The Shadow of Anakin Part I: Why Kylo and Anakin are Nothing Alike

kylo starkiller

Though Anakin Skywalker has been dead for thirty years, the specter of his memory still looms over the Star Wars universe. His shadow is most obviously personified by his grandson: Kylo Ren, a young fanatic seduced by the dark side, obsessed with Vader’s exploits, and striving to live up to Vader’s legacy. A Skywalker, powerful in the Force, and obsessed with power and willing to hurt those he loves to get it. It seems like Kylo is well on his way to filling Vader’s boots.

The comparison between Vader and Kylo is an interesting one because while their narratives seem alike on the surface, a deeper look reveals that not to be the case at all. Sure, they both crave power from the dark side, they’re both angsty, they have scary masks, and they both see no problem in hurting those they care about in their quest for power and glory. But, for all Kylo’s Vader fanboyism and desire to emulate his grandfather, the two characters actually share very few similarities when it comes to their pursuit of power. And that is going to play a key role in how their redemption narratives play out.

Obviously we know very little about the details of Ben’s backstory, so a significant part of this is based on speculation drawn from context clues present in The Force Awakens. But based on what we see of Kylo and what we can surmise about the state of the galaxy, it’s clear that Vader and Kylo are actually quite different in how they fell to the dark side. And that difference is due to a couple key aspects of their pre-dark side selves, Anakin and Ben.

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The Force Awakens’ Over-Reliance on Nostalgia


This is not a spoiler-free review so proceed at your own risk.

Throughout the buildup to The Force Awakens, the phrase “Chewie, we’re home” summed up the sentiment that had everyone, myself included, excited for the return to the galaxy far, far away. The movie promised it would be an exciting new story that would return us to our childhoods and take us to that moment when we first discovered the magic that was Star Wars.

But as I walked out of the theater after my first viewing, my first thought was “…that’s it?” The post-Return of the Jedi narrative is supposed to be the Great Unknown of the Star Wars fandom. Unlike the prequel trilogy, we had no idea what was going to happen. Episode VII was the first step into this larger world and was the start of a story for a new generation of heroes. So why did I feel so underwhelmed?

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Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Speculation

evil luke

With roughly a month and a half left until the premiere of The Force Awakens, promotion is ramping up and speculation is running wild. And while there’s more BB-8s than you can shake a stick at, one character has been conspicuously absent so far: Luke Skywalker.

J.J. Abrams is well known for keeping movie plots and key characters close to the chest. He loves to talk up the “mystery box” concept and is a proponent of the idea that the mystery is more exciting than the revelation. And all this secrecy has led many Star Wars fans to wonder if perhaps Luke didn’t become the Jedi Master we all expected but perhaps…fell to the dark side instead.

There would definitely be a certain poignancy in having the Big Bad of the sequel trilogy be the former celebrated hero of the original trilogy. The story of Star Wars is about the struggle between good and evil; more specifically it is about how everyone has the capacity for both good and evil and that it is your choices that matter. Anakin and Luke both follow the hero’s journey but come to wildly different endings, one tragic and one heroic. They act as foils to one another and show how little choices eventually build up into something good or something evil. But to say that Luke will be evil in The Force Awakens is, I think, a misunderstanding not only of Luke’s character development but also a misunderstanding of the type of hero Luke Skywalker is.

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Force Friday Flashback: A New Kind of Marketing

daisy and john ff

It’s been a little over a month since Force Friday and the explosion of merchandise for The Force Awakens. The midnight release event was eagerly awaited by both kids and collectors alike. It was the first merchandise push for the upcoming movie and many fans wondered what, exactly, to expect.

Earlier this year we speculated on what the merchandise marketing for TFA would look like. At the time the only thing we had to compare it to was Disney’s treatment of Marvel merchandise and, well, the outlook was not favorable. It’s well known that Disney views Marvel as their “boy” property and, as a result, Marvel items marketed towards women (or even items featuring women) are nearly nonexistent. Outside of geek-specific retailers such as ThinkGeek, WeLoveFine, and Her Universe, finding merchandise that featured any of the prominent women in the Marvel cinematic universe was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. We feared the same thing would happen to Rey and Captain Phasma.

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Star Wars’ Intersectionality Problem


The biggest piece of Star Wars news from this year’s D23 Expo was the reveal of the rest of the Rogue One cast as well as a first look at all of them in costume. Like the rest of the Star Wars blogosphere I was extremely excited by the news and immediately set to over-analyze every scrap of it. My first thought was “wow, what a multicultural cast!” Followed shortly after that was “…but why is Felicity Jones apparently the only woman?” It seems once again that Star Wars fans are being asked to choose between ethnic diversity and gender parity.

The original trilogy movies are, frankly, lily white and heavily male. Leia is the only woman with a significant presence across the three movies and Lando’s the only significant nonwhite character. The prequel trilogy fares a little better, with the addition of strong secondary characters such as Mace Windu or Bail Organa (both male) and Shmi and various handmaidens (all white). But the fact remains: a Star Wars character can apparently be either nonwhite or nonmale…but not both. Read More