Defined By Others: The Double Standards of Heroic Lineage
Some say that Rey shouldn’t be a Skywalker because it lessen her achievements and undermine her status as an independent, self-made character because audience will say she’s only good because of her Skywalker lineage/genes. That she will only be defined by her relatives rather by herself.
But do you know who else is defined by their relatives? Luke Skywalker. Think about it.
What was so special about Luke Skywalker in A New Hope? He’s an adventurous youth and a skilled pilot, but what exactly did he earned on his own before the movie? They say his pilot skills are like his father, who is said to be the best star pilot in the galaxy. Too much of his father within him, Aunt Beru says. He was told that his father was a mystical Jedi Knight, skilled with the power of the Force. His neighbor, Ben Kenobi was his father’s best friend and a Jedi Knight as well (also a mentor and surrogate uncle for Luke). Luke gets to inherit his father’s lightsaber rather build one himself, and he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a Jedi. And he certainly wants to avenge his father’s “death” by killing the villainous Darth Vader. And he gets all the rewards that come with heroic lineage and journey, such as recusing the princess and blowing up the Death Star on his first flight. Luke can be considered the fantasy escapist character for many viewers, with all of the cliches that come with it. But he is not a self-made character. He is largely defined by his father’s legacy.
The Empire Strikes Back furthers that theme. Not only does Luke still wishes to follow his father’s footsteps as a Jedi, but he is also being defined by his conflict with Darth Vader, who wishes to turn him evil. Master Yoda cites how Luke has the same anger as his father, and Luke is warned by his vision in the cave of becoming as evil as Darth Vader. Meanwhile, the Emperor declares Luke Skywalker as a threat, not because of his accomplishments during the war but rather of his Skywalker lineage. The son of Skywalker indeed. And it all culminates into the big reveal at the climax. Darth Vader didn’t kill Luke’s father, he is Luke’s father. And all of Luke’s hopes and vengeance collapse as he begins to comprehend the implication. That his father became the evil Sith Lord, and that he, Luke, was said to have the same temperament as his father and was given a vision of becoming Vader himself. Was he doomed to the same path? The standard male fantasy is suddenly subverted. His lineage is no longer a blessing, but a curse. But regardless, Luke is still defined by his father, Darth Vader. He wouldn’t be half as interesting without this parental conflict.
Return of the Jedi runs with the implications that came from the revelation. Luke becomes darker and more aggressive with the Force during the Rescue of Han Solo. Is the Dark Side claiming him? Luke eventually comes to terms with the truth, and learns the whole truth from Yoda and Obi-Wan. He couldn’t kill his father, but wonders if Vader can be redeemed. He also learns that Leia is his sister, giving him one last close family member to have when all of this is over. Onboard the Death Star II, Palpatine taunts Luke about his father’s fall to the Dark Side and states that he’s doomed to be the next Sith apprentice because of his bloodline. It is the battle for Anakin’s soul between the Emperor and Luke. And Luke eventually won, though not before realizing how close he has come to the edge by seeing his father’s mechanical hand. He refuses to let his father’s fall define his fate and become his own person, symbolized by his new green lightsaber. His defiance against the curse is what ultimately defeated Darth Sidious, but the whole conflict in Return of the Jedi is defined by Luke’s relationship with his father.
So what does this all mean? Luke Skywalker, one of the most iconic heroes in cinema, is heavily defined by his father, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. It is one of the most memorable conflicts because of that relationship. Their characters are not weakened by it. In fact, their characters are made stronger because of it. Makes it unique. So if Luke is still hailed as a beloved character despite being largely defined by his father, why can’t Rey be the same? Just because she’s a female doesn’t mean she has to work twice as hard to be seen as a strong character. Luke had it easy compare to her. No one was demanding that he needs to be self-made and be related to nobody famous. Those who do fail to see what Star Wars is all about now.
It’s not just a wish-fulfillment sci-fantasy, it’s a story about a family known as the Skywalkers. Specifically, the Fall, Redemption and Legacy of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.