03 May, 2017

Kylo Ren Vs Darth Vader: Redemption Arc Logic 101

This is how redemption arcs begin?

I've read articles and watched videos about how "Kylo Ren can't be redeemed because he killed his father" but Darth Vader could be redeemed because "we didn't know those little kids he murdered in cold blood."

So Kylo Ren killed an overconfident, self-absorbed, narcissistic, proud-scoundrel who was once a smuggler of illegal drugs that likely ended up in the hands of poor brown alien children desperately trying to survive the oppression of the white-humans in the Empire; who considered abandoning his would-be-friends over money; who needlessly yelled at and treated his most loyal friend like an idiotic pet and questioned and mocked him when things he was likely just as responsible for didn't go well; and emotionally abandoned his wife and child at some point in his life; who was so valuable to you, his son cannot be redeemed for killing him, but that kid's grandfather is redeemable because he only murdered children whose names you didn't know? And this is a reasonable argument? What's your next argument? "It's not real! So I can be irrational about it!" In the story it's all real. That's how story telling works. If you don't respect the truth within the story, do we have to respect your argument? Perhaps this is an issue of a lack of critical thinking and not just about some people irrationally refusing to be fair, so let's analyze this.

Consider, the small children killed at the Jedi Temple came out of hiding because they trusted Anakin Skywalker. They looked to him to save them. He didn't only betray the trust of the Jedi Order, for his own selfish-needs, he also lacked a basic human sympathy instinct for children, and used their trust for him to draw them out so he could murder them.

Meanwhile, Han Solo was overconfident and believed he could turn his son by confronting him. Because that's the kind of thing a guy like Han Solo would believe.

Those children had no reason to believe Anakin Skywalker would murder them. They were hiding inside a room with no way out. They didn't walk to their death, they were tricked... given hope right before their deaths. What about their lives mattered less than a guy who could have avoided his killer? I don't say this to blame Han Solo for trying, but to illustrate the choice these respective victims had to avoid death. Han went forward to confront someone he knew was a dangerous killer. Han was a capable warrior. Han was only tricking himself... even then, he had a chance to come out alive (and based on JJ's comments, could have convinced Kylo to turn to the light).

But those children at the Jedi Temple saw their hero; were given hope; came out to be saved; and he murdered them for it.

Anakin Skywalker, by any reasonable modern standard, is irredeemable. Yet he saves his son and "turns to the light" and is made "one with the Force" and is now a Force ghost. Great. So, in this story, a single act of kindness can turn you away from the darkness, and into the light, give you eternal conscious life, and be forgiven by the fans. And some are fine with that. The creator of Star Wars seems to be fine with that too. But the argument against Kylo Ren being given the same consideration makes no sense.

Darth Vader cannot be redeemable unless Kylo Ren is also redeemable. Anakin didn't pay for his crimes, he paid for one good deed with his life. That's not enough for a redemption arc if what his grandson did is "irredeemable." At least Kylo Ren has the possibility of a redemption arc if it begins in "The Last Jedi" and, at the end of Episode IX, has him turned to the light and willing to spend the rest of his life earning it.

Either a single act of goodness leads to redemption for every big-bad in this story, or a single act of kindness can't wash away many deeds of terror. But if not, then once turned from the darkness to the light, and no longer acting as Darth Vader, Anakin needed another 20 years of making up for what he did before he could be considered redeemed. The same for Kylo Ren. He needs to abandon the darkness, discard the name Kylo Ren, and live the life of a do-gooder for the rest of his life to be considered redeemed. But at least, as of this upcoming movie, Ben Solo still has that chance. Anakin Skywalker doesn't and didn't.

By the logic of the Star Wars Skywalker Saga redemption rule, both Kylo Ren and Darth Vader are equally redeemable. But by modern concepts of redemption it is Anakin, not Ben, who is the irredeemable Skywalker. Ben may not ever be redeemed, but he's at worst equally redeemable to Anakin. At best, the only redeemable dark-side Skywalker.

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