Reylo Is Powering Star Wars Popularity More Than You Think


As you'll be acutely aware if you've spent any time online between the end of 2017 to now, much of the discussion of Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi has been dominated by whether the eighth entry in the Star Wars series has destroyed or rejuvenated the universe's most popular space saga.

While Twitter, Reddit and Facebook have been fiercely at war over how the movie's quality stacks up against the much-maligned Prequels (and whether Old Man Luke is as unwanted as an alien milk teet), some fans -- who may be missing the core message of the franchise -- have taken to bullying actors off of social media.

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The rest of the Internet, meanwhile, has been quietly obsessing over the series' potential star-crossed lovers: Rey and Kylo Ren, or "Reylo." Now, thanks to the release of Tumblr's end-of-year "fandometrics" -- an annual accumulation of data revealing the community's most talked-about fandoms and celebrities -- we know just how obsessed.

In the Top Ships of 2018, Reylo ranked second, a significant feat considering it was the only heterosexual pairing to crack the top five. Even more significant is the fact that Star Wars, a franchise that has already made back the $4 billion price tag Disney paid for it in 2012, wasn't popular enough to make it into the site's Top 10 Fandoms of 2018. The whole of Star Wars isn't as interesting to Tumblr users as the slimmest chance that two of its newest characters might want to kiss each other more than they want to kill each other.

Kylo and Rey interrogation scene The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren will also be pleased to learn that his non-canonical pairing with Rey has made him a more popular Lothario on FanFiction.net than his scoundrel of a father. At the time of writing, Reylo accounts for 4.2% of the 50,000 Star Wars stories published, compared to 3.2% for Han and Leia's well-established canonical romance.    

Though it exploded after the release of The Last Jedi, this ship first set sail after the release of The Force Awakens. Some viewers latched on to the heated exchange in Rey and Kylo's tense interrogation scene and let their imaginations run wild. Boy meets girl; boy straps girl to a chair and probes her mind; boy secretly has a great head of hair; girl has secret psychic powers and somehow they make it work. It's textbook stuff.

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In fact, while conspirators were cooking up wild fan theories about how likely it was that Rey was a Skywalker/Kenobi/Palpatine/hatched from an egg, fan fiction authors read deeper into her emotional arc and correctly predicted that she would have a metaphysical connection to her sworn enemy in the next installment.

Romance has always been a part of Star Wars. Stolen kisses, scandalous clothing choices, light incest and forbidden love picnics abound, but The Last Jedi is the first film to be capital-R romantic. Action-adventure stories have long been oriented towards a male audience, and as such, dangle their damsels as prizes to be won over. (Return of the Jedi went some way to subvert this when Leia rescued an impotent Han.) For the classic hero, who usually makes the first move, falling in love is a show of virility, not affection. So how is Reylo different?

Next Page: Reylo Is All About Subtext - And That Makes It Irresistible

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