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August 11, 2018

The Deal With Rey’s Parents

If only they had 23andMe a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Basically, since Daisy Ridley’s casting was announced, the question of “who is she?” has consumed the Star Wars fandom. The information provided by The Force Awakens—Rey, a Jakku scavenger,  strong in the Force—simply wasn’t the stuff the Internet was looking for. Somewhere along the way, the huddled social media masses had turned into the gossip corner of a ballroom circa 1850—”yes, but who are her parents?”

“They were nobody,” Rey admits at Kylo Ren’s urging in The Last Jedi.

Darth Vader Jr. then goes on to elaborate what exactly “nobody” means: “filthy junk traders” who sold their daughter “for drinking money,” their corpses rotting away in a pauper’s grave.

But still, the Internet was not happy. The announcement of Keri Russel’s Episode IX casting set off a flurry of speculation, and just this week a new theory seeking to justify the franchise’s recent preference for brunette British twenty-somethings (Rey, Jyn, and most recently, Q’ira) as more than a lack of originality has taken the web by storm. Tl;dr: Rey is the offspring of Han Solo and Q’ira. Which, considering Rey and Kylo Ren’s respective ages, ruins the appeal of everyone’s former childhood idol and smuggler even more than Solo already did.

It seems like this should all be a done deal. Rey does not protest Kylo Ren’s claims. And the yearning to find her parents that remained a consistent thread through The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi up until that point comes to an abrupt halt, indicating her lack of protest as a sign of genuine agreement and not some sort of ploy.

Which begs the question: why do people still care so much about Rey’s parents? Everybody loves a good mystery—and, more importantly, the opportunity to say “I told you so” if ultimately proven correct. But Rey’s origins aren’t exactly a mystery anymore, at least not without veering into conspiracy theory, Rian-Johnson-is-a-liar territory. So what gives? If Rey can move on, why can’t we?

I have a few hypotheses.

The first is denial. As in, the first stage of grief. As Rian Johnson himself stated, he chose to reveal Rey’s parentage the way he did because being told her parents were unspecified nobodies was “the hardest thing she could hear,” whereas an answer equating to, “Yes, your parents are so and so and here’s your place in the world” would be comparatively easy. But this answer wasn’t just the hardest thing for Rey to hear, but the audience, who had just spent two years speculating over which Jedi and/or Sith she might descend from. All things considered,  Rey seems to be handling it better than the fandom.

The second is what I’ll call “preemptive separation anxiety,” for lack of a better term. Every Star Wars film to date has featured the Skywalker-Solo family in some capacity, but as of the conclusion of The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren is the lone surviving branch of that tree. And considering villain lifespans across the franchise canon, having Kylo Ren as your lone hope of continuing the family line is basically on par with being hopeless, as I have discussed before. This presents a dilemma: do you face the inevitable, hope that Kylo Ren manages to procreate against all odds, or cross your fingers and hope for another Skywalker to appear out of the blue (or a Solo or a Kenobi or just, you know, a someone)? Clearly not the first two, which really only leaves one option—and a protagonist conveniently abandoned as a child with no idea of where she comes from.

Now that we’ve speculated over why people care so much, let’s address what they’re saying. These theories exist in practically infinite variations, so for the sake of my sanity and yours, I’ve boiled them down to their major underlying themes, of which there is thankfully a far more reasonable number.

Rey Kenobi

In the aftermath of The Last Jedi, any Rey heritage story that goes against the “nobody junkies from nowhere” explanation indicates one of two things: Kylo Ren is a liar (after all, how does he know about her parents anyway? through their weird Force party line?), or that Kylo Ren fails to see the bigger picture. The benefit of theories like Rey being a Kenobi is that Obi-Wan would be two generations removed, leaving room for a deadbeat apple falling far from the tree. Just look at Kylo Ren—it happens sometimes.

The Appeal: The voice Rey hears after touching the lightsaber “awakens” her Force sensitivity is Obi-Wan’s. When The Force Awakens was first released, Obi-Wan was the biggest non-villain Star Wars character to speak with a British accent besides Rey, suggesting she might be of similar origin. Furthermore, a favorite candidate for grandma to Obi Wan’s grandpa is one of Padmé Amidala’s handmaids/body doubles (if only for lack of other reasonable named options in the prequel trilogy), which would also go to substantiate Star Wars‘ preferred pale brunette “type” as something more than a lack of originality.

Issues: Obi-Wan was a good Jedi, and the films make basically no suggestions that he broke the code like his padawan.

Rey Skywalker

Any theory in which Rey is the child of Luke or Leia. There are too many variations on this theme to count.

The Appeal: Rey being a Skywalker would give the Skywalker line the opportunity to prosper and exist in future installments. It would also add a family conflict element to the battle of good and evil, a Star Wars franchise favorite. It would also be a way to explain Rey and Kylo Ren’s “connection” in a way that some might hope undermines those who would read it as unresolved sexual tension.

Issues: Epics and incest are uncomfortably close bedfellows. Just ask Jon Snow. Or, y’know, Oedipus. No explanation of Rey’s heritage makes the aforementioned tension any less of a thing. Mark Hamill has spoken. It is there. But on the subject of Mark Hamill, if Luke was Rey’s father, one would imagine they would have probably dropped that bombshell before killing him off. And even if Leia was originally intended to be revealed as Rey’s birth mother, in light of Carrie Fisher’s death they would have almost certainly changed that plan. Also, the entire galaxy does not actually revolve around Skywalkers, you know. Theoretically, other people matter too.

Rey Solo

The one where Rey’s father is Han Solo but her mother isn’t Leia Organa. AKA the one in which Han Solo is not just a terrible husband, but a terrible father on two accounts, and Disney bought the rights to your childhood with the single-minded intention of destroying it.

The Appeal: Literally none.

Issues: I still have some modicum of trust in Disney.

Rey, Princess of the Dark Side

Any and all theories involving Rey being descended from a Sith besides Darth Vader.

The Appeal: Considering Kylo Ren is an evil lightsider descendant, revealing Rey as a good darksider descendant would provide their conflict with a sort of antiparallel, yin and yang sort of vibe.

Issues: The actual support for these theories is negligible at best.

Rey The Magical Being

Any number of theories that involve Rey being something less normal than a human being produced by a woman and a man having sex and then developing over an approximately nine-month long incubation period. Whether it be that weirdly popular one about Rey being Anakin Skywalker reincarnated or simply her also being conceived via parthenogenesis (if you’ve ever wondered what the scientific equivalent to the term immaculate conception was, that’s it), all these explanations defy typical human biology. Usually in the name of the Force.

The Appeal: Thinking outside the box stretches one’s creative muscles.

Issues: Star Wars seems to have shifted the Force and therefore its focus into more of a spiritual as opposed to (pseudo)-biological realm after the prequel age of “midichlorians,” which is literally what happens when you skim the textbook chapter on mitochondria and chloroplasts, pay zero attention in class, and then get a pop quiz on the subject. Re: parthenogenesis, even the Bible only had room for one Jesus story, and Star Wars already has Anakin.

Basically, it’s safe to say that all the fan theories fitting in this category have either a) already been done before and are highly unlikely to be done again or b) are way, way too creative and outside of the box for a franchise that has yet to diversify beyond exactly one flavor of female lead.

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