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From allegorical protests of the Vietnam War to speaking against American Imperialism, the Star Wars films have always had more to them than meets the eye. Even the widely mocked prequels have their own message, showing us the Galactic Senate taking more power in response to intergalactic fear. It was no coincidence that their message came alongside the Bush era’s war on terror.
Though The Force Awakens is post-George Lucas, even it has a message to share. It’s been said that the film speaks to the fact that no matter who you kill, ideals will live on. That’s a great premise when you’re watching something like V for Vendetta, but it’s not all smiles when you consider the fact that the dark side will live on no matter how many Sith Lords you take out. This can be seen as commentary on wars with no end like the war on terror or the war on drugs.
While a thesis could be written on the different social and political stances in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens gave us a glimpse at two fascinating new characters, both of whom fall on opposite sides of the millennial stereotype. I’m talking, of course, about Kylo Ren and Rey.
Let’s start with the manic, temper tantrum-throwing toddler. Kylo Ren has no control over himself, and a comparably feeble grasp of The Force. Many argue that we’ll see him grow to become a formidable foe, but in the meantime he’s the pathetic child who only managed to get a relevant shot in because his father was stupid enough to trust him.
His obsessive connection to his grandfather, constant foolishness, and fierce entitlement tie him to how older generations see millennials. Kylo Ren fancies himself an important Sith in training that’s meant to be both feared and respected. He’s done little to nothing to merit those accolades as far as we can tell, but he’s a Skywalke… uh… Vader, darn it!
Then we have Rey. She started with nothing, and when we meet up with her she, well, she still basically has nothing. The girl works grueling days in the desert for little to no pay while sporting a fierce independence. She doesn’t need anyone to hold her hand, and she’s not looking for help. Rey, while penniless and alone, has worked herself to the bone for every single thing she has, and represents the side of millennials that often goes ignored by generations that came before us.
Her comparison to the generation doesn’t stop at her work ethic and problem solving skills, either. It’s also represented through her fear. A lot of millennials won’t tell anyone this, (because we’re independent, darn it!) but most of us are terrified. We live in a constant state of the unknown, because we were left with a decently-sized mess that the previous generation thinks it solved on all accounts. Sound familiar?
Han Solo’s dynamic with the two characters is also a fascinating look at how millennials are perceived in today’s world. Han finds himself caring for Rey so quickly because she represents all the things that his son does not, but he also finds himself unable to stop loving Kylo. Part of that is likely the paternal bond he shares with his son, no matter how much of a disaster he is, but it’s also likely guilt. Solo may be a scruffy lookin’ nerf herder, but he’s not an idiot. He’s never been one for ties, but he knows how wrong it was to abandon both his son and his wife. More than that, Han understands that the war he and his friends "won" is not only not over, but it’s bigger now than ever before. It’s hard to acknowledge that the battles you fought and the sacrifices you made didn’t leave a better tomorrow for the next generation, but it’s a whole lot easier to fix a problem you acknowledge than one you don’t.
All of Han’s personal growth would matter a ton if his jerk son hadn’t murdered him. Never walk out on a bridge in Star Wars, Solo! Rookie move.
The concept of the world and all of its future being taken over by millennials concerns many a baby boomer. According to the countless think pieces involving us in 2016, we kill everything that’s good, and it’s totally our fault that all of the issues we’ve inherited aren’t fixed yet. But, for better or for worse, we’re what the world has. As for the idea that there are countless people on the Kylo Ren side of the spectrum, take comfort that for every one of them, there are two Reys rushing in to get the job done, fear be damned.