Kylo Ren: The Bad Boy We've All Been Waiting For
Note: a working knowledge of the Star Wars universe is preferred to fully enjoy this article. If you’re worried about spoilers for Episodes 1-8, this probably isn’t for you.
I have a potentially unpopular opinion to share. My favorite parts of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi were those awkwardly flirty mind-meld scenes between Kylo Ren and Rey.
I've been a Star Wars fan for a long time. The first time I remember watching the movies was when I was four, staying at a friend's house after school until my mom could pick up my brother and I. A New Hope was playing nonchalantly on their living room TV as kids ran around playing. But not me. I was transfixed to the screen, trying to understand the strange shapes that were Darth Vader and storm troopers and Princess Lei's hair. To be fair, as a visual learner, at that age I stared at any moving screen. It was a problem. They had to limit my screen time.
I went to see Episode I in theaters when I was seven. Afterwards I read a lot of the fan fiction due to the influence of my brother, an even more devout fan, such as the Jedi Apprentice series, X-wing series, and others. I've seen all the new Star Wars movies in theaters. I was probably one of the first audiences in the world to watch Episode VII, sitting in the midnight showing of Kaikoura's small, one-screen Mayfair Theater, which being in New Zealand was 18 hours ahead of my east coast friends. Afterwards, I looked at Facebook and thought how easy it would be to spoil that dramatic plot twist at the end for hundreds of people. So much power, it's almost intoxicating. But I'm no villain: I want to be loved.
Which is why, as a Star Wars fangirl, I really digged Kylo Ren's bad boy vibes. There are plenty of corrupt, irredeemable men in the Star Wars universe like General Hux and Orson Krennic. They know what they do and they sleep well at night. And then there is Kylo Ren, who has done just as terrible things as them if not worse, but he's moody about it. He throws temper tantrums. He is impulsive. He acts younger than he is, and just as lost. He is the classic bad boy every girl wants to try and save. Now, after decades of being a devoted Star Wars fan, I finally have found a relatable character in Rey.
|my brother, the more devout fan|
Okay, the Padme in the Phantom Menace was pretty cool as a young leader tricking the bad guys and shooting blasters. But after that she got really invested in her job, and started a relationship with a guy much younger than her who wasn't really a bad boy, more like a good boy turning bad, which isn't the same. As a young girl, I couldn't relate. Similarly with Leia. First you see Luke and Leia kiss in the first movie, but then you find out they are siblings, and even though there's Han it's all now a bit too weird for me, and remember I'm like six years old.
I loved Jyn's character in Rogue One. Finally, a heroine I could relate to, someone who is similar in age since I've grown up as a fan girl by now. There even seemed to be promise of a Star Wars romance with Cassian. Until there isn't, and it's over.
Enter Rey, the badass good girl. She's such a good girl that she protects a random droid she just found rather than sell it for food. She's the type of good girl that stays and waits for her family to return even though they didn't ask her to, and likely never will. She quickly finds a home with other good people like the Republic and Han Solo, and says dramatic good girl lines like "You're a monster!" at Kylo Ren while wielding a lightsaber. Nothing new.
Then The Last Jedi hit theaters.
You find out Rey isn't your typical good girl. Good girls find it easy to resist the dark side, right? Like Padme did, and Jyn and Leia. Good girls know right from wrong, and aren't tempted by the dark. Besides, what does the dark side really have that could tempt a girl like Rey? Unlimited power? Bringing galactic peace through galactic domination and genocide? Black body armor and red lightsabers?
Enter shirtless Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren shouldn't seem redeemable, but he does. Maybe it's his broodingly good looks or his familial legacy, but for whatever reason we in the audience like this villain. He's almost relatable. You think, "he's not really that bad" when he refuses to take the shot that would end his mother's life. You want to give him a second chance, even though he's been given many. What does he have to offer Rey? The chance to have a purpose, to redeem him back to the light side like Luke once did with Darth Vader. Like any good girl, she sees his potential and wants to fix him. That's what the dark side has to offer Rey. Not power, not money, not fame. The dark side tempts her with answers to her loneliness, to her lack of family, with the chance to be a savior. In her mind-meld scenes with Kylo, Rey is forced to see the boy behind the monster in these vulnerable, albeit sexually charged, moments such as him half-dressed in his high-waisted pants. Not only does she want to be the hero that saves the galaxy by turning Kylo Ren back to the light, and brazenly thinks she can do it, but she also seems curiously drawn to the darkness that Kylo has embraced.
Don't all good girls wonder what it would be like to be bad? It's why the bad boy is such a classic trope. Good girls convince ourselves as we start to step into moral gray areas that what we are doing is in order to help the bad boy, to make him good. But what if we really are driven by our own curiosity of what it feels like to be bad? Rey is pulled into the dark side cave as she peers inside.
That is the temptation the dark side offers: that bad really isn't that bad (cue image of Kylo Ren), and maybe good people have to do bad things in order to save the greater good. Maybe the dark side has the answers the good people have been seeking. Maybe that is what makes the good people so good, that they would be willing to tarnish their own personal goodness with the dark for the sake of a greater good they believe in, even for another person. Romance or love for bad boy Kylo Ren isn't what's driving Rey towards the dark side. It's the need to have a purpose, to have someone to save. It’s what makes Rey so relatable.
But what happens when they don’t want to be saved?
Cue montage. Epic instrumental music plays in the background. Luke growls, “This is not going to go the way you think.” Rey and Kylo lock eyes, before he turns away and she is handcuffed by storm troopers. Rey pleads for Kylo to turn back to the light, only for Kylo to reveal his intentions, to turn herto the dark side. Snoke force drags Rey around the throne room. The rebels are dying. “For you, all is lost,” drawls Snoke. Snoke orders Kylo to kill Rey. Their eyes meet. What will he do?
Yes! Kylo betrays Snoke, as Vader once betrayed the Emperor, and then begins a glorious lightsaber battle where Rey and Kylo work TOGETHER. What more could a Star Wars fangirl ask for??? A happy ending and a wedding, that’s what!
As the smoke settles, Rey, always the pragmatist, immediately urges Kylo to stop the attack on the few remaining Republic ships. But her happy ending is not meant to be.
“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.”
There is no going back to the light for Kylo. For him, the light is going backwards. As Rey encounters this realization, she is faced with her greatest temptation yet: join Kylo, join the dark side? Where she will finally have purpose and mean something to someone (in a twisted kind of way)? Or does she admit she was wrong, admit failure, and most likely die because of it?
Pause the movie. I know I’m supposed to be rooting for the Rebels, for the good side, but I really like Kylo and Rey together. They make an awesome team- I mean do you REMEMBER THAT FIGHT SCENE THAT JUST HAPPENED! Hypothetically, could Rey join Kylo without turning to the dark side? Maybe he could still be saved, I mean he chose her over Snoke!
Does she, like me, consider this option as Rey slowly reaches her hand out? Even if only for a brief second? But at the end of the day, if the good girl decided to turn to the dark side, she would cease to be the heroine. It’s not in her nature. “But what if?”I thought as I sat there watching on the edge of my seat. Rey is much more complex than the normal Star Wars hero. She had a real bond with Kylo, if only briefly, and she did lose something in turning down his offer. She lost the chance to save him, and to mean something to him. The dream team is over. He will always be bad, and she will always be good. She knows that now, after facing this temptation.
As Rey’s hope in saving Kylo fails, so does mine. Some bad boys can’t be saved, no matter what the good girls do. But there’s unfinished business there. Maybe Kylo will get everything he deserves, or maybe there is still room for redemption. Even now I’m not sure which ending I would like to see. This tension is exactly what makes him the perfect bad boy villain I never knew I needed.