Have you read Ben Ostrower’s theory about the lineage of Rey, the young heroine of Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens? Ostrower is the founder and creative director of Wide Eye Creative, and he thinks Rey is the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The theory is well thought-out, balanced in its reasoning and utterly compelling.
It is also unequivocally wrong.
(I say that to totally bait the believers and non-believers of course. And I implore you to read it before you go any further here. Then hurrah or harangue me as much as you like in the comments below.)
To explain how he’s wrong, In this short essay I play devil’s advocate to Ostrower’s ideas with much of the same balance and reasoning the author shows.
Perhaps those who now are sure Rey must be a Kenobi descendent will see, by the end, that she is truly the daughter of Luke Skywalker.
As soon as I read this clue in Ostrower’s piece, I was onboard with his theory. Kenobi had an accent and Rey has an accent? Of course they must be related. Of course!
Then I thought of my friends who grew up in the U.S. with English parents. How they spoke with Midwest charm rather than an English brogue. Which made me think, Did Rey pick up the accent while living most of her life on Jakku? After all, Max Von Sydow’s character had an English accent. Maybe she picked it up from him.
Or is it a question of Rey’s mother? Who’s to say she wasn’t an alien with an English accent? If Luke decided to drop some of the old ways - like celibacy - when building a new order of Jedi, maybe he discovered English accents were galactically attractive.
Thus the accent quickly become a lesser factor in figuring out Rey’s origin story.
The Jedi mind trick scene
Ostrawer suggests this echoes Obi-Wan’s Jedi mind trick scenes in the first and second trilogies.
Possibly. But the Jedi mind trick is such an inherent component of what it is to be a Jedi - pop culturally speaking - that this might be too loose a hook to hang your hat on. Qui-Gonn used the power in the first trilogy and Luke in the second. Its use is peppered through canon stories, both animated and otherwise. And sit-coms, comedies and comics make reference to the mind trick all of the time.
More interesting is that Rey seems to use the power by instinct rather than through teaching. If so - if it’s not repressed instruction bubbling to the surface - then she is a powerful Jedi. And throughout the overarching story, the Skywalkers have proved the most powerful Jedis around.
Poking around Starkiller Base
When Rey escapes her captor on Starkiller Base, is her climbing scene meant to remind you of Obi-Wan’s skulking about the Death Star to lower the tractor beam? And is that a clue that Rey’s a Kenobi?
Maybe. But I had a different read on the scene.
In A New Hope, the female hero lounges about in Cell 2187 until the male heroes blast their way into Detention Block AA-23 and save her damsel in distress-buns.
In The Force Awakens, the female hero doesn’t wait around for her male heroes to rescue her. She rescues herself. Strong. Independent. Not a princess waiting to be saved.
So is the scene a reflection of Obi-Wan on the Death Star? Or is it a reimagining of how female heroes in the Star Wars universe now react to dangerous situations?
Ostrawer justly claims that the reveal of Kylo Ren’s real name is the first time we get an overt reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi. The lack of Kenobi references, he suggests, might be J. J. Abrams’ “sleight-of-hand” and misdirection.
It may also be that this reference to Kenobi is enough for this movie.
What we forget is that, linearly, Kenobi’s role is much larger at the beginning of this story than in later chapters. He was the “Finn” or the “Han” of the prequel trilogy. While the larger arc was cresting with Anakin’s fall to the dark side, Obi-Wan was out battling Separatists and, later, cracking-wise with Clonetroopers.
He is the Qui-Gonn of the original trilogy. The master whose fall propels the hero forward. In the prequels, that means taking up Qui-Gonn’s mantel of training Anakin (something he wasn’t all for when the series began).
It also means taking up the tutoring of Luke Skywalker, as well.
But the “Ben’ role is reversed in The Force Awakens. Han takes on the “master” role, trying to raise his son to be a hero, but falling at the hands of the dark-side Ben at the end.
Han, here, is more like Obi-Wan than any other character. Han is the father whose teachings have failed his son. In A New Hope, Kenobi faces Anakin in much the same way - as a father figure whose teachings have failed his surrogate son.
Unfortunately, the outcome is very similar.
Perhaps Han is our call back to Obi-Wan and how best intentions can sometimes fail even the best of men and women.
Symbolism of the lightsaber
While Ostrawer suggests that there is great symbolism in Rey’s delivery of Luke’s lightsaber (if she is, in fact, a Kenobi), isn’t it that much more powerful if Luke refuses the weapon because it is now his offspring’s?
Plus, we already have a scene in The Force Awakens that showcases a would-be Kenobi passing the lightsaber to its new owner.
Remember, when Kenobi hands Luke the lightsaber in A New Hope, he tells Luke how the weapon was once his father’s, and how Luke’s father would have wanted him to have it “when he was old enough”?
The scene on Takodana plays out much the same. An older “wizard” passes the lightsaber on to Rey - held in a box that looks like Kenobi’s. Doesn’t it seem as though this is yet another moment when a father uses a old friend to pass the weapon to his offspring “when she is old enough”?
And the name Maz Kanata roles off the tongue a lot like Ben Kenobi’s. Kanata. Kenobi.
Reversal of mentors
Ostrawer’s idea here is pretty compelling. A Skywalker training a Kenobi. I can get on board with that.
Scarier? A Skywalker training a Skywalker.
That was pretty much the worst thing that could happen in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. All Darth Vader wanted Luke to do was join him, so Vader could complete his training, they could kill the Emperor and rule the galaxy together.
Now we have an opportunity to see how that might play out. I suspect Luke isn’t the noble Jedi we imagine. He floats - literally - in the grey area between light and dark - where you find true balance in the Force - and will teach Rey much the same.
And that will tempt her to join her cousin and Snoke.
Kenobi vs Skywalker duels
Would it be more dramatic if we discovered the duel at the end of The Force Awakens was between a Skywalker and a Kenobi rather than a Skywalker and a Skywalker?
Certainly different resonance, but I would challenge the assertion it would be more dramatic. Brother versus sister. Cousin versus cousin. Far more drama when families come into conflict. Especially when that family doesn’t know it’s family.
Depth of Obi-Wan’s character (and Rey’s mother, Ren)
Ostrawer argues that the discovery of Obi-Wan’s love for another will deepen and broaden his character. It could, but can’t we say the same of Luke?
Any time I mention that Rey is Luke’s daughter, the backlash I receive is that Jedi are celibate. Every counter-argument I give begins with the notion that Luke is rebuilding the Jedi - so anything goes.
More compelling than Obi-Wan deciding to shack up on Tatooine is how Luke reimagines the Jedi Order with very little or no guidance. Other than, I suppose, the Force Ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin.
Maybe half of Luke’s escape to Ahch-To is to get away from the bickering Force voices in his head.
Luke’s failure at rekindling the Jedi - at the cost of creating a new order of Sith-like enemies and perhaps perpetrated in part by Rey’s mother - is fertile ground. Far more fertile than the past tryst of a secondary character.
Wait, what do you mean Rey’s mother?
Well, I mean, what if Rey’s mother fell to the dark side? What if she was Force powerful and challenged Luke? Called for the destruction of the Academy? Lured her nephew to the dark side? What if her name is Ren?
Now how much angst and drama is Rey carrying around?
The twist of the series
Star Wars is a story about the Skywalker family (Since it was conceived. Back then, they were the Starkillers, when it was The Star Wars). There is little reason to believe the newest trilogy will turn that concept on its head.
Not that it couldn’t. And not that our filmmakers wouldn’t.
But to essentially retcon Star Wars into a tale about the failings of the Kenobi family - their inability to bring balance to the Force as the teachers of the Skywalker family - seems more like a miss than the ultimate twist of the nine-movie saga.
It’s also a bit of a hat on a hat. You know, too much. All that stuff about Anakin turning to the dark side and then Luke almost turning to the dark side? Yes, that was all really about Obi-Wan Kenobi and his inability to adequately guide two Skywalkers. At least not without the help of Jedi Master Yoda.
It wouldn’t work. It doesn’t work. It betrays the story.
“Rey, I am your father.”
Plus, you don’t get that scene in Episode VIII where Luke Skywalker says, “Rey, I am your father.”
I mean, c’mon. Aren’t you dying to hear that again?
Plus it can be played in so many ways. For emotion and heartbreak. Or, let’s hope, for humor.
“Rey, I am your father.”
Rey scrunches up her nose, shakes her head and chuckles. “Nooooooo.”
“No, really, I am.”
“Get outta town.”
“I am your father.” Rey cracks up. Nervous laughter. Luke throws up his arms. “Why is this so hard to believe?”
Again, I think Ostrawer’s theory is amazing. And I love all of you who are on board with Rey as a Kenobi.
It just doesn’t add up for me.