The latest Last Jedi trailer was incredible – apart from the hype it caused over Rey and Kylo Ren.
Rey and Kylo Ren are magnificent characters in their own right. One fascinating and one brilliant in his loathsome and brooding way. It would be understandable for fans to ship them together, if they weren’t such a toxic pairing. Reylo represents the worst of heteronormative and mononormative society.
People do get over things very quickly in any drama and in sci-fi that’s especially true. It’s how we end up with completely random friendship/ally pairings which can make TV and film so glorious. It only works though if there’s real exploration of the issues the characters face, and if it doesn’t romanticise horrible behaviour. For Rey and Kylo Ren within one film, that ship should have sunk. To recap, Kylo kidnapped Rey, watched her while she was unconscious, tried to use the force to break into her mind and even said “I can take whatever I want” when she tried to resist. Kylo represents all creeps, all misogyinsts and rape culture in that one scene. It is repulsive that anyone would try to romanticise that, minimise what Kylo did to Rey, or would suggest that Rey would somehow save him.
“Kylo represents all creeps, all misogyinsts and rape culture in that one scene”
Reylo would also suggest that heterosexuality/romanticism and monogamy have a culture of innate tedium. Kylo and Rey would hardly be unpredictable. The relationship symbolises toxicity but they’re also the two main characters. All Hollywood knows how to do is put the lead woman with the lead man. Sci-fi is a genre of infinite possibility but we’re still threatened with seeing this same old tired crap.
Romances in film and TV often featured toxic elements. There will be the push/pull routine, a violation of boundaries (which is brushed off as romantic), jealousy, insecurity and generally hideous traits which are glorified. Same gender romances fall into the same trap in the industry. Bar the odd exception, they’re often written just as poorly but the genders are simply swapped. Radical honesty and openness are never portrayed. Respect is often conditional and easily revoked if a partner doesn’t get their own way. Then there’s romanticising often violent behaviour. Women get with guys after they’ve exerted their masculinity – usually by punching a romance ‘rival’.
It’s tired. It’s done. Can we please get something – anything – else?
Why can’t Rey be happy on her own? Why not let Rey and/or Kylo be asexual or aromantic, if not both? Why not explore polyamory between Rey, Finn and Poe? There are so many possibilities left with relationships to explore in film. Just ditching the romanticism of toxicity would be a refreshing break. It’s part of why Rogue One worked so well; the two different gender leads weren’t forced together, there was just focus on the individuals. The most intriguing aspect of the latest trailer, other than the porg, was seeing Rey’s conflict over her own identity. Rey’s story deserves its own focus without a dreary Kylo romance. Star Wars is welcome to explore their rivalry and potential allyship, but throwing romance into it would demean Rey after everything Kylo has done to her, and to his own family. Bad guys can’t be saved by nice girls; they have to be accountable for their abuse. Rey deserves better.
Hopefully the writers have a better plan in mind but it’s easy to be concerned when so many films go down that same route. The rise of fandoms have been amazing but sometimes both a fandom and writers can drag each other down. The Reylo ship should not be made canon. Fans can enjoy it through fanfic, fanart and discussions but too often writers cater to the easy choice and too often audiences simply accept it. Now we live in a time where we can communicate easily, let’s be clear that we want better from stories. Not just with the choice of pairing (and hey, why limit relationships at just two people?) but with how they interact and with how they explore respect and boundaries. If a writer says they can’t do this because sci-fi is meant to be violent, if they can’t be creative enough to explore relationships responsibly then they’re in the wrong gig just like comedians who claim they can’t make jokes without being offensive.
The Last Jedi is likely to be the biggest film of the year anyway, but let it be because of a great story rather than by default because Hollywood had such a poor summer season. The film has all of the components in needs to deliver, but if the Reylo ship says then the entire modern trilogy may be doomed.