Star Wars is an amazing fandom because the mythology is so grandiose that it allows for layered interpretations and numerous re-interpretations of characters and ideas. With the plethora of new material that is coming out, this creative license that fans take in interpreting the material is growing more and more by the minute. From the “Who is Snoke?” debate to the TR-8R memes, fan interaction with the product seems to be the highest it has been since 1977.
All the while, none of the new material has captured the fans like Rey (apologies to BB-8). Rey is a character with depth and complexity that is unmatched in the prequels and at best paralleled in the original trilogy. Part of this is simply due to the way news and speculation travels now as compared to the 80’s, but I think even more of it is due to Rey. Rey and her innocence. Rey and her integrity. Rey and her honesty. Rey and her, well, indescribable Rey-ness.
With the clamoring for more and more Force Awakens material, Star Wars fans have begun to do what Star Wars fans do best: create. One such creation has been images of a dark side Rey, such as this one:
To this I say, no rather I scream, “Noooooooo.” Seriously, Lucasfilm, Disney, story group, et. al, look yourself in the mirror and repeat: “We will not turn Rey to the dark side. We will not turn Rey to the dark side.”
George Lucas already toyed with this idea with Luke Skywalker, considering that Luke might take up the mantel of Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi. Instead he kept Luke as the ultimate savior, and inadvertently created one of the most magical moments in the saga at the end of The Force Awakens. With seemingly no end to Star Wars material in sight, Rey can be for this generation and generations on what Luke was through the original trilogy era and the dark times. Rey can be hope.
Quite frankly, hope is something we do not seem to have enough today. In the real world, our political system is in fits and terrorist groups are growing. Even movies are taking a darker turn (yeah I’m looking at you Batman v. Superman). The former two are certainly scary, but to me the latter could potentially be even worse because pop culture is discussed and analyzed in ways never before fathomable. It is literally at our finger tips, and people’s morals and values, particularly those of our children are being formed right now. If all of what they see has a dark tone, how can we expect them to light the way of the future.
Consider for a moment the geek culture that has become possible the predominant culture in America. Batman v. Superman, opinions aside, was really dark. DC’s television also toys with really dark themes, literally so if you consider Arrow’s current villan, Damien Darhk. The season finale of Rebels was the battle of light and dark, where arguably dark won the day. Even the soon to be released Captain America: Civil War seems to promise debates over right vs. wrong, aka light vs. dark. Where then, does the hope come from?
I know this seems quite drastic, but that is the only way to battle dark. We have to call it out before it can really fester, else it will slowly brew until it takes over. Palpatine showed us that. He showed us that if we allow the good of our culture to be stripped away little by little, eventually it will plummet into darkness completely.
The good news? It takes only a glimmer of light, one soul shining through, to bring things back to the light. Luke was this, as he conquered his darkness and the darkness that ruled the galaxy at the end of Jedi. But history repeated itself, and now we need another new hope. Rey can be that. Rey should be that. Rey must be that.
Don’t screw this up, Disney. Don’t leave us in the dark.