There was only one conclusion
I don’t agree with this. Never have. There isn’t only one way to tell a Star Wars story.
Making Kylo Ren understandable doesn’t mean you NEED to make him forgiveable, or further, make him a good guy. You don’t HAVE to do that. And especially not at the expense of Finn and Rey’s character arcs. You can engender sympathy with the devil, you can highlight the parts of a villains personality and characterization that are relatable, but you don’t HAVE to reward that character with a victory either. That character can pack just as much punch by being a negative example, an object lesson of what will happen if you refuse the opportunities provided you time and time again. I never argued for him to stay bad “just because it’s new” or for him to be flatly characterized as one-dimensional evil, either. But there are ways to have his arc track in a different, more villainous route that doesn’t include redemption, and tackling the story as if it’s a fait accompli that he’ll be redeemed is short-circuiting so many good dramatic possibilities. That’s not to say there isn’t a way to have redeemed him that could be satisfying. Just that nobody seemed to have figured it out when the saga ended. Although that one story group idea that he take Luke’s place and exile himself to Ahch-To was a good option that… nobody pursued.
further, there’s something very, very useful to addressing the notion, especially in children’s entertainment, ESPECIALLY NOW, that sometimes you can’t make friends with the bully, that sometimes the bad guy won’t become the good guy, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO OR HOW HARD YOU TRY. That you wanting someone to change really, really hard doesn’t mean they’re going to, especially if they don’t want to do their part to make that happen. That doesn’t mean that bad guy doesn’t have humanity, or has their dimensionality removed. But it also lets kids know that you don’t have to stop everything you’re doing and give up on the things that are important to you in order to cater to THAT ONE GUY, either.
The argument that it had to happen this way because “It’s Star Wars” and “It’s for kids” just rings false. It’s pop-culture dogma and it doesn’t carry weight with me. There were other options, and they were rejected out of hand, it sounds like, for the sake of “doing the Star Wars thing” and I disagree with that decison, and with the reasoning behind it, because it’s limited and circular. “The Star Wars thing” is pretty nebulous, especially since “Star Wars” is basically a mixtape of pop myths with great production and sound design and that’s about it. It can be a lot of things. It can be more than it is now, and a lot of what it IS now, it only is because someone years ago decided it needed to be different from what it was.
I also think whether he was intended to represent modern-day fascism or not doesn’t really matter. He does. He is. He’s Ben Shapiro and Charlie Kirk and all the young self-righteous super-angry and combative people who learned the absolute wrong lessons from the destructive forces who came before them. And I think there’s something not only shortsighted in making sure the entire story of Star Wars in the 21st century is about REDEEMING that guy, but slightly dangerous as well, because if we’re going to talk about kids movies, we need to talk about teaching children that the most important things are making sure that Kylos are heard, Kylos are listened to, Kylos are catered to, and Kylos are CENTERED in EVERYONE ELSE’S stories.
Everyone worries about the kids who project onto the bad guy and whether or not they’re going to give up - nobody seems to worry about whether or not the kids projecting onto Rey and Finn are being told that their desires, their hopes, and their dreams need to be sidelined or ultimately sublimated to ensure Kylo’s redemption occurs. And I don’t find that particularly fair, either. This was an opportunity for Star Wars to be about new people, and instead it’s about Kylo, and making sure he died with the light in his eyes.
The idea that a villain in Star Wars can’t stay the villain because it’s letting down “bad kids” seems like a particularly empty strawman, to me. Bad guys can (and should) just as often be object examples of what happens when you keep making awful choices no matter how “right” or “justified” you think you are to be making them.