Viewers of Star Wars: The Last Jedi finally got answers to the long-awaited cliffhanger surrounding Rey’s heritage. We know she is force sensitive, and when she finally tracks down Jedi master Luke Skywalker at the end of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it is truly an epic and emotional finale that includes a very stylish hood removal. Now, two years later, we return to the scene and watch the moment play out in full, learning much more about Rey’s connection to the force, and yes, her parents. And although these answers are long-awaited and significant, this movie demonstrates that Rey’s past doesn’t actually matter at all. (Yes, some spoilers are ahead!)
Many were expecting a familial revelation that clearly explained Rey’s randomly strong connection to the force. After all, discovering who her parents were was the singular motivation propelling her existence up until this point. But when we learn the truth of her family of origin, it is anti-climactic to say the least. Granted, we may learn more about her past that may alter her backstory in future episodes, but on paper, she has no real reason to be destined for greatness. Why should she be the one to reignite the spark of the rebellion? Her name certainly doesn’t have the same cache as a Skywalker, Solo or Organa.
But the question we should actually ask ourselves is—why not Rey?
While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think about my own parallels to Rey’s character and the strong message it sends to people like me. As a first-generation college graduate from a very blue-collar family, there was no legacy for me to fulfill by earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees and pursuing a career in communications. It was completely uncharted territory where every experience was new, without precedent from my upbringing or the people around me. Rey also didn’t have a clear destiny served up as a result of any notable lineage, and there seems to be something freeing about her ability to determine her own. I, too, had a spark and a feeling to go beyond what was expected of me. Now, thousands of miles away from my hometown, I am grateful for finding a source of strength outside of where I come from.
While exploring the isolated island planet where Luke Skywalker and Rey train before learning the truth about her past, Rey is starving for answers. She searches the force for any signs hinting at a possible legacy, hoping it will bring instant clarification and purpose to her tough physical journey. This is not unlike wishing for a clear sign that you’ve done the right thing by taking the path least-chosen. In my case, it was taking a leap and attending a graduate school across the country (a 20-hour car ride where the backseat was packed to the brim—talk about a tough physical journey!).
In one scene, Rey asks to see her parents and is met with her own reflection staring back at her. Now knowing the truth, it is a clear indication that she is responsible for building her own mythology—something she gets to work doing almost immediately when saving the sacred Jedi texts from destruction. In my personal experience, it was a recognition that I needed to trust my gut instincts more and feel confident in my decision-making. Now, five years after graduating, I would not hesitate in making the same decisions all over again.
Rey's individuality is a sharp contrast to Kylo Ren, a person who is completely obsessed with his lineage. He is crippled and blinded by his past, a cautionary tale about trapping yourself in another person’s expectation of you rather than charting new territory through self-discovery. It’s a nice reminder that following a blueprint already determined for you doesn’t always equate to fulfillment and happiness. Sometimes we're bombarded with narratives all about the family—whether it's the Kardashians or the royals of Britain. It's easy to think that your family is all that defines you and that your life must be grounded in a legacy of greatness in order for you, yourself, to achieve that. But Rey’s parental influence, or lack thereof, is an important reminder that heroes can come from nothing, and anyone can step up to the plate to save the day.
Having once believed that a connection to the past would make her stronger, Rey is now free to move forward unencumbered by expectation or limited to following in the footsteps of famous predecessors. And just because I probably won’t go on to save the galaxy, I can still remain the sole source and inspiration in my own story as well.