The Force Grows Up

This post is going to discuss the theology and metaphysics of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, specifically as relates to the characters of Rey and Kylo.  I will attempt to avoid spoilers for the film, but I will be discussing the overall story arc and so if you have not seen the film and intend to, you may want to avoid reading this post.

The Force, we are told, is a mystical energy field generated by the sum total of all living things.  Those who are aware of the Force and sensitive to it respond in one of two ways.  They either surrender to it and let it guide their actions, or they seek to control it, and through it, other living things.  The first are called the Light Side, the second are called the Dark Side.

I don’t think that this mythology was used to its full advantage in the original franchise. In my opinion the choice between the Light and Dark Sides was presented primarily as a stylistic one, and secondarily as a political one, with the theological ramifications largely overlooked.

Much has been made of the character Rey, and her seemingly inexplicable skills.  For me, though, her abilities were not inexplicable at all, but were the natural consequence of the Light Side.

In my opinion she wasn’t a Mary Sue, as some have claimed, who was able to do anything because she represented some wish fulfillment of the authors.  Instead, I see her as an analogue of David, the shepherd boy who was able to do great things not because of who he was, but in order to show that God could accomplish great things.

What Rey did in the film wasn’t because she was anything special, but because she allowed the Force to work through her.  As evidence of this thesis I offer the fact that she spent most of the movie saying that she wanted nothing more than to go back to the desert world she came from and her life stripping parts from wrecked ships.  She did not accomplish that, however, because the only things that she did surpassingly well were those things that drove her onward towards the goals that the Force had set her towards.

The other character trait that seems to bother commenters on the film is the emotional volatility of the character Kylo.  He frequently acts like a spoiled child, with sudden bursts of destructive rage and bouts of self-absorbed sulking.

This, too, seems to me to be in keeping with the theology of the Force.  Those who follow the Dark Side must grow narcissistic, assuming that they don’t start off that way.  The entire focus of the Sith discipline is the focusing and feeding of the ego.  Yes, submission to one’s superiors is a virtue in their value system, but it is submission based on self-interest.  They obey simply because the other is stronger–and only so long as that is the case.

The Dark Side seeks to harness God as a beast of burden–only a cyclopean ego could contemplate such an act.

Watching this film I had, for the first time, a solid impression of the Force not only as source of magic tricks, but a spiritual power . I believe that J. J. Abrams, in The Force Awakens, has made an essentially religious film, and has given the Force the attributes of a deity.

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle.
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6 Responses to The Force Grows Up

  1. Have to agree. I feel like they made it more than clear that Rey was being guided by The Force, against Kylo Ren. Doesn’t The Force always seek to be balanced, also? It would seem to me that it was tipping things toward that, as Ren and particularly Snoke, represent a bias toward the Dark Side.

  2. I never even considered Rey being a Mary Sue, and for the reasons you described — she’s incredibly strong in the Force, and she basically surrendered herself to its power, which is how she was able to do such amazing things with no training. It could also be that, in the intensity of the situation she was thrust into, she was able to tap a deeper connection to the force than she’d usually be capable of, allowing her to do incredible things — i.e., if she tried to use her powers again in a stress-free situation, she’d find it difficult to do so. Just a theory, obviously.

    As for Kylo Ren, my understanding of his anger management issues is that it’s a mixture of his huge ego, and his misunderstanding of Sith ideology. Yoda explained in Episode I that fear leads to anger, anger to hate, etc. I think Kylo is stuck on the anger bit — he thinks the key to being a good Sith is to let his emotions rule him, to give in to the anger and hate, like Palpatine urged Luke to do in Episode VI. But he’s missing the crucial next step — once you’ve given in, then you have to learn control. And he hasn’t learned control yet — he can’t, because he’s trapped in the anger/fear step, and that’s why he acts the way he does.

    I really like the way they’re portraying the force in the new movie. In the old trilogy, there was a certain sense of it being religious in nature, but that was almost completely squashed in the prequels — possibly in purpose, because they had the huge, bureaucratized Jedi order running around. Now they’re getting back to the theology of it, and it’s making for a very intriguing direction for the movies to take.

  3. metallicwolff says:

    Good article. Also good comments. I agree with what you are saying and am glad they made the movie this way. A real Breath of Life into the franchise.

  4. metallicwolff says:

    Reblogged this on MetallicWolff and commented:
    Good article on The Force.

  5. Pingback: Rogue One: Islands In The Stars | mishaburnett

  6. Pingback: My problems with “The Last Jedi” | mishaburnett

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