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Star Wars fans, stop trying to make Rey’s parents a thing – ANITH
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Star Wars fans, stop trying to make Rey’s parents a thing

Star Wars fans, stop trying to make Rey’s parents a thing

It’s fascinating to watch conspiracy theories die — their diehard captains still clinging to shards of evidence as the ship of belief cracks and sinks all around them. 

We’re watching that happen in two areas of the culture this week. There are the QAnon crazies, whose bizarre pro-Trump theory is taking on water after lawyer Michael Cohen turned on his former boss. Moderators in the Q forums have started banning mentions of Cohen’s name.

Alas, much this same reality-denying dynamic is at work in parts of Star Wars fandom.  

The parentage of Rey (Daisy Ridley) was revealed in The Last Jedi way back in December: her parents were drunken nobodies. Still, all these months later, some true believers in discredited theories hold out hope that this plot point will be reversed by J.J. Abrams in the upcoming Episode IX — and some websites are all too ready to attract eyeballs by stoking that belief.

But that’s just not how stories work. That’s not how any of this works. 

Let’s back up, all the way back to Abrams’ first Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Rey was introduced as a junkyard orphan on the planet Jakku, selling scraps of old Imperial war equipment in exchange for a pittance paid in self-raising bread. She passes the time by telling herself that her parents are coming back for her. 

In the course of her adventures, Rey meets Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o), an ancient and wise woman who is able to tell a lot about a person’s history by looking in their eyes. Here’s what Maz tells Rey, plain as day: “You already know the truth. The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead.” 

Still, elaborate parental theories sprung up in the wake of the movie: Rey must be a Skywalker, because Anakin and Luke’s lightsaber gave her a vision! No wait, she must be a Solo, because she’s so good at piloting the Millennium Falcon! Or maybe she’s a descendent of Obi-Wan Kenobi, because … reasons! 

And then there was the fourth option, the one many of us preferred post-Force Awakens: she’s a nobody. Because Force powers can spring up in anyone, even a Jakku orphan. Because if she is related to any of our heroes, that instantly turns them into assholes for abandoning her. But most of all, because Maz basically said it already, right there in Abrams’ film.

Then writer and director Rian Johnson confirmed the “nobody” theory in The Last Jedi. “You know the truth,” Kylo Ren tells Rey, literally echoing Maz. “They were filthy junk traders; sold you off for drinking money. They’re dead in a pauper’s grave in the Jakku desert.” 

To underline the fact that the villain of the piece isn’t lying, it is Rey herself who delivers the crucial piece of dialogue in between those two quotes above: “They were nobody,” she admits.

Case closed, right? There was foreshadowing in the first movie. A major fan theory got it right. The point that both movies were making about the democratic nature of the Force is clear. Johnson even cautioned us in advance not to make too much of the Rey’s parents thing. All should be right in Star Wars world. 

But of course it wasn’t. Skywalker, Solo and Kenobi theory purists lost their minds. This was all Rian Johnson’s fault, they said. Abrams will reverse it in the next film, they said. Drunk on fan theories, a number of movie and science fiction websites garnered clicks by holding out that hope. 

Actor and Abrams friend Simon Pegg added fuel to the fire in a podcast in April. Pegg said that way back before The Force Awakens there was some talk” being “chucked around” about “a kind of relevant lineage for her.” Which is quite possible, given how many ideas Abrams and writer Lawrence Kasdan threw around in their year-long journey of writing the script. Revealingly, Pegg added: “Honestly, I don’t know.”  

Do you think the internet cared about that nuance? It did not. Controversy-seeking articles and (especially) YouTube videos made hay with Pegg’s quote. They played telephone with it to the point where the revelation came from Abrams himself. Surely, they assumed, he must be mad at Rian Johnson! Surely he’ll reverse course in Episode IX, giving Rey the famous parents she was always meant to have!

Cue millions of headlines giving hope to the hopeless, such as this week’s piece of fact-free tabloid nonsense from the UK’s Daily Express: “Star Wars 9 leak: this new scene reveals both Rey’s PARENTS?” 

To save you a click, I’ll point out that the question mark is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. 

But even if you ignore the fact that the pair of directors have had dozens of meetings about the two movies thus far, and even if you believe that J.J. Abrams is quietly seething and desperate to give Rey some famous parents, let us say it clearly again: that’s not how stories work. 

This isn’t a game of Whose Line Is It Anyway. Abrams and Johnson aren’t improv antagonists trying to score points by screwing each others’ content. They are collectively creating a trilogy of films that will hang together as one complete story, in collaboration with the many fine storytelling minds of Lucasfilm. 

Abrams isn’t going to go out of his way to make his film say “nu uh.” His job is to bring the trilogy’s story to a satisfying conclusion using logic and emotional beats. That’s it. 

Ask yourself this, true believers: How satisfying would it have been in 1983 if Return of the Jedi had simply said: “Never mind! Darth Vader was lying! Luke’s not his son after all!” 

And yet, as a 10-year-old kid at the time, that was absolutely the answer I wanted. After Empire Strikes Back, my friends and I simply couldn’t handle the fact that our hero and the galaxy’s most evil man were related. There had to be some other explanation, right? 

Four decades later, I’m relieved that George Lucas stuck to the plot development that was best for the story as a whole. I’m glad he didn’t listen to the world’s 10-year-olds. One day, fans of Rey Skywalker and Rey Solo and Rey Kenobi, you too will feel the same.

I’m not holding out that much hope for the QAnon folks, however. 

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Anith Gopal
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