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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Lure of the Dark Side

In 1989, Batman came out. The first to show a superhero living in a world that took things seriously. As serious as you can when a man falls in acid and can't stop laughing.

Now what I didn't get, being a sociopathically lawful good paladin, was why everybody loved the Joker so much. You can't *like* a bad guy. That's just not done. He kills people.

Over the years, I've learned the appeal of bad guys. It's because giving into your dark side lets you release the frustrations and feelings that are not so good to do in real life. I think that's one of the reasons why so many people claim the dark side of the force. It's easy to see people giving into their impulses and say "I want to do that". (Just as long as you don't call it "magic".)


That brings me to Kylo Ren. It seems the world is split in the opinion that he is either a emo white male with so much privilege that he has temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way. Or he's a good kid raised in bad circumstances, and that if he had a loving mother and father and no force sensitivity, he'd be fine.

I, in particular, like Kylo Ren, maybe a little more than I think I should, because I identify with him the most of the new Star Wars characters. People expected great things of him, but things went wrong for one reason or another. Like all of us, we think we're going to save the world, become president, do great things. No doubt Kylo Ren suffered from this. Saddled with being the son of not one but two of the galaxy's saviors, and taught by the third because he was discovered to be proficient in the magic power that won the war in the first place. Talk about expectations.

Now I don't know why Ren has an affinity for Vader, who was pretty much the Hitler of the rebel alliance. I believe that must have come after his turn to the dark side, but time will tell. In either case, that's another legacy he's got to live up to. Is it any wonder he feels entitled to rule the galaxy?


This is the person Anakin Skywalker should have been in the prequels. And he was, up to a point, but when the galaxy is clean and utopian, it just amplifies his whininess. Ren's whininess is still there, but less annoying. Because he's not a complainer, he's a doer. Someone fires a blaster at you? Freeze it in mid-air. Someone's not giving up information? Yank it out with the force. Woman you were interrogating escaped your torture chamber? Wreck the place with your unstable lightsaber.

We live in a world of moderation. You always have to be nice. You have to be civil. No tantrums. No killing anyone that annoys you. No drinking too much or too little. No going too fast or too slow. Everything's gotta be just the right amount. Problems with your boss? You can't just whack him upside the head and say "leave me alone, you idiot, just let me do my job". You can't shove moron cars out of your way with the Force.


Maybe that's why so many Star Wars fans embrace the dark side powers and characters. It revolves around power and fear. Its effects tend toward the short term or immediate. Light side revolves around healing and knowledge. It takes time to figure out how to use it effectively, and what to do once you've used it. Kylo Ren satisfies our darker impulses. It works on a more personal level.

I can't remember where I saw it, but each villain in the trilogies applies to our fears at the time. Episodes 4, 5, and 6 - a faceless dictator. Episodes 1, 2, 3 - a government plunging us into a distant war to gain power. For 7 (and presumably onward) an angry white male with a lot of power and entitlement issues.
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