Star Wars is known for its heroes just as much as it is known for its villains like the infamous Darth Vader and now, the most current baddy in the galaxy far, far away, the freshly dubbed Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. The fight against the dark side is a tale as old as the thematized conflict between good versus evil. Simply put, it is ancient, but it is considered to be a universal part of the human culture. No matter where we come from, what language we speak or what our faith is, we understand the inner struggles in all humans between good and evil. It is a constant as much as is to breathe.
Dovetailing back to Star Wars and its theme of good versus evil or rather, the fight against the light and dark side of the Force, we know of two things that are pretty much black and white. And that is, the dark side believes in using fear to reign in order while the Resistance is about preserving the light by saving what they love. In other words, hope. “Hope,” as Leia says, “is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.”
The latter is much harder to achieve. After all, choosing to take the road less traveled isn’t an easy choice. In actuality, most find it easier to adhere to the conformity of what is known, in this case, the Empire or the First Order than to choose what is morally right. We all have a moral compass and as George Lucas stated, “no one is born evil” regarding Anakin Skywalker. But sometimes, our morals are outweighed by what is known as Classical Conditioning. Put another way, a trained reaction or behavior that is influenced by reinforcement and followed by consequences.
This form of learning happens every day, for the most part, and yet no one notices. Of course, such trained behavior can become hugely problematic if abused, and a powerful tool for self-destruction in a dominant and submissive role setting. For instance, Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren, Dryden Vos and Qi’ra, Count Dooku and Asajj Ventress, and for a brief time, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, and most recently or currently, Kylo Ren and Rey.
These destructive relationships are all in line with extreme conditioning within the victim control dynamic or what is known as a core pattern. Throughout the Skywalker Saga, we see this the most within the pairing of Darth Sidious/Palpatine and Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker. It starts at an early age when Anakin is only nine-years-old and shortly after being separated from his mother. This separation makes him vulnerable and easily susceptible to fall into the trap of trusting a predatory conditioner. Palpatine is cunning and patient as he bides his time, waiting for the perfect moment to strike at Anakin’s lowest point, and all the while he’s slowly gaining power through an illusional trust. Essentially, Palpatine is the one licking Anakin’s wounds and at the same time, stroking his ego. He’s fulfilling a void in Anakin’s life, one that he has longed for ever since he arrived at Coruscant, and Palpatine uses that need as bait. So, by feeding and rewarding Anakin’s emotional needs, Palpatine builds the foundations for classical conditioning and in turn, making Anakin more and more dependant on him and even more so, his servant.
A key and common component to these pairings is the need for emotional nurturing, usually due to something traumatic, and in most of these cases, it is through abandonment or separation anxiety. Let’s not forget, Ventress, talk about suppressing one’s emotions. As a child, she experienced things no child should ever have to go through and make choices that she was not able to comprehend given her age. As an infant, her clan gave her up as a form of payment in return for their safety. In a sense, galactic child trafficking. Sadly, Ventress’ childhood is a pattern of emotional destruction, and it becomes a lifelong pattern for her. And yes, Count Dooku uses all of that to condition her, bend her to his will. Oh, and while we’re on the topic of child trafficking, Qi’ra is no exception as she falls to a similar fate as well with Crimson Dawn crime lord, Dryden Vos.
By now I’m sure some of you are wondering, why not just leave or say, “no more.” Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. See, the victims are conditioned to believe they need their masters, for lack of a better term. The most fleshed out pairing is that of the Emperor and Darth Vader. The proof is in the pudding, in other words, when Vader tells Luke, “I must obey my master.” he truly believes that. Remember, whenever someone fails Vader he chokes them. Where do you think he learned that behavior from, yes, that’s right, the Emperor. Darth Vader obeys without question because he has been conditioned to do so. If not, he, too, will pay the consequences for noncompliance.
Well, now that the building blocks for classical conditioning are out in the open, perhaps we should move on to the elephant in the room, Rey and Kylo Ren. This one is difficult for me because of how close it touches home for me on a personal level. That said, I can say the same for the dynamics between Qi’ra and Dryden Vos. Still, we see a more fleshed out story with Rey and Kylo Ren. Now, I’ll start by saying that while we don’t have a lot of backstory on Kylo Ren’s fall to the darkness, it’s easy to piece together that he fell into Snoke’s trap of emotional conditioning. So, in his defense, but in no way am I excusing his actions, it’s important to remember that when you abuse children, they grow up to be monsters themselves a lot of the times.
“You’re a monster,” is said by Rey more than once regarding Kylo Ren in both, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. After all, he did kidnap her, torture her, invade her mind without any regard for her wellbeing, murder her mentor who just happened to be his father, and maliciously and mortally wound her best friend. The list can go on and on, but I’ll digress here. The point is, Kylo Ren is slowly showing patterns of conditioning Rey through every moment, word, and contact they share. It takes on a new level when Snoke initiates the Force connection by bridging their minds throughout The Last Jedi. Depending on which side of the fence you fall, pro-Reylo or contra-Reylo, you’ll either agree or disagree with my views on their relationship.
The Force Awakens established their rift in a very destructive manner, both emotionally and physically. So, by the time The Last Jedi begins, Rey is hellbent on Kylo Ren as a monster. But, as Luke states, “this isn’t going to go the way you think,” and this holds some water with Rey and Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren might be a monster. Snoke’s creation of master manipulation and emotional conditioning, but, Kylo Ren himself is capable of inflicting the same control over another as well. Only, unlike his predecessors before him, he uses empathy to bait his victim.
As Kylo Ren continues to connect with Rey via Force Skype, the more he learns of Rey’s unsuccessful mission to win Luke’s trust. And this becomes a crutch for Rey just as much as it becomes an advantage for Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren uses this as a means to lure Rey deeper and deeper into his ploy, and in doing so, making Rey more and more dependant on their so-called connection. Using that connection, Kylo Ren strikes when Rey is most vulnerable. He sits across from her in her hut, in a personal, private, and intimate setting, and he plays the sympathy card. We see an unguarded Rey who is beaten by her own emotional need to belong, desperately seeking for familial connection, and to top it off, feels rejected by Luke. And that’s when Kylo Ren attacks, he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing as Rey confesses that she has never felt so alone as she does right now. Kylo Ren prompts her to continue by telling her that she is not alone and lures her to seal the deal by answering him, “neither are you.” Pretty dark stuff in a fictional sense. In the real world, very twisted and methodical. Again, this shows clear relevance to core patterns in emotional conditioning. Making Kylo Ren no different than Snoke and the Emperor, if anything, it makes him that much more dangerous.
All in all, it’s safe to say, whether we’re on board with Reylo or not that Kylo Ren won that round. After all, Rey does ship herself (using an escape pod) to Kylo Ren. But, in the end, Kylo Ren gets a lot more than he bargained for, doesn’t he? Yes, Rey goes to him, but her intentions differ from his own. Like Luke believed in Vader, Rey believes in Ben Solo, not Kylo Ren. It’s a twist on Rey’s part. Not sure she knew it at the time, but Rey used Kylo’s empathy card on Ben Solo. Rey refused the Kylo Ren title and called him by his family name, and offering to help him turn to the light. Honestly, it was more of a plea than a request. Ultimately, all three: Snoke, Rey, and Kylo Ren were all hoping for a different end result. And no one won.
No one won, and the only two left standing in the throne room are Rey and the last remnants of Ben Solo. This moment is now known as the “Pride and Prejudice” scene of Star Wars. And, to be honest, it has never sat well with me. First, let me say that I am aware it is to mirror Anakin and Padme from Revenge of the Sith. That said, it is a mirror of the situation and not the characters themselves.
Secondly, the words, “You’re no one. You have no place in this story. You’re nothing, but not to me. Join me, please.” Again, Kylo Ren is attempting to condition Rey by targeting her emotions and perception of her reality. In layman’s terms, he is gaslighting her. And, thankfully, it works against him.
All things considered, in the grand scheme of things, what does it matter? Essentially, Star Wars created the villain. Without the villain and his/her victims, would it even be Star Wars? As I stated in the beginning, the struggle between good and evil is as constant as breathing. It might be a vicious cycle, but it’s something we can all relate to in one way or another. Regardless, whatever happens next, I will continue to support Rey as she protects the light by the surviving darkness. Besides, isn’t that how we win? Not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.
- Suitable age: 7-8 years
- Contains: tunic, shorts and gauntlets
- Packaging size: 40x32x2
- Warning! not suitable for children under 3 years due to small parts which pose a choking hazard!
- Warning! keep away from fire