Note: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead.
Of all the many successes Episode VII has going for it — including wiping away the stain of the prequel trilogy — Rey stands out as the film's greatest achievement. She's awesome; she defeated a powerful Dark Jedi in single combat without an iota of training. And yet by movie's end, there's still so much about her we don't know. She’s the ideal character for a fan community that lives off raw speculation. Fittingly, the internet is completely awash in theories about Rey.
The most heated fan theory pertains to Rey’s parents; by way of Leia or Luke, she is the child of a Skywalker. Given her innate gift with the Force without formal training, the lineage seems likely. But I hope this is a misdirect. The idea that the fate of the galaxy rests on the shoulders of a single group of Chosen People is counter to the work Disney has done creating a new, more inclusive saga with its characters.
Do we really need an interstellar aristocracy?
Last year, Disney made the shrewd, if polarizing, decision to make the entire Star Wars Expanded Universe non-canonical, branding its countless storylines Legends. The rationale was simple: erase the established universe to make way for a new canon that could be built upon for decades to come. Fans were dismayed; it meant that they would never see stories like the Heir to the Empire trilogy on the big screen. But if nothing else, it gave the company a clean slate to tell new stories about characters that have nothing to do with the Skywalkers, a family the novels and comics effectively turned into a kind of interstellar aristocracy.
In the Star Wars Legends stories, Luke, Leia, and Han have children who are all strong in the Force. In the midst of ongoing conflict in the galaxy, their children are central figures, with some even falling to the Dark Side. The Skywalkers' importance carries on for more than a century in these stories, as it’s clear they’re forever destined to be the greatest of the Jedi. Some theories already claim Rey and Kylo Ren are parallels of Jaina and Jacen Solo, the twin children of Leia and Han who are forced to battle one another.
It would be a wasted opportunity on Disney’s part to replicate those beats in the new trilogy. There’s an obvious inclusivity mission in these films that wasn’t present in the originals, where women and people of color are on the front lines. The Force may be strong in Luke’s family, but it has awakened in a way that paves the way for a new Jedi Order with whole new champions. That’s not only timely and necessary in Hollywood at large, but commercially savvy — kids from all backgrounds would love nothing more than to see themselves in the series.
Just consider the run-up to the film’s release. There was a real sense of excitement around the possibility of Finn taking up Luke’s lightsaber. He would have represented a (ahem) new hope for the franchise, a brand new protagonist to follow. Though it’s now Rey with Luke’s lightsaber in hand, she has the same opportunity.
Rey being a Skywalker would be midichlorians all over again
Suggesting that it’s Rey’s lineage that makes her destined for greatness dilutes that opportunity. It’s the same problem everyone had with midichlorians; instead of everyone having access to the Force, you suddenly had to be born with it. Admittedly, there’s a classic satisfaction to the notion that Rey, a "nobody," descends from the greatest Jedi that ever lived. It’s a Cinderella story. But the Skywalkers needn’t be royalty; they should represent the normal man or woman who found their way to greatness. Acknowledging that, Disney’s jettisoning the Expanded Universe feels all the more intentional.
The Force Awakens sets the stage for a whole new generation of Jedi as much as it is an attempt to draw in new fans. Rey can and should represent just what Luke represented in 1977: the potential for anyone, even if they’re from a desert planet, to go on a hero’s journey and save the galaxy. Making her a Skywalker undoes that.
The Force Awakens First reactions