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Is there an explanation on why Kylo Ren wears that mask in The Force Awakens? It even has a voice synthesizer and everything.

It makes him look like a Darth Vader fanboy and really tries to be/look/sound like him.

It doesn’t look like he needs it or anything.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • 15
    Self-conscious. – CandiedMango Dec 19 '15 at 8:24
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    "Makes him look like a Vader fanboy" Have you seen the movie? That's exactly what he is. – Anthony Grist Dec 19 '15 at 10:33
  • 8
    @AnthonyGrist: Indeed... pimples and all... Most people would not find a teen frightening... maybe that's why he needs a mask. – thkala Dec 19 '15 at 20:35
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    @thkala Adam Driver is 32 and Harrison Ford is 73. Absolutely not a teenager... – MicroMachine Dec 20 '15 at 2:28
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    There's chronological age and then there's maturity level. I rate Kylo Ren's emotional maturity in the 5-13 range. I classify the "Prime Order", led by two such emotional adolescents, as an "emo boy band in space". I have a hard time not confusing the name with "One Direction". – Dronz Dec 26 '15 at 20:48

11 Answers 11

137

Psychological warfare. Vader was the death dealing wizard right hand man of the evil emperor for well over a generation. More than likely, his image is still enough to put a good portion of the population in fear. By taking up the mantle, so to speak, he is making a clear statement about the terror and power that he represents.

To put this in perspective, imagine if, in the 1970's (let alone today) someone rose to power wearing a certain uniform with a red sash around his arm with a funny symbol on it, a swept haircut, and a little mustache. His belief and intent would be instantly clear to everybody around him. He would be drawing upon the associations with the look of that person, using it as a tool. In the 1970's you would have a combination of people who survived the war as well as children born and raised in its shadow, all completely familiar with the faces of those famous people associated with it.

Just so with the time period in Force Awakens, we are a little more than a generation past from the downfall of the Emperor, and the tremors from the war continue to resonate.

  • 57
    It's not often someone Godwins a SE question - ontopic. +1 – DVK-on-Ahch-To Dec 19 '15 at 12:17
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    I....thanks? I thought it was a perfectly legit simile. The thing is, you'll notice I didn't name anyone and yet by describing a few superficial aspects of the person, you knew EXACTLY who I was referring to. That's my point. That's the power that Kylo Ren was drawing upon. – Broklynite Dec 19 '15 at 19:10
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    If you want a real-life illustration for your second paragraph, check out the imagery of the Greek political party Golden Dawn – user568458 Dec 20 '15 at 11:51
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    Right. It's not necessarily JUST psychological warfare. I'm certain he was obsessed with Vader, and I think the two combined so that he would harvest the power of that imagery that he was so obsessed with to try to imbue it to himself. – Broklynite Dec 20 '15 at 13:56
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    In other words, he wears it because he thinks it makes him look badass. Just like every other 20-something male! – Crashworks Dec 21 '15 at 5:53
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Kylo Ren is obsessed with Darth Vader,

his maternal grandfather.

He tries to imitate Vader’s appearance even though there is no medical need for him to cover his face.

Additionally, the mask and helmet are worn for the intimidating appearance: They hide Kylo Ren’s facial expressions, let him appear larger and make him inapproachable to his underlings and enemies.

Helmet and mask as pieces of armor also offer protection against flying debris and would be sensible pieces of equipment for explosion heavy assault missions such as the ones seen in The Force Awakens.

  • 12
    I would more guess its the intimidation effect. Armor in star wars is just......lets face it even storm trooper armor does not withstand a single blast....or kick – Thomas Dec 19 '15 at 12:24
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    @Thomas ...and apparently only filters smoke. – Mark Dec 19 '15 at 22:09
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    The general characterization of Kylo Ren in the movie definitely supports this answer, I think. – gntskn Dec 20 '15 at 2:03
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    @deinlebenandern never spoke out against that. only thing I'm not so sure about is the "protection" part :) – Thomas Dec 20 '15 at 7:19
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    Worth mentioning is that Han Solo says as much. "Take off that mask, you don't need it". – Theik Dec 26 '15 at 19:10
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Canonical answer: during Rei's dream sequence when she picks up the light sabre, we see a group of characters all wearing similar masks. (From the screenshot below it looks as if the masks are not all identical, but they are similar in appearance.)

enter image description here

From the context of the movie we can surmise that these are the Knights of Ren. Thus, the reason Kylo Ren wears such a mask is that he is (or was) a Knight of Ren, and the mask is part of his uniform. Of course, it might indeed be that this uniform is inspired by Darth Vader, as the other answers suggest.

  • 1
    I don't understand why this answer is ignored - it really seems to be the correct one, while the most up-voted (and chosen) answer is just speculation. – Bogdan Alexandru Apr 18 '17 at 16:34
  • @BogdanAlexandru I posted my answer a few days after the upvoted ones - there's quite a strong bias towards early answers on Stack Exchange. – Nathaniel Apr 19 '17 at 8:47
19

There isn't any canonical explanation yet, or at least it isn't made obvious by the movie.

It is heavily hinted that Darth Vader is Kylo Ren's role model, so it's no wonder that Kylo Ren wants to look like Vader.

He meditates next to Vader's mask.

When he tries to read Rey mind and telepathic connection he has established backfires, causing Rey to read his feelings, we learn that he fears he will never be as strong as Vader.

But it is also heavily hinted that Kylo Ren looks more intimidating, fearsome and powerful than he actually is.

He is not skilled force user. First, his roster of tricks is pretty limited. He can do force telekinesis, force telepathy and... that's about it. No force throw, no force jump, no saber throw, no force lightning. Second, he fails both times he tries to use his powers on other force-sensitive. When he tried to read map out of Rey mind, it backfired on him and caused Rey to read his mind. When he tried to pull Luke's lightsaber out of snow, it actually went to Rey.

At the end of movie, Snoke says that Kylo Ren must "complete his training".

Kylo Ren's lightsaber has very rough blade (see official movie poster for comparison of Kylo Ren's lightsaber and Anakin Skywalker's one), hinting less-than-stellar build quality. By the way, it is canonically established by Star Wars Clone Wars season 5, episode 7 ("A Test of Strength") that building lightsaber is test of force wielding.

Dark Side of the force provides "abilities some consider to be unnatural" (Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith) and excessive usage of these powers permanently changes user appearance. Now, when Kylo Ren takes off his mask for the first time, he looks... handsome? innocent? disappointing for a Darksider? Either way, he obviously isn't yet intimate with Dark Side.

Finally, let us not forget that Kylo Ren is one of Knights of Ren.

The movie doesn't really explore that part of the story. We know that Kylo Ren is one of Knights of Ren, but we are never told about any other characters in the same group. It seems that current consensus among fans is that Knights of Ren can be seen in force vision that Rey had when she touched Anakin's lightsaber. This is the best image I could find. As we can see, most of these people wear masks. I am not sure about the guy with the spear, the second from right. I think we can see his eyes, nose and some facial structure that goes around his mouth (maybe coincidentally, but not unlike Sith race). But this might be a mask after all. Wookieepedia has another screenshot that leaves little doubt that guy with spear wears mask, too.

So, maybe wearing a mask is just something that Knights of Ren do.

  • On the point of force powers. He is quite strong in those he shows (see beginning the blaster scene). But else he really looks either rough or way less trained than the guys in the prequels. Guess it will be shown in episode 8 what is up with him there (or if it was artistic freedom). – Thomas Dec 19 '15 at 12:28
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    Concerning your first point, it is more than heavily hinted: the scene where we learn that Dark Vador is Kylo Ren's grandfather is when KR is speaking to DV's mask, asking for help and guidance. – Taladris Dec 20 '15 at 1:26
  • Ooh. your last paragraph might be the answer to a question I literally just asked – user568458 Dec 20 '15 at 13:17
  • @MirosławZalewski: Found it (well actually, I found something clearer), this answer discusses how Disney changed canon. But The Clone Wars is in that new canon, which the earlier thing I'd seen didn't mention. So your answer is entirely within canon. – T.J. Crowder Jan 2 '16 at 11:57
9

Canon answer, courtesy of TFA Visual Dictionary page 24 ("Kylo Ren"):

Patterned after the battle gear of the Knights of Ren, Kylo Ren's helmet conceals his identity and adds to his imposing demeanor. Servomotors drive articulated arms that separate the face mask from the helmet, letting Kylo remove the black form to state down his opponents with incontained malice.

Also, on page 26 ("Dark Warrior"), the mask is called "Battered Combat Helmet".

So, there seem to be 4 "Why"s:

  1. To conceal his identity.

    This is important. TFA VD also lets us know that:

    his birth name is never spoken by decree of the Supreme Leader.

  2. To intimidate.

    Because let's face it, Adam Driver just Does Not Look Intimidating. More in-universe, the existing answer by @Broklynite unpacks this angle very well.

  3. For combat protection. It is "battered" after all

  4. As a uniform

    In the script/film, Snoke calls him "Even you, master of the Knights of Ren, have never faced such a test."

    As such, wearing the gear common to the group you're a master of makes sense.

8

Lots of Sith wear masks. Take this quote about Darth Revan.

Without the mask he looked more human. It was easier to remember he was just a man, with all the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that implied. With the mask, however, Revan was an icon, a symbol. He was the shaper of history, an individual defined by his actions rather than his thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.
- The Old Republic: Revan

  • 8
    Kylo Ren isn't a Sith. – Rogue Jedi Dec 19 '15 at 21:08
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    Darth Maul had no mask but a weird painted and tattooed face with horns. Darth Sidious is just an old guy wearing a hood with crazy eyes. Darth Tyranus was just… An old guy… So “masks” are not inherent to being a Darth. It does seem like all of the “Knights of Ren” like to wear helmets though. – JakeGould Dec 21 '15 at 6:29
  • @RogueJedi What is he then? A Dark Jedi? Something different? – ApproachingDarknessFish Dec 26 '15 at 8:44
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    @approachingdarknessfish scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/110922/is-kylo-ren-a-sith – Rogue Jedi Dec 26 '15 at 14:02
  • @JakeGould Maul was a male Dathomirian. – LiveWireBT Jan 14 '16 at 10:38
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He's a mentally unstable young man looking for a direction in life. Disappointed with his father whom he sees as a foolish old man, he strives for greatnes. As it often happens, the dark side looks more glamorous. Seductive, if you will. He is trying to be a new Vader.

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    Good thing he found "One Direction" then... oh I mean the "Prime Order" or whatever it's called. They need to find a drummer though. – Dronz Dec 26 '15 at 20:50
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During the exchange on the bridge, Han says, "Take off your mask, you don't need it." Which is followed by a discussion of how Ren "destroyed" Ben Solo. The mask is an integral part of that transformation and the erasure of his old identity, along with the intimidation discussed above.

And he selected that mask and voice manipulator to be as much like Vader as possible.

  • 1
    It's also lost on the Starkiller Base, so we'll see in the next episode if he gets a new mask and if he copies the design (maybe a Knights of Ren standard?) or does something new. He's also got a brand new face scar to hide.... – dunraven Dec 26 '15 at 20:22
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I think one reason he wears the mask is to show that he is no longer Ben Solo.

  • 1
    You may want to add some more detail. Overly terse answers are often downvoted. – Mark Rogers Dec 26 '15 at 17:56
-1

On top of the reasons above, Kylo Ren sees who he is and who he used to be as two distinct people, just as Vader did. I believe the mask helps with this, which is why in the climactic scene he was asked to remove it.

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    "Your son is gone. He was weak and foolish, like his father". I'm not saying he's Two-Face, I'm saying that he has deliberately adopted a different persona and the mask is part of that. – SteveCav Dec 22 '15 at 22:15
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    While I think your answer is valid, you might want to add some more content or references to it to make it more appealing to the user base. – Mark Rogers Dec 26 '15 at 17:58
-1

I'm sure being a Vader fanboy is a big part of it, but the mask probably has a HUD and all the stuff the stormtrooper helmets have. Example, when he sees Finn stop shooting and have panic attack, he knew exactly what number he was. Same as the troopers know who each other are just by looking at the time.

protected by Community Dec 28 '15 at 15:49

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