In spite of what the medically educated tyrants of the modern age would have you believe, a baby is not simply just a very young child. Oh no, for you see to be a baby, to truly live the baby life, is a condition which extends far beyond the archaic restraints of age. Such is the case with the on-again, off-again villain of the most recent run of Star Wars films, Kylo Ren (or Ben Solo if you’re feeling redemptive).
Brought to life on screen by the big man of the moment Adam Driver, whose recent works on stage in the lauded production of Burn This had many critics saying “Wow, he is big”, Kylo Ben (let’s split the difference for the sake of brevity) has captivated Star Wars fans in a decidedly divisive way. The son of series favourites Han Solo and Leia Skywalker infamously killed his loveable rogue of a father in The Force Awakens before running off into the woods to offer himself to an equally divisive new character, Rey (Daisy Ridley). It was at this exact moment, in theatres across the globe, that fans began to divide over how the lost Skywalker could possibly return to the light or even if he should.
In the interim years, this divide has followed suit of Starkiller Base and turned itself into a veritable chasm between fans (fracked even deeper by the release of The Last Jedi in 2017). Despite the at a glance destructive nature of this divide it would appear that countless wonderful things have grown on its jagged, Twitter carved walls. Among those beautiful flowers growing there is one which recently bloomed in response to a post from the official Star Wars Twitter account.
I imagine whoever was in charge of the account for that afternoon thought a simple Throwback Thursday post would have been just that – simple. The TBT was to a particularly dramatic moment from The Force Awakens in which Kylo Ben angrily holds his hand to the camera, displaying in equal measures his abilities with the Force and his imposing big boy nature.
Simple enough – until you read the replies. What followed was an overwhelming response from countless Kylo Ben stans, all crying out with one unified voice “baby”. If you’re confused by this, fair enough – I’m here today to guide you through Baby Discourse and review the evidence before us which seems to suggest that Kylo Ben may in fact be a baby.
Lucasfilm’s Baby Ben Content
In the lead up to the upcoming The Rise of Skywalker, Lucasfilm is slowly whirling the old hype engine up for one more jump. Part of this process has been a slow burn of book reveals which are set to detail a handful of narrative threads leading up to the release of the final film. Most of these keep up the facade of Kylo Ben still being the evil leader of the sinister First Order but there is at least a couple that drop all pretence of our troubled boy being anything other than a baby.
Illustrator Jeffery Brown’s children’s book Star Wars: Rey and Pals depicts Kylo Ben as a small, slightly moody child with whom Rey plays with. Seen cheating at card games and holding up rabbit ears behind his potential crush in a group photo, this iteration of Kylo Ben is almost explicitly a genuine baby. He is small and he requires the use of a Tie-Silencer shaped floaty while playing near a pool so shallow even a Porg appears to be able to stand up in it.
“But James!” I hear you cry, “many of the characters who appear in that book are children too! And even then, he is clearly a small child, not a baby”. Which, look, you might be splitting hairs there but I’ll allow it, given that my next piece of evidence is far more concrete.
Just as recently as this month, Lucasfilm dropped yet another piece of evidence in our laps in the form of Star Wars: Roll Out. The video series redesigns Star Wars favourites Rey, Han, Chewie and the like into BB-8 style ball people who roll about the place in a cartoonishly adorable fashion.
The entire case of BB-ified characters are immediately recognisable but for one, who is definitively smaller and more baby-like than the rest. This unidentified baby BB is seen sticking close to Han Solo, dressed in clothes clearly meant to imitate the scoundrel and sports a mop of black hair. While confirmation remains forthcoming, many people have taken to believe this is a young Ben Solo, before his turn. And what to make of him being specifically designed as much younger than the others? With his rosy cheeks and tiny stature, it’s hard to not view him as a baby.
Kylo Ben’s Temperament
From this point out you’re either going to lock into the crux of my argument or close the tab in disdainful rejection of fun. Despite the established largeness of Adam Driver, there is a case to be made that his stature and age are trumped by Kylo Ben’s obvious baby-ness.
Unlike his grandfather before him, Kylo Ben’s interpretation of the big galactic baddie has been somewhat…undeveloped. Immature some might say. Like the way a small human might not yet have learnt to deal with his bullshit. Like a child. Or a baby.
Whereas Darth Vader would stalk the halls of abandoned Rebel bases with chilling mindfulness, Kylo Ben leans into a more reactionary display of his internal workings. Throughout both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi there are multiple instances of Kylo Ben coming entirely undone and giving into what could only be described as a cranky temper tantrum.
If things don’t go his way (which is shockingly often for someone just crowned Supreme Leader) the baby is known to destroy company property, smash his toys and scream. Oh boy, does this kid love to scream.
His Giant Baby Face
But perhaps you don’t find his behaviour to be entirely convincing of his baby nature? Maybe you need something a little more tangible, a touch more in your face? If this is the case then the most compelling piece of evidence is to simply look at him. Freeze frame on almost any close up of Kylo Ben’s face and you’ll be treated to the face of a baby fit for a Hallmark card.
You could first look to his eyes. Large and wide, like a newborn surveying the world for the first time and deciding that he might in fact just cry. What some have chalked up to a weakness of character for their new villain is in fact just a simple case of a baby having a good cry due to the myriad lights, sounds and emotional complexities being thrown in his face.
Moving slightly further down the face of the baby we come to his mouth which, much like his eyes, is often set in an outright expression of emotional distress. It could be a slight pout or a full-blown trembling of the lips, but no matter the occasion this baby is always ready to have a good cry and understandably so. He is just a baby after all, and the fate of the galaxy is quite the weight to put around his still forming, abnormally thicc neck.
Still not convinced he’s a baby? Let me try one final argument: it’s a joke.
The exact origin of the gag is difficult to track but as countless fans have pointed out since it reached peak exposure, it is first and foremost a reactionary goof.
The negative reaction to Kylo Ren among certain fans has manifested as outright hostility toward those who don’t share their views. Even now, nearly two years after the release of The Last Jedi you’ll still find Twitter threads overflowing with comments comparing Kylo to real-world fascists, abusers and in some particularly nasty cases, school shooters.
Worse still is the ugly pairing of this aggressively puritanical attitude with an open disdain for newcomers to the franchise. Many fans of Kylo have formed a community around the connection between him and Rey (the Reylos, which you can read all about here). It would seem there is nothing in the world more offensive to some than this idea and as a result, many Reylos (a fandom composed primarily of diverse women) have been subjected to years of bullying and invalidation.
In response to this disproportionate negativity, Reylos and Kylo Ren stans began, in the simplest terms, having some fun with it. If there was a term for good-natured trolling you could apply it here (a gentle ribbing, perhaps). Responding to the absurd with the equally absurd.
Bad faith criticisms of Kylo Ren and those who adore his character have been effectively weaponised against groups of fans since 2015. Whether it be performative moralising or a cocktail of toxic masculinity and pseudo-feminist language, there has been a concerted effort to prevent others from enjoying him. The irony of these same aggressors having spent the past few decades blindly enjoying the exploits of Darth Vader is not lost on anyone either.
So when you wonder why large swaths of fans with Adam Driver Twitter icons and tongue-in-cheek account names begin to revel in a harmless joke, maybe look to those who acted like babies first for your answer.