*Note: This article was written post-The Last Jedi and before The Rise of Skywalker was even in theaters. Clearly some changes have taken place in the character arcs of Ben Solo and Rey. I have addressed those changes in a recent article written about the events and character developments of The Rise of Skywalker. You can read that here.
For the context and time that this article was written, I still 100% stand behind my words. The character of Kylo Ren by the end of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi is NOT a safe person nor are his intentions/actions romantic. The type of person and relationship he represents is entirely abusive and inappropriate. Therefore, keep these things in mind as you read this article. Thank you!
Prepare for a very bold post, because this needs to be said. Warning, not all parts of this post are PG.
Reylo, the ship for Kylo Ren and Rey in the recent Star Wars trilogy is very popular.
I’ve seen fanart, posts, and social media buzz about “Reylo”. How “sexy”, how “gorgeous”, how “hot” it is, etc.
Please, please, PLEASE just stop.
I am a die-hard FinnRey shipper. I will not apologize for that. But my reason for being so vehemently opposed to Reylo is not directly tied to it being in opposition to my ship.
The entire idea of Reylo is stomach-turning to me because it is abusive, controlling, and all-too real for thousands of men and women in the world. What people are fantasizing about and hoping for onscreen is an actual nightmare reality that is destroying lives every day.
Kylo Ren is an utterly fascinating villain. I’m even going to venture to say he is one of the most interesting villains in the Star Wars universe.
Kylo is conflicted, a mix of human and monster. He’s vulnerable, he’s powerful. He’s full of contradictions. Adam Driver has done this character justice. I have looked into Kylo Ren’s big, beautiful brown eyes and in my heart, I have begged Ben Solo to come out; even after Han Solo died at his own hand. I love Han Solo, so that’s some powerful storytelling right there.
I look at Ren and I see him as his mother and father would love to see him. I see him as Chewbacca must remember seeing him. I see him as who he could be. I hate how lost he is.
I feel all of that, but that does not change who Ben Solo is choosing to be.
Despite his conflict, Ben/Ren continually digs himself deeper into the hole of darkness. He is obsessed with control, driven by fear and bitterness. His power and pain make him both weak and cruel. He can appear incredibly human, even reasonable at times. But the moment he is told “no” Kylo Ren descends into rage and hatred, often towards the very person he was trying to win.
Rey is also a mixed bag of vulnerable and powerful. She lives with the raw wounds of abandonment and lovelessness gaping in her soul at all times. Her incredible skills as a fighter, mechanic, and pilot were all born out of survival. Imagine what she must have suffered, what must have been taken from her as a child to bring her to this point?
Rey is desperate for someone, anyone to love her and come back for her. She wants to belong, to know that she has value. She has been treated as worthless waste her entire life.
Despite all of the tragedy and pain of her past, Rey has still emerged with more compassion and courage than anyone would expect given her past. Her heart is tender, her sense of right and wrong are intact, and she chooses to fight for those things at great personal cost. She boldly says “no” when evil tries to manipulate her into saying yes.
These two are meant to be a dark vs light reflection of each other, they are meant to be similar.
But these two do not belong together!
Kylo Ren and Rey are similar, but their entire life perspective and goals are diametrically opposed. His pain has made him cruel, her pain has made her kind. He wants to control his world, she wants to free hers. He burns connections, she creates them. He uses his power to hurt, she uses her power to rescue.
These are the black and white practical reasons why Reylo will never work. These would be enough, but let’s look at the biggest reason why Reylo is wrong.
Reylo is abusive.
Before Rey knows what she is capable of, she is incredibly vulnerable. She has no control. Kylo has a predatory interest in her like Snoke had in him before his seduction to the Dark Side. He senses she is special, he wants her power.
Abusive people want what you have because they believe they can use it to increase their power/self image/control/happiness etc.
Upon discovering she knows the location of the map, he knocks her out and kidnaps her. Why is any of this attractive? If I walked in on this scene I would shoot first and ask questions later. This is “Reylo’s” first meeting; helpless Rey, controlling Kylo. *gags*
Next up we have this scene.
As a woman, the first half of this scene made me extremely uncomfortable. It’s basically every woman’s nightmare scenario of being restrained and helpless in the hands of a ruthless man. The body language Kylo uses as well as his intimidating words,
…you know I can take anything I want…
made me feel ill in my soul. I felt violated on Rey’s behalf.
A fan pointed out this scene felt like an assault upon Rey, something that J. J. Abrams confirmed was his intention. This is a “mental assault” scene. We are meant to feel disgusted in our core.
Rey blew me away. She refutes his mental assault, overpowers him in the Force, finds his greatest fear, and leaves him shaking on the ground.
The joy of this scene has everything to do with Rey’s victory over her kidnapper and nothing to do with any Reylo chemistry.
Dear Reylo Shippers, are you really finding this kind of interaction romantic? Do you want your romantic partner to treat you this way? Really?
That’s not a relationship, that’s a crime.
Kylo Ren reports back to Snoke an emotional basketcase.
“She is strong with the Force, stronger than she knows!”
“Supreme Leader, I can get the map from the girl, I just need your guidance.”
The anger that we see written in every line of Kylo’s body as he marches back to his prisoner speaks of his true heart. Kylo does not like to be crossed, when he is refused what he desires he becomes angry.
Abusive and controlling people are made angry by someone standing up to them.
After the dreadful scene where Kylo Ren kills his own father, he meets with Rey again…
…where he flings her backward into a tree (thank heavens her hair buns take the brunt of the impact!). Rey falls into the snow unconscious where she would once again be at Kylo Ren’s mercy if it were not for someone who truly loves her taking up the lightsaber to fight and protect her.
Don’t worry, the FinnRey post is coming.
Our final Kylo Ren/Rey moments in The Force Awakens take place over an absolutely gorgeous lightsaber battle.
Kylo recognizes (like the rest of us watching with gaping mouths) that this girl Rey is a one-of-a-kind person who is going to change the galaxy with her power. He wants in on it, so he tries to manipulate her inexperience and desire to belong,
…you need a teacher! I can show you the ways of the Force!
Big mistake, he just helps Rey unlock even more power by reminding her of Maz Kanata’s wise words about letting the Force in. Rey leaves Kylo bloodied and beaten in the snow.
In The Force Awakens Kylo Ren wanted Rey’s power, but by the end of The Last Jedi, he also wanted her heart.
I do not blame anyone for falling in love with Rey, good or bad.
Rey is the kind of person who infiltrates people’s armor and gets to their heart. She’s magnetic. So let me say, I do not blame Kylo Ren for falling for her.
I do not think Rey was ever in love with Kylo Ren, I think she had compassionate empathy for him. There is a huge difference between the two, and it is because of this difference that Rey does not end up a victim of a bad relationship, instead she wisely walks away.
One of Rey’s strongest virtues is her compassion. She herself has suffered, therefore she recognizes and has sympathy towards others who have also suffered. It’s why she is so willing to help the Resistance. It’s why she opposes the First Order. Rey also cares about the truth.
Rey seeks out Luke expecting one thing, a wise mentor who will save the day. Instead, she finds a bitter old man with a jaded view of reality and no desire to help the ones who need him most. It’s pretty disappointing.
And then this happens.
This series of Force Time calls were very powerful, and I can understand why some people were drawn into the connection between Rey and Ben. Ben shows some of his most broken, hurtful places, and Rey allows herself to see him as more than a monster. Redemption is a powerful force, the idea of love changing someone and healing brokenness is a good, good thing.
If only Ben Solo had actually decided to change…
I really thought he might. The conflict in his eyes was real. The emotion he had when he looked at Rey was real. The revelation of what truly happened that dreadful day between Luke and Ben needed to come out into the light. Rey was right to give Luke a smackdown and call him out on his lies, bitterness, and false humility.
When Rey goes to Ben, she is going with the hope that he can be redeemed, thus changing the tide of the war and saving the Resistance. She wants a better future for him as an individual, as well as completing her mission. She never forgets that she loves people who also love her, and they are depending on her! She is not just doing this for herself, she is doing this for them.
She goes into the very jaws of the Dark Side. She faces Snoke, Snoke does his obnoxious “I know all” bit…and then this happens.
Ben/Ren kills Snoke.
I was shocked. I was delighted. For the first time, I didn’t really feel like I knew what was coming next, I actually believed Ben Solo had returned. And then this glorious scene happened.
And I believed it. I truly did. I believed that Ben Solo had been redeemed. He had me fooled.
Unstable and abusive people are often very good at pretending to change while actually staying the same. That, or their view of reality is so twisted they see themselves as the hero and everyone else who opposes them as the villains. Such is the case with Ben Solo.
Rey believed as I did, bless her heart, sweet girl! She believed it had worked, Ben Solo was redeemed.
The fleet! There’s still time to save the fleet, order them to stop firing!
He turns, and she sees his face. He’s not going to save the fleet, he wants to let it all be destroyed. He’s decided what his own version of “redemption” looks like and it looks like him killing off her friends and controlling the galaxy. He wants to let everything burn down, The First Order, the Resistance, burn the pain!
She pleads with him, and he begins to get angry.
No! You’re still holding on! Let go!
Kylo see Rey’s grief, he truly believes he understands it, he believes he has the answer. So he goes for her deepest wound, being abandoned by her parents.
It’s entirely possible Kylo truly thought he knew who Rey’s parents were. We have yet to see if the revelation that her parents were “filthy junk traders who sold her off for drinking money” is true or not. Kylo believes himself to be a hero, he may even believe himself to be Rey’s hero rescuing her from her attachments or ideas that are holding her back from “true growth”.
He’s either intentionally evil or massively deceived, either way, his next words left me feeling incredibly upset. Many Reylo shippers find them romantic, I see them for what they are…a trap.
You have no place in this story, you come from nothing.
In this statement, Kylo reinforces Rey’s feelings of utter worthlessness.
You’re nothing…but not to me.
Abusive/controlling people often isolate their victims from anyone or anything that could speak truth into their lives. They want their victim’s whole sense of worth to be derived entirely from them. They hold all the cards, they are their victim’s everything.
It’s pretty nauseating. Look at it in the face, Reylo shippers, I know it’s ugly, but it needs to be seen for what it is. This is NOT romantic, this is evil. This is a lie. Even as Kylo is saying this it is a boldfaced a lie! Rey wants to save the people in the fleet because they matter to her. Those people don’t see her as nothing! He’s smart enough to figure that out, but that would work against his beliefs and his agenda.
And then Rey resists.
Rey is an incredible person. Even at her lowest moment, she has come far enough to see the truth for what it is and to value herself regardless of her circumstances or past. Throughout this movie, she is brought face to face with grief, failure, disappointment, and rejection (some of her worst fears and wounds) and she does not give in. The strength this young woman possesses is utterly astounding.
She resists lies and evil where Ben Solo could not…
She gets up after failure where Luke Skywalker remained on the ground…
Rey actually emerges even more powerful in character and ability.
And Kylo Ren hates it.
Abusive people hate being told no. They hate and fear someone who is stronger than them. Finding something beyond their control is repulsive to them.
True love leaves room for discussion and compromise, for change. There is no “it’s my way or the highway” in true love. True romantic love involves two people in partnership, not one person who decides all, even right and wrong.
If there was any shred of hope left for Reylo after Rey point-blank tries to take the lightsaber from him, Kylo utterly destroys that shred in what is the most disgusting display of a toddler tantrum I have ever seen on screen.
First, Kylo tells Hux that Rey is responsible for all of the Snoke pieces lying around.
Abusive people love to blame people for their own actions.
Next Big-Man-In-Control Kylo takes The First Order down to Crait to utterly obliterate whatever is left of the Resistance. The hatred in his face is clear. He probably would have succeeded too…
But who should show up in that glorious hunk of junk to kick him in the face? That’s right, Rey.
“BLOW THAT PIECE OF JUNK OUT OF THE SKY!”
*Can you feel the love tonight?* No, please, tell me again how much Kylo loves Rey. Tell me as he tries to have her blown to pieces (you cannot tell me he doesn’t know who is on that ship).
Next up we have good old Uncle Luke showing up, an action that Rey motivated. Kylo orders some overkill I want every gun we have to fire on that man…you know you have made a fool of yourself when Hux looks like the reasonable adult in the room.
Do you think you got him?
During his enraged confrontation with Luke, Kylo screams,
I’ll destroy her!
This guy is making Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth look like a Pulitzer winning speech.
Rey rescues The Resistance. Luke gets the last laugh. Kylo Ren is left alone (technically victorious) and utterly miserable in an empty base.
A Force time call with Rey opens up…he looks up at her, pleadingly… (I know I just tried to kill you but I’m so lonely)
…and she shuts the door in his face.
No, no, Ben.
Rey has the wisdom to know she cannot save someone who does not want to be saved. She is moving on with her life, she did her best, but now it’s time to let it go and fight.
Ben Solo/Kylo Ren represents far too many people in real life. These people are truly broken, hurting, and yes, they do have value. These people were made in the Image of God. Yes, these people do need to have other people come into their lives and love them through the ugly.
- Before a Kylo Ren type person can be helped, that person has to see their need for help and be willing to accept it, until that happens you can lose yourself trying to “save” them when they do not wish to be changed.
- Once this type of person actually desires to receive help, the kind of people who should be involved are trusted mentors, sometimes doctors, counselors, and peer level friends. All of these people need to be strong enough in their own character to create healthy boundaries and call their friend on the carpet when something is wrong. These people need to hold their patient/friend/client accountable.
This kind of loving help should NEVER be in the context of a romantic partnership, because partnerships require trust. And you cannot trust someone like Kylo Ren.
We have a responsibility to point out evil things for what they are. We need to teach our children what trustworthy people vs. unstable and abusive people look like. We need to learn this ourselves.
Reylo is so much bigger than just a movie ship, it’s a broken and overly-romanticized type of relationship that leaves nothing but wreck and ruin for both parties involved.
If you are with a Kylo, know you are worth more! You are not worthless, you are not useless, you are not a mistake, YOU ARE LOVED! There is more for you in this life, please seek help.
If you are a Kylo, know that giving and receiving real love is vastly more satisfying than control, there is more to be had in this life than you are currently experiencing. YOU ARE LOVED, please seek help.