Dissociative History – The Last Jedi

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Think about the frustration and conflict you feel when your past becomes a disruption to functioning at a hundred percent. Now think about it if you have Kylo Ren’s rage capacity and see where that gets you in your overall functionality. There is a multitude of ways in which one can deal with their past such as using religion to overcome past sins or trauma, fortifying one’s mind and downplaying the past, etc. But regardless of what you do, one cannot deny that one’s past or history cannot be separated from their ontological being; but for Kylo Ren, his denial led to his defeat in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren’s resolve was to dissociate himself from his past by the film’s end and come into his own as his own person. But his failure shows the tangible manifestation of frustration and inner turmoil from an unresolved past.

As a character, Kylo Ren is a projection of who Ben Solo aspired to be: powerful, feared, and set apart. In short: he wanted to be Darth Vader. But coming after one of the most iconic villains on and off the silver screen is a burden he was constantly reminded he could not live up to. His ideal became a construct he knew he could never overcome, so in an act of defiance, his mask is destroyed. Gone are the cape and mask. And soon, gone are the familial bonds to his father, uncle, grandfather, and Snoke, violently severing himself from his past to brand himself under a new authority, a new identity as the Supreme Leader of the First Order. He sets himself up to be a revolutionary, a destroyer of the past and of historical mythos like the Jedis’ and the Siths’; yet that begs the question: is not one’s history a significant component in how we perceive and judge the personage of another?

Humans are heirs to the past and are the only ones to benefit from the knowledge of history. The privilege to take note of our history and to expand upon it and grow as people is natural to our ways in life.  Yet for Kylo Ren, with all that effort to break free from his past, the result shows an even angrier soul, not at all different from the man he was. When he rose to the seat of power, he failed to accomplish his first mission his revolutionary vision because of his unchanged recklessness, focusing his ire entirely on Luke Skywalker rather than following General Hux’s advice of pursuing the fleeing rebel forces.

And in contrast, Rey faced her history rather than set it aside, run away, or let it consume her. The mystery of Rey’s parentage is revealed by Kylo Ren: common junk traders that sold her for drinking money. He tells her this in his pursuit to have Rey join in him in his revolution, believing that by deconstructing her own projections of loving parents should have devastated her into paving a future, void of any implications of the past. But Rey does not. She accepts her past as a part of herself is able to discern the moral implications of the choice in leading the First Order.

One’s past is never easy to deal with. My friend who started smoking at thirteen years old and had since quit shared that his journey to remain clean is an ongoing struggle. Triggers from everyday stress prompt him to want a cigarette and smoke again. But every time the temptation rises, he thinks back to the reasons why he had wanted to quit in the first place and is able to carry on with his day. As does Rey, since she is able to look to herself and see the greatness of her destiny and the new bonds she has created to overcome the disappointment to her origins to choose to reject and fight against the potential tyranny she could have raised. As does Luke Skywalker, as he finally accepts his moment of weakness and comes to the need of the resistance.

And as doesn’t Kylo Ren.

The significance of one’s past and accepting it gets lost in his rejection of history. In his quest to establish a new world order, he instead invites chaos through his impulsiveness to relinquish himself from a past that he no longer deems necessary, yet he is fueled by it and is the cause of the internal conflicts that we see in him. The pull between light and darkness is constantly in turmoil and we see a young man unable to come to terms that one’s past is inseparable from one’s present. So in a sense, Kylo Ren has completed his characterization as a case study for absolute evil, but the possibility of reconciling his past to his future to complete his outlook as a complicated villain is one to look out for in the final installment of the sequel trilogy.