comScore Why Do We Care About Rey's Parentage? | The Mary Sue

Why Are We So Obsessed With Giving Rey a “Relevant Lineage” in Star Wars?

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars

Earlier this week, Simon Pegg (no doubt inadvertently) generated a lot of headlines when he implied on a podcast that director J.J. Abrams might’ve wanted to go a different direction with Rey’s parentage than what we saw from Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi.

Pegg, the English actor/writer who plays Scotty in the Star Trek reboot, is a good friend of Abrams, and he made a casual comment that created wall-to-wall coverage. As Comicbook.com reports:

“I know what J.J. intended or at least [the idea of] what was being chucked around,” Pegg shared with the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “I think that’s been undone slightly by [The Last Jedi]… There was some talk about a kind of relevant lineage for her… But I honestly don’t know, and I don’t know if anyone knows, we’ll see.”

This was super vague! It sounds like Abrams and Pegg had a pint at one point, and Abrams spitballed some Rey’s lineage ideas, but as Pegg points out, he really has no idea, and he doesn’t know if anyone actually knows. This hardly comes across like a carefully drawn Reyian family tree was ripped to shreds by the advent of The Last Jedi. But Pegg’s mentioning that there had been “some talk about a kind of relevant lineage” led to headlines like this (these are just a few of many):

Vulture: Simon Pegg Said JJ Abrams Had A Different Plan for Rey’s Parents
NME: Simon Pegg admits Rey’s parentage was undone in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’
GameSpot: Star Wars: JJ Abrams Had A Different Idea For Rey’s Parents, Apparently
PopSugar: Star Wars: The Whole Situation With Rey’s Parents Just Got a LOT More Interesting
ScreenGeek: JJ Abrams’ Original Plan For Rey’s Parents Was Apparently Much Different
HelloGiggles: JJ Abrams planned to give Rey “relevant lineage,” but whoops, The Last Jedi undid his vision
GamesRadar: Simon Pegg reveals JJ Abrams had a different choice for Rey’s parents – will we see them in Star Wars 9?

Pegg’s indistinct, shrugging allusions got turned into news stories that suggested Abrams absolutely had a concrete idea of Rey’s ancestry that was “undone” by Johnson’s vision. This led to the suggestion from many commentators that Abrams would course-correct Rey’s past in Episode 9.

That’s certainly possible, because Abrams can do whatever he wants, and the narrative more than leaves room for it: it’s Kylo Ren who says that her parents were poor traders from Jakku who sold her for drink money. This could easily be retconned as another Ren manipulation to get under Rey’s skin, and then Rey can be revealed to be the daughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s secret love child or a descendant of Emperor Palpatine or what have you. (I watched a lot of parentage theory videos before The Last Jedi came out, OK?)

Like many fans, I’d speculated on Rey’s bloodline, since we’ve come to expect that powerful and plot-important Jedis emerge from surprise family connections (The Vader-Skywalkers) or some kind of midichlorian immaculate conception (Anakin Skywalker). The Force Awakens made a point of having Rey concerned with who her parents were and what happened to them, so the audience assumed it would be a big reveal. Like many fans, also, I was surprised and initially disappointed when it turned out that Rey wasn’t a Jinn or a Windu or anything. But the more I thought about this revelation, the more I liked it.

The Last Jedi ends with a message that there are gifted people in the most humble of stations who can be crucial to the course of galactic events—we see a young slave boy on Canto Bight casually using the Force to move a broom into his hand. Why shouldn’t Rey, our heroine, the Last Jedi, have come from nothing? Isn’t it all the more admirable that she survived for so long on her own on Jakku, developing skills and bravery, in spite of abandonment by parents undeserving of her? Do we really want to propagate a very old idea that the people most worthy of being heroes and authority figures emerge from established legacies?

It seems to me that anointed bloodlines have wreaked enough havoc throughout history, and that it’s a very cool idea at play in The Last Jedi that sometimes it takes fresh blood to save the universe. It’s especially poignant when you consider Rey’s face-off with Kylo Ren, who comes from the most famous Force-fueled family, while she has emerged from, as Kylo puts it, “filthy junk traders” who are now “dead in a paupers’ grave.” Kylo is the utmost example of someone who squandered their immense inherited privilege, and right now it seems quite fitting that he keeps being bested by a “nobody.”

While I won’t be furious if J.J. Abrams does decide to take Rey’s parentage in a different direction, I still think it was important that millions of people saw that a hero like Rey can be self-made, and that her gifts didn’t have to spring from a familial source. I find it frustrating that so many of us are still so hungry to have her descend from a Star Wars-known name that a comment like Pegg’s sets off a geek news feeding frenzy.

Why are we still so fixated on Rey’s hereditary origins? What do you think of Johnson’s choice for her, and where do you think Abrams should go?

(via Comicbook.com, image: Disney/Lucasfilm)

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Kaila is a lifelong New Yorker. She's written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.