[MAYBE HAS STAR WARS SPOILERS BUT PROBABLY NOT AND THAT’S NOT THE POINT] What Happens When You Can’t Do or Do Not but You Try? On Four Trilogies, a Series, and the “Chosen”
This is going to be a long, rambling post, as my posts so often are, and I should warn up front that like most of my posts it engages in vast generalizations from interpretations of fiction to reality. Perhaps Star Wars and the Wachowski Sisters’ work really are my secular Bible, and analyzing them my silly exegesis; or maybe sometimes we just need stories to process life. I’m at least going with the second as a starting point. A DUDE GOT PUBLISHED LAST WEEK POSTING A LONG EXPLANATION ABOUT WHY POLYAMORY MEANT HE GETS TO BE A JERK, I can self-indulge about childhood mental illness, gender identity, and pop culture narratives. I should warn up front that there’s theoretically, technically possible spoilers for Star Wars: Episode 8: The One Directed by the Brick Dude in here. As in, some fan has claimed that it’s a really compelling theory and… I was pretty compelled by the theory for a while, and now am not. It’s really guesswork and incredibly vague rumors that don’t ring true about a studio leak, but if you’re really worried about ideas contaminating your viewing of Episode 8, maybe stop here. All that said, this really isn’t an article about the theory that SPOILER zomg Rey is actually a reincarnation of a certain annoying 9-year old who also came from a desert planet and grew up to have robot limbs. It’s just prompted by why that theory moved me when I read it, and why I give such a huge shit about all these stupid fictions, and why some writing advice is bullshit, and most of all: why I think a classic writer’s tip that people get told all the time leads right to ableism. (ZOMG social justice buzzwords! It’s a Bootleg Girl article, of course there’s SJ buzzwords!) Also, trigger warning for descriptions of childhood mental illness (real and fictional) and childhood non-sexual abuse (as portrayed in pop culture).
Please read this article in a cheerful tone as much as you can, even though I’m talking about some dark stuff — because the point is to bring up old traumas and maybe slay them. Writing this feels good, like a future is opening as I put words to paper. I’ve told every part of this tale before, just not in the exact sequence I’m doing here. I’ll spoil the “point” for you right now, even though the truth is in the telling: I’m arguing that the writing advice of “avoid telling stories about fated Chosen Ones because it’s cliched and also because fate isn’t real” ignores why we are really attracted to stories about fated Chosen Ones, and it’s probably contributed to making me feel like I didn’t have control over my life — which is, ultimately, what leads to sadness, depression, not transitioning for years, moping-about-not-transitioning-for-years, and overly long essays. Please know that when I finish writing this, my life will be improved because I have finally put into words why this idea seems broken. It’s also admittedly self-indulgent — it’s a story about myself. I’m fascinated with people telling stories about themselves, which is why I love the music I do (which is largely autobiographical) and why I’m convinced many of the stories I like are at least biographical or reflect some extent of actual life. I want to feel like I know the creators. If you don’t really want to know me, or don’t have time to read endless paragraphs of knowing me, closing this article is absolutely a good choice. I’m not trying to clickbait you.
The four trilogies and a series, if you didn’t piece it together from inference, are the three myths that shaped my childhood (and one that’s now shaping my adulthood, I guess): the Star Wars original trilogy, the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the ongoing Disney Star Wars sequels, the Wachowski Sisters’ Matrix trilogy, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. All of these have been in the spotlight of “social justice Twitter” for a while, and the simple fact is that anyone who was a child from about 1980 to now is having some part of their consciousness shaped by at least two of these myths/series in various ways. I was sort of on the crest of a generation, measured in Star Wars terms; I was allowed, with much fanfare, to watch the original Star Wars trilogy when I was nine, something I initially berated and later thanked my parents for because it meant that I saw them at an age where I could understand the entire plotlines, but I hadn’t yet been spoiled on THAT OTHER BIG ZOMG SPOILER from the middle of the trilogy. I nearly fell off of my chair; I think my dad was waiting the whole time we watched The Empire Strikes Back — still tied with The Matrix, which I would also be forbidden to watch until I was “old enough” at fourteen, as my favorite film — to see my reaction, and he wasn’t disappointed. But hey, that’s what I’m writing about, isn’t it, at least in part? A father’s disappointment. Fathers. Parents. Children. The stuff that Star Wars and Harry Potter (which I would discover two years later on my own when it was first crossing over to the U.S. and becoming popular, even though the first book released when I was nine) are built on. You’re going to read probably eight printed pages before I get to anything resembling a point, so buckle in if you’re on this ride.
For those who haven’t read other essays by me, I’m a transgender woman who still feels like she wants to call herself a girl sometimes, and isn’t going to apologize — because all that time I spent being a boy just didn’t feel right. That’s something I shared with the prequel trilogy’s Anakin when the first prequel released (and because I was just eleven, it went under my less-critical eyes and became a “real” Star Wars movie in a way that I and thousands of Internet fans would lately claim the prequels were not. I felt that way about Episodes II and III, but even though I was my least favorite of the four that existed then, it was still part of the big story that called to me and drew me in.) But yeah, Anakin had a shitty childhood, where he didn’t get to do a lot of the things he liked — because he was enslaved, in what seemed to be a fairly innocuous sort of indentury where he and his mother have their own homes and living spaces, until the part where he mentions the tracker he’s had since birth that will kill him if he runs away from his owner. The ever-so-promising promotional picture for the film had Anakin walking in the desert, casting Vader’s shadow without realizing — and nothing in the prequel trilogy ever did live up to that one image. That’s how I felt for most of my childhood, growing up with mental illness. That’s separate from my being trans, although the two of course intertwined — I was kept out of school (which is also how I avoided being spoiled early on that Vader was Luke’s father) because my parents feared an ADHD diagnosis and the dreaded compulsory Ritalin that was the media frenzy in those days. I had what must have been a mix of high spectrum autism, ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder (but without the stereotypical perks like noticing tons of detail and always being super clean) and just a god-awful anxiety/panic disorder. But it felt enough like the spectre of a tracker that could blow me up at any time that I feel comfortable comparing my headspace to Anakin’s when we were both children.
What I shared with Anakin, and with Harry Potter, was a dark childhood. I wasn’t abused by anyone directly — I was just desperately lonely and my own mind was tearing itself apart due ultimately to that big monster Yoda and Dumbledore both warned us all about — fear. I shared two things with Anakin’s son: a boring childhood, and a given name. I was born with the name Luke, my parents believing it to mean “giver of light.” Yes, as in Lucifer, and yes, that’s the etymology I heard growing up, but without any real explanation of who Lucifer was because I was raised secular. Perhaps it was those thoughts that drew me, in my boredom, to the fear — the fear of damnation. Like so many queer kids, this stemmed from sexuality and identity — a desire to wear girl’s clothing, and simultaneously (and I want to emphasize that this is separate from my gender identity, because otherwise this is all that people will notice in the article) a submissive side that was fascinated with ideas like being locked up and restrained. I didn’t know anything about these feelings except that I was told that I was a boy and it was normal that I was going to have certain feelings, but that I shouldn’t try to find out about them (especially not on the Internet), and that the feelings were associated with some kind of great badness. Because I didn’t understand things like the social construction of sexual norms and moors, I latched onto another concept I picked up from social osmosis despite my isolation: the idea that without accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour, I would be damned for all eternity to torture.
My parents didn’t teach me religion, but they wanted me to be classically literate, so they did teach me myth, and I knew that the Greeks and Romans had some vague idea that very bad men went to eternal torment, and that seemed like a super nasty idea that nobody deserved (although sometimes the descriptions of the confinement itself fascinated and drew out those bad feelings). But when I realized that at least in theory, a majority of people in my country, even living in my world, believed that without a religion my parents had never given me or suggested, I would be tortured forever someday, I couldn’t put it out of my mind. Because I was a smart kid, and I read the newspapers. I knew something like ninety percent of Americans were Christian. My parents weren’t, and I usually assumed they were right about things — but could they really be right when basically everyone else, including our extended family, believed differently? I became ashamed of the fear, because my parents weren’t religious and thus I thought of it as an irrational fear I shouldn’t dare have. Perhaps they’d take away the stories and myths that were my only real escape from my own head in those days if I told them about the dangerous ideas that I’d gotten from some of them. I did eventually ask my dad offhand about the idea of Hell and whether he believed it, and he said he once did but he decided it didn’t make sense, and that I had to make up my own mind. But, it wasn’t like there was an offer of a drive to church if I decided that Pascal’s Wager, which I had already derived in my head, was worth the effort — so I simply stewed in contemplation. It doesn’t make sense that a God would torture people forever. God doesn’t make sense — you argued with your cousins about that, Him being the first thing that existed doesn’t solve the problem of where the world came from because then we have to ask where He came from. But even if He did exist and was good, he wouldn’t make Hell.
But what if he did? That’s where the real darkness, the real terror, inside my head, came in. What if God was not good in any way comprehensible to me. I had read about the Holocaust by this point, and so the hypothetical of “did Adolph Hitler deserve to go to Hell?” was in my brain, and my brain spat out “no, at most he would deserve the maximum time of pain and suffering that he caused other people in a purely retributive system.” I’m going to mention Orson Scott Card later, I know we hate him, I’m supposed to hate him but I can’t and I’ve written on that, I know he hates me, but he said something in the prologue to Ender’s Game that I think is really important: he said kids do talk like I just said. Guidance counselors told him his writing was unrealistic, but he knew that kids did think complex, intellectual thoughts and use words like “purely retributive,” even pretty young ones. (Card also signed on to the really dumb thing I’m going to denounce in “how to write” advice, that’s where he comes in later.) My genetically-destined — it had to be, other kids didn’t deal with this shit — tortured brain made up a hypothetical worse than Pascal created: what if—and shithead brain acknowledges here this is the giantest, most pregnant “if” that ever was, but it’s still an “if” and not a counterfactual — God were real, and He were listening to my thoughts, and He was going to play a game like he did with Job (I’d read some Bible by them for educational purposes and “cultural literacy”). What if He was going to let me decide everyone’s eternal fate, based on whatever my thoughts were at my moment of death? And the universe was huge, I knew that because I was a space geek — so that death could be any time. If this could even theoretically, in some possible world, be the case, then I needed to get to work saving souls — by listing names.
And I did. Name after name, I listed. I knew this didn’t make a lot of sense. I hadn’t had visions or heard voices telling me anything (but I have friends and loved ones who did face such things, and I fear to think how I might have turned out if I faced that). It was just a theoretical proposition that I couldn’t get out of my head, and it seemed to be possible from the idea of God even if highly unlikely, and, well… I hadn’t read Pascal, I just knew of the programming language, but the stakes were more than infinite. I had to save everyone’s soul.
This obsession lasted for one calendar year, give or take. During which I watched Star Wars and read Harry Potter — one or the other — every day. These stories offered me escapes in my heads to other places, and other people. So let’s go back to Anakin and his dark childhood. His trauma was far more immediate than mine: he faced imminent death in a totally not-theoretical way if he misbehaved. But then the Jedi Order took him in, and started telling him his thoughts were wrong — and they were the good guys. I eventually decided to just take Pascal up on his wager — one day, I decided I couldn’t repeat the lists any longer, so I repeated them one more time asking God to damn everyone because this idea was stupid. And, somehow, that worked. Somehow at 12 I cognitive-behavioristed myself mostly out of obsessive compulsive thought loops without access to therapy or a social network or anything but my parents and fictional escapism and more brains than I knew what to do with. That didn’t end the fear, though — it just gave me more immediate concerns, like what if my parents found out about me trying to make my clothes seem girly, when I was alone outside or in the deep of night? Would they get in trouble for raising me badly somehow? Would I be sent to foster care? What if someone knew? I essentially traded the idea that my thoughts were being monitored to an idea that if my play with gender, my escape from being the boy with the long shadow behind him, were ever known, I would be as socially doomed as the people burning in hypothetical Hell.
So that brings me to the original Star Wars trilogy. I admired Leia, and always wanted to be her. Later, when I was grown up, I would say that I first became aware of being excited by domination and submission from something in Star Wars, and people would immediately think about Jabba’s Palace. But no, the bikini thing mostly flew over my head — I vaguely got that she was being humiliated, but what she faced on the Death Star was pain and confinement and that was fascinating, but she was also incredibly brave because while the boys were still getting their act together in the desert, she was not telling the Empire anything no matter how much they hurt her. Imagining myself as her made me feel good, but I knew I couldn’t be her because I was Luke. Literally. My name was Luke, I was a boy, and I was supposed to grow up to be a hero of some kind, even if it wasn’t in space. Similarly, I started imitating a character from Harry Potter, Hermione, in her behavior of precociously interrupting authority figures and asking questions to demonstrate her smarts. This was easy to do, since by this point my parents had managed to get me admitted part-time to college and earning credit for one college class a semester. Yeah, I started college at 12. Did three classes before I asked to abandon it to go find peers more my age, at thirteen. And I was the most talkative student in every class and it drove the professors crazy but hey, I took the tests without assistance, I knew the material, and since my mom was faculty and a friend, why not let me take the classes? But every time I raised my hand and annoyed the room, I pictured myself as Hermione.
Yet I knew that “liking girls” was going to be important. At this point in the two fictional sagas, the heroes each got their forbidden crushes, Cho Chang and Padme Amidala, whom Anakin so smoothly seduced in Episode II — which came out the last semester I took college courses before asking to enroll in high school the following fall — by talking about how bad sand is. I valiantly pretended to think Natalie Portman was the hottest girl around, because everyone was supposed to have a celebrity of the opposite sex to obsess over — I got that from the Potter series. At this point, I was old enough to see the flaws in the new Star Wars films and think of them as flaws in storytelling, and even imagine my own versions of the stories that would be more interesting. High school came and my fears of being outed as a person-who-thought-girls-clothes-were-interesting-and-kind-of-liked-thinking-about-Imperial-interrogation-procedures-with-that-needle robot were replaced by even less abstract fears, like being called a fag in the hallway and shoved around by bigger boys. I read Ender’s Game, which also sort of messed me up mentally but it came so much later (sixteen) that it didn’t have quite a foundational impact. The summer before I started high school I was allowed to watch The Matrix, and from that I learned 3 things:
- I could notice obvious subtleties in movies. AKA I noticed that the Wachowskis sprinkled references to the stuff I learned about in the Philosophy 101 class I had taken, and my ability to analyze every second of the film from that perspective made me feel incredibly smart, even though I knew on some level that the parallels were really obvious;
- Neo, the One, acted like Anakin as he turned to the Dark—he killed people who had done nothing wrong but oppose him. The slaughter of children was alluded to, and hey, he crashed a helicopter into a building — there were probably kids in there.
- I was, again, identifying with the moral “dark” hero. And I wasn’t sure why.
This wasn’t because of any urge to violence. I’d been kept away from The Matrix for as long as I was (it came out when I was 11, same as Phantom Menace) because of the media associations my parents bought into, that it might have inspired the Columbine shootings because the shooters wore trenchcoats and liked guns. The fact that the movie was sort of “wrong” felt right to me because everything about me still felt “wrong” to me. The world felt “wrong,” and because I myself was wrong and what I wanted and desired was wrong, my hopes and dreams could only find expression in something dark. I started to write fiction, and a lot of it featured female protagonists — who I insisted weren’t representing me, because they were ostensibly antagonists battling a morally good, male hero while indiscriminately doing the drug and the gun and the spaceship-blowing-up-when-it’s-not-appropriate-to-blow-up-spaceship. But something about Neo’s story grabbed me, and you all know what I was picking up on, but of course I had more than a decade to realize that Neo’s sympathetic “wrong”ness had nothing to do with his trenchcoat and use of weapons, and everything to do with the symbolic battle its creators were also silently fighting, at that time as far as I know with only a little more consciousness of its nature than me. (To put it in the narrative’s terms, they knew reality wasn’t screwed up, but they didn’t know the whole deal about Zion and the previous Ones and Christ metaphors and all that; I was still at the “you feel a splinter in your mind” part of the process.) The sequels to that trilogy released when I was definitely old enough to be critical, and I joined the Internet, of which I was now an increasingly vocal member, in denouncing them as Definitely Not As Good As the Original, Just Like Those Prequels, Stop Killing My Childhood.
So I’m gonna skip ahead a LOT here. I want to say that my parents did know that I was suffering during these times. They tried to give me as much freedom as they could. They did give me the choice of continuing to homeschool and attend some college classes, or to enroll in high school, or even to enroll at the local religious high school if I wanted, since I had shown interest in religion. But 9/11 had come and I saw little difference between the hell-believers who rammed the plains into the towers and the teachers at that school, so I went to high school. I discovered pen and paper gaming, made friends, both online and in person. I even dated girls, because I was Supposed To, although I only was interested in girls who liked geeky stuff like I did and when I was with them I started thinking about how redundant I was, like when she walked away she’d be complete without me (and so the inevitable breakup didn’t really hurt because it made total sense) but I didn’t really add anything to her. I got older and I got mad and then I saw Revenge of the Sith, with a girl I was crushing on and not admitting it to but really I just wanted to be her because I admired her so much, and I was like “yep. That definitely was a Darth Vader that just got created there. I guess those movies are over. I wish I’d gotten to write them.”
Like I said, I acknowledge as I did at the start that this is a really self-indulgent story. I haven’t even gotten to what is theoretically my thesis. So, about eight printed pages (and I’m being merciful/cowardly and not checking if that’s actually how many) in, and my central thesis arises. This was the point in life where I got Bad Writing Advice, from Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (because I knew I could do it much better than that bastard George Lucas who ruined my childhood) and from a lot of places on the Internet:
Don’t write stories about destined or fated heroes. That’s overdone. The story has already been told a thousand times, you don’t need to tell it again. We have Star Wars and The Matrix and Harry Potter, we don’t need y0ur take on the Chosen One tale too. It wasn’t even necessary in Star Wars, because Luke was the real hero and he resisted the Dark Side and did good and there was no prophecy, just his own moral courage.
So, that gets around to the theory I discovered two days ago that prompted me to reopen every single hornet’s nest of lost childhood agony I have: Rey I-Don’t-Have-a-Last-Name-and-Neither-Do-Any-of-My-Friends-Yet-Doesn’t-That-Make-You-Wonder-What-Will-Be-Revealed-in-Episode 8 is really a reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One. The evidence for this theory is pretty scant even though I’ve seen it posted as a spoiler, and with a literal — and this is kind of ironic, given my childhood fears — religious metaphor suggested. The fan theory that’s going around says that the planet Jaaku is Purgatory, and that Rey’s miserable childhood there is punishment for her sins in her past life as Anakin and Darth Vader. I don’t think that literal element makes any sense to the Star Wars mythos, especially since Anakin had arguably a worse childhood and as far as we know he hadn’t incarnated before. But the evidence for this does add up pretty neatly, in a way that clicked for me but also hit the “won’t this ruin the story, because this is Officially Bad Writing?” button:
- Even though Episode VII seems to have been developed in somewhat of a clean-room with respect to the prequels, the prophecy of balancing the Force is referenced by Max von Sydow, Beard Dude who Is A Tree in that Muddy Medieval Show with Too Much Sexual Assault, in the first few minutes of the film. Rey, as the central Force-sensitive character, is obviously the most likely character in the trilogy to do this.
- Rey shares almost exactly the same childhood as Anakin — she isn’t literally a slave, but she feels like she can’t leave the plane, and in order t survive she’s forced to sell her labor as a scavenger at demonstrably unfair rates.
- Anakin was in every other movie, and was arguably the central figure in the first two trilogies, so it would make sense that he would be in this one too.
- It would make for great irony when Kylo Ren finds out that annoying girl he’s been hunting is the totally awesome dude he’s been worshipping all along; and
- She gets along wonderfully with machines and droids, perhaps better than humans, and has an intuitive understanding of technology. This originally seemed to be a plot point dropped into Phantom Menace as a way to foreshadow someone who would eventually become “more machine than man, twisted and evil,” but it wasn’t actually ever portrayed as a bad thing, nor was Anakin’s machine suit ever called out as directly related to the things he built as a child. It’s just a random trait that he happens to share in common with this new desert-raised orphan.
So, the idea would go that the universe was fucked up by Palpatine’s decision to fuck with Anakin’s head and the whole galaxy by going Space George Bush and faking Space 9/11 to get the Chosen One to turn to the Dark Side when he was supposed to bring balance, and the Chosen One’s redemption and death brought about by his son — the character I always felt I should identify with, but couldn’t — put his soul back on the wheel of reincarnation and gave him a second chance to be born into the same circumstances. Obviously as a trans girl this is kind of appealing; it doesn’t really make Rey trans in any substantive way; this is literally the canon in Legend of Korra and Avatar: the Last Airbender, the protagonists of which are different sexes but are stated in the story to have the same soul. Neo was presumably reincarnated as a girl in one of the several previous incarnations of the Matrix at least once (and rumor suggests the Wachowskis were going there with The Matrix Online because of course they were) and really reincarnation doesn’t cause transness, but it’s still a boy turning into a girl sort of and that’s what I also am-but-not-really-because-I-was-always-a-girl, so I wanted to believe it for that reason. But the other reason it would fit is that it would form a tight circle, “justifying” the existence of a third trilogy when Lucas, so angrily cut out of the movies he willingly sold to Disney for billions, always said that Star Wars was Anakin’s story.
But, of course, it’s Bad Writing, capital B, capital W. All the common wisdom says that, and it did feel disappointing in Harry Potter when the inevitable prophecy finally explained why Voldemort targeted him in particular and suddenly we were like… wasn’t him just being him enough? But that’s fundamentally the thing about so many people: we don’t feel like just being us is enough. We constantly relive our mistakes, torture ourselves about our identities, rediscover and reinvent, but it never feels like we’re doing right. It’s part of the whole “bootstraps” idea that so insidiously worms its way into pretty much every mentally ill person’s head, that you can just be Mentally Strong enough to will yourself out of a situation.
But what if you’re not? What if you’re fated to be Wrong? I tried, so god damn hard, not to be a girl, because I knew my father would cry. I knew he would beg me “not to do this” — those were the words he said to me when I told him I was transitioning. My father, who had always seemed a comforting figure who simply couldn’t save me from my own brain, now became something like a villain because of his opposition to my transition, ironically making me more like Luke when I was literally abandoning being Luke, a person named Luke. And seeing The Force Awakens three years after I transitioned brought back that pain just like it was our first phone conversation where I was out: the bridge scene between Kylo and Han is a horrifyingly, utterly unintentional, parallel to almost every transgender kid’s relationship to at least one loved one in their life.
“Come back. This new name you’ve taken is the new you. Your adoption of this identity is wrong and it hurts the world, but you can still be who I told you to be — if you’re strong enough to make the choice. Ben. Luke.” And not making that choice to detransition, to become who your parent wanted, is a literal decision to stab them through the heart, extinguishing light and hope through the occlusion of the sun in an utterly unsubtle metaphor that could have been brought in by the Wachowski Sisters haphazardly wandering through JJ Abrams’ script on a break. Abrams didn’t mean for Kylo to come off as trans, he meant for him to resemble someone like Elliot Rodger, who also liked Star Wars and who Abrams might have feared was influenced by it to become evil, or if Abrams didn’t, Lucas certainly did — as he worried so much about his films’ influence on children that he forced Anakin’s various actors to portray him less sympathetically in his direction, making already weak scripts weaker. Lots of folks have made the Rodgers/Ren comparison, and I think that was intended — but that doesn’t change that as the transgender child of a parent who wishes I still used my old name, that stab through the heart was… a stab through the heart.
But fate. The awesome thing about this unlikely theory about Rey’s identity would be that it reinforces that you are destined to be okay. That even if you screw up epically — and Anakin Skywalker is the actual thing that would go in a dictionary, next to Achilles and Macbeth, if you were to put an illustrated concept of “epic screw up” — there’s not a Hell waiting for you, but a new life, a life as someone who feels like she fits more, a do over. Of course, this idea is immediately unappealing as soon as we let it become a trans metaphor, because transgender suicide rates are incredibly high and I can’t imagine that at least some of the folks who do it do it imagining they’ll be reborn “right” next time. I’ve never suicidally ideated, something I’m incredibly thankful for and amazingly bemused as to, given the extent of mental illness that I’ve had to deal with, but I know the danger of promoting rebirth and fate and death as trans imagery. We can’t let death be the path to transition, because that’s the Dark Path. That’s basically what Anakin does, slowly killing himself over years. Vader is ready to ask his son to kill him in Empire — it’s clear he doesn’t have a strong will to live. And so with that, the appeal of the theory dissipated — and yet one thing remains from it.
I think stories about fate need to be told, stories where people have a fate and they struggle with it. This used to be the definition of tragedy; what’s interesting about Anakin is that he makes a choice to become a tragic, rather than just a heroic, figure. The tension between fate and choices is really what defines the difference between a Greek and a Shakespearean tragedy. But comedies are also driven by fate — they must, after all, end in a wedding, in Other Terrible Writing Advice. The point is—insomuch as this blather has a point — stories that tell us that we are who we become, that fate means for things to be the way they are, are stories that heal, stories that keep us alive. To believe that Anakin has to save the day even as much as you believe that the heroic mentor has to die for it to happen is a promise of happiness and redemption at the end of pain. The other end is cynicism and actual death. That’s why the theory that Anakin’s life doesn’t end like that one, horribly sad comic I’ve seen — with his last thoughts being of the life he could have had, had he struck down Palpatine when Mace Windu asked — but Rey’s life. The life I would love to have, the life I always wanted — a fusion of Luke and Leia, resisting pain and suffering to become a heroine and save the galaxy.
These are good stories to tell. I feel good after telling this one. My story’s true; I don’t think this fan story is. I don’t think Rey will be revealed to literally be Anakin; I think that, again, the exposition style of the films is such that it would be out of their traditional style to get into talk about something as intangible as souls. Instead, it’s likely that Anakin was simply mistaken for Rey fifty years too early. That’s “good writing” — irony rising from how life “really works.” And the story can still be uplifting without that exact twist, don’t get me wrong — Rey’s going to be awesome, probably more awesome, if she’s, as I now anticipate, not a reincarnation of anyone but just herself. But she’s still fated — because we all feel trapped sometimes by the circumstances of our lives even as much as we all can make choices. We can choose to be the son we imagine our father would have wanted if he had been the Chosen One, as Luke did, or we can choose to reject our fathers’ given identity even though it seems like a stab through the heart to both of us, a betrayal, to do it. The suggestion of fate, that how things are is how they are supposed to be, is in my mind hope even as it might seem confining.
With that, I simply say: Star Wars, The Matrix, and Harry Potter are all stories that I’ve carried with me my whole life, identifying with various characters more or less at various moments. I think we all build our identities out of myth, some more easily and comfortably than others. Let’s not reject fate too easily. For I was destined not to be Luke — and from that, I found joy.