I will not purport to be, have never been, a Severus Snape apologist. Though he redeems himself by his eventual death in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I grew up with a mental image of Snape as the wicked potions master, a vision that was only reinforced by Alan Rickman's aloof and skeevy performance in the Harry Potter movies. I still can't shake it. But following the premiere of The Force Awakens, fans across the Internet have noted the remarkable parallels between Snape's trajectory in Harry Potter and how Kylo Ren has been set up for the new Star Wars trilogy. As the theories go, comparisons of Kylo Ren versus Severus Snape reveal that Ren could easily be a young Snape from a galaxy far, far away.
Hear me out: If you substitute magic for the Force and childhood bullying for (grand)daddy issues and multiply by access to a massive weaponized planet called Starkiller, you can pretty easily transform Kylo Ren into Severus Snape. In a blog post on the Hogwarts Professor fan site, Emily Strand equates Kylo Ren to a "a photo-bomb on my Potter-shaped imagination." They look an awful lot alike: jet-black, shoulder-length hair, pale complexion, slight grimace at the corners of their mouths. But Ren's origins also point to an uncanny unity with J.K. Rowling's character, and here's how.
One of the most compelling fan theories out there right now postulates that Kylo Ren has infiltrated the dark side in order to take it down from the inside at its highest levels. But it's clear that the power inherent in the sheer evil of the dark side tempts Ren, who has been taken under the wing of the supreme leader Snoke. In Harry Potter (and here, I'm assuming that spoilers are fair game years after the series finished), Snape plays the double agent inside the Death Eater ring, betraying the forces of good just often enough to be a plausible ally to Voldemort.
Kylo Ren wields his Force in the same invasive manner as Snape executes a magic spell. The Legilimens curse, which allows Snape to enter Harry Potter's memories ostensibly to allow the younger wizard to practice protecting his mind from Voldemort, looks increasingly like the way Ren attempts to enter Rey's mind to access the map to Luke Skywalker that she saw projected by BB-8.
But even the double agent must occasionally go to great lengths to protect his identity, and for that reason, Snape kills Dumbledore at the Battle for Hogwarts. And prior to the massive battle at the end of The Force Awakens (more spoilers!), Kylo Ren kills his father, Han Solo. There's no hard evidence yet that this was a move that will ultimately lead to him taking down the dark side of the Force, but it fits with the Ren-as-Snape model and would explain why Ren continues to feel the pull of the light. He can't quite commit himself to the dark, because that's not really his mission.
Then there's the back story. Some childhood trauma — theories have proposed that Ren killed the rest of his young Jedi cohort, prompting Luke Skywalker to flee to the farthest corner of the galaxy to seek guidance — pushes both Ren and Snape legitimately into the dark side, despite all pretenses of light. There is something enticing about the no-strings-attached evil promised by leaders like Snoke and Voldemort. Snape was born to a muggle father and witch mother, while Kylo Ren was born Ben Solo to a mother with latent talents toward the Force and a father who, while a talented pilot, has no supernatural gifts.
Kylo Ren and Severus Snape share a penchant for heavy black robes and both walk with a heavy flourish that causes their capes to swirl around their ankles. Typical supervillain attire, but combined with the other undeniable similarities, these parallels make Kylo Ren appear increasingly like the Harry Potter good guy-turned-bad guy-turned-good guy. The visual references only underline, and make more relevant, the other theories of Ren and Snape's shared fantasy roots. Because if Severus Snape can be redeemed, maybe Kylo Ren can be, too.
Images: Walt Disney Studios; Giphy (2)