The day after the premiere of Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (December 16, 2019), I watched a roughly seventy-second-long video of a young woman absolutely losing it over the idea that Kylo Ren – I’m sorry, Ben Solo – probably died a virgin.
I mean, she went on a whole tear about how this was actually about fighting for abuse survivors in the fandom to see someone like them make it to the end of the franchise (hello, Finn exists, binches) but like… at the end of the day, her real big beef with The Rise of Skywalker days before it actually got a wide release was that… Ben Solo didn’t get to plow Rey’s oh so fertile fields before becoming one with the Force.
That sentiment – that Ben Solo somehow deserves to get his dick wet in Rey and that The Rise of Skywalker somehow robbed him of the right to fuck when it’s obvious that he’s the ultimate Space Incel – is featured heavily across too much of that fandom’s response to the end of the film.
For example, Hazel, the one writer referenced in a previous Fleeting Frustrations post as saying that “at least Kylo didn’t lie to Rey like Finn did”, spent pretty much two solid weeks straight following the premiere publicly losing her ever-loving shit over this movie and – at least once – losing her shit specifically over the fact that we now can probably say that Ben Solo does not in fact fuck.
It’d be great performance art if they weren’t so serious.
And so embarrassing.
What’s been tripping me up these past few weeks is that this isn’t enough for these fans.
It’s not enough that Rey and Kylo kiss right before that moment where he dies.
It’s not enough that finally, Rey/Kylo fans don’t have to replace Finn with a poorly photoshopped Kylo when they need to make “canon” images of the couple showing affection.
It’s not enough that apparently Rey’d been burning a torch for tall, pasty, and patricidal from day one – but just never mentioned it.
It’s not enough for them that Kylo Ren is finally and officially (apparently) rendered Not Responsible for his actions the way they’ve claimed since he first appeared in this franchise.
It’s not enough that their ship is canon to an extent in a trilogy where few others are.
It doesn’t matter that for Rey/Kylo shippers, The Rise of Skywalker provides more fanservice than an A.C.E. concert.
Because while they’ve gotten ninety nine percent of what they wanted from the franchise, they didn’t get the big thing that they really wanted:
Kylo Ren’s redemption in the form of an utterly unearned Happily Ever After where Ben and his tradwife Rey pop out little Skywalker spawn to perpetuate the Skywalker family’s genetics and their shitty legacy.
From the moment that spoilers started dropping from the premiere, I got to watch Reylo shippers on Twitter and Tumblr act as though they’d just paid to watch the family pet get shot in front of them.
Many are still posting tweets with the hashtags #BenSoloIsUs or #BenSoloDeservesBetter where they share sob stories about how Ben Solo’s death triggered their depression or was a sign that Lucasfilm didn’t care about their fans that were abuse survivors or proved that women weren’t the target audience or –
A bunch of straight-up nonsense where they vomited their trauma – trauma that our resident patricidal Space Incel does not actually share unless this fandom is way more murderous than it looks– all over the place while wailing for the Return of Rian Johnson or some mythical JJ Abrams cut that undoes its own awfulness.
It’s been wild.
Folks who spent massive chunks of the past three plus years since The Force Awakens telling Black fans critical of Reylo fans’ view of Finn and the franchise that “it’s just fiction” and that “fiction isn’t reality” have spent days losing their common sense over a film where they are, for all intents and purposes, catered to.
No joke, I’m finding some pleasure in their actual suffering.
You know why?
Right before the premiere, I saw tweets like the one above made before the release by folks smugly (snidely) suggesting that “antis” (anyone that thinks Kylo Ren doesn’t deserve shit in this space opera) would need mental health care as a result of the sweet Bendemption–
Only to then see those same Twitter users McFricken losing it over the ending of The Rise of Skywalker.
Like… I couldn’t actually have thought up a better Christmas present for myself.
I deserve this.
And so do they.
People in 2020 are aware that the Star Wars fandom has problems. They’re aware that the fandom is frequently toxic, and that the fans target marginalized performers and fans alike.
The problem with folks’ acknowledgment of this totally toxic fandom is that… they don’t seem to understand that the concept of toxic fandom isn’t the realm of white dudes alone. For me, in fandom, the majority of the toxicity I’ve had to deal with and that has negatively impacted my health and general well-being… came from women.
Consistently, my biggest issues have come from white women and their sycophantic minions of color who literally view themselves stans/members of fandom first and as people of color second.
I can’t ever speak for anyone but myself, but when it comes to who harassed me in the Star Wars fandom, who screenshots my tweets to get around blocks in fandom, and who made being in fandom on Tumblr hell for me… it’s been Reylo shippers. Not The Fandom Menace or EU fans that can’t let go of that ghost.
Straight up: Female Reylo fans are the primary people who’ve harassed me in the Star Wars fandom. They’re the ones who’ve done smear campaigns against pretty much anyone in transformative fandom that is vocally critical about their ship’s problems. They’re largely why most of the Black women fans I know on Tumblr and Twitter have left the fandom or those platforms entirely.
They’re the ones who have consistently made it clear that they value their own pleasure in fandom over conversations about racism – even from their own peers of color within their shipping sub-fandom.
Women who ship Reylo have been the ones spearheading multiple gross rumor campaigns about John Boyega from Day One. It’s still ongoing considering the way that folks latched on to the whole “he must be trying to tear down Kelly Marie Tran” POV sparked by The Nerdist writer Lindsey Romain.
Some dudebros on Reddit may have been fixated on the idea that Finn was somehow “stealing” pure white womanhood from Kylo, but the Reylo shippers on Tumblr… also did that?
Right down to the way they framed Finn as a brute Kylo needed to defend Rey from, had Finn killed off in too many of their fanworks, and fixated on post-trilogy fantasies where Rey was barefoot and pregnant on Jakku or Tattooine-
It’s an obsession with the continuation of the Skywalker bloodline that crosses fandom platforms and has led to them lashing out and looking a fool for the past few weeks across social media platforms.
What’s extra embarrassing is that the only thing they didn’t get from the canon is that tradwife Good Ending.
They got the Reylo kiss, the “redeemed” Ben Solo, and the absolute nonsense that is making Kylo Ren extra not responsible for his actions across the years thanks to a creepy old dude who actually manipulated his actions.
They got all that shit that they’d made canon within their fandom and yet –
They’re still out here raging.
Hell, they’re out here planning to do social media protests and boycotts because their favorite fictional white fascists didn’t get the ending they wanted for him and because so many of them are pissed that he didn’t get the fucking he “deserved” from Rey.
They keep trying to pretend that this is solely about how their reading of Kylo – as a supposed survivor of abuse who deserved a good ending despite the fascism and his late-stage “redemption” in Rey’s arms or whatever – means that Lucasfilm is using Kylo to tell the fans that (over) identify with him that they’re not worthy of love.
Too many of these fans have also made it clear that this is about desire and the entitlement to a specific reading of and ending for Kylo Ren. This is about them feeling like they wasted their time on Kylo and on wishing for his redemption arc and on an endgame relationship with Rey.
This is about feeling like they (and Kylo) deserve the happy ending they’d supposedly fought for – against “antis” who may ship Finn and Rey, the Fandom Menace, anyone on the internet that dares to go “isn’t Kylo a fascist that killed his father?” – and losing it when he doesn’t get that.
And I don’t think that the usual suspects writing about toxic and entitled fandom will ever talk about what it means to see a fanbase largely comprised of white women show their asses over their love of a white fascist villain.
Like I’m not expecting that SYFY Wire’s Kayleigh Donaldson will write a follow-up article to her original op-ed about how the Star Wars fandom has a white dude problem where she looks at people who are essentially are her peers and says, “y’all too”.
I’m not. Honestly.
Because that never happens.
But it’s interesting to me how in many of the conversations we have about toxic fandom(s), folks just flat out refuse to deal with a reality of fandom: that the toxicity comes from white women (and their token friends of color) in fandom spaces just as regularly as it does from the white dudes.
Like… how many people’s coverage of The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t encompass the weirdness of how the Reylo shippers in a majority of the fandom are handling this ending Quite Badly.
Again y’all, there are plans for a #BringBenSoloBack social media event on the fifth across Twitter and Instagram.
A whole ass hashtag event to raise awareness for the fact that… a fictional fascist didn’t get the Good Ending his fanbase thinks he deserves? Wild. You literally would not see that about a character of color in any fandom.
We know this because whenever characters of color in any media get killed off – especially in service of making a white character feel bad and move forward on their hero’s journey – fandom doesn’t raise hell for them.
Fandom doesn’t fight for them.
(In fact, fandom usually tries to make excuses and provide rationalizations for why these characters of color had to die or – in the case of Finn following The Last Jedi – why they “should’ve” died.)
And then there’s the fact that this fandom has a history of literally reducing Rey to what she can do for Kylo Ren – what she and her body can provide him. Whether that’s sex, power, or a (semi-) willing receptacle for his Skywalker seed.
I get that it’s all the rage for folks to claim misogyny in any commentary on how Reylo fans have let their desire for Adam Driver and Kylo push them towards defending Kylo Ren’s fascist ass, but –
That is what’s been happening.
Folks are literally letting their thirst for this dude drive them towards… some serious shit.
Like I know that when Daniel José Older had the Reylo Hoard swarm him the other day after making a very clear point about how Kylo Ren’s fans are literally willing to forgive him for patricide and for being an absolute ass for Rey, they were like “he’s just dismissing our feminist desire” but like…
I just went over Older’s initial tweets and like… his first tweets about Kylo that I found on the 24th were simple. Like his first one was just: “i just hope if i ever do anything wrong like murder a ton of ppl i too can conjure up ghost han solo to tell me I’m still a good person that’s all i ask“
Then he says, “I wonder if people would’ve been more upset about Vader getting got if he hadn’t looked like a soft boiled egg under that helmet” in a separate thread on Christmas that got 154 comments – half as many comments as likes.
I guess that’s where folks got it into their heads that he’s being misogynistic or sexist in vaguely (but correctly) pointing out that Kylo Ren’s fandom’s desire for redemption kind of frequently revolves around how they either identify with Kylo for the fanon personality and backstory they’ve foisted on him or… how much the fans in questions want to head down to Poundtown with him.
There’s nothing in those tweets from Older that’s incorrect or misogynistic when it comes to talking about the fandom or the women who have bent over backwards to make Kylo Ren a good guy over the past almost four years. Even when he’s actively pushing back against what the fans are doing in his mentions and in response to people calling him/others out of their names, he’s not even mean about it?
Like he even attempts to talk with these total unlocked doors who were threatening to boycott his future Star Wars work or return the one (1) thing he did for Lucasfilm’s publishing arm. They’re out here threatening to boycott him and ruin his livelihood because he pointed out that it’s interesting that Vader never had people clamoring this hard for him to get a Good Ending.
(The issue with Older actually brought me one of the funniest moments of 2019: someone using the name of a Korean pop song in my display name to insult me before saying all kinds of nonsense.)
And if you think that this behavior is just anxiety and depression caused by the end of The Rise of Skywalker, what excuse did Reylo fans have in October 2019 when they went after her following some tweets she made about Kylo fans that go after people that dislike him are the very bullies other people see when they look at him?
What excuse did they have for swarming her mentions after she mentioned getting at least four fake reviews on goodreads done to drop down the rating of her work?
What excuse did they have for trying to browbeat her into submission for expressing her opinions – first about Kylo Ren and then about the fans that won’t let criticism of him past?
Rey/Kylo fans are the reason why NK Jemisin doesn’t deal with Star Wars, were annoying as hell about EK Johnston calling Kylo a villain, and constantly try to come for Tricia Barr.
And why exactly?
What excuse do they have for this behavior – because Kylo sure as shit was alive back then?
These fans are entitled.
They are aggressive.
And they have shown that they care about controlling what the fandom says about Kylo Ren and about his fandom.
Again, this is scary as hell.
It’s not misogynistic to point out that a thing done by a fandom largely made up of women is worth looking at a little closer.
And it’s worth looking closely at how strongly Reylo shippers move for their ship and what happens to people of color in the way of their ship – whether we’re talking about creators, fans, characters, or performers of color.
Because that shit is scary.
And it’s absolutely uncalled for.
I watched a video of a movie theater where Reylo shippers responded to the kiss in the final parts of the movie. They were screaming things like “we won” and “yes” and “finally after four years” like this was the end of a war they’d been fighting on end –
And then, right before the video cut out, I got to see their reactions as “Ben Solo” fell to the side, dead.
Then, the screams took on a different note.
Here’s the thing: I know what it’s like to have to deal with your favorite character dying. It hurts.
Many Black viewers of Orange Is the New Black flat out stopped watching after the fourth season had Poussey Washington die in the same way that Eric Garner did. I know that I will never be able to watch the end of Millennium Actress without sobbing myself into an asthma attack. And hell, when I thought Finn was going to die at the end of The Last Jedi before Rose saved him from sacrificing himself –
I was ready to have words with Rian Johnson. (Within reason of course.)
So, I genuinely do understand that when your favorite character dies, that it’s sometimes like losing a beloved friend.
But what many Rey/Kylo fans are going through takes a reasonable reaction to loss and uh…
Zooms right on past that to absolutely unreasonable responses to the outright horrific – especially when they find an acceptable or easy target for their rage and heartbreak.
Like this tweet where the original poster, bendeylo, essentially asks their fellow Rey/Kylo fans to fantasize about who they wanted to kill more: John Boyega or JJ Abrams.
Or Twitter user iam_thesenate who blames John Boyega for harassment that a teenage Rey/Kylo shipper may have been receiving and says “The one thing I take comfort in is knowing that JB will burn in hell” before calling him “you motherfucker” in her follow-up tweet.
This isn’t normal.
This isn’t a normal or measured response to having your favorite character pass way.
Not the raging at JJ Abrams, not the way that the Rey/Kylo shippers have responded to John Boyega from New Year’s Eve on, not the anger that they’ve been unleashing across social media platforms, and certainly not the tantrums about how #BenSoloDeservesBetter.
When we talk about fandom entitlement and what needs to be stopped, it’s easy to say “oh, this isn’t a problem in transformative fandom” spaces.
It’s easy to decide that the only fans that act up when they don’t get their way are white dudes like the ones that didn’t like the very idea of the 2016 Ghostbuster’s reboot and acted horrendously because of it.
Because most people minding their business on the internet don’t see people like iam_thesenate or bendeylo or even Hazel losing their ever-loving shit the way they have been. And nerd outlets – like The Nerdist and The Mary Sue and CBR – that cover nerdy media and the fandoms that spawn from them… aren’t covering this.
Not the way they should be.
Fandom entitlement and the horrible behavior that is displayed as a result?
Aren’t gender locked.
And we need to be talking about how these reactions from an audience primarily made up by women – the screaming in movie theaters, the vile tweets made to and about these “easy” targets, the idea that they can pressure a studio into “fixing” things for them – are a sign of toxic fandom.
We need to be talking about how this bad behavior shouldn’t be rewarded and it shouldn’t be ignored.
I keep being told that Rey/Kylo and Finn/Rey are “just” ships – that the characters that comprise them aren’t real people.
So there’s no competition here, no need for me to care about the ships or the fandom focus on white characters at the expense of everyone else.
But if that’s how that works, then there is no reason to for these fans to behave like this.
Then there’s no reason for fans to be condescendingly racist at John Boyega, smearing him for stuff he literally didn’t do, or even this new and definitely dehumanizing thing where they refer to Finn only as FN-2187.
And there’s every reason for fandom researchers and journalists to talk seriously about the toxicity that Rey/Kylo shippers have been displaying and weaponizing for far too long in these fandom spaces.
This isn’t new, but it needs to be over.
12 thoughts on “Rey/Kylo Shippers: A New Look At An Old Face of Fannish Entitlement”
Sometimes I feel that the uglyness we’re seeing with Reylo shippers is just an extension of what we saw with the fangirling over tom Hiddleston as Loki, and how many loved him so much.
Mind you, Loki did some bad stuff, but not on the level of Kylo Ren.
And also not to say that this hasn’t been there before either Loki or Kylo Ren, but like it started out more visibly with Loki.
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It’s like Loki 2.0. So many of the tricks the fandom used to redefine Loki – saying he experienced racism or some other marginalization, blaming other people in his family for his behavior, and even making outright excuses for what he does do – are being applied here to Kylo. And like you said, it’s similar to the thing where fans loved Hiddleston and so they went wild for Loki to the point of being super obnoxious about it. I don’t know why the thing with Kylo is worse, but –
I wish it’d stop because these fans are scary as hell.
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Loki fans are so irritating, I now cringe whenever I see or hear any mention of the character.
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Kayleigh Donaldson is also as staff writer for Pajiba, a site that doubled down on its defense of the phrase “underage women” in articles about Jeffrey Epstein. So much so that the site lost over half their readership in a 24 hour period. It is not surprising to me that her white nonsense hot takes on fandom ignores WOC. She as white feminist as it gets.
I don’t want to blame Kayleigh for what her site does – in the same way I wouldn’t necessarily come for Pajiba for something she did – but I have to say that that is… uncomfortable at the very least. Because an “underage woman” is a child and I mean – I personally wouldn’t be all that comfortable with writing for a site that wanted to soften the description of what Epstein did for whatever reason. (Also, I didn’t know they lost half their readership for that. Wow.
I’m late to the party, but yeah, they lost around 3/4 of their readers since they doubled-down on “underage women” and invited back in their terrible old commenters from facebook. They got rid of their “feminist hugbox” title and switched it to “Fiercely Independent.” They also actively ban anyone who ever mentions the incident.
Check out their analytics. They used to rank around 20,000 most popular sites but now constantly hover around 95 to 100k. Once you reach 100k? Analytics can’t even track the website accurately anymore, https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/pajiba.com#section_traffic
[“It’s an obsession with the continuation of the Skywalker bloodline that crosses fandom platforms and has led to them lashing out and looking a fool for the past few weeks across social media platforms.”]
I would have never had a thing against the continuation of the Skywalker bloodline if Disney had handled it right. But they didn’t. They made Kylo Ren to be the last of the family line (I think they had been watching too much of “Game of Thrones”) and they made Rey to be a Palpatine, which is . . . it’s just utter crap to me. And ridiculous. You know what? This trilogy is just an utter crap fest since the first film. They had a white woman and a black man as the two leads and just shitted all over that potential over the next four to five years.
I’m a huge, huge Star Wars fan. I talk, write and think about Star Wars way more than a normal people should. I wax poetic about the Hero’s Journey and I actually kind of enjoy The Phantom Menace. I like to think I’m well informed about the reading of the characters and themes of that universe.
And the first time I read someone refer to Kylo Ren as an “abused boy” I was absolutely flabbergasted. Within the first five minutes of being introduced, Kylo Ren murdered a defenseless old man and ordered his space fascist to massacre an entire village. Ever since I’ve tried to find an answer and I think I found it here.
Your blog is awesome by the way.
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I know I’m kinda late to this article, but I just found it, read the whole thing and goddamn…
“But it’s interesting to me how in many of the conversations we have about toxic fandom(s), folks just flat out refuse to deal with a reality of fandom: that the toxicity comes from white women (and their token friends of color) in fandom spaces just as regularly as it does from the white dudes.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself! A few months ago I made a Reddit post about how Finn was done dirty in the Sequel Trilogy and giving him a good arc as a Stormtrooper turned Jedi would’ve been so easy… Upvoted 5000+ times on SaltierThanCrait, the supposed “alt-right hate sub.” Meanwhile, 99% of the conversations on r/StarWars leading up to Rise of Skywalker were about golden boy “Ben Solo” and how people can’t wait for JJ to redeem him and for Rey to have his babies. This narrative that “only people who hate women and POC dislike the Sequels” is so false and tiresome.
“Like… how many people’s coverage of The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t encompass the weirdness of how the Reylo shippers in a majority of the fandom are handling this ending Quite Badly.”
The near media blackout on the toxicity of Reylos and their reaction to TROS has been infuriating. And it’s unbelievably STILL going on! Almost 6 months later and I’m still seeing people make posts about how they can’t eat, sleep, etc. or they’re still having breakdowns because Kylo died. The May the 4th tags on Twitter were filled with angry Reylos. Can’t believe they think they can harass Lucasfilm into going back on his death less than a year after the film’s release…
Overall this is a great article and I definitely know a few people who would benefit from reading it. Thanks!
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R*ylos are the most terrifying and rabid fans in the whole SW fandom. They do mental gymnastics to justify their racism and make up stories to claim that they’re being harassed IRL when they’re the harassers.
Examples: on a Disney confessions blog, a male Kylo Ren cosplayer was stalked by two girls obsessed with R*ylo so badly, he had to hide in his hotel room. Another one involved a fan sexually harassing an actor who portrayed Kylo Ren at Disneyland- and the harasser was like “I’m such a pervert lol”
[…] character’s fanbase explode, and the already racist and sexist undertones present among the group would only get worse. Yet this was the audience who was the loudest about Kylo Ren and Adam Driver, a point of interest […]
NGL I clicked on this article expecting to get my back up. (I’m very marginally involved in this fandom, and vaguely into Adam Driver’s weird physicality, and I’ve always thought of Reylo shippers as largely innocent weirdos who are sick of being lectured about how it’s not nice to do space kidnappings).
But you’re completely right about the volume and acceleration of brigading, and who it centers/targets. I do think part of the problem is the way fandom language conflates a personal like/dislike of a ship with a shipping subculture. Any group culture can avalanche into something that can really hurt people, in ways that tend to kind of follow the gravity of existing power structures. I do think that the conflation of ship with fucked-up shipping subculture has continued to accelerate this thing, because it’s inspecific. (I don’t mean you – you’ve gone out of your way to be specific here and elsewhere). It kind of allows people who are genuinely behaving badly, and are ginning up groups behaving badly, to disappear in a cloud of “they’re attacking YOU for your PRIVATE DESIRE to read about pasty fascist sexy space kidnapping”.
I mean, I saw a listicle go past me on tumblr that had a sequence of “reasons why you’re the problem” and it put “shipping reylo” next to “not supporting Land Back”. I’m 99% sure that whoever wrote that list was operating in a context where “shipping” meant “participating in twitter brigading”. Participating in twitter brigading in a way that reinscribes racist power dynamics is. Indeed. Very bad. Shipping two white characters inside one’s own head, or even writing fanfiction about those characters, merits examination as a potential part of a troubling trend, but that’s qualitatively different from letting shiplust turn into weird internet bloodlust against other real people who exist.
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