One of the things that I love about Star Wars is that it allows for so much interpretation of what happened outside of the screen, be it canon or otherwise. For years such questions have been pondered as, “Why did the guy who introduced Ben Kenobi to Chewbacca say no?” or “What happened to Luke’s lightsaber after it was lost at Cloud City?” These academic explorations are fun, exciting ways to invest deeper into the mythology of Star Wars.
As the new Star Wars films come out, I imagine more questions (i.e. the journey of Luke’s lightsaber) will be answered. Nevertheless, more questions will beg to be asked. Such is the purpose of this particular blog post.
What is the question, you ask? Quite simply, something I have been pondering the past few days: is the fall of Ben Solo, aka Kylo Ren, to the dark side the fault of his mother General Leia’s fault?
Now that that is out in the ethos, let me allow a moment for you to yell at your computer screen… Good? Okay, now let me preface the rest of this post with this: I am a huge feminist, Leia supporter, and general promoter of everything girls in Star Wars. What I plan to do here is an academic exercise exploring one plausible, and I argue possible, reason that Ben Solo became Kylo Ren.
As a reader you should also know one thing when it comes to how I am going to approach this academic exploration. In my life, I have been psychologically scarred by women who were and/or are close to me, and I will not deny that that influences my interpretation of the events of The Force Awakens when it comes to this topic. No I am not resentful, nor do I hold any grudges against the women who have hurt me. It is what it is, and nothing more. However, I believe it gives me a bit of an insight into Klyo Ren’s mindset, at least from the angle I am approaching the story. Suffice it to say we are both scarred individuals.
Now onto the real point: is it Leia’s fault?
Let’s take a moment and consider all that Leia has gone through since we met her in Revenge of the Sith. She was adopted and never knew of her real heritage, which I imagine, at the very least, caused her some sense of wonderment about where she came from. She watched her planet blow up right in front of her face. Everyone she cared for for the first 19 or so years of her life is dead. She is the leader of a war. She was tortured by Darth Vader. She found out Darth Vader was her father. She, unlike her brother, never got to reconcile with the man after he was brought back to the light. She watched the First Order rise while the new Republic sat idle by and ignored its threat. At the same time, she was at the forefront of trying to rebuild the galaxy.
And the worst part of it all is that she never had time to deal with the plethora of grief that has defined her life.
Often people look at this part of and use it to proclaim the strength of Leia as a leader and a role model. To that I say: absolutely. Leia is not only strong, courageous, noble, kind-hearted, and one of the true leaders of feminism in our time, she is a complete and total badass. That is completely and totally undeniable. Even the “weakest” moment Leia has, when she is chained to Jabba the Hutt, turns out to be a moment that Leia flips on its head completely by using the chains of her victimhood as the tool to destroy Jabba. When I grow up I want to be like that.
All the while, it cannot be ignored that Leia never had time to stop and deal with all the traumatic things that happened to her. Through my life I have dealt with anxiety, depression, orthorexia, bullying,emotional abuse, most likely a bit of PTSD from my childhood and other things that have left scars on my soul. When I look at Leia, I see traumas that are 10,000,000,000,000 times worse than the worst thing I have had to deal with. While I do look at Leia as a hero who gives me motivation to be strong, I also sympathize with the fact that she never had time to sort out all the bad because there was never time. There was always something else for Leia to do.
The Marvel comic mini-series about Leia shows us exactly that. It picks up moments after the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope, and right away we see Leia brushing off grieving about Alderaan in favor of the next mission, the next task. Yes, that mission is about saving the surviving people of Alderaan, but we never really see Leia handle the grief of watching her planet be blown away. In what is the most tragic thing she she ever witnessed, she buries it away. We have all buried stuff deep within us at one time or another, and thus know how difficult that can be. Now go look at all Leia has dealt with. She has buried all of that.
What, then, happens when such tragic figure becomes responsible for another’s life? I am not a parent, but I cannot imagine that it is easy to raise a child when you have that much darkness buried deep, deep within you. It is hard enough for me to not get unnecessarily angry at my dog for tearing up the house when I get home from a long day of work.
When Leia was raising Ben, it was trying. It is for a normal parent with a normal life. It definitely is for a mother who has unresolved grief, a hard-headed husband, and a child with a dangerous inner darkness. Oh, and she is an idol and hero across the entire galaxy.Since Leia never took the time to work through her own inner darkness (as the child of Anakin, it had to be there) nor her grief, how can we think she had the emotional capacity to handle Ben when the “Vader in him” started to come out?
One could go off on tangent after tangent about why Ben became Kylo. The most obvious factors given to us in The Force Awakens are his being seduced by Snoke and unresolved daddy issues. But what about unresolved mommy issues?
Kylo Ren had to feel the weight of being the child of Han Solo and Princess Leia. They are legendary figures who literally (and I do mean literally) saved the galaxy. For one thing, Ben had to be thinking about how he could live up to that. Now consider the possibility the Leia was emotionally unavailable to him because she did not know how to deal with emotion in a real way.Throw a dash of trying to keep a relationship with Han Solo going post-war, and you have disaster brewing inside the Solo household.
I really hope, whether my idea holds up or not, that the creators of Episode VIII & IX take the time to explore the relationship between Kylo Ren and General Leia. It would add great depth to the mythology of the story as a whole, but I believe, even more importantly, it would add depth to the budding rivalry between Kylo Ren and Rey.
What are you thoughts on Leia’s role in Ben’s fall to the dark side? Comment below and join in the conversation. That’s what Star Wars is all about!