What are your thoughts on 'romancegate' or the Vanity Fair story that says there is no romance in Ep 8? I am sure your inbox is blowing up about this right now :(
I’m not really surprised/worried/concerned? The article was pretty damn sexist at parts and the drama is ugly af (and I’m avoiding it with a ten-foot pole), but I’m surprised by neither of these things. If we’re talking about (Reylo) romance specifically, to be completely honest I’ve been warning about this since the very beginning, and in very blatant terms that often get me in trouble:
To refresh the memories of long-time followers, and to update those of you who are new to my blog, here’s what I specifically said about Reylo in terms of canon possibilities, along with my predictions towards The Last Jedi and how it related to the three main characters (Rey, Finn, and Kylo):
There will be an “I am your father” moment in Episode VIII—and by that, I mean the same level of shock that the original reveal produced. This moment will either be about Rey’s background/identity, or Rey and Kylo’s relationship, specifically. Rey will become a much more grey character […] while Finn and Kylo will veer out towards the Light and the Dark sides of the Force, respectively. All three of them will become an Avatar of each mindset by the end of the film. Each of them will come of age in their new roles that they occupy within the Star Wars universe.
When speaking about this relationship, I also clarified (in the same piece) that while I thought one-sided Reylo already existed—and it was possible that they could go the sexual route a la Bastila and Revan—this “relationship” that was going on between Kylo and Rey wasn’t going to be traditional, in the romantic sense:
[…] It’s a very complicated, nuanced thing when combined with narrative sensuality, and its not bad VS. good or black VS. white. It’s not this ship or that or straight up fuckin’ like rabbits. It’s kinda grey, like this spot in the Force that both Kylo and Rey occupy, and whatever happens between them its not going to be a straightforward romance (I would be shocked if it was). Maybe this is also what the filmmakers mean when they things will get “dark.”
So we might see some encompassing, destructive passion between Kylo and Rey in Episodes VIII and IX. Instead of Kylo’s redemption, we might see an anti-hero who was so close to redemption fall fully from grace, which would make the moment all the more poignant and tragic. We could see Kylo’s odd fixation with Rey turn into a mutual obsession. Rey might be the one to fall, as they’ve already hinted that she and Kylo are two sides of the same coin, and she flirts with the Dark Side. Who knows? I do know that if Disney went this route, it would be a bold move for Star Wars movies (and I specify the movies, because EU has no qualms with this). […] when JJ said this story was a villain’s arc as much as it was the hero’s one, I think this is what he was hinting at.
I then went on to explain that—while it is certainly possible to write reciprocated Reylo, and I couldn’t 100% rule it out—I also didn’t think they would be going there, just due to subtext and the difficulty of writing those sorts of stories within a blockbuster framework:
So by now […] I think its safe to say that Kylo is heading off the emotional cliff when it comes to Rey. He wants her, and he wants her bad. He’s tenacious, and we see a propensity towards rage and impulsiveness in him, so when he does go after Rey, he’s probably going to do something really stupid to get her back. This will be tied into how the movies will be “weird,” and it will be tied into the “I’m your father” moment, and it will (probably) be a core component of Episode VIII. But this attachment will more than likely be one-sided.
Rey might end up with Finn, or she may end up alone, but I highly doubt she’ll end up with Kylo in the way people are hoping, because to be honest the symbolism behind her character is very, very fragile, and you could very easily fuck it up. Rey means a lot of things to a lot of people, and while you COULD pull off a romantic relationship between Kylo and her, I don’t think Disney will try. Right now the scenes between Rey and Kylo have sexual undertones, and those undertones are non-abusive because Rey has agency. She wins every time they have a showdown. This offsets Kylo’s possessive, sexually aggressive attitude towards her. But if Rey gives in, if she falls for him and this possessive attitude isn’t corrected – if she loses – then everything in the subtext between them becomes kinda problematic.
So right now the only way I can see the Episode VIII team making this dynamic work between Kylo/Rey is to have Rey being stronger than Kylo, consistently, or having them always poised as equals. They could possibly pull it off by having them on opposite ends of the Force spectrum—separated by different ideologies and driven to grief by being parted from one another. That would translate obsessive fixation into legitimate longing, which is An Okay Thing To Like (and show to the kids). But I digress.
Let me also clarify that even if Reylo is one-sided, this doesn’t mean Rey won’t feel anything for Kylo. […] I’m pretty sure Rey will be tempted by Kylo, either sexually or spiritually (through the Force). Maybe she’ll be tempted by both. I’m not sure how far this temptation will go or where it will lead, but I do think it will be part of the movie. And just because I don’t see any way for Reylo to be together in their current context doesn’t mean that the screenwriters won’t do it. They might surprise me and pull it off, and they’ve certainly left themselves room to play with it.
The tl’dr of all of this is that I have maintained from Day 1 that this path is where the franchise is headed, and with the exception of a few hiccups (you can see my score chart here), I haven’t really been off. I said things would get worse before they got better, and that if Kylo was redeemed that redemption would be a painful one that could result in serious maiming or death. From Adam’s more recent comments about his character, it seems Kylo’s outlook will indeed be pretty bleak, at least temporarily. This is not really conducive to romance.
Johnson’s direct quote from Vanity Fair was that The Last Jedi offers “no one-to-one equivalent of the Han-to-Leia, burning, unrequited love. In our story, that’s not a centerpiece” (and keep in mind, it was the journalist who mentioned Stormpilot and Reylo—not Rian Johnson. The journalist—a man—is adding his own bias to this picture, and one that’s pretty clear re: what he considers to be crack pairings. See: his completely inappropriate comments about fanfiction, in relation to female fans, yet again, listing off some of the biggest ships. Because apparently we haven’t had this discussion about-how-fanfiction-is-a-gendered-and-sexist-insult enough).
Han and Leia is a traditional romance, and I said that I didn’t think that Episode VIII would include traditional romances; ergo, I am not shocked by this. I’m just a bit sad, because beyond the sexist tones I’ve been clear about my theoretical position re: Episode VIII from the beginning. Either people haven’t been listening to it, or my words have been willfully misconstrued to mean something they don’t. It’s leading to a bloodbath re: drama, and like a redemption arc it’s going to get far worse before it gets better.
I will say that Johnson’s statement doesn’t explicitly rule out romance, just that it won’t be a centerpiece of it, and it says nothing about Episode IX (but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms). I am a bit surprised that Johnson chose to bring up the “unrequited” part in the context of Han and Leia, because as far as I can tell they seemed to be genuinely into one another (perhaps he is referring to Leia’s initial rejection of Han, followed by the (sexual) chase? I don’t know).