Love it or loathe it, I’m sure you’ve heard all about Reylo (the romantic pairing of Kylo Ren and Rey). It’s been a source of endless metas and discussions from its loyal and resourceful, intelligent community – and a subject rife with contention, hate, and harassment.
I’m going to be up front with you – in December 2015, I walked out the theater with only one ship in mind: Rey and Finn. Kylo Ren and Rey seemed so far out of the realm of possibility for me, and at that point, my judgement was swayed by problematic culture – the idea of these two enemies coming together as a relationship wasn’t healthy, and thus: it was problematic.
I watched as mutuals began to paint a unfavorable picture of the Reylo community – they caused the most drama – and I would love to say that I kept my hands clean of the anti culture that went against Reylo, but I did reblog my fair share of “funny” posts that mocked the ship. Unlike some parts of the fandom, though, I knew to stay in my lane, and happily be-bopped away and wrote as many FinnRey fics as possible.
My opinion was swayed in December 2017, though. I heard tales – horrified whispers, shouts of fury that Disney would endorse such a heinous love story for this generation’s Luke Skywalker – that Rian Johnson’s sequel, The Last Jedi, centered and hinged on the Reylo dynamic. I approached the film cautiously, constantly repeating to myself that I would not ship Reylo – no matter how much the movie set it up.
And then the elevator scene (and following throne room battle) happened, and just like that, my brain whispered, I ship it.
And I was horrified.
Let me make something clear: I am a stubborn mule, I have my opinions and I wear them proudly. I don’t make such a loud fuss about them – god knows how dangerous they are on the internet – but I have them, and they’re more or less unshakable (unless I find a strong alternative perspective).
And still, after that moment when I realized I shipped Reylo, a tiny voice in my head whispered does this make me a bad person?
The Moment of Shipper Crisis
I’m no stranger to the enemies to lovers trope – hell, I ship BatCat (Batman & Catwoman) and most of the time, they’re on opposing sides. And I’m aware that shipping something in a fictional world does not mean you endorse something in real life. I love the Master from Doctor Who, it doesn’t mean I support world domination.
Still, the fandom argument that shipping Reylo – or liking any enemies to lovers ship – meant you supported abuse disturbed me (because I don’t and I’m appalled anyone might). So, I stayed clear, and tried my best to ignore the fact that, yes I do ship Leia Organa’s dumb-ass son with the scavenger from Jakku.
It wasn’t until a friend of mine admitted she low-key shipped it, and began sharing her incredibly delicate, intelligent and thought-provoking analysis on Kylo Ren, and after when I began to ship Lucy Preston and Garcia Flynn on Timeless together, that the internet fog began to clear from my mind. I understood the character of Kylo Ren far better than ever before moving forward, and I began to slowly seek out Reylo blogs to follow. A mutual on Tumblr eventually linked me to some of her favorite fan-fictions, and YouTube breakdowns for the relationship, and the plot moving forward.
From there, I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. As I journeyed through the Reylo community, I found myself standing before a more passionate, diverse, and genuinely kind group than I expected from the picture the rest of the fandom had painted.
The community was not composed of just young fans, but also adults of varying ages, ethnicities, sexualities, all across the globe.
Entering the fandom…
I began reading their analysis, their essays on how the sequel trilogy paralleled old myths, age old archetypes, or even the heroine’s journey – and sure enough, the sequel trilogy began to make more and more sense to me. Theories on “Bendemption” or how Kylo will finally redeem himself, has made me consider an alternative to a possible “slay the dragon” ending to the Skywalker Saga.
And despite being made up of some of the most talented, kind-hearted, passionate and down to earth fans, the Reylo community is shunned by most Star Wars communities. Tumblr blogs warn in their descriptions that “Reylos” should not interact; fans are harassed online for shipping it, have been accused of supporting or believing awful things, dubbed “Ratlos,” and most recently a group of vocal “antis” (anti shippers) publicly threatened – though did not act on – harassing fans at a shipping panel at Celebration.
As a countermeasure, Reylo shippers have to constantly gauge blogs or twitter accounts before following. Source blogs (dedicated entirely to a show or film, and bringing its followers new content on a regular basis) either refuse to reblog Reylo content, or are created to avoid supporting this content, and if they do support and create the content, are harassed.
Fans have had to pile their resources (and make no mistake, they know their stuff, some with actual English degrees) to put together a solidified argument on why Reylo has a shot at being canon (with citations from different movies, analysis on the films, novels, theories, studies on the music scores, excerpts from the Heroine’s Journey, actual legends from Mythology, ect.), as though they were being held on trial for an actual crime…as opposed to the reality of the situation that they just…noticed some chemistry between two actors or an interesting dynamic that they liked.
It blows my mind that something that should bring people together – a love for a movie that features laser swords and pew pew guns – has done nothing but divide people. It’s not new, I realize: the Star Wars fandom has always been divisive, but the recent emergence of problematic culture has intensified things. No longer is the matter just a difference of opinion, it’s a morality test.
Morality in fiction
Fiction should have morals; fiction mirrors reality sometimes. But here’s the thing; characters are not static, characters evolve and develop (as do people); fiction should not be the end all test to prove you’re a good person. If you love Harley Quinn, it’s probably because she’s a genuinely funny and warm person despite being a serial killer. It doesn’t mean – hopefully – that you endorse serial killing.
I ship Reylo, because I believe that Star Wars is a movie series about hope and redemption, as the Reylo community has reminded me of. And I hope they allow Kylo to redeem himself, to evolve as a person, and perhaps then, a happily ever after.
‘Enemies to lovers’ is entirely about the journey from standing on opposing sides, to working together, to friendship, to more. It hinges entirely on the development of the characters involved. If Rey and Kylo were to start snogging now, it would be unhealthy because neither of them are ready for that. Their journeys are unfinished, they have miles to go before that’s even on the table – but there’s no denying that they care for each other.
I don’t write this to preach, or to try and shift anyone’s opinions. They are yours, and you should have them! But I do want to illustrate a point; the internet has become an unhealthy, toxic hive-mind. Do not let this hub that fosters negativity sway your opinions, instead be mindful, take your time, do your research, come to your own conclusions.
Shipping Reylo has opened my mind, I’ve learned about so many new writing tools and archetypes I didn’t know about before – but perhaps the reason I treasure it the most is that it reminded me that people do change, kind people exist, that hope will win out. It steered me far away from being a cog in the machine of constant criticism, cleared the nonsense the internet has placed in my head, and welcomed me home.
I’m thankful for it, and I’m thankful for the people I’ve met so far engaging in the fanbase. I only wish that this group of people could be shown more of what should be a common courtesy: respect, and kindness.
Always remember there is people on the other end of a keyboard, and you should not be purposefully cruel to them because they want two characters to kiss that you don’t.
Just be kind. Be that.