early on that was kyboshed but it reinvigorated the speculation over Rey’s lineage once again which has continued to this day.

Currently, the theory gaining the most steam is that she is a descendent of Obi-Wan Kenobi. This theory has been promulgated to operate a number of different ways and has been getting further attention by virtue of comments of Obi-Wan playing a role in this sequel trilogy and by added attention payed to Obi-Wan and his Clone Wars love interest, Duchess Satine, in the most recent episode of Star Wars: Rebels.


The going theory is bothersome to me as a Star Wars fan and this portion of the editorial will detail why I believe she should be a Skywalker. It makes no judgement on whether she will. The evidence points every which way and the Rian Johnson Star Wars: Episode VIII camp doesn’t seem about to announce it any time soon.

Rey should be a Skywalker to continue the core Star Wars tradition. The Star Wars saga has always centered around the Skywalker family (or individuals within it) and, though it has been reframed multiple times, at the emotional center a Skywalker story has remained. This portion will look analytically at the saga and point to our sole missing element, thus far, in the sequel trilogy.

Going back to 1977, we had one film, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. That film finds Luke Skywalker, a somewhat pathetic moisture farmer who dreams of freedom and getting away from the desolate wasteland he has grown up in. Over the course of the film, he is the emotional center as he goes on the traditional “Joseph Campbell” heroes journey to help the Rebel Alliance destroy the Death Star at the end of the film. One Skywalker with the emotional arc entirely focused on him.

In 1983 we had a full trilogy of films. After the fairly simple story of A New Hope, the next two installments considerably complicated the emotional heart of the story. The gave our hero, Luke, internal conflict by making his father the big bad and having him discover his sister (also a main figure in that trilogy). If we take the broad look at the original trilogy, the core emotional storyline is Luke’s journey to redeem his father. He has to become a hero to get the attention, learn the information, and the whole trilogy climaxes and turns on the final moments of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi when Luke accomplishes this task and together he and Darth Vader defeat the Emperor. The battle against the empire is important, but it is secondary to this emotional plot that is the only real thing that cut through the three films consistently.

Some sixteen years later, Star Wars returned with the infamous film Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. This first film in the prequel trilogy has not been terribly well received over the years and some particular critics accused it of not having a main character. At the end of the day though, the emotional story still turns on what happens to young Anakin Skywalker. Whether or not he will be freed, and then whether or not he will be trained. The battle for Naboo and the loss of Qui-Gon Jin matter, but they are not where the heart of the tale lies. Then, as the prequel trilogy proceeded to its eventual conclusion, the clear story being told across the three films was the rise and tragic fall of Anakin. Unquestionably, the Skywalker story was front and center.

The final reframing we got was that of the “complete” (at the time) saga. When fans analyzed that story, they found it to be an absolute truth of the franchise was that the central story (at least emotionally) is really about the fall from grace and redemption of Anakin. It is his heroes story. The rise and fall of the empire is there, but it all inevitably hinges on this central Anakin Skywalker story.

There is no way around this. No matter what overlying sheen or themes they applied, the Skywalker family drama remained the central core throughout the first six Star Wars films. The Force Awakens was different in this respect as we were not presented with a Skywalker hero front and center. We discovered we had a Skywalker villain. Finding Luke Skywalker was a pivotal plot point to the story. General Leia is still around, but as a supporting character. What was the emotional core of The Force Awakens? Rey finding her power and venturing away from Jakku. By all indications she is our main hero and will be the focal point of this sequel trilogy.

Barring LucasFilm doing something really bold with the storytelling surrounding Kylo Ren (who many view as completely irredeemable at this point) or leaning away from new characters and into Luke (also unlikely), our current story lacks the Skywalker narrative at its emotional center. If Rey is our lead, as being sold, to maintain this most basic tenet of Star Wars Saga storytelling, she ought to be a Skywalker. Just like we wouldn’t accept a saga film without an opening crawl, without Jedi, without lightsabers, etc. we shouldn’t accept one that lacks the fundamental emotional core that defines this franchise. The Skywalker story is what we’ve been told and I can think of no better character than Rey to continue the proud lineage of Skywalkers we’ve seen for nearly 40 years.


As mentioned, none of this is to suggest that she will be a Skywalker. It is merely my position on why she should be one. I’m sure many will say that she should be her own character. Others will likely argue that it’s time to change things up in the franchise. Neither are inherently wrong positions, and each have their merits. This one tradition is one I think should be kept, however. The Skywalkers are Star Wars as much as anything else. I hope we keep that proud tradition in tact with a Skywalker as our hero. With how good a character Rey seems to be, I also hope she is that character.

Thank you for reading this editorial. Sound off in the comments below if you have a different perspective or if you agree! Also, check out my extensive Rogue One: A Star Wars Story spoiler review here!

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