Whether you love him or hate him, Kylo Ren is the new face of the Skywalkers. Despite what some might choose to believe about Kylo Ren, he isn’t an outlier in the clan. In fact, He fits right into the family saga of orphaned, abandoned, neglected children who seek a home and a family outside their own. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at Star Wars’ epigenetics (behavioral, specifically), and the effects the past generations of Skywalkers have on Kylo Ren.
Behavioral epigenetics, put simply, is the study of variations in the genes caused by external factors. Methyl molecules attach themselves to your DNA, programming which genes to turn “on” or “off” based on various experiences – even if those experiences happened to your grandfather.
Thus, the epigenetics of the Skywalker family are introduced: the experience of being abandoned, neglected or orphaned at an early age, the emotional trauma of such incidents, and the desire for power and control in a universe that is quite often chaotic.
Anakin Skywalker, the grandfather of Kylo, was taken from his mother, Shmi at a young age. Upon his return to rescue her, he discovers that she is dead, and experiences yet another bout of trauma from losing a parent. Without a mother (and no father to speak of), Anakin is rejected by the Jedi Council, and experiences yet another abandonment. He is trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi but does not find what he seeks (control and power) until his introduction to Emperor Palpatine.
Han Solo was orphaned at a young age as well and sought control and power in the form of striking out on his own, away from would-be authority figures. He begrudgingly gives up what little power and control he has to join the Skywalker twins in the Rebel Alliance. He undergoes severe trauma (torture, near-death experiences, etc.) as a result.
Though raised by dedicated and loving adoptive parents, Leia Skywalker Organa still has some of the epigenetic memory of her father but manages to retain power and control through her position as a general in the Rebel Alliance. While, she too endures torture, kidnapping, and worse at the hands of her enemies, she alone seems to have a balanced, healthy emotional state, while her male family (and future family) members appear to retain deep emotional scarring from their experiences.
Luke Skywalker grows up knowing that his father has been killed, with little to no knowledge of his mother, Padme. Raised by relatives Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in a farming community, he longs to establish his place in the world, away from the dusty heat and dull work of Tatooine. Upon meeting “Old Ben Kenobi”, he begins to learn about his father and the Force. However, Ben Kenobi does not prepare him for the shock of his father’s true identity, nor does Yoda prepare him adequately to face such a dramatic revelation or the repercussions.
Even without all these past experiences built into Kylo Ren’s DNA, the difficulty of growing up in a still chaotic universe was always present. With a military mother preoccupied with keeping her people safe, a father still attempting to find a place where he fits, and an uncle who doesn’t seem to be able to connect with him, it’s a wonder Kylo Ren isn’t more disturbed than he appears to be.
It isn’t even a surprise that he looks up to his grandfather, who managed to, for a time, retain more power and control than the rest of his family. Kylo Ren’s thirst for similar things allows him to be drawn to the Dark side of the Force, even as he recognizes the power the Light has over him. The attraction to the Light is almost certainly his mother and
grandfather’s influence, as Luke and Han always seemed to have trouble
evading the pull of the Dark Side and did not experience a strong
pull toward the Light. Kylo seems also to be more in touch with his emotions and, therefore, has somewhat more control over them. In previous episodes, Darth Vader used the Force to choke people to death when he was angry and fearful. When Kylo needs an outlet for his emotions, he destroys computer equipment, a much saner way to deal with his feelings, albeit not the best choice.
Thus, Kylo Ren is a slave to the Skywalker family cycle:
- Abandoned/Orphaned/Neglected child
- Seeks power and control
- Which opens them up to being taken advantage of by a mentor
- Which enforces the choice to follow one side of the force or the other, often prompting a permanent separation from family which
- Further damages any children born into the next generation.
Kylo Ren may have made the choice to separate himself from his family to seek power and control under the training of Supreme Leader Snoke, but he has both good and bad epigenetics (Light and Dark) in his DNA. Where this will ultimately lead him remains to be seen, but the curious thing about epigenetics is that while methyl molecules can scar our DNA, those very molecules can be altered, and possibly even erased. Cycles can be broken.
What will this mean for the next series of films, and the next generation of Skywalkers?