Reylo

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Pairing
Pairing: Rey/Kylo Ren (Ben Solo)
Alternative name(s): Reylo, ReyBen, BenRey
Gender category: Het
Fandom: Star Wars Sequel Trilogy
Canonical?: Yes
Prevalence: Very popular
Archives:
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Reylo is the portmanteau used for the het relationship of Rey and Kylo Ren from the sequel Star Wars trilogy.[1] It is extremely popular in the Star Wars fandom—the most commonly tagged ship among Star Wars works on the normally slash-focused Archive of Our Own (AO3), with 25,422 works as of 31 May 2021[2]—and the object of interesting external analysis, even by mainstream media publications.[3] It is a pairing that has also seen fannish resistance and anti-shipping. Rey's unknown parentage meant many were initially fearful that this could be another Star Wars pairing that unexpectedly became an incest ship. (See also Luke/Leia) Others opposed it for other reasons, such as their enemies to lovers dynamic.

The ship surged in popularity after the release of The Last Jedi to become the most prolific ship in the fandom. This film also provided canon confirmation that Rey and Kylo Ren were not related. On AO3, Reylo is the most prolific pairing in both the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy category and the Star Wars - All Media Types category.

A singular Reylo shipper is often simply referred to as a "Reylo", and in the plural as "Reylos".

Canon

Rey and Kylo had a significant amount of canon interaction in The Last Jedi (TLJ), unlike the previous installment. It is discovered that they have a Force Bond. During the throne room scene, Supreme Leader Snoke claimed to have created the bond in order to manipulate them. Their bond remains at the end of the movie even though Snoke is no longer alive.

In the last film of the sequel trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker (TRoS), the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren remains firm. They have several fights while physically being in different places, thanks to their Force Bond. Kylo reveals to Rey that their bond is actually a Force dyad, two that are one in the Force and a connection not seen in generations. Kylo tries to turn Rey to the dark side but without success.

During their fight in the remains of the Death Star, Kylo is distracted and Rey impales him with a lightsaber. Although a few seconds later she heals him with the Force. Then she confesses that she wanted to take his hand, Ben's hand. After this event he redeems himself: Kylo Ren is dead but Ben Solo alive. During the last act, both fight against Palpatine, who steals the energy of their dyad and throws Ben into a pit. Rey manages to defeat him alone but she dies. Ben Solo comes back from the pit, holds her in his arms and decides to revive her using the Force. Rey looks at him and calls him "Ben". Rey immediately kisses him, they smile at each other, and then he vanishes into the Force.

Fandom

History

On 4 October 2015, before the theatrical release of The Force Awakens, FanFiction.Net (FFN) writer AmazingGraceless posted perhaps the earliest known piece of Reylo fan fiction, entitled "A Drink Called Loneliness".[4]

Reylo became popular as soon as The Force Awakens (TFA) was released in December 2015, but it was not yet the most popular ship in this fandom. It was first exceeded by Stormpilot and later Kylux. After TFA's release it was mostly an example of shipping canon adversaries, or enemies to lovers. After the release of The Last Jedi, in which they both had positive interactions with each other (widely seen as mutually romantic by its shippers), the fanon portrayal of this ship became softer. It was also after TLJ that Reylo rose to become the most popular ship in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy fandom.

As the ship grew in popularity, Reylo highlighted a unique quirk of Ao3's tagging system that many were unaware of; the sidebar on Ao3 does not merge individual relationship tags with their parent tag. Kylo Ren/Rey was the first tag used by authors and it continued to appear in the sidebar alongside the parent tag Rey/Ben Solo | Kylo Ren. In the period following the first film, there were consistently more fics using the child tag over its wordier parent.

After the December 2017 release of The Last Jedi (TLJ), there was an influx of new Reylo shippers and an increase in Reylo fanfiction. Many writers were intrigued by the possibility of Ben Solo redeeming himself through his relationship with Rey, or redeeming himself to be worthy of a relationship with Rey. These writers began using the relationship tag that was representative of the Reylo dynamic in their work, and soon Rey/Ben Solo appeared in the Ao3 sidebar. It is also a tag commonly applied to Modern AU fics.

There was also an influx of Reylo fanfic following the December 2019 release of TRoS, including many fix-it fanfics. Between December 2019 and June 2020, there were over 4000 new fics posted on Ao3.[5]

As of August 20th, 2019, Reylo is the most prolific ship in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy fandom, and the broader Star Wars fandom in general, on Archive Of Our Own. There are 12,700 fanworks in the Rey/Ben Solo | Kylo Ren tag on Archive of Our Own as of August 20th, 2019. Comparatively, there are 43,109 fanworks in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy tag on the Archive as of August 20th, 2019.

On Tumblr, Reylo was 10th place on the Fandometrics list of the most reblogged/discussed ships in 2016, 19th place in 2017, 2nd place in 2018, and 7th place in 2019, and first in 2020.

Tropes, Themes

  • Force bond fics began to appear soon after the release of The Force Awakens. A force bond between these two characters was canonized in The Last Jedi.
  • You need a teacher - Some works depict Kylo Ren training Rey in the use of the force. This may occur following Rey's capture by the FO, or she may seek out Kylo Ren willingly for the purposes of Jedi training.
  • Redemption ("Bendemption") - With Rey's support, Kylo Ren defects from the Dark Side and atones for his crimes. He usually returns to his identity as Ben Solo. Redeemed Ben Solo was a hugely popular tag on Ao3 following the release of TROS.
  • Arranged Marriage works set in the canonverse sometimes overlap with Renperor fics, with Rey marrying Kylo Ren to secure a peace between the First Order and Republic. Other works employing this tropes were historical AUs.
  • Rey discovering her family heritage was sometimes an element of early Reylo fics, as authors may have sought to distance themselves from fears that this could become an incest ship. Rey Kenobi was a popular choice for fic writers, but writer also ascribed to the Rey Nobody theory or used elements from Legends stories to develop alternative backstories for Rey.
  • Alternate First Meetings sometimes involve Rey using her skills as a mechanic to leave the Jakku, and join the FO as a technican/mechanic.
  • Modern AUs, particularly College AUs, and Historical AUs.
  • Mythology AUs, especially Hades/Persephone.
  • Virgin!fic is popular, often with both being virgins, though occasionally only one (inconsistent on which one that is).
  • Future fics sometimes depict Rey and Kylo running away from the war, and beginning a family. Kidfics sometimes used the tag, Reylo Baby
  • Enemies to lovers is a common trope in Canon AU stories, but fic writers often didn't use this tag when posting works on AO3. This may have been because they viewed the pairing tag as an appropriate warning for this trope.
  • Omegaverse fics are common, with Reylo been the most prolific het pairing in AO3's Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics tag.

Time periods

  • Pre-canon fics and Alternative First Meeting.
    • Post TFA, some works theorized that it was Kylo Ren who left Rey on Jakku. Sometimes she was a former student of Luke Skywalker's school, or Kylo Ren did this to protect Rey from Snoke. This trope may involve Kylo altering Rey's memories with the force, to ensure she doesn't remember her childhood school.
    • Jedi Academy AU where Rey and Kylo grew up at Luke's Jedi school.
  • Post-TLJ some AU fics showed Rey taking Kylo up on his offer to rule the galaxy together.
  • Post TROS
    • Fix-it/Everyone Lives AU where Kylo/Ben does not die.
    • Ben is dead, but is able to communicate with Rey as a Force Ghost.
    • Ben is not actually dead, but in sort of a limbo state in the World Between Worlds.
    • Ben survives because Leia transfers the rest of her force energy to him.

Fanon

  • Calligraphy: Kylo/Ben pratices calligraphy.
  • Touch-starved: Rey and Kylo are both touch starved.

Controversy and fannish opposition

As of late December 2015, Tumblr wank about Reylo was already in progress with some fans asking for trigger warnings for the pairing.[6]

One Reddit user shared the following experience with the anti-Reylo camp:

I don't even ship them, but I drew a picture of this ship for a sticker design in my shop.

I was harassed regularly via anons for MONTHs because of ONE stupid picture of a ship I didn't even care about.[7]

Concerns over potential incest

Since Rey's very introduction in promotional materials, even preceding the release of TFA, there has been rampant speculation and theorizing about her origins, and whether she—like previous protagonists Luke Skywalker and Anakin Skywalker of the original trilogy and prequel trilogy, respectively—would be revealed as a scion of the legendary Skywalker family tree. When Kylo Ren was revealed to be Ben Solo—son of Leia Organa, and grandson of Darth Vader—many fans speculated that Rey would turn out to be his long-lost cousin or sister, making Reylo incestuous.[8]

The incest concern has a long history in Star Wars fandom as during the original trilogy, Luke/Leia shippers were chagrined to find that George Lucas had torpedoed their pairing by revealing that Luke and Leia were twins separated at birth. While today there is more acceptance of incest pairings in certain circles, support was virtually non-existent in the 1970s and 1980s.

As of 31 May 2021, the most-kudosed Star Wars fanwork on the AO3[9] is a 12-word anti-Reylo troll fic titled "a reylo fic" that exists solely to trash the ship. The work was created only a few days after The Force Awakens was released, and once included tags indicating its author objected to the potential incest.[10]

Concerns over abuse and unhealthy relationship dynamics

Many anti-shippers have asserted that Reylo is toxic and abusive, based on multiple canon instances in which Kylo Ren has harmed and seriously endangered Rey, and some instances of vice-versa.[11]

They made it canon. I honestly thought after TLJ Abrams would roll back the Reylo parts of RJ’s film, but no, they doubled down and now Rey has the worst integrity and the worst morals. She’s no hero and no role model.

She had no personal connection to Kylo Ren, they were strangers in TFA. She witnessed him complicit in the genocide of trillions when Starkiller Base obliterated the New Republic system. She was tortured by him. She witnessed with her own eyes as he murdered Han Solo, his own father and the closest thing to a father figure she’s ever had. She then witnessed him severely cripple her first and only friend.

But in the next movie? Oh, he’s just misunderstood, I can reach him. I can change him.

That’s someone who has been emotionally manipulated at best, or is a sadistic sociopath at worst. Either way, it’s a disgusting, toxic, abusive shipping.[12]

Reylo is definitely a ship with some abusive origins but I'm all for fics where they work to redeem him.

Either way, I get why people wouldn't be into the ship but, like, let people ship what they like?

Also, people need to understand that why people like in fiction isn't an endorsement of that behavior IRL.[13]

Many anti-shippers have also taken issue with the Reylo age difference—Rey is a nineteen-year-old teenager when she is introduced in TFA, and Kylo Ren is a decade her senior. Notably, Reylo does not comply with the "half-your-age-plus-seven" rule. This age difference has been cited as an example of an unequal power dynamic and even pedophilia. Some Reylo supporters have counterargued that Rey is an adult and therefore Reylo is not pedophilia, and that the Reylo age disparity is no different than the one between Han and Leia, another canon Star Wars juggernaut pairing.

Concerns over racism and fascism

In The Force Awakens, Rey spent much of her screen time interacting with Finn, and the two clearly developed a strong friendship, while her interactions with Kylo Ren were considerably negative. While The Last Jedi established a Force Bond between Rey and Kylo, the two remained enemies, and quite possibly irreconcilable ones at that. Thus, some Star Wars fans—particularly FinnRey shippers—have found Reylo shippers to be suspect for favoring Reylo, a ship featuring two white characters with a decidedly fraught dynamic, over the potential of FinnRey, an interracial ship featuring two characters with a positive relationship.

Between the very end of 2019 and the very beginning of 2020, after the theatrical release of The Rise of Skywalker, actor John Boyega was involved in a social media kerfuffle after posting a joke that some called out as misogynistic. This incident escalated to a pont at which some Internet users made racist comments toward Boyega, with some Reylo shippers apparently among the offenders.[14][15]

Additionally, some believe that positive portrayals of Kylo Ren by extension create positive representations of the First Order, which has parallels to the Nazis and other real-life fascist entities.

Controversy originating from fan activity

Reylo has also been the subject of controversy based on the culture of its shippers themselves, in a sort of fannish ouroboros.

My distaste for Reylo shippers has nothing to do with the ship itself but rather how rabid and generally weird its shippers tend to be compared to other shippers.[16]

[iwasonceafangirl]

Reylo shippers just live in a whole separate universe tbh. I don’t even want to touch that community with a ten foot pole.[17]

[ImSuperBisexual]

I'm IN the community and I want to walk into the ocean every day from sheer secondhand embarrassment. At least they're not as bad as the Daisy/Adam real person shippers.[17]

Many Reylo fans have engaged in a ship war, not necessarily with fans who preferred another pairing, but with fans who disliked the ship regardless of the alternative. Reylo has also been considered a rival to Finn/Rey and Kylux.

Some fans have expressed frustration with the shipping subculture that Reylo represents as a juggernaut pairing. Ironically, some male fans have attempted to use Reylo to argue that there never has been any shipping among Star Wars fans. Or, at least among "real" or "normal" (aka male) Star Wars fans.

"Star Wars is not (nor has it ever been) about "shipping". That's what anime is for. Or Twilight. The Han and Leia relationship doesn't have any similarity to "reylo". ....Normal fans didn't do that. You can try to equate reylos to that, but it's a reach...I was there, man. Everyone around me was an SW fan. And no one was "shipping".[18]

In May 2016, some Reylo fans reported that the Jedi Council Forums had effectively banned discussion of Reylo as a romantic ship.[19][20]

The Reylo community has also faced internal divisions and balkanization:

I’ve been in the Reylo fandom for ages (lurking since early 2016, started actively writing and participating mid 2016). The myth of the “Reylo fam” is one we bring up often. The fandom is so large that we can’t all possibly get along with each other; in fact, many of us have other parts of the fandom blocked.[16]

For example, the Twitter Reylos tend to characterize the Reddit Reylos as "sexist / misogynistic neckbeards"; the Reddit Reylos don't like the Twitter Reylos for trying to shut them out of credit with helping kickstart a wildly successful fundraiser for Adam Driver's charity Arts in the Armed Forces; and the Tumblr Reylos, prior to the porn ban, were mostly extremely porny - and horny - and focused on "thirst" posts and writing fanfiction / smut.

[...]

Reylo darkficcers are not the mainstream Reylos, or even make up most of them, much less represent them as a whole. They are a small faction of Reylos that most Reylos decry for even making "darkfic" [...]

Or, in other words, it's like people trying to claim that the yiffers / babyfurs make up all of the furry fandom, or that cloppers make up all of the My Little Pony (MLP) fandom. Not only is it far from accurate or true, but I feel it's a disingenuous claim that falsely paints all Reylos in a bad light.[21]

Further Reading

Cross-cultural observations

A post on thesovereignempress.tumblr.com called for non-American Reylo shippers to share thoughts of their country's opinion on the ship. Most responders expressed that they had not encountered much hate for the ship.

[Germany] I never really communicate my deep fangirl tendencies with people out of my immediate circle of friends and they are not particular towards Reylo - like most of the time when I tell them I’d like to see them together I get a nod and a shrug, nobody really cares too much about shipping in my neck of the woods. [...] I have not felt strong resistance against Reylo when I’ve brought it up anywhere. My brother gravely dislikes Kylo but he says he’s maybe like him if he got a redemption arc and got with Rey..and he is fairly convinced that that’s precisely what’ll happen :)[22]
[Germany] I do not think many people, even SW fans, really care. They just go with what the movie gives them and then wait patiently because they know they cannot affect the outcome anyway.[23]
Here in Mexico shipping is NOT really common, even inside of fandom is unusual to discuss ships as passionately as I’ve seen here, but the general attitude is that people don’t care about what you do or don’t ship (wich is great) most of my friends and family know that I ship (more like I’m obsessed with) Reylo and I haven’t got any backlash about it. As a matter of fact even my mom ships it, I have friends IRL who prefer FinnRey, DameRey and Kylux but our relationship remains the same, so yeah Tumblr’s discourse was really wierd to me.[24]
France here, and people are sooo stubborn with the Rey Skywalker theory, and most of them don’t even know what a ship is soooo… either they are completely against it, [or] they don’t know about it lmao. But there is still a tiny bit of Reylo shippers that I talk with tho[25]
I’m Korean(of course South) and Star Wars fandom is not really big in here… The most popular shipping is the anakin/obiwan. Reylo is not such a big deal.[26]
[Japan] First of all SW is surely one of the most popular films here but the fandom is probably much smaller in Japan than western countries or even other Asian countries. It might be due to the fact that Japanese people are not really familiar with foreign films in general.But Reylo is exceptionally popular as a hetero pairing [...] Yes, we have Reylo haters, however, they are never so offensive or active as in western countries. Basically we Japanese seem to be free from the moral accusation against fictional characters or pairings. Haters hate Kylo but it's because he killed beloved Han Solo or he looks too miserable as a successor to Darth Vader, not because of his so-called problematic relationship to Rey. Both age difference and heroine-villain pairing per se are not considered as problematic at all here. They are actually popular traits in fictional hetero pairing.[27]
Here in Italy Reylo is not the most popular ship, fandom prefers Kylux, but with some friends we’ve created a Tumblr blog only in Italian, to translate meta and organize writing/drawing challenges. I didn’t find so much hate about Reylo, anyway: people are ok with enemy/heroine dynamics or age gaps and shipping is seen as a “private” thing, so you can do whatever you want with fictional characters, basically. I also discussed peacefully with Kylux shippers and we respect each other without problems, regardless of what we ship. Some people hate Kylo Ren for what he did to Han, some didn’t like him ‘cause “he’s such an idiot Vader was better” (maaany people didn’t like Episode VII), but I don’t know people who think Kylo/Rey relationship is unhealthy or something.[28]
Here in the Philippines, I have yet to meet anyone hostile to Reylo. I think it’s because shipping couples comes naturally to my people (weird as it may seem to people in other countries, but in my country, shipping REAL PEOPLE *actors* is considered the norm and not at all offensive // we call them LOVE TEAMS) and while we do have our squicks, we tend to ship and let ship. Going back to Reylo, like I said I have yet to meet anyone here that is hostile towards the pairing. Maybe hostile towards Kylo Ren, and maybe a few who are surprised that Reylo exists, but nothing like what ant*s do. Ant* shipping is generally frowned upon here. The worst that could happen is Love Team A vs Love Team B where trash talking occasionally happens, which is also a behavior that’s frowned upon. Also shippers here from my observation are more open minded. I’ve explained Reylo to a few people who were originally non-shippers and they either understand why or become shippers themselves.[29]
[unspecified Middle East]I have asked most of the SW fans I know about Rey and Kylo, and none had an issue with the villain/heroine trope or were disgusted by the idea. Only one guy hated the idea, not for ‘abuse’ (which I do not believe Reylo stands for), but introducing romance will diminish Kylo Ren’s image as a villain.[30]

Fanworks

Meta

Fanfiction

Fanart

Memes

Fanmixes

  • Reylo; Rey and Kylo
  • Reylo by Rebecca Allen, features fanart from frozenmusings as the cover art
  • Reylo: Love Is The Balance by 1182890446, a 5-hour-long mix. "A chronicle of Rey and Kylo Ren's force connection in Star Wars. A mix of rage, desire, vulnerability and hope. Tracks added for their arc in The Rise of Skywalker."

Fanvids

Zines

Other

Art Gallery

Archives & Fannish Links

Archives

Tumblr

Other

Press Commentary

References

  1. ^ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Reylo
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Fifty Shades of Reylo by Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic Magazine, 2016-03-30, accessed 2016-04-03
  4. ^ Know Your Meme. Reylo. (Accessed 31 May 2021.)
  5. ^ Star Wars Sequel Trilogy archived page on Ao3, December 15 2019. Compared to works available on Ao3 on 24 June 2020. See talk page for collated data.
  6. ^ On Reylo..., Archived version;
    Stop complaining that Reylo is the most popular ship. It’s not., Archived version;
    ok honestly why is Reylo even a thing, Archived version
  7. ^ dandy-lou. https://old.reddit.com/r/HobbyDrama/comments/98j468/tumblr_fandom_are_you_pairing_fictional/eb8qyfi/
  8. ^ bruh, Archived version;
    what is with skywalkers and their unknowing incestial tendencies?, Archived version
  9. ^ Based on using the sort & filter function on the Star Wars - All Media Types tag (57660 works), 19 December 2017. The fic has 20547 kudos, 4552 comments, 921 bookmarks, and 128834 hits.
  10. ^ a reylo fic by treezie, 2015-12-19. archived. Additional tags: #U kno this is a bad ship bc of the #Incest #and general badstuff right
  11. ^ https://reellifebygrace.com/2019/04/10/reylo-is-dangerous-stop-glorifying-it/
  12. ^ ZenRhizer. "Reylo is Advocacy of Abusive Relationships." posted to r/saltierthancrait on 22 Dec 2019.
  13. ^ Hokuboku. https://old.reddit.com/r/HobbyDrama/comments/98j468/tumblr_fandom_are_you_pairing_fictional/e4r6a03/.
  14. ^ What's going on with John Boyega and Star Wars? posted to r/OutOfTheLoop on 31 Dec 2019.
  15. ^ Harrison, Rebecca. It’s a Trap: Reylos, Racism, and the Whiteness of Data in the Harassment of Women Online. 17 Jan 2020. Medium. (Accessed 31 May 2021.)
  16. ^ a b https://old.reddit.com/r/HobbyDrama/comments/gzsbvz/star_wars_fanfiction_how_a_fic_writer_got_doxxed/fvlhkr1/
  17. ^ a b https://old.reddit.com/r/HobbyDrama/comments/do18d9/star_wars_fandom_the_fan_wars_character_bashing/f5lw6b8/
  18. ^ comments by IndyNcognito (Redd Fourman @AfterLastJedi, Archived version
  19. ^ https://mweerden.tumblr.com/post/144410777104/jedi-council-forums-question
  20. ^ https://bastila-bae.tumblr.com/post/145163466700/please-explain-to-me-the-jedi-council-forums
  21. ^ Obversa. As a Reylo, I'm gonna have to point out that I've been in the fandom since 2017, if not longer - including the Tumblr and seedier side(s) of the fandom, like darkfic - and I've never heard or seen of the instance mentioned in this post. Jan 2020.
  22. ^ http://jackpotgirl.tumblr.com/post/151879577615/calling-all-non-american-reylo-shippers
  23. ^ http://kylorensinterieurdesigner.tumblr.com/post/151800734592/calling-all-non-american-reylo-shippers
  24. ^ tumblr reblog by dachi-chan25, 14 Oct 2016. archived.
  25. ^ http://jayren-dameron.tumblr.com/post/151799381005/calling-all-non-american-reylo-shippers
  26. ^ Comment by moorisu
  27. ^ tumblr reblog by nemling, 14 October 2016. archived.
  28. ^ tumblr reblog by lion-hearted-wolf, 14 October 2016. archived.
  29. ^ tumblr reblog by gwendy85, 14 October 2016.archived.
  30. ^ http://reylolicious.tumblr.com/post/151790435226/calling-all-non-american-reylo-shippers
  31. ^ ashesforfoxes. reylo, a manifesto, April 1, 2016.
  32. ^ K.M.M. When Systemic Hatred of Women Online Goes Unnoticed, What Does it Say About Us?, Jan 15, 2020.
  33. ^ Rebecca Harrison. It’s a Trap: Reylos, Racism, and the Whiteness of Data in the Harassment of Women Online, Jan 17, 2020.
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