Kylo coded as traumatized?

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Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Slade on Wed 25 May - 6:17

Hello everyone.  I'm Slade, and I just joined.  I don't know if this is the best place to post this topic, or if it would be better somewhere else.  So here goes, off the top of my head and with little editing:

I have read in multiple places that Kylo is coded as traumatized/abused/mentally ill; and that this is indicated by his behavior.  I find this fascinating and it's one of the reasons I love the character so much.  But I haven't been able to find much out there that *elaborates on* the idea that he is traumatized.  I"d love to explore this in more depth.  

For starters,  I don't think his "temper tantrums" are temper tantrums; I think they are rage attacks.  (I must insert here that I am not a mental health professional.  I am a layperson who likes to read a lot of stuff on abnormal psychology)  The difference between the two, to the best of my understanding, is this:  "temper tantrums" are done in front of other people for the purpose of manipulating those people.  "Rage attacks" may or may not happen in the presence of others, and they are not done to manipulate.  Rather, they are done because the person has just lost control (to some degree) and has serious problems with emotional self-regulation.

Another thing that kind of dropped my jaw the first time I saw the movie is when Kylo is hitting his bowcaster injury.  I read this as self-injury, straight up.  He may have done it solely as a Sith-y, Dark Side technique, but I don't recall seeing another dark side user doing such a thing (I am completely unfamiliar with Legends and EU).  Given his mental state at the time, I see it as more than just some Dark Side technique, and I think it was pretty...brave(?) of JJ Abrams to include it.

Kylo is such a fascinating character and there's so much to unpack regarding his character.  I hope someone else finds this a topic worth going in depth on (and apologies if it has already been done; I did attempt to search the forum but couldn't find in depth discussion on it).
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Sylvia Snow on Wed 25 May - 7:15

First of all, this is not my idea but someone else in this forum, who suggested that his way of dressing, cover himself in layers of clothing could indicated that Kylo surfers from some kind of abused or traumatized from Snoke, just like the Phantom from POTO who wearing the mask to cover his deformed and try to be normal. Kylo could also have scars, either physical or mentally and the clothing is a way he's trying to feel normal.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by panki on Wed 25 May - 7:39

I feel that a certain amount of torture (mental and physical) is required to go to the dark side....the EU is full of stories of jedi being turned to the dark side with heavy doses of fear and despair....and canon has continued this trend....Savage Opress has been the unlucky recipient of a lot of force lightning in the Clone Wars TV show.....Quinlan Vos got force lighting, droid torture and his power of psychometry used against him in Dark Disciple....so it seems highly likely Ben Solo was subject to it as well(in addition to Snoke's manipulation that started during his childhood). I think that, as part of the breaking down and re-moulding process, Snoke re-named him Kylo Ren and banned everyone from calling him Ben Solo again (TFA Visual Dictionary).

If a person is tortured long enough, they begin to care for their captor because the captor controls whether they live, die, are in comfort or in pain and they need to keep this person happy (I think we've had a discussion on this topic in one of the threads)....so Snoke has become this parent figure that Kylo tries to please. Snoke might make bold statements about Kylo being a perfect mix of light and dark, but he seems more focused on his dark side training and even mentions the light side as an afterthought in the novel. However, despite Snoke's best efforts, Kylo still has light in him.

Now here is what I think- Kylo wants to suppress the light in him since that is what Snoke expects of him (I don't know what Vader's skull told him so I'm not including that- though I find it interesting that he trembles while speaking to the skull- fear?) ....and in the process, he resorts to the one way he knows how to channel the dark side- rage and inflicting physical pain on himself.  

I do agree with you about the rage attack part but I think he consciously tries to lose control so that the dark will overtake him......Sidious, Dooku, Maul are examples of dark side users who have embraced the darkness and revel in it....Vader might not have been gleeful but he was indifferent to it....Kylo is just plain miserable.  Evil or Very Mad

Savage Opress getting blasted by Dooku (one of the many times)

Since Dark Disciple doesn't have images, we'll have to settle for Ulic Quel Droma's torture scene which is near identical to the droid torture scene in the book.

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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Slade on Wed 25 May - 7:53

@Sylvia Snow  

I have read that before (on one of the many tumblr accounts I read).  It makes sense if he is covering physical scars, but what if he isn't scarred (or not before Rey got ahold of him)?  Is he covering for psychological reasons?  People have pointed out that he doesn't want to be seen (hence, helmet).  It's hard for me to know how much of the flowing black garb is just a dark side thing, and how much of it he might be choosing for some psychological reason not related to Dark Side Dress Code.  (I'm fascinated by the semiotics of clothing, btw)  Broadening my comments a bit, why are "bad guys" often portrayed as dressed in black in so much Western art/movies/books, etc?  People often take the color to represent "evil," but why?  

Kylo's hair appears black in the movie, and I don't think that would be genetically likely, given his parents (I know, actors, and such, but play along...) Driver's hair looks much lighter in all his other work that I have seen.  I seriously think they darkened it for this role.  If so, why? I mean, it looks fabulous.  But are we meant to wonder whether Kylo actually dyes his hair black?  (I get the best visuals of this!)

@Panki

Ok, so dark siders are literally tortured as part of their training? I thought so but wasn't sure. I completely agree that Kylo has something like Stockholm Syndrome for ol' Snoke.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Sylvia Snow on Wed 25 May - 8:23

@Slade

I think because the color black usually associated with evil, darkness and death in some cultures. Many associated the color with the Underworld, Hades, Cerberus, Grimm Creaper, the Black Death,the ghost of the black dog, demon, etc. As you can see, the list are endless but in my opinion I think it's a subconscious fear, people fear the unknown and mystery that may hiding in the dark.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by panki on Wed 25 May - 8:32

@Slade wrote:
@Panki

Ok, so dark siders are literally tortured as part of their training?  I thought so but wasn't sure.  I completely agree that Kylo has something like Stockholm Syndrome for ol' Snoke.  
@Slade

The torture need not be physical to initially push someone to the dark side...it can be some big mental trauma as well, as in the case of Count Dooku- Palpatine made him watch a holovid of his former padawan Qui Gon Jinn (who he cared for deeply) being killed....but he would have been tortured later because the ability to use force lightning can only be transmitted by inflicting it on the person being taught to use it.

In Ben Solo's case I think some physical torture was involved in turning him into Kylo because of how he beats his injury to build up anger and darkness.

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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by SoloSideCousin on Wed 25 May - 9:29

Welcome Slade!! Thank you for bringing up this topic.  I am not a trained psychologist either, but I have worked with many vulnerable people and those in the process of major life transition as a lawyer and as an advocate, so this subject is of great interest to me as well.

I absolutely believe that Kylo Ren is coded to as mentally ill and/or traumatized to the audience, though there is apparently no acknowledgement of mental illness nor treatment or it in the SW universe.  I guess the closest thing you get to it is being infected by the dark side.  Though at times during the series just having strong emotions seems to equal darkness, which is a viewpoint I am not in love with since IMO passion does not have to equal evil.  But that's a whole other Grey Jedi-ish kind of discussion. That being said, the producers of TFA apparently called Kylo Ren's quarters something like "the padded room."  In fact I think the walls actually appeared padded, so it was definitely something they wanted to get across.

I don't know if you have seen the documentary for TFA on the BluRay/DVD, but both JJ Abrams and Adam Driver intimate that (1) Kylo/Ben felt abandoned and (2) JJ literally says "Snoke had a target on their boy."  The novel talks about how Snoke was in Ben's head and was trying to push him towards the darkness from the earliest age.  To me this is code for child predator.

And if you think about what Snoke could have possibly done to him, it gets really scary really fast.  Not only could he have whispered manipulative things in his head (a child with a evil forceuser's voice in his head!), thereby distorting Ben's whole viewpoint on the world, but since the man has evil powers I believe he could have planted visions (maybe even whatever "Vader" said) and false memories in Ben's head of people hurting him and possibly of him hurting others, thus making him think he deserved darkness.  And like @panki said, I think Snoke has tortured and created a very sick relationship with Kylo where he has an abuse-born dependency relationship with Snoke at best and possibly is so unstable that he is terribly vulnerable to dark side energy (the sun dying right before he kills Han and his face changes from hopeful to blank) and even worse direct mental interference from Snoke at times.

Also, there is this complete sense of tragedy that comes from this history of abuse where Ben never really had a chance to be normal because the people around him were either helpless in the face of or unaware of what Snoke was doing.  Vader has his chance with being a big Jedi and with Padme.  He blew it.  To me, Kylo never seems to have had his soul and mind completely to himself since he was very little.  I think he might have been able to fight him off during some of the times with Luke, but when the Vader secret came out, IMO, all of his mental barriers shattered and Snoke walked right back in.

I think his half-light/half-dark force composition comes into play as well.  I mean he is like the living embodiment of "torn apart."  Where does he fit in this black and white world? Luke wanted him to suppress his dark, Snoke wants him to suppress his light.  But he is only half a person if he does either.  He needs to be grey IMO.  And I think he can only shake Snoke and get settled emotionally once he starts accepting himself for who is entirely and integrates both sides of himself.

We have also discussed how Adam Driver's charity work of presenting theatrical plays, particularly Greek tragedies which frequently address war weariness and PTSD before it had that name, to military audiences, might have informed the creation of Kylo Ren.  AD has been quoted as seeing him as a "warrior", so I imagine he has brought some of those PTSD-like symptoms some warriors suffer to the character.  AD also narrates a book about Greek tragedies called The Theatre of War which explores the grey area between free will and fate.  The discussion of this grey area seems to fit Kylo Ren to a "T" IMO regarding the question of his agency.  I think you might like a lot of the discussions in the Can Kylo Be Redeemed? and Why is Kylo Ren compelling? threads where some of these issues have been explored if you have the time to read them.

Also just last night a newer member @Alixen and one of our admins @Darth Rowan had a great discussion on how Kylo Ren has created dark, but non-lethal force techniques.  Further, @Alixen makes a very interesting argument that Ren is actually exhibiting control during times he seems out of control, particularly when he tears up computers.  It looks like a tantrum and it is absolutely a rage attack, like you say, as the dark side apparently brings up all kinds of rage in people anyway aside from Kylo's issues, but @Alixen argued that unlike Vader who just killed people when he got mad, Kylo actually takes out his rage on machinery.  It's not great of course, but it helps keep his body count below Vader's.

I've gone on too long, but there is definitely a lot to explore here.  I am very impressed that they decided to go to these complex places with a SW character.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Slade on Wed 25 May - 11:33

@SoloSideCousin

This post is a little disjointed; I have a lot to say, I guess.  Please bear with.

Yes, I know Driver , Leia, and Abrams had said Snoke had been manipulating him; what threw me was the info released recently about Kylo being 23 when he turned.  It made me wonder for how long Snoke had been invading his mind or otherwise manipulating him.  Seems pretty canonical that it was from a  very young age.  As an aside, I think it is entirely possible that Kylo was dark sided years before he Officially Turned at age 23.  I don't think he was footloose and fancy free until age 23.  I've thought about this character so much that it is sometimes hard to remember what is canon and what is head canon.

On the issue of it getting creepier as you think about Snoke being inside Kylo's head, someone (I don't remember who or where) made the argument that Snoke *could* have induced nightmares in a very young Kylo, leading to emotional issues and insomnia, and his parents would have no clue how to help him, as the usual remedies for insomnia just wouldn't work.

One thing I find interesting is that kylo, in the movie at least, does not seem afraid of Snoke.  He also is not as subservient to him as Vader was to Palpatine, though I agree that his and Snoke's relationship is pathological.  The way Snoke speaks to him...(shudders) "Bring her to me!"  just chilled my blood.

Switching gears to Han:  I found it interesting and extremely sad that (by my interpretation) every single time Han  looked at Kylo (at Takodana and SKB), he had a look of disgust on his face.  The only time I saw a change was after Kylo stabbed him.  (and Driver's face when he takes off the mask for Han:  wary, guarded.  Brilliantly played)  I also got the feeling that the only reason Han was trying to reach out to Kylo was for Leia.  When Han said "we miss you," he didn't even sound like he meant it.  I think he really meant "Leia misses you."  

I had not seen the quote of Driver saying he saw Kylo as a warrior; that's interesting and makes sense.  I just finished reading _The Theatre of War_ and it definitely gave me food for thought.  I'm also a lawyer and used to be a prosecutor; I've long been an advocate of "free will", to wit:  no matter how screwed up someone's life is, if they point a gun at someone and pull the trigger, they are 100% responsible.  That book is making me rethink that, and  I have not come to a conclusion yet.  Greek drama is one of the areas where there is a gap in my education, so I was especially interested in what Doerries said about the purpose of a lot of that drama, in terms of helping the traumatized warriors heal.  There's a very good meta on Kylo and "moral injury" (by Ms Qualia?  I think?  I want to credit the author, but I'm just not sure where I saw it).  I had never heard the term before, but it's interesting to apply the notion to Kylo.  It would not surprise me in the least if Driver were bringing his knowledge of veterans and PTSD to his interpretation of Kylo.  

I read @Alixen's and @Darth Rowan's posts last night and thought they were fantastic.  

I am also impressed that they decided to go into the darkness with Kylo.  In this one character, we have issues of self-injury (still such a taboo topic, still misunderstood, still thought of as something "only" teens do), PTSD, trauma bonding, child abuse (snoke), well-meaning parents who are good people who still fail their child, parental rejection and abandonment (at least as Kylo seemed to perceive it),  despair, loneliness, free will, and the (I think false) dichotomy of good vs. evil.  It was incredibly gutsy for the filmmakers and actors to do.  These are topics that I don't see addressed in mainstream *anything* with any degree of sensitivity or insight.  And too many people have a knee-jerk response to so many of these issues: "self-injury is malarkey" and "if you have mental illness it's because you are weak" and "nice parents could not possibly cause damage to their kid", and I even see those attitudes in other places online where they are discussing Kylo.

I'm rereading Joseph Campbell, and he mentioned that each time period gets the myths it needs; myths change form slightly to better serve the time.  It is interesting to look at the original trilogy and compare it to TFA with that in mind.

If you made it to the end, thanks for reading this disjointed post!  I probably shouldn't try to be meaningful at 4 am!

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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Darth Dingbat on Wed 25 May - 12:51

@Slade: It threw a lot of people, me included. I honestly don't think it was just a random headcanon that people latched onto: I'll be bold enough to claim that most people came, quite independently of each other, to the conclusion that Kylo was very young when he turned. I know I thought that when I first saw the film, and I hadn't read anyone else's views on the matter. And though others here disagree with me on this, I think that was the original plan but the story changed later on, possibly at Rian's suggestion. The concept art shows pictures of a "young Jedi Killer" who looks like a young teen, and the shooting schedule has that bit about "young Kylo" disappearing as dead bodies are left behind.

To me, the fact that he turned at 23 in mysterious circumstances implies that the story will be a bit different from what I expected, though it may make Kylo's redemption easier (depending on those circumstances, of course). Kylo's backstory was built up as a mystery and I think there's got to be a big twist coming; something big must have happened six years ago, a lot bigger than the Vader revelation because there's no way they'd spoil an important plot point in a novel. The odds for Kylo being a rogue double agent of some kind (or, a more likely possibility than a double agent IMO, someone who originally set out to do something for the "greater good" and probably told no one else about the plan) also went up when it turned out he was a grown-up when he turned.

Still, doesn't change the fact that the vibes of trauma/mental illness/abuse victim etc. are there in the film, lots of people picked up on them, and it will be interesting to see where they go with them - or if they were just window-dressing of sorts. I think a lot of us were hoping that they'd have the courage to tell a very difficult story: the story of someone whose childhood and youth was destroyed by a "Snoke" (which might be a stand-in for mental illness, abuse, and/or being taken advantage of by an extremist movement) but who can still make his way back to a normal life after reaching rock bottom.

Of course it's possible that the backstory may be a combination of troubled youth and a big twist, though it's hard to imagine how to combine these things so that the combination seems organic. But if it turns out he started killing people at the age of 23 just because Snoke told him he could become powerful, the emphasis on Kylo's angst and the talk about his feelings of abandonment as a child seem like a rather hollow bid for sympathy.

My favourite headcanon - and one that would turn around the audience's expectations most spectacularly - is that Ben was a deeply troubled and perhaps difficult youth who was nonetheless "good" and who took on some heavy responsibility that was - or seemed to be - for the greater good. That would be a big twist from hated villain to tragic hero. But I'll admit that I personally have a great liking for stories where a misunderstood character or a hated scapegoat turns out to be the secret hero.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Maria Antonietta on Wed 25 May - 12:56

It's a fairy tale, everyone is traumatized, that's why we're invested in their journeys
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Darth Dingbat on Wed 25 May - 13:03

@Maria Antonietta wrote:It's a fairy tale, everyone is traumatized, that's why we're invested in their journeys
@Maria Antonietta

But I guess the problem is, as @Reynak has often pointed out, that Kylo's traumatised characterisation is on a completely different level from Rey's and Finn's. They all have traumatic pasts (Rey perhaps most of all) but only one of them acts like a realistically troubled person, and that's Kylo. It's like the characters belong in different stories.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Maria Antonietta on Wed 25 May - 13:04

@Darth Dingbat wrote:
@Maria Antonietta wrote:It's a fairy tale, everyone is traumatized, that's why we're invested in their journeys
@Maria Antonietta

But I guess the problem is, as @Reynak has often pointed out, that Kylo's traumatised characterisation is on a completely different level from Rey's and Finn's. They all have traumatic pasts (Rey perhaps most of all) but only one of them acts like a realistically troubled person, and that's Kylo. It's like the characters belong in different stories.
@Darth Dingbat

Oh yes, totally agree
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Mana on Wed 25 May - 14:29

When people say they relate to heroes, they don't really...they just wish they were like them. At the end of the day, people will realise the character that they relate to the most is the one who ultimately seeks out redemption from a lifetime of mistakes and has the greatest transformational arc, and not the embellished heroes who can do no wrong. They just don't know it yet....
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Jakku on Wed 25 May - 15:14

@slade Interesting that you mentioned Han's look of disgust whenever he saw Ben. I saw it as wariness and guilty fascination, but certainly not a look of love. I was also struck by the expression on Han's face when Maz produced the sabre for them down in the dungeon. His "Where did you get that?" had an edge to it, and he stared at it while Maz was talking to Finn. It occurred to me that, if he thought the sabre to have been in Ben's possession, the fact that Maz had it might mean that Ben was dead, or not in a position to defend his possessions. At that point he hadn't seen Kylo on the battlefield.

When Leia arrived, the first thing Han said was "I saw him. He was here." To me, Han sounded worried and possibly scared. "Along with 'too much Vader' in him", I thought it was possible that Han had been deeply afraid of his own son. Certainly he wasn't reluctant to make a raid on SKB, which would quite possibly end in the death of his son. And the death of Rey, which he was also willing to encompass as collateral damage ("He would have disappointed you"). It was only when they got onto SKB and Finn made his mission clear, that Han agreed not to leave without her.

So, is it at all possible that Han had been s***-scared of his powerful son, keen to stay away from him (and therefore from Leia), and more than happy to offload him to Luke? Did something happen between them that pushed Ben over the edge? (Which would be ironic, given how Han ended up.)

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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Maria Antonietta on Wed 25 May - 15:49

@Jakku wrote:@slade Interesting that you mentioned Han's look of disgust whenever he saw Ben. I saw it as wariness and guilty fascination, but certainly not a look of love. I was also struck by the expression on Han's face when Maz produced the sabre for them down in the dungeon. His "Where did you get that?" had an edge to it, and he stared at it while Maz was talking to Finn. It occurred to me that, if he thought the sabre to have been in Ben's possession, the fact that Maz had it might mean that Ben was dead, or not in a position to defend his possessions. At that point he hadn't seen Kylo on the battlefield.

When Leia arrived, the first thing Han said was "I saw him. He was here." To me, Han sounded worried and possibly scared. "Along with 'too much Vader' in him", I thought it was possible that Han had been deeply afraid of his own son. Certainly he wasn't reluctant to make a raid on SKB, which would quite possibly end in the death of his son. And the death of Rey, which he was also willing to encompass as collateral damage ("He would have disappointed you"). It was only when they got onto SKB and Finn made his mission clear, that Han agreed not to leave without her.

So, is it at all possible that Han had been s***-scared of his powerful son, keen to stay away from him (and therefore from Leia), and more than happy to offload him to Luke? Did something happen between them that pushed Ben over the edge? (Which would be ironic, given how Han ended up.)

@Jakku

Han never believed in the force c**p. I feel like he really gave up on his son. When he said "there's too much Vader in him", I felt completely shocked.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by teltaru on Wed 25 May - 16:55

@Jakku wrote:@slade Interesting that you mentioned Han's look of disgust whenever he saw Ben. I saw it as wariness and guilty fascination, but certainly not a look of love. I was also struck by the expression on Han's face when Maz produced the sabre for them down in the dungeon. His "Where did you get that?" had an edge to it, and he stared at it while Maz was talking to Finn. It occurred to me that, if he thought the sabre to have been in Ben's possession, the fact that Maz had it might mean that Ben was dead, or not in a position to defend his possessions. At that point he hadn't seen Kylo on the battlefield.

When Leia arrived, the first thing Han said was "I saw him. He was here." To me, Han sounded worried and possibly scared. "Along with 'too much Vader' in him", I thought it was possible that Han had been deeply afraid of his own son. Certainly he wasn't reluctant to make a raid on SKB, which would quite possibly end in the death of his son. And the death of Rey, which he was also willing to encompass as collateral damage ("He would have disappointed you"). It was only when they got onto SKB and Finn made his mission clear, that Han agreed not to leave without her.

So, is it at all possible that Han had been s***-scared of his powerful son, keen to stay away from him (and therefore from Leia), and more than happy to offload him to Luke? Did something happen between them that pushed Ben over the edge? (Which would be ironic, given how Han ended up.)

@Jakku

I was very annoyed at Han's reactions and remarks about his own son. It clears things up a bit when you learn that Han didn't even know about Snoke, but it also raises more questions, like: wouldn't a father want to know what the hell was wrong with his kid? I don't care how much people insist that Leia and Han could not be anything but perfect parents, it really does seem to me that they both ****** up on many levels, even though I'm sure they thought they were doing what was best for their son. I just wonder how much Han knew Ben if he didn't even know about his struggles.

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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by guardienne on Wed 25 May - 17:25

@slade

really interesting thoughts about the temper tantrums. i agree he is not given enough credit for not killing people. he kills people on a personal level, like, he's gotta mean it, and otherwise he just breaks the ship Razz

and it's true, i don't think he does it for the audience either, i think he does it because he cannot cope whihc does make them rage attacks, i guess.

but i'm guessing what made me and others such as @darth dingbat think that he turned earlier, has to do with exactly those attacks. they feel like a much younger person would have them, some one who hasn't figured out how to cope with frustration. but i'm beginnign to think that he has reverted to behaving like this because it is encouraged and enabled by snoke, and because he's entered the dark side.

in fact, i was posting about this elsewhere, but it could be that at his skill level, at his level of involvement with the force, the force takes from him. like @panki says, there may be an element of madness involved with the dark side in general. if you channel it all by itself, it may be what is driving him mad. on top of the identity crisis.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Macha Ren on Wed 25 May - 18:24

It's hard to compare Ben, Rey and Finn's childhoods. Each was a different experience, and I don't agree with JJ Abrams when he says that Rey had a crap childhood and didn't chose to become a murderer. Yes, each three were lost children, but only one is the survivor of active and sustained abuse.

Ben Solo had a very real boogeyman under the bed when he was a child, one that his parents didn't see. That said, he likely had trust issues from an early age. We all ask our parents to search the closet and under the bed when we're worried about monster. We're reassured when there isn't one and are sent back to bed knowing we are safe. That wasn't the case with Ben. His fears were never validated because his experience was real, and this could have in impact on his dynamic with his parents from a very early age. Snoke created an environment that placed a wedge between Ben and his parents at a very early and impressionable age. If a small child can't trust a parent to protect him in one arena, he/she is going to be very reluctant to trust them in other facets of their life.

So we have Snoke 1, Han and Leia 0.

And then there's the whole grooming aspect. Even if we go with the Bloodlines (and don't get me started on tie-in novels as canon. I don't like it Mad ) timeline of the massacre/fall from grace at 23, he was long gone before that. Snoke was there "from the beginning," grooming and resetting Ben's moral compass. As he whittled away at Ben's trust for his parents, he established himself as the guiding figure in Ben's life. It likely started with praise and empowerment, but then it took a more malignant tone of intimidation, fear, suffering and punishment to erode Ben's self-confidence where he became dependent on his abuser, not unlike a sexual predator that warps a child's sense of reality to make him believe 1) he was a willing participant 2) he sought out the abuse 3) he enjoyed the abuse 4) it is his fault it happened in the first place. And like an abuser, he systematically isolated Ben from his support network with probable threats along the lines of, "If you tell anyone about this I will hurt/kill you and/or those you love."

Snoke 2, Han and Leia 0.

Now add in the mind tricks and Force manipulations that add a definite heightened squick level to Ben's grooming. Snoke is a very powerful (we have yet to see what exactly he can do) user, so powerful that he was able to get inside a very young Ben Solo's head. What if he was able to alter memories and experiences so that every time he maltreated Ben--either physically or mentally--he saw his father's face? (Notice that Kylo's animosity is only directed toward his father in TFA?)

Han is a hot-headed (read: but not abusive guy. Couple that with his historic distrust of the Force and the fact that both Leia and he are not the best in expressing uncomfortable emotions with each other) and may not have had the patience to deal with his young son's reaction to his interactions with Snoke. He may have, though very well intended, dismissed Ben as just a naughty or scared boy that just needed to grow up. So there was natural tension with his son. No matter how small, Snoke could manipulate that tension and use Han as the scapegoat for Ben's abuse from Snoke. "I didn't hurt you, your father did."

Han wasn't an abusive father, but perhaps Snoke made him appear to be so with neither Han nor Leia aware that this type of manipulation has ever occured.

Snoke 3, Han and Leia 0.

And once Snoke had physical possession (because let's face it, he is a possession, not a person to Snoke) of Ben, he was able to control him completely, stripping him of his previous identity and extinguishing the Ben that his parents knew. Ben Solo is the Star Wars universe's equivalent to Dave Pelzer. Snoke has managed to transform a beloved couple's only son into his version of a Child Called It. Once this happened, Han and Leia's chances of reaching their son dwindled down to nil.

Snoke 4, Han and Leia 0.

I don't think Han ever hated or was disgusted by Ben. When I saw his expression as he watched Kylo carry Rey toward his shuttle, I think I saw Han as mournful more than anything. He mourned the loss of his son and what had become of him. He mourned that he was helpless to stop the process.

When Ben became Kylo Ren, Han mourned his loss just like Leia did--as if their son had died. That is something very stressful on a marriage, and it drives couples apart all the time. They blame each other. They blame themselves. And if Leia knew about Snoke was manipulating Ben but did not tell Han, then there is added tension between Ben's parents. In that aspect, Snoke may have also been successful in dividing Ben's only chances for support. So I'm giving Snoke another point here as well.

Snoke 5, Han and Leia 0.

In the end, Snoke has created a possession that has had his very sense of self stripped from him. His moral compass isn't just reset, it is shattered. He has been on the receiving end of mental and physical torture that with the Force, is something no one can imagine. He has created a child called it that is more of a puppet than a human. He has been conditioned by the Dark side and is has been shaped by trauma more than Finn and Rey combined.

So yeah, I can understand why he does Snoke's biddings and can kill indiscriminately. Because from the way I see, whatever is left of Ben Solo is solely functioning in survival mode at the current time. He may come off as the little bad, but he is a puppet on a string more than anything else.


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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by snufkin on Wed 25 May - 20:44

Definitely coded as traumautized and a bit of a Rorschach test for viewers, because some of the nastiest comments I've seen online (obvs not here) have made me wonder what those people would be like on jury duty.

One thing that I've mentioned before is the thematic similarities to one of my favorite books, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Instead of the Force, it's Magic, which instead of Dark/Light is seen as Ancient/Modern. Same dichotomy that the former is wild, ungovernable, powerful and the characters who have the natural talent to tap into magic (both by sheer talent and diligent study/practice) can be overwhelmed and driven insane by it. Even characters who come close to magic through association with magicians or being enchanted, are also at risk of going insane. There's a great exploration of the "Mad Woman in the Attic" trope as an exploration of women's rights to autonomy being suppressed by the traditional patriarchy with one of the female leads, who's seen as mad but actually under a spell. And both her and one of the main magicians (who's been drawn into practicing ancient magic) in the recent BBC adaption gradually change hair color from brown to grey. They both become progressively more grey (and there's also a theme of grey morality) as they become drawn further into this dark, ancient magic. And the figure who controls this magic is very much like Snoke, down to being behind the scenes and manipulating the other characters as a power play.

Anyways, I definitely can see mental illness being referenced in KR, both for the amount of sheer ability running through his mind and being told to suppress one side or the other (instead of using both), added to the pain of not getting the full attention/care he needed from his parents*, and on top of it, being targeted from a young age by Snoke w/no way to block him out.

* Funny thing is that I went to one school where a lot of my classmates came from Crossroads, which is the school in Santa Monica where people in the Entertainment Industry in California send their kids. And while I found a lot of them to be incredibly rich/snobby, one of the things I came away from that experience was how lucky I was as somebody of more modest means that I had parents who put more care/attention into our relationship. Versus a lot of these kids, where they might have had a car and trust fund, but were doing things like getting addicted to heroin. I mean, having some of their money would be nice. But it was definitely an eye opener about how fortunate I was in a lot of ways compared to more privileged kids. So I wonder how much of that went into his character development, being the child of very prominent/high profile parents.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by guardienne on Wed 25 May - 21:09

what's really started to interest me is thew trauma of combat itself. when you look at the effects of collective and otherwise trauma, the toll plain soldiering takes on people is considerable and seldom addressed. i think the US is one of the few countries that keeps records of suicides committed by veterans but my country for example does not.

so, in one way, the exposure to the dark side, killing for snoke, is traumatising in itself. one of the ways the debate is often skewed is that there is an assumption that murderers by themselves cannot be vulnerable. when in combat there is immense rationalisation going on which eventually in a lot of people takes its toll. kylo is not a nice guy but that doesn't mean he doesn't need protection from manipulation.

anyway, today i found this book "On killing : the psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society" it's essentially a lot of interviews with soldiers who killed. i've only just started reading but the few pages were exactly what i was looking for. the link is to the full text.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Slade on Wed 25 May - 23:25

@guardienne

That's a good book.  

@snufkin

Regarding the dark side of the force driving the user a bit mad, I am reminded of the quote about when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.  And I shudder to think of some of those people making hateful comments on a jury.  (Though now I am imagining conducting voir dire and asking potential jurors their feelings on Kylo Ren, ha!).

@Macha Ren

Wow, I had not thought of Snoke actually manipulating Ben's perceptions to the point that he thought it was Han hurting him instead of Snoke.  That's a new level of creepy.  That's an interesting theory, especially in light of the fact that on the bridge when Han gets close, Kylo takes a step back, as if he fears Han.  And re. Kylo as Snoke's possession, doesn't the script (or something canonical) indicate that Snoke put a tracking device in Kylo's belt?  Ew, that's so reminiscent of microchipping a pet.  And if Kylo is aware of the tracking device and tolerates it, that suggests to me that he is okay with it because he perhaps takes it to mean that *someone* "cares" for him, and that's better than nobody caring for him.  

I get the sense also that because Kylo is balanced between the light/dark, with people on each side telling him he has too much of the other side in him, is that this would send the message to Kylo that he wasn't ok the way he was.  As Ben, he wasn't ok (acceptable) the way he was; as Kylo, he isn't ok the way he is.

I keep thinking about the profound loneliness Kylo must feel.  He rejected his family, but I think they rejected him much earlier (or he feels they did).  He has no friends.  Nobody except Leia cares for him, and he doesn't know/understand/believe that Leia cares.  To me, that makes Rey's (completely understandable) rejection of him more poignant.  Here's this one person he feels a connection with, and not only does she not want him, she whips his *** and leaves him for dead.  I wonder what he was thinking as he was there, alone, immobilized, as SKB was collapsing?  Did he think he was going to die?  Did he think anyone was coming for him?  That's painful to even think about.  

@Jakku

I agree that Han may have been very afraid of Ben.  I haven't read _Bloodlines_, but I think it is there where Han expresses that he wanted a "normal" son.  I don't think Han has it in him to be physically abusive, but abrupt?  Rude?  Callous?  Yes.  I have been watching snippets of Han and Leia in the OT (which I haven't seen in years), and I was surprised at how sharp-tongued they both were, to each other and to other people.  I imagine Han at times treating a child the way he treats droids.  I agree that Han gave up on Ben a long time ago, and I think Ben knew this and it hurt him profoundly.

The self-injury and rage attacks also make me think Kylo has been abused from a young age.  I think the foundation for that kind of emotional dysregulation has to be laid early in life, though I could be completely wrong.

I do feel the need to say I think Kylo has made some very bad choices and bears a lot of responsibility for the harm he has caused.


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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by SoloSideCousin on Wed 25 May - 23:32

@Macha Ren wrote:It's hard to compare Ben, Rey and Finn's childhoods. Each was a different experience, and I don't agree with JJ Abrams when he says that Rey had a crap childhood and didn't chose to become a murderer. Yes, each three were lost children, but only one is the survivor of active and sustained abuse.

Ben Solo had a very real boogeyman under the bed when he was a child, one that his parents didn't see. That said, he likely had trust issues from an early age. We all ask our parents to search the closet and under the bed when we're worried about monster. We're reassured when there isn't one and are sent back to bed knowing we are safe. That wasn't the case with Ben. His fears were never validated because his experience was real, and this could have in impact on his dynamic with his parents from a very early age. Snoke created an environment that placed a wedge between Ben and his parents at a very early and impressionable age. If a small child can't trust a parent to protect him in one arena, he/she is going to be very reluctant to trust them in other facets of their life.

So we have Snoke 1, Han and Leia 0.

And then there's the whole grooming aspect. Even if we go with the Bloodlines (and don't get me started on tie-in novels as canon. I don't like it Mad ) timeline of the massacre/fall from grace at 23, he was long gone before that. Snoke was there "from the beginning," grooming and resetting Ben's moral compass. As he whittled away at Ben's trust for his parents, he established himself as the guiding figure in Ben's life. It likely started with praise and empowerment, but then it took a more malignant tone of intimidation, fear, suffering and punishment to erode Ben's self-confidence where he became dependent on his abuser, not unlike a sexual predator that warps a child's sense of reality to make him believe 1) he was a willing participant 2) he sought out the abuse 3) he enjoyed the abuse 4) it is his fault it happened in the first place. And like an abuser, he systematically isolated Ben from his support network with probable threats along the lines of, "If you tell anyone about this I will hurt/kill you and/or those you love."

Snoke 2, Han and Leia 0.

Now add in the mind tricks and Force manipulations that add a definite heightened squick level to Ben's grooming. Snoke is a very powerful (we have yet to see what exactly he can do) user, so powerful that he was able to get inside a very young Ben Solo's head. What if he was able to alter memories and experiences so that every time he maltreated Ben--either physically or mentally--he saw his father's face? (Notice that Kylo's animosity is only directed toward his father in TFA?)

Han is a hot-headed (read: but not abusive guy. Couple that with his historic distrust of the Force and the fact that both Leia and he are not the best in expressing uncomfortable emotions with each other) and may not have had the patience to deal with his young son's reaction to his interactions with Snoke. He may have, though very well intended, dismissed Ben as just a naughty or scared boy that just needed to grow up. So there was natural tension with his son. No matter how small, Snoke could manipulate that tension and use Han as the scapegoat for Ben's abuse from Snoke. "I didn't hurt you, your father did."  

Han wasn't an abusive father, but perhaps Snoke made him appear to be so with neither Han nor Leia aware that this type of manipulation has ever occured.

Snoke 3, Han and Leia 0.

And once Snoke had physical possession (because let's face it, he is a possession, not a person to Snoke) of Ben, he was able to control him completely, stripping him of his previous identity and extinguishing the Ben that his parents knew. Ben Solo is the Star Wars universe's equivalent to Dave Pelzer. Snoke has managed to transform a beloved couple's only son into his version of a Child Called It. Once this happened, Han and Leia's chances of reaching their son dwindled down to nil.

Snoke 4, Han and Leia 0.

I don't think Han ever hated or was disgusted by Ben. When I saw his expression as he watched Kylo carry Rey toward his shuttle, I think I saw Han as mournful more than anything. He mourned the loss of his son and what had become of him. He mourned that he was helpless to stop the process.

When Ben became Kylo Ren, Han mourned his loss just like Leia did--as if their son had died. That is something very stressful on a marriage, and it drives couples apart all the time. They blame each other. They blame themselves. And if Leia knew about Snoke was manipulating Ben but did not tell Han, then there is added tension between Ben's parents. In that aspect, Snoke may have also been successful in dividing Ben's only chances for support. So I'm giving Snoke another point here as well.

Snoke 5, Han and Leia 0.

In the end, Snoke has created a possession that has had his very sense of self stripped from him. His moral compass isn't just reset, it is shattered. He has been on the receiving end of mental and physical torture that with the Force, is something no one can imagine. He has created a child called it that is more of a puppet than a human. He has been conditioned by the Dark side and is has been shaped by trauma more than Finn and Rey combined.

So yeah, I can understand why he does Snoke's biddings and can kill indiscriminately. Because from the way I see, whatever is left of Ben Solo is solely functioning in survival mode at the current time. He may come off as the little bad, but he is a puppet on a string more than anything else.


@Macha Ren

Unbelievably amazing post "Macha Ren". This is meta level in my opinion. I don't think I have seen too many posts that have laid out Ben's situation more clearly. Bravo! :-)

Edit: Great posts *everyone*!!!! Such divergent and amazing insights. I am busy at the moment, but I hope to jump into the conversation in a few days. :-)

@slade @guardienne @snufkin @jakku ... hope I am not forgetting anyone, because great thoughts all around.

Btw: I don’t think I am the lawyer you are @slade, but a Kylo Ren voir dire question sounds brilliant to me. The character definitely peels back people's psychological layers.


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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by Slade on Wed 25 May - 23:38

Maybe this belongs in another thread, but it's interesting that Kylo looks like a "Byronic hero."  He also reminds me a lot of Frank Langella in the 1979 version of Dracula.  


(from Google images)

I think Kylo looks gorgeous, and I wonder why the filmmakers decided to make him look so...Byronic. I guess the obvious answer is that Kylo has a lot in common with those tormented anti-heroes. Interesting that they used an actor with an interesting combination of "male" and "female" physical traits (male: the obvious, the broad shoulders, his height. Female: his full lips, his long hair, as well as Kylo's costume "dress")
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by SanghaRen on Thu 26 May - 0:08

Jumping in for the dress code. Black is not only the color linked with evil but also with loss and solitude. So it's a double edged color. Actually Kylo's costume design coupled with Adam driver's posture and body language conveys both a sense of threat and tragedy. I have a Kylo figure in my office and today a colleague visiting spotted it. She was intrigued right away. And not in a "how scary" way. My mom thinks he is a very stylish character, but I think she also sees him more as a tragic character as a villainy beast.

Edit: Just saw the post on the byronic hero. Exactly. A tragic figure.
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Re: Kylo coded as traumatized?

Post by snufkin on Thu 26 May - 7:56

@Slade wrote:

@snufkin

Regarding the dark side of the force driving the user a bit mad, I am reminded of the quote about when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.  And I shudder to think of some of those people making hateful comments on a jury.  (Though now I am imagining conducting voir dire and asking potential jurors their feelings on Kylo Ren, ha!).

@Slade

Seeing as how there are quite a few lawyers on this forum (wonder what that says), it'd be an excellent jury selection question. I was re-watching the BBC adaption of the book I mentioned, and there are quite a few scenes showing the result of staring into the abyss (magic in this case) and appearing to have gone mad to others.







And there's a character who's an awful lot like Snoke, the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair



And funny you mention the Byronic archetype, Lord Byron is a character in the book as a bit of a tongue in cheek homage to it. In the miniseries, one of the female leads (who's slightly Rey-like in the book) is short served by being turned into a Byron groupie in order to cover the same territory. One friend who's a former academic in literature likes to reference this old article, about its contemporary equivalent Tall, Thin, & Tortured (not to be confused with Tall, Thin, Tortured, & Tedious)
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