Anger leads to the dark side. It’s a message Star Wars has been sending throughout its various stories for decades. While it’s a meaningful sentiment to apply to our everyday lives, when applied to characters like Rey Skywalker, it can take on a different, less universal meaning. And we can point to She-Hulk: Attorney At Law as an example of why.
The first episode of Marvel’s She-Hulk series seemed to lay out the entire thesis for the series in one monologue — making the point that Jennifer Walters is better at managing her emotions than Bruce Banner because she has no choice but to rely on it as a survival mechanism.
She tells Bruce: “I’m great at controlling my anger. I do it all the time… because if I don’t, I will get called ’emotional’ or ‘difficult,’ or might just literally get murdered. So I’m an expert at controlling my anger because I do it infinitely more than you.”
And while there’s not a direct conversation such as this in The Last Jedi, the entirety of the sequel trilogy often portrays anger as Rey’s greatest enemy. When she’s training with Luke Skywalker, and gets swept up in her emotional reactions to the world around her, he treats her as though “going straight to the dark” will immediately lead her down the wrong path.
There’s also that moment in The Rise of Skywalker in which Kylo Ren pushes Rey to her breaking point — forcing so much emotion out of her that it exits in the form of Force lightning, destroying the ship they’d both been trying to pull away from one another.
Whether she meant it to or not, Rey’s anger caused destruction. And later in that same movie, she nearly kills Kylo — and feels she must retreat and literally burn her only exit from Ahch-To to protect everyone else from her seemingly uncontrollable rage.
The Jedi philosophy that emotions are “bad” — at least the way we see it taught in the prequel trilogy — wasn’t always how the Order viewed managing one’s feelings. The High Republic stories have shown that instead of frowning upon emotion and attachments altogether, the Jedi Order did a much better job of guiding its members through the art of processing the various feelings that came along with the job. What changed? The next few phases of the initiative will likely clarify that.
But there’s a glaring similarity between Jen’s monologue and Rey’s experiences throughout the Skywalker Saga. She, too, is taught through trial and error that feelings will get her in trouble. Unkar Plutt’s immediate reaction to Rey begging her parents to come back is to tell her to be quiet. Every time she finds herself face-to-face with Kylo, her emotions become a storm. And yet, it’s love in the end that saves the universe as well as her life. Not that it was an easy road for her to get there, having to navigate believing feeling anger or sadness could destroy her.
This is so pointedly a universally female experience, though not limited to the biological woman. I’m writing this from a female perspective, of course, because that’s how I identify; it’s my experience, one I can speak to personally. But one could easily broaden this argument to include all of humanity.
All of us, for one reason or another, are encouraged not to express our emotions. We’ve all been judged for crying; for losing our temper; for breaking down when the stress becomes too much to keep inside. Rage is the enemy. Sadness is something to be ashamed of.
Stories like Star Wars and Marvel are valuable for our entertainment. But they’re just as important for understanding one of the great perils of humanity — that feeling or a lack of control of our feelings in the presence of others is still so taboo, yet it’s sometimes the very thing that breaks down barriers between people and begins the healing process individually and among communities.
Follow Dork Side of the Force for all your Star Wars news, reviews, and more!