The Chosen Ones

Much of Western storytelling stems from Arthurian Legend, Star Wars included. King Arthur’s is a well-worn underdog tale, that of a poor outcast who pulls sword from stone to claim a royalty that’s rightfully his. What’s often forgotten about “the once and future king” though is that he doesn’t come to prominence until book nine of Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae, which covers the fictional Arthur’s ancestry all the way back to historical Roman emperors. Arthur is one small part of a larger picture, but our culture continues to replicate his part of the story, and his alone.

The parallels between Luke and Arthur are clear as day (Anakin’s lightsaber is even akin to the passing down of Excalibur, proving Arthur’s lineage), though as if in an act of self-critique, George Lucas’ own Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace attempts to steer this legend in a different direction. The maligned prequel often comes under fire for the whole “midichlorian” debacle, a biological metric by which one’s ability to use the Force is measured. It’s never stated outright that genealogy determines one’s Jedi-hood, though this tends to be the most common inference from the language used. Star Wars was, by this point in its life cycle, a story of lineage, though the origins of that lineage being called into question by the series’ own creator tends to be glossed over.

The “chosen one” exists as an age-old trope of storytelling because of the societies it stemmed from, wherein blood was, in fact, considered virtue. The trope has grown stale in the modern age, wherein democracy is approaching a global norm and leaders are elected rather than born. The Matrix plays with “the chosen one” by contextualizing it as a form of oppressive manipulation; The Lego Movie does away with it entirely (“You’re the Special” can apply to anyone). And while the “chosen one” does feature prominently in Lucas’ prequels, its use ought to be considered one of the series’ redeemable qualities.

The insistence on inducting young Anakin to the Jedi order stems from both his literal blood and the religious prophecy surrounding him. He’s born of immaculate conception, descended as if from The Force itself (later implied to have been manipulated by either Palpatine or his master), though the Jedi’s own doctrine as it pertains to Anakin’s lineage is eventually the Order’s undoing. He is “the chosen one” in every way, the only character who, by virtue of his birth, can perform the task at hand, though this very outlook is manipulated and used against those who swear by it. Lucas, who further cemented the “chosen one” in Western storytelling with Star Wars, returned to the saga to undo this narrative in a film inspired by the Hollywood Biblical epic, chariot race and all.

Some take comfort in believing Christ was born of Kings and supernaturally conceived, sent from above to cleanse us of Sin. To each their own; others find the idea of the historical Christ, a common man, more inspiring. These warring ideas are still at the heart of modern popular culture. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man series captures the character’s “everyman” nature; the Amazing Spider-Man films use genetics to make him the only person who could’ve become Spider-Man. This debate now finds itself at the center of Star Wars, wherein vocal factions of fans decry Rey’s parents being revealed to be nobodies. I do mildly side with argument that the visual language in The Force Awakens leaves the door open for a secret Jedi lineage, though when presented with the option of leaning towards or away from this, I’m glad Rian Johnson chose the latter, even if it feels, to whatever small degree, disconnected from the prior installment.

Rey’s backstory in The Force Awakens reflects Luke’s in a way that feels convenient, but it’s where their stories diverge in The Last Jedi that makes all the difference. The point has been discussed ad infinitum by now, especially through the meta-textual lens of gatekeeping: Kylo Ren is born of Star Wars royalty while Rey is “a nobody,” though should that make her any less worthy of The Force? More pertinently, through the establishment of both Rey and the stable boy (and arguably, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwein in Rogue One), the Force is decidedly no longer a product of birth, and inducting children into a cult they don’t understand is reserved for the First Order.

The anonymous stable boy echoes Anakin as much as he does Luke (down to his “Woo-hoo!”). He was either born or sold into slavery, though his anonymity is precisely why he feels like a necessary reflection of a young Darth Vader. There is no blood prophecy surrounding him. He is not a Christ figure. He likely comes from no Jedi royalty, and he was merely incidental to the larger narrative (Rose and Finn found him en route to their ship, whereas Qui Gon claims the Force led him to Anakin) and we may never even the boy on screen again. The only way he descends from the Jedi is through the stories of Luke Skywalker that he and the other stable kids re-enact; his only contact with the Light side of the Force is the kindness of ordinary Rebels. If the Skywalker lineage ends with Ren, the Skywalker spirit lives on. 

Continue Reading What Happens After Episode 9? >>

Cool Posts From Around the Web: