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Tag: opinion

Rey's backstory in The Last Jedi is the best possible choice

Contributed by
Dec 19, 2017

When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released nearly two years ago, one question was unavoidable. Chances are if you had a conversation about the film with any friend or any other fan online, it came up. Of all the mysteries the film introduced into the Star Wars universe, it was easily the most dominant.

"Who are Rey's parents?"

So, naturally, going into The Last Jedi this year, everyone was wondering how the new film would address this mystery looming over Daisy Ridley's Force-sensitive hero. Well, here's how:

**Spoiler warning: Spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead**

Rey's parentage has spawned countless fan theories. Some people think she must be the secret daughter of Han Solo and Leia Organa. Others think she could somehow be Luke Skywalker's daughter, and others think she's somehow the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Rey herself doesn't know. She's just hopeful that one day she'll reunite with her family, but in The Last Jedi she can't help but ask for answers.

Ultimately, she gets one from Kylo Ren. According to Han and Leia's son, Rey's parents were "nobodies," who sold her off for drinking money and ultimately wound up dead. So that's that. She has no magical Jedi legacy. She's just a girl from a junkyard planet who somehow was endowed with a special understanding of the Force.

It is the best possible direction to take Rey's backstory, and it means a brighter future for Star Wars.

 

Ever since Darth Vader told Luke "I am your father" in The Empire Strikes Back, there's been an obsession with legacy in Star Wars. The prequels showed us hundreds of Jedi, but the original trilogy and what came after showed us just a handful. Luke was introduced as the son of a Jedi Knight, and the films never showed us anyone else (apart from Leia) who had that same legacy, despite Obi-Wan's claim that the Jedi used to be a massive force.

Lucasfilm itself has branded the current sequel trilogy as the completion of the Skywalker family's saga, suggesting to fans that a character has to be part of that legacy in order to be important. The Force Awakens even emphasizes this by having Finn pick up a lightsaber, then revealing that he's not empowered with the Force. How could he be? He's not a Skywalker or a Kenobi. Kylo Ren is the son of Leia Organa, the grandson of Darth Vader, so naturally he can use The Force. Rey can too, so she must be part of this constant emphasis on legacy, right?

Writer/director Rian Johnson tells us that she's not.

The expanded Star Wars universe has already shown us characters who can use The Force despite any apparent special heritage, like Ezra and Kanan on Rebels. In telling us that Rey has no special background or parentage, Johnson is continuing that trend on the big screen. Now, it's possible that Kylo Ren was lying to Rey, or toying with her. It's possible Rey is lying to herself. It's possible that J.J. Abrams will somehow reverse or twist this plot decision when he makes Episode IX.

Here's why that shouldn't happen...

Remember the first words we ever heard Rey speak, in the first full trailer for The Force Awakens: "I'm no one." She had no reason to believe that she's special. It feels like Johnson heard those words and realized that was the actual answer to her mystery. Then, in The Last Jedi, she takes the plunge into the Dark Side cave, determined to solve that mystery. She sees only herself. There is no magic moment of realization. There is no "I am your father." There is only Rey.

Rey is strong simply because she's strong. She spends much of The Force Awakens worried about her family coming back to her, and then much of The Last Jedi asking someone to "show me my place in all this." She spends hours trying in vain to convince Luke that he's supposed to be her teacher, that he's supposed to be the legend, then she realizes that she just has to do it herself. She teaches him that it's time to join the fight again, not the other way around. In doing that, Rey becomes part of the legend, and what makes that so powerful is that she did it herself. If the story had just flat-out told her "Hey, here's your important legacy," that would not have carried the same weight.

Then there's the most important part: Broom Kid. As the film ends, a child — who, as far as we can tell, is also "no one" — goes out to sweep the floor at the behest of his masters. When he grabs the broom, he uses the Force to pull it to his hand, then he stares out at the stars and grips it like it's a lightsaber. We may never see him again, but in some ways he's the next Rey.

That's the most important part of Star Wars. We can all be the next Rey, or the next Luke, or even the next Yoda.

In removing the question of Rey's heritage, The Last Jedi democratizes The Force once again. It reminds us that we are all, in some way, born special, even if we're "no one." That may seem like a small thing, but the kid with the broom didn't think so. And if you have ever picked up a stick — or a broom — and pretended it was a lightsaber, you won't think so, either.