Before we get started, let me just say I love Kylo Ren. He’s got a great look, a cool lightsaber, complex characterization and he throws spectacular temper tantrums. Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks this, as I can’t go far without seeing his cold, dented helmet on a piece of merchandise.
A long time ago, in a Target not so far away, before I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I would see Kylo Ren merchandise and think, “There’s Kylo Ren – can’t wait to find out what this cool-looking dude is all about.” After seeing his film debut (twice!), I can’t help but see Kylo Ren and think, “There’s Kylo, that cool-looking, mass-murdering brat.”
Isn’t it interesting to see the family-friendly Walt Disney Company making this man the face of Star Wars’ big comeback?
Showing us the Dark Side
To properly dig into this question, we need to venture into spoiler territory. Although, considering this film has made over a billion dollars at the box office, I assume every person on the planet has seen it at least once. Either way…
Kylo Ren has done a pretty good job of being just as terrible a person as his idol and grandfather Darth Vader. Like Anakin before him, Ben Solo has Jedi blood on his hands, having killed his fellow apprentices in Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi Academy. Then, Kylo went and hooked up with the First Order, a military and political organization that rose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire.
The son of pop culture icons Han Solo and Princess Leia essentially hangs out with space Nazis, who apparently kidnap and brainwash children into becoming loyal stormtroopers. The First Order, using its Starkiller Base, also destroyed an entire star system, including Hosnian Prime, the capital of the New Republic. Kylo Ren just chilled and watched while this multi-planet slaughter went down. He probably snapped a picture for Instagram too. #FirstOrder
And of course, Kylo Ren murders his own dad. That move right there makes me question the effectiveness of plastering Kylo Ren’s face all over merchandise. He’s responsible for killing off one of the most beloved characters in film history. Pretty bold, Disney.
Keep in mind we’re only at Episode VII. Who knows what kind of shenanigans Kylo Ren will get into next now that he doesn’t have to worry about upsetting his dad.
Were Finn and Rey Unavailable?
I hate censorship. Growing up, it made watching cartoons a very frustrating experience (G.I. Joes fire lasers instead of bullets?), not to mention some modern movies (Red Skull is Hydra, not a Nazi? Okay, I guess.). So by no means do I want to see Kylo Ren take it down a notch.
However, I question why his helmet is on all of Hasbro’s toy products. Why not Finn, a stormtrooper who turned his back on evil and is willing to risk his life to save Rey’s? What a role model! Or Rey herself? A strong female protagonist who doesn’t blink in the face of danger. No, let’s highlight the homicidal cosplayer whose first response to a crisis is a chaotic hissy fit.
Unlike Han, Leia and possibly Luke (or Obi-Wan???), I don’t have any children. If I did, I’d want them to want to be like Finn or Rey – truly likeable characters who know the difference between right and wrong. I feel like Kylo Ren is a gateway drug to Friday nights spent at Hot Topic. Today it’s a Kylo Ren Halloween costume, tomorrow it’s pants covered in chains.
Again, I despise censorship, and I think Kylo Ren is an awesome character. If I could find one, I’d probably buy a Kylo Ren action figure for my shelf. At the same time, I know it’s not cool to murder people and blow up planets. Sadly, I realize not everyone has this level of common sense. Some people are very impressionable. After all, we live in a time when some idiot comes up with a hashtag, everybody on social media embraces it and I’m left wondering what the hell #SquadGoals means.
Something to Ponder
The few times I’ve posed my Kylo Ren marketing question to friends, they’ve all responded with, “Well, what about Darth Vader?” True. We have to wonder why Vader, another mass murderer, is so beloved.
And don’t get me wrong; I understand I’m being quite hypocritical. I’m saying Kylo Ren’s bad news, and in the same breath I’m talking about how I’d love to own a piece of his merchandise. I guess I’m torn between the light and the darkness myself.
Mostly, I’m just wondering aloud for the sake of discussion. If you’re like me, you’re tired of seeing senseless violence on the news, and even more disgusted to see not enough is being done to prevent more of it. While Christmas shopping for my 5-year-old niece this past holiday season, I was shocked to see how many stores still carry realistic toy guns for children. Like, come on!
But maybe to curb future interest in guns and violence, we need to totally overhaul our thinking and approach to marketing to children. In addition to removing toy firearms from shelves, maybe we should replace Kylo Ren with Rey on those Star Wars packages.
Again, I’m just posing questions. Now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Kylo Ren products I’ve seen – his Christmas ornament. Yes, Kylo Ren, the Christmas ornament most likely to show your Rudolph ornament on the next branch over the dark side.