I thought I was done discussing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I guess I'm not.
Today, during Panther Time (kinda like a home room class where you can go meet with teachers so you can get help) two young men were discussing the character of Rey. I am going to paraphrase their conversation. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
John: "I mean, I like the movie and everything. I'm going to go see it again tonight for the fifth time. But, I don't get why Rey was able to beat Kylo Ren at the end, when she had never even picked up a lightsaber before."
Bill: "Oh, I know. That was weird."
John: "Cause Kylo Ren has trained a bunch as a Jedi and then trained as a Sith. So, he should be better than Rey."
Bill: "Oh, yeah. And Kylo Ren is like super powerful, so does that mean that Rey is more powerful than Luke Skywalker too? Cause Luke was like the most powerful Jedi in the universe and he had a train a whole bunch before we was powerful."
At this point, I interrupted these two students and asked them this question:
Me: "If Rey was able to beat Kylo Ren in that final battle, what does that tell you about the character of Rey and the character of Kylo Ren?"
I really was trying to make this a teaching moment, using something that they love: Star Wars. Side note: I have seen a huge resurgence of kids who are in to Star Wars in the last few months. I believe it is because now it is cool to be in to Star Wars.
John: "It is messed up, Mr. Allen, cause Luke--"
Me: "No, hold on. Answer my question. What does this tell you about the characters of Rey and Kylo Ren?"
John: "I guess that Rey is more powerful than Kylo."
John: "Kylo isn't that strong. But that is messed up, Mr. Allen. Rey can't be stronger than Kylo Ren."
At this point the bell rang and these two students scurried off to the library, probably to play video games on the computers.
But that question hung in the air for me for a while. Why can't Rey be stronger than Kylo Ren, despite not having his training and experience? The answer is, of course, that she can. And she is.
The real problem that this student was having, and wanted to keep quiet, was the simple fact that Rey is a girl. What he really wanted to say was Rey can't be that powerful because she is a woman.
THAT IS ABSURD!
Why can't we have a girl that is incredibly strong in the Force. No where in the lore of the Star Wars universe does it say that men are more powerful Force wielders. I would never want that to be the case. We need this strong female character. It sickens me to think that my daughters role models in popular movies will remain relegated to Elsa from Frozen, or Rapunzel in Tangled. Those movie's plots aren't even that good, the character development and dialogue are flat. Why must we have two separate categories of movies--movies for boys and movies for girls? Why can't they cross the lines? Well, Star Wars: The Force Awakens does. I am not saying that there aren't great characters that the boys can latch on to, but we need a Star Wars character for the girls now. Up to this point all we had was Princess Leia, and I'm sorry, but she was a damsel in distress. I know, I love her too, but when you boil it down that is what her character is. And Queen Amadala? Give me a break. I don't want my daughter looking at her as a role model. So, I applaud Disney and Lucasfilm and J. J. Abrams and anyone else who was a part of this decision. We need a strong female Jedi!
Now that that is out of the way, I think we can have a more level-headed conversation about Rey and Kylo Ren. We need to spend some additional time looking at their characters.
Kylo Ren: Ben Solo is conflicted. That is one of his major character points. I've said in another blog post that this makes Kylo Ren an interesting character. He is being pulled by the two sides of the Force. We also know that Kylo Ren has yet to complete his training. He has had a little bit, but Snoke states that he needs to finish Ben's training towards the end of the film. Because of these two points, it is perfectly understandable that Rey would be stronger than Kylo Ren. He lets the conflict within him get in the way. When he is fighting Rey in the forest, he just killed his own father. I am sure that would effect him. He is constantly feeling the tug of the light side, the doubts within his own mind. Then, he does has a little training, but a little training does not a Jedi Master make, nor a Sith Lord for that matter. The fact is that Kylo needs more training.
Rey: Rey is focused, organized, independent. She understands who she is and where she fits into the universe. Rey has a mission that keeps her eye trained on the prize. She does experience tragedy, but even despite that, her focus is incredible. And she is untrained, but I feel like her character traits make up for that. When Kylo Ren hurts Finn you can see the determination enter her face. Now, I would not go so far as to say that Rey fights like a Jedi Master in this battle against Kylo Ren, but because of her state of mind, she is able to beat Kylo Ren. She takes to it like a fish to water because of her focus and power level. Rey may just be the most powerful Force user in the history of the universe and that is more than okay. I have also seen some fan theories that Rey might have been trained too in her past, but just doesn't remember because someone wiped her memories. That is an interesting theory, but even without it I think we can explain to a satisfactory level why Rey could beat Kylo Ren.
Finally, let's talk about Luke Skywalker, since this was a major sticking point for these two boys. They made the argument that Luke lost to Darth Vader twice in the original trilogy. I assume that they are referring to the duel on Cloud City, which was a loss for Luke, and the duel in the Emperor's chamber, which I would actually say Luke won in the end, but anyway... They kept saying that Luke is supposedly this super powerful Jedi and he lost to Darth Vader, so that would mean that Rey is way more powerful than Luke. Now, first, Kylo Ren is no Darth Vader. He is supposed to make our brains think Vader, but he is not Darth Vader. Vader was a battle seasoned, war veteran, prodigy Force user who often would single-handedly turn the tide of battle. Vader had decades more experience than Luke. Of course Luke was going to lose to Vader. It was inevitable. His only chance was to turn his father back to the light side. He could never hope to stop Vader in combat. At the end of The Force Awakens, I am sure that Luke is an extremely powerful Force user because he has had thirty years more training than he did at the end of Return of the Jedi. But if you compare Rey at the end of Force Awakens and Luke at the end of Return, I would probably estimate that they are pretty much the same, maybe Luke would have the upper-hand because he trained a little. But a couple training sessions with Yoda are not all you need. Rey would have lost to Vader too. But, once again, I must emphasize that Kylo Ren is no way as powerful as Vader was at the end of Return.
Despite all of this, this topic was incredibly interesting for me to think about. Enjoy.