Entry Ten: Dear Third-Party Voters, It’s Kinda Time To Grow Up

ballot-296577_640

This post will assuredly offend some of my friends. It may well infuriate at least two or three of them. It already KINDA pisses me off, because if I heard it coming from someone else I’d be a little irritated at the tone myself. But in the spirit of this (now revived) blog, it bears writing, so I’m gonna write it. See Entry One for further clarification on my editorial standards.

It shouldn’t come as news to anyone that the United States is in the middle of an absolute shit-show of a Presidential election. Never in my lifetime have we witnessed anything at this level of galactic absurdity. As of this writing, nearly forty percent of the electorate are supporting a reality TV star for the motherfucking Presidency of the United States of America. The opposing candidate, while eminently qualified, is as shady as any member of this country’s political class. But she also has a vagina, and that apparently makes what she does ten times worse than what her male colleagues get away with, like, fifty times a day.

Your choices. Whether you like it or not
Your choices. Whether you like it or not

That being said, it is an indisputable fact that, barring extreme and/or dramatic circumstances, ONE of these two individuals will be elected to the Presidency in November. That is a given. Water is wet, the sky is blue, the sun rises in the East, and the American government is a two-party system. Period, point blank, end of story.

Some of you, however, can’t seem to get that through your thick skulls.

Enter Options C, D, and WTF
Enter Options C, D, and WTF

Look, I get it. I really do. Ask anyone who’s known me long enough. If we could rewind the timeline a couple of decades and ask young Paris what he thought about having a third party in American politics he’d talk your ear off about it. Thankfully we can’t, because he’d likely say a lot of other things that would embarrass the shit out of current Paris, so we’ll just leave this metaphor where it’s at.

The point is, I well understand the frustrations associated with the two-party system. There’s never a viable candidate that comes close enough to YOUR point of view. Both parties are shot through with corruption on a seemingly insurmountable level. They’re not as far apart politically as everyone seems to think they are, and they’re mostly under the influence of outside interests with deep pockets. The Republicans and Democrats are most distinct only in which economic factions tend to rent them out, with the exception of Wall Street, which lines pockets on both sides. I even understand the appeal of more flippant criticisms. As the great statesmen Jesse “The Body” Ventura once said: “The advantage of a two-party system is that it gives us one more choice than Soviet Russia.”

He then proclaimed himself a sexual Tyrannosaurus and blew up half the jungle.
He then proclaimed himself a sexual Tyrannosaurus and blew up half the jungle.

So third-party voters, I’d first like to say that I understand. All of these are valid points.

But it’s about high-time you got the fuck over them.

Before we get into the uselessness of modern American third parties, it’s worth having a review of how we got to a two-party system in the first place. Third party advocates are quick to point out that there’s nothing in the Constitution about political parties, and that George Washington himself warned against the dangers of such organizations in his farewell address. Both of these are true statements. It’s also true that there’s nothing in the Constitution about capitalism, the forty hour work week, or the Air Force; all things that most of us consider intrinsic to the American system today. Also, George Washington warned us about the dangers of getting involved in other countries’ business as well, which we fucking do all the time now. The point is these ships have sailed. They sailed over two centuries ago. They’ve sailed so hard they’ve had time to circumnavigate the globe, grow into full-blown fleets, and over-fish the ocean.

"Or, you know, run it however you want. The fuck do I know?"
“Or, you know, run it however you want. The fuck do I know?”

The two-party system began to form roughly five minutes after the first real presidential campaign started. Washington was essentially worshiped by that first generation of Americans, and for all intents and purposes ran unopposed. Thus was not the case for the next two candidates, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The United States first political parties (the Democratic-Republicans and Federalists, respectively) formed around them, and the American two-party system has been all but enshrined ever since. So yes, political parties aren’t outlined in the Constitution, but they’ve been with us for almost as long. Even when a new party arises, it has only done so by replacing an old one that’s falling apart internally. The Republicans, for example, rose into the power vacuum left by the implosion of the Whigs immediately before the Civil War.

So in short, the names change, the positions change, the voting base changes, but the existence of two primary parties that actually hold political power has been a staple of the United States basically for as long as it has been a country. Third parties, where they’ve been able to exist at all, have essentially formed around certain hot-button issues, and dissolved when those issues were either taken up by a major party or simply ceased being something people cared about. Read anything written about the Anti-Masonic Party if you want a good example of this.

What, you thought InfoWars started this shit?
What, you thought InfoWars started this shit?

This is usually the part where a typical third party advocate will interject with the “corruption” argument. The two parties hold power, they will attest, because of “unconstitutional” ballot-restriction laws in every state, passed by Republicans and Democrats to make sure no one can interfere with their cooperative tyranny over the freedom-loving American people. And while it’s true that certain laws on a state level are probably unnecessarily restrictive to aspiring third parties, most of them are simply serving to prevent fringe movements from wasting everyone’s time (as though the political process weren’t enough of a waste of time already).

The ACTUAL reason for a two-party paradigm in the American system has more to do with structure and mathematics than political corruption. This can best be explained by a principle that poly-sci types call “Duverger’s Law”. The short version of this principle (which even Duverger himself admitted wasn’t absolute in every political system, to be fair) is that a government set up like the United States’ will always give rise to two, and only two, dominant political parties.This is because any smaller grouping would lack the power to actually accomplish anything in a lawmaking body.

Maurice Duverger, seen here right before pissing all over a Dixiecrat poster
Maurice Duverger, seen here right before pissing all over a Dixiecrat poster

To see what that means, consider Congress. Distasteful, I know, but bear with me. For either house of Congress to pass legislation, it must be voted on by a “clear majority”, essentially more yeas than nays. If our one-hundred member Senate, for example, were divided into three roughly-equivalent parties, it would be mathematically impossible for a single party to pass any bills into law. Two of the three parties represented would have to form an alliance on every bill to grab the majority. The end result would be one of two things; either a single party that was disproportionately powerful, swinging its vote back and forth between the other two and basically deciding all by itself what became law, or three parties so ideologically separated from one another that cooperation would be impossible and deadlock insurmountable. If there were more than three parties, the chaos would only increase.

Yes, amazingly, there actually COULD be more cluster to this fuck.
Yes, amazingly, there actually COULD be more cluster to this fuck.

Duverger noted that it’s not just politicians, but voters who understand this. Banding together into systems of duality is basically the only way anyone can be on a winning side. To be certain, the end result are parties whose platforms are so vast and occasionally fickle that’s it’s nearly impossible for the average voter to agree with either of them on every single issue. But without this structure, you wouldn’t be able to vote for a candidate who could, even in theory, get a goddamn thing done.

And it’s not as though people haven’t tried to insert third parties into the modern age. Which brings us, rather amusingly, to one H. Ross Perot:

Perot
You knew this was coming.

For those readers too young or stoned to remember the early 1990’s, Perot was a Texas billionaire who very entertainingly funded his own independent presidential campaign, running against George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton in the 1992 election. He spent millions out-of-pocket on a campaign ground game. He purchased half-hour blocks of prime time television to lay out his economic plans. And if a thirty minute political ad sounds boring to you, then by god young’n you don’t know how batshit-insanely entertaining Ross Perot was.

You're gonna have to take my word on this.
You’re gonna have to take my word on this.

The guy was charismatic, affable, and basically an endless wellspring of watchable television. The press loved him. His former employees adored him. At one point he jumped out of the race and then back into it, claiming that the Republicans were planning to destroy his daughter’s wedding by accusing her of lesbianism. It was gloriously insane. Not even Bill Clinton playing sax for Arsenio could eat up the media bandwidth this dude mustered.

And the result was palpable. Voter turnout that year was at 55%, a number that wouldn’t be surpassed again until 2004. Excited by the prospect of a viable third party, formerly disenfranchised voters flocked to the polls. Nearly one out of every five of them voted for H. Ross Perot.

And unfortunately, this is where another aspect of Duverger’s Law came into play. Without the traditional inroads into voting populations that the other parties had, and with a campaign primarily driven by television, Perot’s support was simply spread too thin. Neither the GOP nor the Democrats were fractured in any way. The end result was that, even with 19% of the popular vote, H. Ross Perot did not gain a single vote in the Electoral College. There has, to date, never been a better funded, better organized, or more successful third-party bid for President of the United States. And it failed utterly.

“So what?” some of you are probably saying. A third party vote isn’t about winning. It’s about protesting the current system, or voting one’s conscience, or promoting a candidate who can insert an issue into the conversation that the other two candidates are ignoring. And those are all fair points. Myopic, but fair.

The purpose of this post isn’t to admonish you for acting as “spoilers” to the main election. It IS theoretically possible for a third party to draw enough voters away from a main party candidate that it can affect their chances, especially on a state-by-state level. There are some who feel that without Ross Perot in the race, for example, that disaffected Republicans (most of his voters, the reasoning goes) would have cast for Bush Sr, and we’d never have had a President Clinton. Some also point out that if Ralph Nader hadn’t drawn close to a hundred thousand (presumably Democrat) voters in Florida, then Al Gore would have beaten Bush Jr. in 2000.

This, however, is not something that concerns me in this election. For one thing, Hillary Clinton is currently slaughtering Donald Trump at the polls, despite what commercial media (and Trump himself) would like you to believe. For another, even the two examples cited above are questionable, at best. A huge chunk of Perot’s voters were either registered independents, or had never voted in an election in their lives. It’s unclear if they would have shown up to the polls at ALL, let alone voted for Bush. And assigning blame to Ralph Nader for losing Florida is, quite frankly, Democrats whining. Nearly a quarter of a million registered Democrats voted for Bush in Florida that year, so if they want someone to blame, go talk to those people and leave Captain Auto Safety alone.

You do you, oh magnificent wingnut.
You do you, oh magnificent wingnut.

No, my concern is that you, valued third-party voters, seem to be really passionate about the electoral and political process. And honestly? I’m kinda sad when you decide to vote yourselves out of it. Neither Jill Stein nor Gary Johnson are going to be President of the United States, period. And as troubled as your “conscience” might be voting for Hillary or Trump (and believe me, I get it), your precious little feelings aren’t what the American political system is about.

You want to protest the system? Move to alter the Constitution, and see how many of your fellow Americans would prefer a Parliament. Or take to the streets and protest. Write a blog. Start your own podcast, whatever. You want to insert an issue into the political discussion that wasn’t there before? That’s what primaries are for. Half of Hillary’s talking points wouldn’t be on the table without Bernie Sanders right now. You think anyone in this race is gonna waste airtime discussing Johnson’s ridiculous foreign policy notions, or Stein’s “Mother Earth” environmental policies? Not fucking likely, guys.

If you want a voice in the American political system, it goes through one of two parties. Simple as that. Those parties are as much a part of how we do things as the Supreme Court or the National Guard, and have been ever since Adams and Jefferson’s bromance went through its rocky phase.

Original party animals
Original party animals

Maybe, just maybe, after this embarrassment of a race is over, the Republican Party will remain fractured enough for a third party to rise up and take it’s place. And if that happens, more power to them. But when that process is over, you know what we’re gonna be left with? Two parties.

So in conclusion, I’m sorry that none of the mainstream candidates speak to every little issue you think is important in precisely the right way. But you know what? Every fucking voter in America is in the same situation, especially right now. So how about growing up a little, realizing representative government is a cooperative endeavor, and joining the rest of democracy for once? Maybe if enough of you obnoxiously vocal motherfuckers scream this hard behind a real party’s platform, something might actually start to change.

Entry Nine: On The Many Theories Of Kylo Ren

[SPOILER ALERT: This post contains potential spoilers for all things “Star Wars”. Though most of this stuff is years or decades old, it also touches on “Clone Wars” and “Rebels”, the latter of which is still airing. So, if you’re not caught up, do that before you read onward. You’ve been warned.]

As many of you know, or have been able to ascertain, I’m a pop culture aficionado, more commonly referred to as “geek”. As with all things I’m a generalist and independent contractor, thus swearing allegiance to no particular fandom and to all of them which interest me. Thus, this blog will occasionally delve into discussion about whatever corner of modern mythology is occupying my thoughts at the moment. Today it’s Star Wars, so if that’s not your thing, wander on and come back when I’m writing about something that interest you. Also, you should really check out Star Wars. Some of it is really good (some of it isn’t, ask a fan before proceeding).

And with that disclaimer out of the way….

star-wars-logo
Let the geekery commence!

So unless you’ve been hanging upside down in a polar cave on Hoth, you know that the latest Star Wars film is coming out next month. If this if your first time hearing about this, welcome back to civilization and I’m glad your Tauntaun didn’t freeze to death before you got to the first marker.

By now, most of the planet has seen the utterly fantastic trailer for “The Force Awakens”, Episode Seven in the Star Wars saga:

Much has been said of this being the first non-Lucas/Disney-produced film in the franchise, and I’m not going to get into the finer points of that here, other than to say I fully expect the movie to be at least decent and possibly great. There’s a host of reasons for that assessment, but even I find that discussion boring at this point. Besides, if I refrain from talking shit about Disney, they hopefully won’t care that I’m using trademarked imagery for this post. Anyone representing the Mouse should refer to my complaint policy before getting in touch with me.

In any case, I’d rather spend this post raving with wild speculation like a proper fanboy. Specifically, I’d like to focus on the mystery surrounding this outing’s apparent antagonist, one Kylo Ren:

kylo_ren_star_wars-wide
Bad guys have the better wardrobes in Star Wars, hands down.

You may be asking how much speculation could be loaded into the limited information we have from only a few trailers, interviews and promo shots. If so, you haven’t been a Star Wars fan for very long, so just sit back and watch an old-schooler go to work.

WIN_20151109_150708
Pictured: Work

Our principle subject of discussion will be the question of identity: Who IS Kylo Ren? What connection does he have to the galactic order of things: the Jedi, the Dark Side, Darth Vader, the Empire? Why does he wear that (very nicely designed) mask?

As you might imagine, a plethora of theories on this subject have sprung up across the internet like mushrooms under a moisture vaporator. That’s actually not strong enough an analogy. Every mushroom in the patch would have to be a goddamn overachiever to multiply like internet-based Star Wars theories. But I digress.

For sake of simplicity, I’ve filtered these theories down what I believe are the six most likely scenarios, and one of my own devising. These six have been circulating in a variety of forms online for weeks now, and the seventh is my own in the sense that I haven’t seen anyone else suggesting it yet (though it’s easily possible there’s a similar theory is out there somewhere and I just haven’t run across it).

First, let me establish what information I’m drawing from as the basis for these hypotheses. By my understanding, Disney threw out the majority of the previous “extended universe”, declaring it non-canon. So the library of novels, short stories, comics books, and (I think) video games made prior to the Mouse’s acquisition of Star Wars are no longer in play.

tumblr_meudw71lLD1qzfjxgo3_r1_1280
Some of it was a mercy killing.

The exception to this is the insanely fantastic “Clone Wars” animated series (and accompanying film) and the (currently airing) “Rebels” series. If you’re not familiar with those you might be lost on a couple of these entries. Also, you should really check out Rebels and Clone Wars. They’re both really good (all of them, no fan guidance necessary).

Second, let’s cover a few basics on what little information we have on Kylo Ren so far. This is information implied or given by the trailer, coupled with what few tidbits the creators of the film have let slip in interview. We know that Kylo Ren is the head of (or at least very high up in) the First Order, apparently this generation’s iteration of the Empire, and the inheritors of it’s equipment, judging from all the TIE fighters and Stormtroopers populating the trailer.

stromtroopers

We know that he can use the force (the Dark Side, obviously, by his wardrobe) and that he built his own lightsaber. That last part is standard for Jedi and Sith alike, but he apparently managed this with no guidance, which is what leads to its more controversial design elements.

We know that “Kylo Ren” is not his real name. It’s a LITTLE unclear how old Kylo is. I keep hearing that he was born after Vader died, which rules out several possibilities on this list. But I can’t find the original source for that information, so we’ll mark that a “maybe” and move on.

We know he looks like this without the mask:

star-wars-7-kylo-ren-unmasked-pic
Apparently “Blue Steel” had it’s origins in a galaxy far, far away.

That’s actor Adam Driver showing off his smoldering mug for a Vanity Fair shoot. Given that piece of evidence, some of these entries might seem ruled out, but they’re too entertaining not to entertain. Besides, misdirection is a staple of Star Wars pre-production, so there’s always the possibility that J.J. and the Mouse are fucking with us by showing Driver with his mask off.

And lastly, we know that he’s got a mad obsession with Darth Vader. His outfit is based on Vader’s, he proclaims his intention to finish what Vader started, and he keeps the dude’s scorched helmet around to talk to, because every megalomaniac needs a good expository prop.

vader-helmet-trailer

Come to think of it, some of the shit in that picture looks suspiciously like bone matter. Is that only Vader’s helmet, or is my man keeping the whole HEAD in his study like Al Swearengen and “Chief”? Holy shit Abrams, how dark IS this picture?

Again, I digress.

So with those ground rules established, and what scant information we have on the character laid out, I shall list the possible answers to what is fast becoming the most pressing question of the modern age:

WHO IS KYLO REN?

Theory 1: Jar Jar Binks

jarjar

Okay, admittedly we’re starting with the least likely scenario here, and it’s obviously one I don’t see happening. Bringing back the most hated character in the Star Wars universe AT ALL is about as likely as finding overused lens flare or the Cloverfield monster in this film; let alone making said hated character this significant a linchpin. Hell, he was the complete opposite of a linchpin during his previous appearances and still managed to piss off every moviegoer in America.

This is mostly a joke theory that’s been chortled in the ether recently, and I figure it’s likelihood is hovering about as close to absolute zero as deep space. For starters, Kylo Ren moves with the sort of commanding body language every villain should have, and not like a drunk marionette with a side order of Stan Laurel. For another thing, Jar Jar has never been shown to use the Force, has no apparent evil intent anywhere in what passes for his brain, and is a moron. Elements of a compelling villain these do not make. So why am I even including this ridiculous theory here?

Sadism, honestly.

SatanApproves

Because as dumb as this would be, there is some small part of me that would fucking LOVE IT. The very thought of seeing that helmet come off, those stupid ears flopping out, and “I’s a gonna avenge you, Ani” being the last words uttered onscreen in before credits roll is too mind-blowingly insane for me not to feel glee at the notion. Man, it would almost be worth it just to see the look on everyone’s face in the theater.

Almost. Cause fuck Jar Jar.

Theory 2: Ahsoka Tano

Ahsoka

This next theory delves further afield, but manages to fall within the “plausible” spectrum I think, so here’s where we get into serious speculation.

For those not in the know, Ahsoka Tano is a character who originated on “Star Wars: Clone Wars” and whose story continues in “Rebels”. She was a padawan assigned to Anakin Skywalker by Yoda in an attempt to teach some patience. It’s kind of telling he had to go with a fourteen year old girl to find someone who could annoy Ani as much as he annoyed the Jedi Council, but it didn’t work regardless.

AhsokaAndAnakin

Ahsoka went on to become far more influenced by Anakin’s “eh, whatever” attitude toward Jedi rules and regulations than he was ever influenced to learn patience through her training. Ultimately, this led her to leave the Jedi before Order 66, and eventually wind up with a pivotal role on “Rebels”. Along the way, she became one of the most beloved newer characters in Star Wars canon, particularly among younger fans, and I suspect she was probably a major reason that Clone Wars got spared the indignity of being tossed out with the rest of the extended universe.

So seeing her revealed as the big bad would definitely be a Star Wars-sized mind fuck. It would also make a lot of sense. Tano practically worshiped her old Jedi master, and as of this writing hasn’t yet confirmed that he IS Darth Vader (though she clearly suspects). How she might react to this confirmation is a huge question mark, particularly given her own tendency to Dark Side shit up every now and then. Yes I just used “Dark Side” as a verb, shut up.

The argument against this theory is pretty strong, however. For starters, I’m not sure what the average lifespan of a Togruta female is, so she could easily be dead of old age by the time “The Force Awakens” begins. There’s also the fact she doesn’t look like Adam Driver. But again, that could be a big fucking ruse.

8d66cab4d2f49e3d823160daa55aaea6
A sexy, sexy ruse.

More pertinently, even though “Rebels” and “Clone Wars” have been granted canon status there’s no way of knowing if any of these characters will be making appearances in the films, particularly in crucial roles. That would require the average movie-going audience to be as Star Wars-obsessed as I am for full impact, and that’s not a decision that a savvy studio like Disney is likely to make.

Also, “Rebels” is still airing. Revealing Ahsoka’s ultimate fate as having fallen to the Dark Side and becoming Kylo Ren would have a profound effect on how that series plays from now on. To be fair, we all knew Anakin Skywalker’s ultimate fate watching “Clone Wars” and the writers made it work anyway. Shit, they did more than that, they achieved the impossible and made an Anakin that was actually likable. Dammit, that show was really good.

The point is, Ahsoka isn’t a known commodity to everyone in the audience, and her story is still unfolding in “Rebels”. I’m ranking this one as “mostly unlikely, but not Jar Jar unlikely”.

Theory 3: Princess Leia

Princess Leia 1

Now we’re starting to dip into the slightly more plausible, but only just. Could Princess Leia, major architect of the Rebel Alliance, have fallen so far to the Dark Side since we saw her last that she’s trying to undo everything she fought for?

Potentially, yes. Let’s remember that we never really got a chance to see how Leia reacted to this whole “Luke’s my brother, Vader is my father” thing that was dropped on her in “Return of the Jedi”. She was sort of told, then commenced to blowing up a force-field generator, standing near Vader’s funeral pyre, and hanging out with a bunch of dancing Ewoks in pretty short order. I’m not even sure she had enough time to process all that information. Could she have delved into the mystery of her own origins so deeply that she was seduced to the path of darkness, forming some need to seek revenge on Luke for killing their father?

luke-and-leia-discussing-mother
….come again?

Well, it’s Star Wars, so none of this is outside the realm of possibility. The theory becomes even more intriguing when you recall that Leia has previous experience with male disguises and voice modulators. And, although we don’t know explicitly that she can use the Force, she’s the child of Anakin Skywalker so we have to assume that’s potential that’s just never been tapped. Hell, Vader even makes a comment about turning Leia to the Dark Side toward the end of “Jedi”, and Yoda’s famous “there is another” remark to the ghost of Obi-Wan is widely assumed to be a reference to her. If she was both Jedi AND Sith’s back-up plan in case of losing Luke and his “New Hope” status, she’d have to have Force potential, one would think.

The counter-arguments are significant too, however. There is, for example, a distinct lack of anyone left to train her in the ways of the Force. Only Luke, and potentially a few scattered leftover Jedi like Kanan and Ezra, remain in the galaxy that we know of. Both remaining Sith are dead (though others could be lurking, admittedly), and it’s unknown whether anyone is left in the galaxy who even knows the ultimate secrets of the Dark Side. Still, if lightsaber construction can be self-taught, maybe anything can.

602

There’s also that brief scene in the trailer that shows a weeping Leia falling into Han Solo’s arms, a shot that seems to put her squarely in the “good guy” camp. Still, it’s not as though major villains haven’t fooled everyone into thinking they were on the side of light before.

Anyway, I rank this theory as “kinda likely”, because it makes the most thematic sense so far, even with a lack of clear motivation. And as for the fact that Adam Driver is clearly not Carrie Fisher, consider a slight variation: that Leia is a secret Sith Lord (Sith Lady?) and that Kylo Ren is her apprentice, doing work in public while she remains hidden in the shadows manipulating events like Darth Sidious. That’s when it goes from “kinda likely” to “could easily be this and it would kinda kick ass”.

Theory 4: Luke Skywalker

lukeskywalker

Hey, have you noticed that we haven’t seen Luke really at all these trailers, despite the fact that Mark Hamill is most definitely in the movie? Other than a brief shot of (we assume) his mechanical hand on R2-D2 from beneath a black cloak (just like Kylo’s) and a brief voice-over in an earlier trailer, Luke Skywalker is a no-show so far.

So, is it possible? Did Luke become so torn up over having to kill his own pops that he descended into madness, or the Dark Side, or both? Is he attempting to make amends to the angry spirit of Vader by re-establishing the Empire? Is that why Leia is weeping in Han Solo’s arms?

Certainly Luke has always been in danger of succumbing to the Dark Side. Shit, half the original trilogy was about the threat of that, and it obviously runs in the family. This idea has the same sort of allure as the Leia theory, in that it would turn a beloved original character into a bad guy. That’s exactly the sort of fall from grace and chance for redemption that’s an ever-present theme in Star Wars, so it would make narrative sense. Also, consider what kind of visual you would have if Kylo Ren’s mask got half-blasted off, only to reveal the face of Luke Skywalker underneath. Remember the cave in “Empire”? That scene would read like foreshadowing then.

the_cave

The counter-argument here primarily lies in that damn lightsaber. While I assume he would have to get a red saber if he went evil (what to they, issue those standard when you switch sides?), we know for a fact that Luke can construct a proper Jedi weapon when left to his own devices. Also, if finding out that his father IS Darth Vader, who was alive at the time, wasn’t enough to drive him to the Dark Side, it’s hard to argue that watching him die (redeemed, no less) would do the trick.

I rank this one about as equally likely as Leia, and obviously more so if you think that Luke is the evil master, with Kylo his apprentice. I could easily see Luke unable to cope with his loss after having to slay the father he grew up idolizing. That kind of sorrow is a quick trip to the Dark Side.

Theory 5: Ezra Bridger

Ezra-Bridger_acfb45f6

Delving into the realm of “highly intriguing” is the idea that Kylo Ren is Ezra Bridger, a character from the currently running (and fantastic) “Star Wars: Rebels”. Ezra is a force-sensitive quasi-padawan under the tutelage of Kanan Jarrus, a Jedi who went into hiding after managing to escape Order 66 and the rise of the Empire.

This theory clicks for a whole lot of reasons. The events in “Rebels” take place in the years between Episodes 3 and 4, and Ezra is depicted as a younger teenager. This would make him roughly the same age as Luke Skywalker, and thus easily capable of appearing in the new film. And to be honest, Adam Driver kinda looks like he could BE an older Ezra, though not as old as he should be. That last part is a minor issue, as there are numerous sci-fi workarounds for an age discrepancy (genetic manipulation, cryo-sleep/Jedi hibernation, he’s a clone, etc).

Character-wise, he’s a wild card who has a problem with authority, focus, and controlling his emotions and attachments. If he didn’t have parents as part of his backstory, I’d honestly wonder if he weren’t really a Skywalker.

Like Luke, he was discovered by a Jedi much later in life than he would have been during the days when the Temple was active. This, combined with the limited resources of his training and his master’s lack of faith in his own abilities as a teacher leave Ezra much more vulnerable to a potential fall toward the Dark Side. In fact, that’s already been depicted as a possibility in the series.

To put the cherry on top, we know he has experience with unconventional lightsaber design.

Ezras_lightsaber
It has a built-in blaster, which he’s gonna have a hell of a time explaining to Kenobi if they ever meet.

There’s a few good arguments against this theory, though. If there’s one consistent aspect of Bridger’s character, it’s that he really, really, REALLY hates the Empire. Fall to the Dark Side or not, it’s hard to see this kid becoming someone who’s gonna try and reinstate Vader’s legacy.

Also present are the same “cons” as the Ahsoka Tano Hypothesis (see above). Ezra isn’t a known commodity to everyone in the audience, and his story is still unfolding in “Rebels”. I’m ranking this one as “mostly unlikely, but a little more likely than Ahsoka, and it would actually be pretty damn cool”.

Theory 6: The Son of Leia and Han Solo

han-and-leia

This is the big one, and easily the most obvious prospect. Any progeny of these two characters would be the grandson of Darth Vader and the son of a man who spent his early adult life as a criminal. Though those were both redeemed figures eventually (and there’s that redemption theme again) that “eventually” was a long time coming for Vader. The son of Leia and Solo would have enough midi-chlorians and bad attitude floating in his gene pool to do some serious galactic damage if he were so inclined.

He would also cause some highly compelling Skywalker family strife. There would have to be a back story explaining how his parents failed (or think they failed) that hard. Was he Luke’s responsibility? A nephew/apprentice that he lost to the Dark Side? Is that why Luke is a seemingly peripheral figure in galactic matters at this point? Some sort of self-imposed exile for losing his sister’s kid to evil, the way Yoda banished himself to Dagobah after failing to defeat the Emperor?

The only scene in the Galactic Senate that didn’t threaten to put me to sleep.

This is the piece that seems to fit the best, if for no other reason that we all have to assume the Skywalker family line continues somehow, and none of the other new characters have been revealed as being part of it. Not that that means anything, given this family’s propensity for hiding its members from each other on random planets, but still.

I can’t think of a single good counter-argument to this idea except that it’s almost TOO obvious. If Abrams was really gonna mind-fuck us, this wouldn’t be the best way to do it. Unless, of course, it’s only part of the story as to why he’s evil in the first place. Like say, maybe Leia raised him evil because she’s a Sith Lord (see Leia entry, above). This could get complicated.

I rank this one as “it’s probably this, but everyone kinda knows that so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise”.

Theory 7: Palpatine’s Clone

Emperor_RotJ

Okay, I won’t go so far as to call this one “mine”, because I’m SURE it’s floating around out there somewhere. But I came up with it on my own, so fuck it, it’s mine for now.

What if the Emperor had a back-up plan? A plot to make sure that the Sith continued influencing the galaxy even if he and/or his apprentice fell? Consider this: The entire Empire obviously wasn’t destroyed just because they lost a Death Star and their head of government. How it broke down after that is anyone’s guess, but the First Order is clearly a spiritual descendant of the Palpatine regime.

So, for a time, the gears and cogs of the Emperor’s grand design had to keep turning, even without him. This was a guy who had plans within plans, constantly secured behind several layers of secrecy and covering almost every contingency. From that perspective, it’s not only possible but LIKELY that he envisioned a fail-safe for his own death. For one thing, he had to assume that Vader would try to overthrow him eventually; the Sith basically expect (if not outright encourage) that sort of thing. But clearly any postmortem machinations would kick in no matter how he died. So, what could such a plan entail?

Other than pointing and cackling, I mean.

Clone himself like a motherfucker, obviously.

A back-up copy of the Emperor would be exactly the kind of twisted shit that megalomaniac would come up with. An echo of himself to live on, a grim mirror to the legend of Darth Plagueis (whom he was obviously aware of) and the best option for continuing Sithdom in case of catastrophe. That gives him motivation. He certainly had the means (the planet Kamino and it’s unparalleled clone-making technology) and thirty years of unopposed galactic rule would have given him ample opportunity. Hell, he oversaw Anakin’s rebuilding into Darth Vader, so it’s not like medical science and its possibilities are unknown to him. That incident could have impressed on him the need for such a plan, seeing that he almost lost his most useful asset about three days after he finally gained him.

And what would have happened to that plot, that DNA, that plan, after the Emperor’s death? Hidden away in some file for an Imperial Commander to find and exploit, perhaps? Or was it something that simply kicked in automatically, brought to fruition by Palpatine’s most loyal agents acting on pre-arranged orders? Orders that likely included some form of instructions toward upbringing and training, to insure that a clone turned out as much like him as possible?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The first problem with this argument is that Kylo Ren doesn’t seem to act too much like the old Emperor. Sidious was a deceiver, preferring to enact his plans from the shadows, behind a secret public identity. By contrast, Ren clearly likes to be noticed, parading around on command decks and leading troops into battle and the like. Also, his obvious obsession is with Vader, and not the Emperor, which either blows my theory to pieces or only hints at a part of the story I haven’t reasoned out yet.

IN CONCLUSION

I obviously have no fucking idea who Kylo Ren is, any more than anyone who isn’t named Abrams or Driver. But I’ll honestly be surprised if at least one of the theories in this post doesn’t turn out to be, at worst, partially accurate. If not, it’s virtually guaranteed that the big reveal will be something that someone has guessed somewhere. With the way Star Wars fans spout off on the internet (myself included, now), you get the billion-monkeys-on-typewriters effect. ONE of us primates is right, just due to statistics.

Of course, this is Star Wars. It’s a series that pulled off the greatest cinematic mindfuck of a generation, and there’s obviously going to be a lot of desire to mimic that effect for the new films.

I could, for example, easily see J.J. Abrams stretching this mystery into the next chapter, teasing us with clues only to leave us hanging till 2017. And if that’s the case, Mr. Abrams, allow me to be the first to publicly say “fuck you”.

And if it’s awesome, also “thank you”.

But seriously dude, ixnay on the lens flare, huh?