Ever since The Force Awakens debuted, the question of who Rey’s parents were has been a hot topic of discussion. The proposed answers have included Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Leia and Han Solo and even Palpantine. A lot of fans were disappointed by the answer provided in The Last Jedi.
Spoiler warning! This post contains spoilers about the Star Wars film franchise and Iron Man 3.
As the prelude to a very Vader-esque “Come to the Dark Side” pitch in TLJ, Kylo Ren and Rey have the following exchange:
“Do you know the truth about your parents? Or have you always known? You’ve just hidden it away. … Say it.”
“They were nobody,” she says, fighting back tears.
“They were filthy junk traders,” he says. “Sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert. You come from nothing. You’re nothing. … But not to me.”
Many fans felt cheated, especially considering what Johnson did (or didn’t do) with Supreme Leader Snoke.
A Disturbance in the Star Wars Franchise
Recently, Simon Pegg has suggested that Rey’s intended origins were undone by Johnson’s film. On the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Pegg said of JJ Abrams:
”I know what JJ kind of intended, well, at least what was sort of being chucked around. I think that’s kind of been undone slightly by the last one. There was some talk about, you know, a kind of relevant lineage for her. But I honestly don’t know, and I don’t know if anybody knows. We shall see.”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson discussed his decision to make Rey’s parents nobodies.
“The easiest thing for Rey and the audience to hear is, Oh yeah, you’re so-and-so’s daughter. That would be wish fulfillment and instantly hand her a place in this story on a silver platter.”
“The hardest thing for her is to hear she’s not going to get that easy answer. Not only that, but Kylo is going to use the fact that you don’t get that answer to try and weaken you so you have to lean on him. You’re going to have to find the strength to stand on your own two feet and define yourself in this story.”
This is just confirmation that Johnson is a hack storyteller.
He’s on record saying thathe doesn’t even like writing stories and that he views it more as an excavation then a constructive process, which is pretty much an admission that he makes stuff up as he goes along rather than planning it out carefully. More specifically, Johnson appears more interested in being provocative or avant-garde then he is in telling a story that is consistent with Star Wars canon. The fact that Darth Disney has given him three more Star Wars films confirms that they have no idea what they’re doing and less respect for the franchise’s established fans.
Chekhov’s Gun and Iron Man 3
Point in fact, Disney did the same thing with another franchise. Their lack of respect for fan expectations with Iron Man 3‘s Mandarin resulted in the weakest film in the Marvel franchise. Ben Kingsley was wonderful (as always), but that wasn’t the Mandarin.
And since this villain has been hinted at since the first Iron Man movie’s reference to the Ten Rings, the bait-and-switch was also a violation of Chekhov’s gun, a dramatic principle that basically says stories should not introduce elements that make false promises. Russian playwright Anton Chekhov wrote:
“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Similarly, he wrote in another letter:
“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”
JJ Abrams cocked Chekhov’s gun in The Force Awakens when Rey’s parentage was in her childhood flashback scene.
Chekhov’s Gun and Johnson’s Misfire
I can give you at least four good reasons why Johnson’s answer is a misfire at best:
1. It confirms her as a Mary Sue. She picked up Jedi Mastery of the Force with zero training.
Anakin Skywalker’s extra special dose of the force required a super special explanation called a vergence. Kylo has Skywalker genes. Yoda was a Jedi Master with years of training and experience under his little cloth belt. Johnson seems to feel that “The Force is woke, y’all!” is enough to explain her phenomenal power levels and mastery in such a short time with zero training (and yes that includes her time with Luke Skywalker, which amounted to little more than philosophy lessons). She has everything she needs. Even if Force Ghost Yoda was refering to the books he tricked Luke into thinking he destroyed with a trick he learned from the God of Thunder of a different Disney franchise, it means she needs no teacher.
2. It makes no sense with her flashback.
Junkies owned that shiny spacecraft that this remarkably fresh scrubbed kid is calling out to in TFA?? Junkies who sold her for something as basic as drinking money and were buried in a pauper’s grave on Jakku owned that ship? Granted, the ship could have been stolen, but that’s just speculation from Rian Johnson’s fancult attempting to justify his a bad directorial decision.
3. A definitive answer to the question of the identity of Rey’s parents wasn’t imperative to Johnson’s theme. Rey’s cave vision expressed her fear that she was no one and might have only herself to help her find her place in the world. Luke Skywalker’s refusal to really train her or to even help her find her place in everything aptly underscored her internal conflict, especially since she practically begs for his help with this.
4. It is out-of-character for Rey to answer, “They were nobody.” The draw Jakku has for her in The Force Awakens is that they might return while she’s away. She’s essentially looking for an answer to why they left her, hoping against hope that they had a good enough reason for that abandonment. The most natural response to Kylo’s question would have been, “They’re not coming back for me.”
Kylo could have easily jumped on this to say something similar to his major pitch without forcing a nonsensical identification of Rey’s parents. He could have said something like, “They left you like worthless garbage. Like you were nothing. You came from nothing. You’re nothing… But not to me.” (Dialogue that is no less contrived than Johnson’s but more in line with Rey’s character and motivations.)
A Certain Point of View
Thankfully, there is a chance that Rian Johnson’s misfire will be fixed in the next film, which is once again being directed by J.J. Abrams. Speaking of the next Star Wars film, Johnson admitted as much:
“I can’t speak to what they’re going to do. And there’s always, in these movies, a question of ‘a certain point of view.’”
Certainly, Kylo was gleaning his information from Rey’s mind, so he might have just been getting her impression of who her parents were rather than the truth. And that particular age, I’m not sure she would have known if her parents were important or not, especially if they were undercover or fallen from grace.
I’ve heard it suggested (I can’t recall by whom) that maybe her parents were nobodies, but maybe her grandfather was a different story!
I hope Abram’s does fix this horrible storytelling. Simon Pegg’s suggestion of a “relevant lineage” for Rey contradicts an earlier statement that I now suspect was motivated by Darth Disney’s Force choke enforced solidarity in the face of early criticism of Johnson’s film.
Frankly, I’m no longer as invested in the Star Wars franchise as I once was. With the exception of Rogue One, everything we’ve been offered after the original trilogy has been sorely lacking. The prequels offered us Jar Jar Binks, that annoying podracing kid, and a simpering emo origins for Darth Vader. The sequels have offered us a simpering emo boy in a mask, basicakly a poor man’s Anakin Skywalker, and, well, Rian Johnson. I’ve already decided that I won’t see Solo in theaters simply based on the fact that it’s another Star Wars prequel. I’ll probably rent it instead of buying it. I might even wait to watch it free on Netflix. Apparently, I’m not alone. Some are calling for an official boycott of Solo to protest the forthcoming Rian Johnson trilogy.
In my case, I just don’t have enough faith left in the franchise to give it my money. It would take a lot to get me to watch any of Rian Johnson’s proposed trilogy.
It’s a dark time for the Star Wars franchise…