Movies

Should We Ever Learn Who Rey’s Parents Are?

Among the central questions of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are these: Who are Rey’s parents? Why was she abandoned on Jakku? Is she related to anybody we’ve met before in the movies? There are likely answers coming in May 2017, when Episode VIII is released. But perhaps these questions are better left unanswered.

One of the more interesting aspects of Rey, and one that makes her different from that other Jedi from a desert planet, is that she’s desperate for a family of any sort. The final shot of the movie is as much her asking for a new father figure as she is asking for a teacher. This need tends to drive her decisions throughout the movie; she gets attached to Finn and Han awfully quickly, for example, when other people would walk away.

Taking that out of her character would be a shame. The contrast between Finn, Rey, and Kylo is what drives The Force Awakens. Finn struggles with his abusive “family,” such as it is; Rey is, underneath it all, looking for acceptance and friends, if she can’t find family; and Kylo is torn between his complicated father and the grandfather he idolizes.

But of all of them, only Rey doesn’t ultimately make a concrete choice; just who she wants her “family” to be is still an open question. There’s no way to give her parents — at least parents we know about — without stacking that deck and removing the ambiguity that makes her different. If her parents turn out to be Sith, now she’s struggling against their legacy, making her just a distaff Luke; if they turn out to be Jedi, then she’s just another predestined hero. And if they turn out to be minor characters we don’t have any investment in, that might be even worse. There’s nothing that’s more of a letdown than a tantalizing question with a boring answer.

All we really need to know about Rey is that she was abandoned and hasn’t gotten over it. Seeing how she does, or doesn’t, deal with it will be far more interesting than finding out the answer to what, in the end, will be a trivial question.

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