Marykate Jasper argues Why Kylo Ren Is the Perfect Villain for the Age of the Alt-Right (some movie spoilers in her observations):
Kylo is incredibly powerful, but he is also incredibly childish. When the Rebels escape him in The Force Awakens, he throws a ludicrous temper tantrum with his lightsaber. In The Last Jedi, Luke goads him by appearing via projection, and the Resistance goads him with the Millennium Falcon, because they all know his personal, childish desire to destroy those things will distract him from the First Order’s strategic goals. Even Snoke calls him “a child in a mask,” mocking the pretensions of his pseudo-Vader mask and voice modulator. He is a boy’s unintentional parody of the imaginary, long-lost manhood he wants to emulate. Like the “alpha males” of the MRA movement, he makes himself ridiculous by emulating something that never existed as he imagines it did.
But perhaps the most damning and crucial part of Kylo’s characterization is that the good guys really, really want to believe in Kylo, even though they shouldn’t. Just as we see scores and score of sympathetic portraits of Trump voters, and unconscionably gentle write-ups of alt-right bigots from outlets like Mother Jones and The New York Times, we also see Rey desperately trying to believe that if she just reaches out, if she can just understand the pain and anger that motivate Kylo, then she can convince him to make the right decision….
A few quick comments:
1. Star Wars. The harder right one goes – and it goes farther right than the MRA (men’s rights activists) – the more one sees of contempt for the character diversity in Star Wars. In this way, there’s something apt about Jasper identifying Ren, a leader of a fascist dictatorship, with the alt-right. (How much farther right does the alt-right go? The Daily Stormer and other similar sites believe in so-called white sharia.)
2. Dangerous Fanaticism. These are dangerous and repulsive fanatics, who hear Trump dog-whistling to them. They’re formerly small figures who find comfort in the words and actions of the most powerful man in all the world.
Their ideology is one of vile lies.
3. The New York Times and Mother Jones. Jasper’s right to call out publications that glamorize racists, but I’d suggest that for Mother Jones, the example she cites was an unfortunate misstep by that magazine. For the Times, there’s a more troublesome history of failing to see the alt-right clearly.
4. Desperately trying to believe… Jasper’s spot-on, however, when she criticizes Star Wars heroine “Rey [for] desperately trying to believe that if she just reaches out, if she can just understand the pain and anger that motivate Kylo, then she can convince him to make the right decision.”
Yes, there’s a desperation to that false optimism. Although it is true that sometimes a very good man can turn around a bad one, that’s rare, sadly too rare.
More often, it’s more like an antelope trying to understand a hyena: even if the antelope could understand the hyena, all that would be learned is that the hyena would like to chew off the antelope’s leg.
It is a dream – often a progressive one – to hope that through understanding the malevolent will become better, perhaps much better. It’s a noble dream, but if grounded properly this hope depends not merely on understanding those who are dangerous, but as much on those who are dangerous understanding and wishing to be otherwise.
In Star Wars, Rey’s time is better spent, at a minimum, driving Kylo Ren away. Our time is better spent defending against, driving away, and then everywhere overcoming the malevolent.