In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one of the defining traits of Kylo Ren is his internal conflict as he struggles against the "pull of the light," but he could be an even more tortured soul than some originally thought. The villain, of course, is obsessed with diving deeper into the dark side of the Force, believing it is the right path to follow (despite years of Jedi training under Luke Skywalker). The exact reasoning for his turn has not been revealed in the movies yet, but there's still an interesting discussion to be had whether or not the former Ben Solo's betrayal of his family was a lifestyle choice he made under his own free will or the result of a serious disease he's suffering from - which would impact how he'd be convicted in a court of law.
Fans don't normally think about how real-life concepts like addiction might play into their favorite movies, but that was part of the Judges on Star Wars panel that took place at San Diego Comic-Con 2017. One of the topics brought up was Kylo Ren's fascination with the dark side and if he has the capacity to form a mental state and commit horrifying acts like patricide.
One of the panelists was Mitch Debin, a federal magistrate judge, who explained that in law, the court has to determine if a defendant made a true choice or if they were driven into conduct that needs to be modified to prevent future crime. He had an intriguing viewpoint of the Force itself and those who follow it:
"Being a Jedi is an addiction if you think about the definition of being an addict. It's to devote or surrender yourself to something habitually or obsessively. So a Jedi is an addict to the light side. But when someone becomes addicted to the dark side, or chooses the dark side as their path, of course they come into conflict with others far more than the Jedi. And in terms of someone like Kylo Ren, who like his grandfather started down the path of being trained as a Jedi but was turned to the dark side, what does that mean? Is it a question of genetics? Is it a question of how they were brought up? We know some about Anakin's upbringing, and we don't know much about Kylo Ren's upbringing besides being raised by Han Solo and Princess Leia might have been a little difficult. There may have been some tension in the household, which may have frustrated him and brought the rage to the surface. So when we consider the dark side and whether it's an addiction or a lifestyle choice, we're actually talking about how we punish and how we treat."
With that in mind, Debin's colleague CA Judge Carol Najera offered some sympathy for Kylo Ren, stating how he could be diagnosed with a devastating addiction that negatively impacts his state of wellbeing:
"If we were to bring Kylo Ren to trial, in California, there's a defense from the penal code that if you suffer from a disease, defect, or disorder, that can be used to negate your mental state. To be convicted of a crime like murder... you have to show a specific intent and you have to show is deliberation, meditation, and malice aforethought. For those of you in the audience who are not lawyers, that simply means you thought about it and then you did it and you did it because you wanted to do it. And in this case, it can be argued Kylo Ren is suffering from an addiction. And the American Medical Association tells us an addiction is a disease. That can be used to show he didn't have the capacity to form a mental state. That poor boy did not have the capacity to form a mental state to really want to kill his father.
When the light side is the compulsion or obsession, it doesn't affect you to the point where you start denying your basic necessitates and everything else. When you're addicted to the dark side, it seems like you are obsessed with it beyond everything - including basic needs. You see Kylo Ren on his off time and he isn't having fun, he's not enjoying himself. He spends all of his time obsessing over his grandfather and how they are going to save the universe. So, very clearly it's a dark addiction and it's something that should be considered in whether or not he's guilty of his crimes."
This adds a new layer to Kylo Ren, painting him in a truly thought-provoking light. It's clear from the start he is not well emotionally and is still being "torn apart" as he's confronted by Han Solo on Starkiller base. Recalling that fateful scene, it can be argued Kylo isn't really acting under his own free will. He feels it's something he has to do, but only because his addiction to the dark side is driving him. Kylo was under the impression killing Han and turning his back on family would make him stronger, but the Force Awakens script actually supports Najera's claim, saying that Ren felt weakened afterwards. The murder of Han Solo was not really a pre-meditated act where Kylo was in complete control. As he says, he wasn't sure if he had the strength to go through with it.
As Kylo's journey continues in the remainder of the sequel trilogy, the aftermath of what he did in Episode VII will definitely impact him moving forward. Adam Driver mentioned the character begins this December's The Last Jedi in a rehabilitation state, setting him up for another compelling arc. Another interesting quote from the actor, when asked months ago if Ren lives to see Episode IX, was "Depends on what your idea of living is." It sounds like after his failings, Kylo's addiction is going to be even worse as he tries to prove himself to Supreme Leader Snoke.
Source: San Diego Comic-Con
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019