Star Wars: Where’s the Romance this Time?
Considering Rey's journey through Rise of Skywalker
Leia, Luke, and Han’s love triangle in the first two movies, and Leia and Han’s resolution with its beloved “I love you,” “I know.” Offered a delightful nuance to the first trilogy, The prequels were more romantic yet, with Anakin and Padme’s love in Episode II and tragedy in Episode III destroying the Republic. This time, any romance is muted, with barely a hint existing.
Certainly, trends in fourth wave feminist film are emphasizing that the heroine doesn’t need romance. Frozen and Frozen II give Elsa bigger problems than finding a prince. Moana, too, sets off on her heroic quest and succeeds while keeping her story a buddy movie. Captain Marvel is complete with no romance at all. Launching this type of story, Katniss herself comments in her third novel, “The very notion that I’m devoting any thought to who I want presented as my lover, given our current circumstances, is demeaning” (34). True. But having so many of these films skip the romance feels imperfect too, as if there's no way to model a relationship of equals.
In this 2019 context, Rey doesn’t need romance to make her story work, anymore than Jyn the tough soldier did. In the latter case, it would have weakened the character. But given the film history, the lack of much romance at all feels…odd.
Finn and Rey shared sparks in the first film, Finn and Rose in the second, with the possibility of a love triangle developing. In the Road to The Rise of Skywalker novel Resistance Reborn, Finn tells Poe he shared “a moment” with each of them but now has moved past all that into friendship. In real life, this happens. Still, in our television and film we tend to expect more big sparks. That’s Hollywood magic.
In the third movie, Poe has a rather goofy flirtation with his spice smuggling frenemy Zorri Bliss. Her turning down multiple kisses puts her squarely in the driver’s seat of this relationship, while her barely taking off her mask leaves her a self-contained enigma. Finn meets Jannah, a young woman who perfectly reflects himself, though their instant connection need not be defined as romantic. The vibes are there, though they were in the previous two films, and clearly won't be developed this time around with the franchise ending. Poor Rose is stuck back on base, largely forgotten, to many fans’ dismay. Any affection between Finn and Poe (teased quite a bit through the years) remains firmly platonic (no huge surprise there). And the lesbian kiss between two unnamed characters at the end felt like a token nod to inclusion but no more than that.
Rey’s own arc keeps her connected with Kylo Ren (though neither undresses this time around). Her lack of interest in anyone else clarifies that Ben is at the center of her attention. At the end, he touchingly gives his life to save hers and she kisses them. Viewers may at this moment picture the young couple settling down and raising some very dysfunctional babies strong in the dark side of the Force. It would have been an interesting story – not just the good girl drawn to the bad boy, which has made its appearance in too many vampire shows, but the female chosen one finding her perfect mate.
However, Ben succumbs, emphasizing that he’s earned redemption but not a return to normalcy. This Rey must find for herself. After their tragic perfect pairing, followed by loss, Rey is left independent to make her way through the world. Weirdly, so are Poe, Finn, and Rose. This, it seems, has been a terrible film for matrimony. Perhaps these young heroes, having restored the galaxy, will find a few minutes for personal time. Until then, it feels as if something significant is missing from the galaxy.
Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of A Rey of Hope: Feminism, Symbolism and Hidden Gems in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; We're Home: Fandom, Fun, and Hidden Homages in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Star Wars Meets the Eras of Feminism: Weighing All the Galaxy’s Women Great and Small and many other books on pop culture. https://www.amazon.com/Valerie-Estelle-Frankel/e/B004KMCLQK