|I'm a passionate storyteller trying to make a career out of my hobbies (writing and photography) and interests (Catholicism, ecumenism, culture of life).|
A year ago I wrote about how I unexpectedly became a Star Wars fan. Now I would like to share another unexpected part of that journey, how I ended up shipping a couple that I once thought was impossible and problematic, but I now believe is probable and key to the story itself. This is not meant to be a persuasive essay—other fans, more knowledgeable and articulate than I, have already written extensively about all the evidence to support their theories and predictions. Rather, I’m writing this to talk about my own perception and how my perspective changed.
The Force Awakens was the installment that made me a full-fledged Star Wars fan. On my first viewing, I did not fully understand the plot or all the dynamics of the characters, even though I thought them by far more understandable than the preceding films. My sister had already told me how it ended, so I did not feel any suspense about the character of Kylo Ren. I did not really understand him, as he just seemed to me to be the character they wanted to be a “wild card,” like Darth Vader. He chose wrong, and I thought that was the end of his arc. I was more interested in Rey and what direction her story would go in.
Like any other millennial, I turned to the internet to feed my new interest. I browsed DeviantArt for fan art of my favorite characters. I came across some pieces that showed Rey and Kylo Ren in a romantic light. While some of them were admittedly good quality artwork, I couldn’t see how anyone could seriously expect them to have romantic chemistry, much less a healthy, positive kind. Sure, the interrogation scene had some tension that could be read as sexual, but I figured that was incidental to the fact that they were a man and a woman. Sexual tension is not an indicator of romance. Even if the villain had feelings for the heroine, it could never be reciprocated. How could Rey ever have a place in her heart for Kylo after the things he did to her and her friends? How could she trust him to any degree after he killed his own father? Reylo seemed to me an intriguing idea at best, a perverted fantasy at worst, and overall unlikely to become canon.
Then, in 2017, I saw The Last Jedi the day after Christmas. While I don’t recall what my exact thoughts were immediately after seeing it, I remember being constantly surprised and thrilled and overall happy with it. As soon as I got home from the movie theater, I turned to Tumblr to nourish my enthusiasm … and the discourse and creativity of the Reylo community pulled me in like the dark chasm on Ahch-To.
As I read and listened to more fans’ analysis of Rey, Kylo, and their relationship, my understanding of the sequel trilogy, its characters, and their dynamics changed. Looking back on The Force Awakens, I could now see how that hints and seeds of romance between Rey and Ben/Kylo were scattered throughout the movie. I loved reading about the symbolism found throughout The Last Jedi—Freudian symbols, literary archetypes, elements of fairy tales, the hero(ine)’s journey, the coming-of-age. I loved the parallels I could now see between Rey and other favorite characters of mine, like Belle, Jane Eyre, and Jesus Christ, who persist in love while still calling out their loved ones’ bad behavior. Seeing the allusions fans made to other works of literature prompted me look into classics I had not been exposed to before. I read Pride and Prejudice last year after seeing so many comparisons made to it, and I hope to read Dante’s Divine Comedy soon. So in a way I have become more culturally literate through the influence of the Reylo community.
I know in real life a person like Kylo Ren would, at best, be in prison for his school shooting and collaboration in mass murders. But Star Wars is a myth, and myths are stories that reveal truths about life, human nature, and the world we live in. Knowing this, I love Rey, Kylo, and the Reylo ship for all that they represent, including some of the most profound and radical parts of my faith: compassion, repentance, forgiveness, conversion, redemption. Regardless of how you feel about the characters or their relationship, it is undeniable that they are shaping each other’s arcs, and that their relationship is shaping the course of the overall story, in powerful, dramatic ways. And I find that beautiful and thought-provoking.