Star Wars' new villain is like its old villains: he wears a mask, he carries a big red lightsaber, and he dresses in a lot of black. That's no spoiler to say — you can see as much from the movie's poster — but the rest of this article will be full of them. If you've not seen Star Wars yet, and if you don't know who Kylo Ren is, then stop reading here.
For everyone else, I think we can agree — Kylo Ren kind of sucks. Despite his supposedly prodigious Force powers, he's bested by a tweedling orange ball, he loses a vital prisoner about three seconds after she's captured, and he can't even build a lightsaber properly. His Force-powered antics might look scary for the stormtroopers he shares Starkiller base with, but you're never sure if he might just cut his own pinky finger off with those fizzing crossguards. And his Vader fandom — right down to his little shrine he keeps in his room — is just awkward for a man well into his adult years.
This is why Emo Kylo Ren, the Twitter parody account that imagines bad Ben Solo as an ultra-privileged, ultra-moody, Hot Topic-shopping, Vader-obsessed weenie, desperate for validation from both his famous father and deceased grandfather, has already amassed almost half-a-million followers — it's devastatingly accurate. Where most parody Twitter accounts are knuckle-chewingly bad, this one has undoubtedly already appeared all over your timeline because it's so easy to imagine Kylo Ren sulking through his early life, rolling his eyes at his dad's jokes, complaining about perceived slights, affecting the edgy tone of the dark side, and trying to work out why the world doesn't think he's as cool as he thinks he is.
they make fun of me but kylo ren is a way realer name than biggs darklighter, the actual name of a man who my grandpa killed in a battle— Emo Kylo Ren (@KyloR3n) December 22, 2015
Emo Kylo Ren has two friends — and one is a helmet. The other is The Force Awakens' General Hux, the only other misfit in space school, and a Nazi fanatic who doesn't understand his Vader obsession and keeps trying to get him to watch the films of Leni Riefenstahl. They're not even really friends, but purely allies of circumstance. Where Hux is a true believer, eyes glistening with tears as he imagines the extermination of anyone he considers untermensch, Ren is more concerned with how his hair swishes when he takes off his Darkwing Duck helmet. Even worse for Ren, Hux — small, slight, and not jacked up on midichlorians — is still somehow more confident than he is.
dear diary today hux and I took a quiz to find our hogwarts houses he got slytherin I got hufflepuff the first time but it was a mistake— Emo Kylo Ren (@KyloR3n) December 25, 2015
The two have come together out of mutual need — they're the only two at school who always wear black — but their relationship is defined by jealousy. On Twitter, Emo Kylo Ren stops speaking to Hux because he brings "forbidden" Solo cups to a party. In the movie, Hux strides straight into a meeting between Kylo Ren and his new daddy figure, Supreme Leader Snoke, upbraiding the young Solo for losing his captive, failing to get the map to Skywalker, and just generally sucking at everything he tries to do. Ren's the guy with the lightsaber, he could choke the life out of Hux with his mind, but instead his tail goes between his legs and — like his father often did 30 years previous — he pleads that it wasn't his fault.
ugh parsecs are units of distance DAD— Emo Kylo Ren (@KyloR3n) December 28, 2015
So far, the new Star Wars canon hasn't explained how Ben Solo turned to the dark side, but Emo Kylo Ren does a pretty good job in filling in the blanks. As Han and Leia's son, Ben Solo had everything in the galaxy you could wish for: a famously cool father, a mother with the political sway to change the future, a host of celebrity friends, a hero for an uncle, a seven-foot walking carpet for a regular babysitter, a whole load of money (presumably pilfered from the Empire), the keys to the fastest freighter in the galaxy, and the ability to move stuff around with his mind.
i suppose i was just born into the wrong era that's all— Emo Kylo Ren (@KyloR3n) December 22, 2015
But Ren's immensely privileged life has made him fundamentally selfish and pathetic — he feels like he's owed the galaxy, but hasn't done anything to deserve it. Instead, he complains about a father frozen in "emotional carbonite," family friends who laugh at his all-black wardrobe, and being forced to sing Ewok songs. His Force skills aren't even under control, unable to look cool in front of the vastly more powerful Rey by using the Force to "open" an automatic door. He finds solace in Vader, a man he never met, and wishes himself born into a different era, but you'd imagine the Emperor would've taken one look at Emo Kylo Ren and burned him to death with Force lightning.
Or would he? Because even though his anger and selfishness makes him a dork on Twitter, Kylo Ren is arguably the ultimate Sith.
what's the word for when your father is frozen in carbonite but emotionally for your whole childhood— Emo Kylo Ren (@KyloR3n) December 29, 2015
The first line of the Sith code reads "Peace is a lie, there is only passion" — Ren is certainly passionate. Where Vader, the Emperor, and Count Dooku were careful, calculated, and calm in their mannerisms and actions, Ren will happily shred a computer console just because he's been told some bad news. Ren's unhinged aggression is arguably scarier than his the other dark siders we've seen on screen — more frightening to watch than Vader's menace, Darth Maul's snarling silence, or Palpatine's precision.
He's coming back crueler in Episode VIII
Ren's petty, vain, and thoughtless, but he can also stop blaster bolts in mid-air and drag people around by the throat with his mind, giving his aggression a regular out that's unchecked in the violence of the First Order. Where the Emperor would ignore you if you didn't get in the way of his cartoon plan of galactic domination, Ren's is a small-scale malice that's very real — comic writer Gail Simone memorably described Ren as a school shooter, imagining his brooding anger at the universe given form through lightsaber slashes and force chokes rather than automatic weaponry.
And for all of his bluster in The Force Awakens, Ren's going to come back crueler and angrier than ever in Episode VIII. He's angry at the universe, but he's more angry at himself, especially after being beaten in a stand-up fight by an untrained scavenger using his idol's lightsaber. He won't let it drop after being embarrassed so thoroughly. Already I can imagine him writing. "Dear diary," he'll scrawl in Sith red ink. "I'm going to kill that traitor."