Saving Ben Solo
CW: MAJOR Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (TROS) spoilers ahead! If you’re just here for the weekly smut roundup, I’ll post that just below, and spoilers begin after the GIFs, so fair warning 🖤
New this week:
+ I’LL SHOW YOU MINE | Adult stepsiblings Ben Solo and Rey Johnson kick off a steamy summer in the Nevada desert at Solo’s Garage … and burgeoning bad girl Rey has big plans for her introverted crush.
+ CRAVING KYLO | Programmer Rey Jakkusen agrees to become the BDSM submissive of tycoon Kylo Ren — but can she fulfill her contract without losing her heart?
Also check out:
+ BREAKING REY | The man who was once Ben Solo gets what he wants, and what he wants more than anything is spunky submissive Rey | The CRAVING KYLO story from Kylo’s perspective
+ The Grey Wedding, The Sorcerer's Stepsister, & more Jupiter Library sexy short stories on Amazon Kindle Unlimited.
Ok, that’s it for the safe stuff — remember, MAJOR TROS spoilers lie on the far side of the GIFs.
If you have seen TROS/ are willing to assume responsibility for reading spoiler-y stuff, then you probably need to see some cute, fuzzy kitties. Fuzzy kitties make everything better.
Oh, hey, a corgi snuck in here! I’ll have to tell Master, he wuvs corgis…
Oof. The far side of the GIFs. Deep breath — and here’s an Adam Driver for your trouble.
(N.B. standard SW abbreviations used below, e.g. TFA = The Force Awakens, etc.)
I really should’ve known better than to be in Twitter less than a week before TROS, certainly without having #trosspoiler(s) muted. The internet is a lawless frontier, and what I assumed would be a quick dip in to check a notification turned into an eyeful of heartbreak.
Star Wars is part of my lifeblood. ANH is the first movie I remember watching (at age 3!), and it was a huge sense of bonding, even as my nuclear family exploded. My dad would quote Master Yoda, and I remember he inscribed a card (for an event I have long since forgotten — maybe a graduation?) with a line we all know by heart: This one, a long time have I watched.
I came to the #Reylo fandom pretty late in the game; Master had some stylistic beefs with TFA that made it impossible to watch together, so we caught TLJ at home. As soon as Rey and Kylo Ren/ Ben touched hands in the hut scene, I was done for.
A nuanced story with a compelling emotional through-line? Heckyes!
I’ve always thought that having earned my MFA in screenwriting was a good thing, but I think it held me back from seeking out or writing fanfic for a long time. Despite being little different in end product than a spec script (at its least transformative; at its most transformative it can be nigh-unrecognizable), fanfic still carries a huge stigma that seems to boil down to ew, gross, girls like sex!
Given that so much mainstream content involves sexual violence against women (who don’t usually have anywhere as many lines as their male counterparts), fanfic is phenomenally safer. It’s heavily tagged, so you can find/ avoid whatever you want, and often deals with that dirty c-word, consent.
Idk how I found PoetHrotsvitha’s fic Noli Me Tangere [Touch Me Not] on Archive of Our Own, but it helped bring me back from a deep depression. That (and the heinous equation of BDSM with abusive relationships in Fifty Shades of Grey) inspired Craving Kylo — and that’s when I found the other Reylos.
Suddenly I wasn’t alone. We all saw the same things in Kylo/ Ben & Rey: love, darkness, isolation, forgiveness, reconciliation, strength, hope. They were opposites, perfectly balanced. Instead of light and dark being personified, each held the balance within them — and each saw it in the other. They both struggle with emotional control, trying to find middle ground; that's their arc, finding temperance.
After finding out I had cancer and throughout treatment, TLJ became a safe harbor for me, and I spent a fair bit of time trying to figure out what would be a fitting conclusion to the Skywalker saga. Leia would probably pass away (RIP our beloved general), but she was the last link to his past, so they’d need to reconcile. Rey, the new Luke, had to live, as did Finn, Poe, and Rose. If Disney wanted to be truly progressive rather than just trying gay-bait the audience, they’d allow Finn and Poe to be queer characters. If they wanted to play it safe, Finn and Rose had established a fantastic rapport in TLJ that could lead to a romantic twist.
As for the silly rumors about Rey being Palp’s granddaughter — pfft. The cave scene in TLJ had made it amazingly clear that power could arise from anywhere, even in a humble, forgotten girl in the middle of the desert; that it didn’t matter who her parents were, Rey created her own destiny; that none of us were ever really alone. If Rey was a Palpatine, it would simply underscore the idea of patriarchal inheritance. Her power wouldn’t be her own, but his.
It wasn’t even a question to me that Kylo Ren would turn to the light and once again become Ben Solo. That was the whole question of the trilogy; it was an echo of OT, updated for a post-OT world. Could Rey, inheriting the role of last-Jedi-standing from Luke, reach out to someone who had fallen to self-imposed isolation (the path of the Sith) and redeem them through love?
From a narrative perspective (and here my screenwriting degree rears its ugly head), everyone, including the protagonist, can die after they’ve fulfilled their arc (e.g. Maximus in Gladiator. But death isn’t in itself satisfying; it has to be well-supported, carefully handled, and appropriate grieved so the audience can experience catharsis.
In the lead-up to TROS, a lot of Reylo stans caught flack from antis on the internet. How dare we want to see the arcs that had emerged in TLJ play out in the forms of reconciliation, love, and family?
Ben — a lonely, outcast boy — needed to find belonging. The loneliest girl on Jakku — Rey — needed to find a family. Together they could bridge the gap and bring balance to the Force.
Instead, after returning to light and reclaiming the name (and swagger, evidently) of Solo, Ben gives his life to restore the woman he loves and dies unheralded, their love unconsummated and incomplete. No Force ghosts come to help him; no one tells him to rise — and after his death, he’s not there to watch over Rey with Luke and Leia.
Where is Rey’s prophesied belonging that lay ahead, if it wasn’t with Ben, her other half? Why was happily ever after too much to hope for?
I’ve been in an actual daze since finding out TROS’s plot details (no, I haven't seen it myself yet, don't @ me; I can't spend money to support movies I'm questionable on, let alone will probably dislike). It’s certainly no reason for hate or personal attacks against the creators, but I’m sorta numb. A story that’s been a part of my life since I could even form memories ends not in hope, but with glossed-over grief.
Star Wars is, and has always been, not science fiction but science fantasy. It’s a secular fairytale, one we can all share because of the simplicity of its themes. Good vs. evil. Selflessness vs. selfishness. Belonging vs. self-imposed isolation.
Most of all, Star Wars is about the power of hope, and having faith in your friends. We needed that now — and Ben didn’t get that. No family, no friends, no one welcoming back Ben Solo. Just the love of his life, who wasn’t even allowed to truly mourn him (and didn’t even get to take his name after their symbolic marriage to show that he would be remembered).
Rey didn't need Kylo Ren to teach her the ways of the force, she needed to be his teacher to show him it was okay to be Ben again, that he could reintegrate with the Resistance. The way TROS plays out, that storyline is forever incomplete.
It’s strange to find out the character of Ben died right around the same time I found out I’d (at least probably) live. My primary tumor is gone, but my docs and I will be waiting for the next decade to see if it returns — so death has certainly been on my mind a lot of late, personal good news notwithstanding.
I’m a long way from UCLA now — a dirty, obscure fanfic writer who specializes in BDSM, consent, trust, war, and love. I’ve always written not the lantern-jawed love interest, but the complex warrior, the slender, dark-eyed man, so maybe that’s why I invested so much emotionally in #Bendemption.
I also can’t understand why, after building such a beautiful and supportive relationship between Finn and Poe, it was too much to let them be gay. A sideline LGBT kiss in a Star Wars movie might be historic, but it’s still behind the times — and touting it as “representation” truly feels like a slap in the face (especially when Finn keeping Poe’s jacket is coding for marriage — see Game of Thrones for that protective symbolism in action).
Love doesn’t make you weak. Emotions are valid. Be yourself, because you will be loved. Forgiveness and hope are possible.
Also, WHY TF WHY DIDN’T ROSE GET A STORYLINE??? (also Phasma, what a waste of Gwendoline Christie...)
I guess the tl;dr is that I’m done with male gaze-centered worlds, because the way Ben's arc was handled has dented my sad little heart, among many other concerns with TROS. I’ve been holding back Alliance for so long, wondering if the themes were healthy enough, the arcs well-supported … but clearly out there a lot of dudes are not asking the same questions. So I guess I need some of that JJ confidence. 😒
Hopefully the Reylos’ thousands of songs that arise in response to this can change the mediaverse, one tiny piece at a time. We have our own headcanons; in a thousand different worlds, we can find these lost, broken characters and reunite them.
Together we can tell the stories of women as we truly are: rational and emotional and flawed and powerful. Together, no matter how long it takes, we can save Ben Solo.