The 2019 holiday shopping season unleashed onto the world the newest scourge against parental peace: the Star Wars Scream Saber. This iconic Star Wars weapon with a voice recorder crammed in it could be one of the year’s hottest toys, for a simple reason: Gimmick or not, it’s still a lightsaber. It’s the tool Luke Skywalker and countless others used to save their galaxy.
The core belief at the center of the Star Wars franchise is that anyone can help fight evil, from a royal scion to a hayseed farm boy. Luke Skywalker was an inspirational, influential character to generations of Star Wars fans because of what he represents. He’s a legitimate rags-to-riches story, a naïve young man from a backwater planet who rose up to take down an entire evil Empire. A toy lightsaber is a gateway to let any kid, regardless of their circumstances, pretend they’re the heroes this time.
For anyone who doubts the unifying force that Luke’s story provides, consider Mark Hamill’s recent Twitter post expressing his gratitude for the way the character has defined his life.
It has thousands of responses, with fans pouring their hearts out to Hamill, thanking him for helping give life to a character they idolize. And it’s clear that Luke’s rise to greatness is what inspired Star Wars fans, not the fact that he turned out to be the intergalactic equivalent to a Rockefeller, with a super-powerful father and princess sister.
But if that’s truly the case, why are some fans so obsessed with the identity of Rey’s parents in the latest Star Wars trilogy? Her story, as told in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, is similar to Luke’s, and meant to parallel it. Rey had no parental figures in her life, and no Obi-Wan Kenobi looking out for her. The first two parts of her story laid out another tale of a nobody rising up to make a significant difference in the fight against evil.
And yet the most vocal, angry corner of fandom has been obsessed with whether Rey comes from a famous bloodline. They seem even more concerned with her lineage than in how her story presumably ends in The Rise of Skywalker. For whatever reason, those fans have been desperate to prove that Kylo Ren was lying when he said Rey’s parents were nobodies in The Last Jedi. And The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams has been feeding those fans with his declaration that “there’s more to the story.”
It’s just unclear why anyone feels they need Rey’s abilities to be inherited. If it’s for closure, to tie the Skywalker Saga up in a neat package, there are better ways to go about it. Kylo Ren is already a Skywalker. There’s no need for another link to the past just for nostalgia’s sake, given how much the entire trilogy courts nostalgia. Maybe those fans want Rey’s parents to be important because they need an explanation for her power?
But Star Wars has attempted to explain how people gain mystical powers before, and the results were terrible and widely decried. The Phantom Menace’s microbiology lesson on midi-chlorians and their effect on Force aptitude became one of the most despised elements of the prequels, even though there’s seemingly evidence they were a planned component of the mythos all along. And yet the Rey obsessives seem to be endorsing that despised bit of lore with their thirst to discover the source of Rey’s abilities. They can’t just let her have a simple predilection for the Force, in keeping with the popular explanation for Force sensitivity given in A New Hope. They want her to come from a line of Force users whose blood is more important than their minds.
But that flies in the face of everything that made Luke a popular standout in the original trilogy. Accepting that explanation would be like suggesting that classic cinematic underdog stories like Rocky or The Karate Kid are missing a key element, because we don’t know who Rocky or Daniel inherited their skills from. Generations of viewers have been inspired by heroes who came from nothing. Why can’t Rey’s story remain that simple today?
Star Wars has always been better received when it focuses on what heroes do and how than when it attempts to set them up with stories about biological differences, or legendary prophecies about “chosen ones.” The Rise of Skywalker writer Chris Terrio knows that: In a recent Rolling Stone interview, he said, “I don’t think it’s a dialectic of one or the other, where either you come from nothing, or you are born royalty.” Certainly, the people tasked with finishing the Skywalker Saga are aware of the franchise’s past highs and lows, and how the fan backlash against midi-chlorians has been just as strong as the Last Jedi backlash about Rey.
The version of her story presented in that movie is quintessentially Star Wars. It’s a stirring tale of someone who came from nothing, and has been celebrated for it for decades now. Her initial origin harkens back to the original story that led decades of Star Wars fans to beg their parents for the latest plastic Star Wars merchandise. It remains strange that it’s been such a point of contention, rage, and rejection for present-day fans. Their obsession feels like disrespect for the series’ history, and for every underdog story that’s led us to this point.