Bria LaVorgna comes to us from the world of "Star Wars" fandom and she's been batting back and forth with me for weeks now this discussion about Anakin Skywalker and Kylo Ren. Bria brings us this piece that will hopefully make you think a little bit differently about the relationship between the two.
Warning: there will be spoilers ahead.
At first glance, it’s easy to see the comparison between Anakin Skywalker and Ben Solo. After all, Kylo Ren is a blatant Darth Vader fanboy and we the viewers have seen that they are indeed two very angry young men. It is these similarities that have sparked articles about how Kylo Ren is what Anakin should have been in the Prequels.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Kylo Ren only works as an answer to the life of Anakin Skywalker and when it comes to actions, Anakin definitely could not have been like Kylo Ren.
Both Anakin and Ben grow up with heavy burdens upon their young shoulders, neither of which would be easy for anyone to deal with. From the time he was nine, Anakin was told that he was the prophesied Chosen One. Supposedly, he will be the one to bring balance to the Force… whatever that means. What it definitely meant was that the rest of the Jedi treated him differently; something that’s not easy for a boy who has struggled to emphasize that he’s a person and not a label. Contrast this with Ben who lives with the Skywalker legacy. It’s unclear how early on his parents shared with him that his grandfather was Darth Vader but it would be something difficult to always have hanging over your head especially if you’re prone to anger. Because of this, Kylo Ren literally cannot exist without Darth Vader and not just because of genetics. Whereas Anakin’s constant struggle was with his anger and his possible destiny, Ben’s would have been with his anger and the lingering legacy. Destiny and Legacy are two very different burdens to shoulder.
The early lives of both men should also be taken into account. We don’t know much yet about the details of Ben’s childhood but it’s reasonable to assume they were relatively happy. The Empire was finally defeated around the time of his birth which meant the galaxy was finally at peace. Han and Leia would have loved their son very much as would the rest of the extended family. While Leia may not have become Chief of State, Ben’s early life was most likely relatively privileged as opposed to Anakin’s childhood in slavery. Shmi was a positive force in her son’s life and loved him dearly but that still could never make up for the fact that they were both slaves who had no say in where their lives went. This is clearly something that left a mark on Anakin as even a misheard mention of him previously being a slave makes him fly off the handle several years after he becomes a Jedi. This makes his eventual servitude to Palpatine as Darth Vader all the more tragic. Contrast this to Ben’s betrayal and destruction of the fledgling Jedi Order which feels more like teenage rebellion gone terribly, terribly wrong. Slavery tends to leave a bit more of a mark.
Obviously there are similarities between the two Skywalker men. It would be impossible to dispute that they both have tempers and anger issues, albeit ones that manifest in different ways. Vader chokes people and Kylo destroys ship walls with his lightsaber. It’s also certainly true that they were helped down their path to the dark side by manipulation of others. (Whether or not they would have still fallen without the manipulation of Palpatine and Snoke is another conversation entirely.) There is, however, one last way in which Anakin and Ben differ and it’s a fundamental difference of character. Anakin or Vader, he would have never killed Shmi Skywalker. Would he slaughter a room full of innocent children? Sure but there is no point in Anakin’s life at which he would have willingly or knowingly killed his mother. Shmi’s death is what sparked his first major slide towards the dark side and even if she hadn’t died on Tatooine, it’s impossible to come up with an alternate timeline in which Palpatine could have ever convinced Anakin to consciously end his mother’s life. This couldn’t be more different from Kylo Ren intentionally impaling Han Solo with a lightsaber. Regardless of how he felt after killing his father, it’s such a defining difference between grandfather and grandson. Patricide tends to be a life changing action and it firmly sets them on their distinct paths.
What remains to be seen is how far Ben takes the Skywalker legacy. Will he be redeemed like his grandfather before him or will he remain on dark side until he dies? Only Episodes VIII and IX can answer that question. Whatever happens, it will be his path and his alone. Anakin’s choices and experiences defined what sort of person he was and so do Ben’s. To infer that they are interchangeable is a disservice to both characters along with being an oversimplification.
Kylo Ren may be on a quest to be the new Darth Vader but let Anakin stay Anakin and let Ben stay Ben.
Bria LaVorgna works a relatively boring office job in Washington DC and compensates by filling up all of her spare time with nerdy things. A lot of those nerdy things involve Star Wars and Marvel Comics. She runs a geek fashion and cosplay site called White Hot Room that has perfected her use of the self-timer function on a camera. Tragically, the world has yet to build jaegers so she has yet to achieve her dream of piloting a giant robot against an alien invasion. You can follow her on Twitter.