One of the biggest unanswered questions from JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens concerned the identity of the parents of Rey. All we knew about her was that she was left on Jakku as a child and had spent the last fifteen years, give or take, waiting for them to return for her. Was that an unanswered question, though? Okay, so we weren’t told who Rey’s parents were, but was it really one of the big mysteries in need of an answer? I’ve always been of the opinion that the question of Rey’s lineage was a non-issue.
Of course, being a point of fervent speculation ever since Episode VII came out, the issue became one of only a handful of mysteries to be pulled at and talked over, another of which we’ll discuss another time. What happens when there is a hole in the information given in a film or tv show – especially these days – is all too understandable: the vacuum demands to be filled. Because Rey was waiting for her family to return, because it was hinted at that she may be more significant than it appeared at first glance, the internet went crazy, theorising unrestrained over Rey Who?
The answer, we find out in The Last Jedi is nobody. Rey parents were Jakku junkers who sold her for drinking money and buggered off, leaving her behind. As worthy an answer as any, I think. Of course, the fan machine isn’t happy about this. Because she has the Force – indeed is strong with it – she must be somehow related to someone we know, someone also strong with the force. The most likely answer was that she was Luke’s secret daughter. Some fans out there would not be happy with anything but this answer, despite it being the most obvious, least imaginative outcome possible. If not that, then she must be a Kenobi or a Solo because they’re the only other real possible answers. Maybe they’ll shock us, others thought, and do something completely unexpected, making her a descendant of a dark side user! Whatever the answer we were to be given, she had to be someone special, or else how was she so strong with the Force?
This blinkered rationale forgets of course that in the prequels, and for a thousand generations before them, there were loads of Jedi. They were everywhere! Are you telling me they all came from greatness when we know for a fact that they were simply ordinary kids who were strong with the Force, trained to use it as best they can? Until the prequels came along Anakin Skywalker was just a Jedi Knight who went bad. This Chosen One bollocks didn’t really rear its head, on screen at least, until The Phantom Menace tried to shoehorn an immaculate conception into the mythos. Taking the original trilogy on its own, Luke was only special in the sense that he was the baddie’s son.
So when, in The Force Awakens, Maz says “you already know the truth – whomever you are waiting for on Jakku, they’re never coming back. But there’s someone still could…” I took it as read that her family was gone and it didn’t matter who they were. The story was about looking to the future, not wallowing in the past. Daisy Ridley herself was confused when made aware of the speculation; she believed the identity of Rey’s parents was not only explained but explained away, in that very scene. Her parents were gone, they were never coming back, it wasn’t about where she was from but where she was going. Isn’t that much, much better than “she’s secretly Obi-Wan Kenobi’s granddaughter, born of his secret son we’ve never heard of despite seeing his younger years as a Jedi Knight and his years spent in exile on Tatooine? I think so.
Of course, The Last Jedi is a layered and nuanced piece of work. Does Rey tell herself that her parents were nobodies, as she’s already known, deep inside? Or does she get told that by Kylo Ren? I think it’s clear that it’s the first one. Kylo tells her that she’s always known the truth about her parents. She says “they’re nobody” and he then tells her that she’s correct, that they’re buried in makeshift graves in the desert on Jakku. But nothing can stop the speculation machine: already there are countless YouTube videos theorising that Kylo Ren lied to her, manipulated her into thinking she is less than she is. That the real truth is yet to be told. I suppose it’s a point of debate, but I wouldn’t waste your time on it. So who are Rey’s parents? That was the BIG QUESTION. The answer – as it has always been, if you take what’s on screen and think about it for more than a second (but for less than a week, as that leads to the dark side: online fan theories!) – is “they’re nobody. Forget them.” They aren’t characters in this film. As it should be.
The very core of this new chapter in the Star Wars saga is that greatness comes from within yourself, it doesn’t drip down the branches of your family tree. The Force doesn’t belong to the Jedi or the Sith, that’s vanity, arrogance, and can lead only to ultimate failure. The Force is in everyone and everything. Broom Kid – the character we see very briefly at the end of the film, moving a broom using the Force, which sporting Rose’s Resistance ring. He’s nobody. He’s symbolic. They show us, right there in that stable, that the Force is awakening, not just in Rey, but all across the galaxy in normal people.
Alas, I fear this humbling message is lost on a generation of fans overfed on the Extended Universe material, bitter now that Disney have declared their favourite minor-player character-study comic book non-canonical. Already there are Reddit threads and 4Chan chats about the biggest question this awful, terrible, franchise-killing film has to ask: Who are Broom Kid’s parents? Is he a Skywalker? A Kenobi? A Palpatine?! Kill me now, before they kick off about never seeing him again.