For nearly four years now I’ve struggled with putting my finger on why so many Star Wars fans hate Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. For me it is one of the very best the franchise has ever produced because of its willingness to challenge our assumptions about how the mythology in Star Wars actually works.
I know many out there feel very differently. And that’s fine, as long as you are honest about why you feel that way.
And that mythology is an important thing to challenge in a time where the Myth of America is fading. The Myth of Democracy, Socialism, Equality are failing. Gender Roles and and all other societal norms are under assault. In fact, challenging dogma and narratives is what this blog and all of my content is geared towards, even if I don’t get things right all the time.
No one does. Everyone fails. Even our childhood heroes.
And I know that is difficult, if not downright disturbing, to deal with. But, we’re all going through it, even the people making these movies.
Look at the radical shift in traditional American conservatives since the 2020 election. They’ve lost something vital, something which had previously animated them; their belief that the institutions of America were redeemable. We didn’t want to believe our courts, our votes were beyond contempt; that our leaders were more than just cowards and traitors. That when it came to a national election for President, no one would be brazen enough to systemically cheat enough to change the outcome of it.
Don’t believe me? A simple twitter thread became the biggest news story in the U.S. over the past two days.
You know the one.
But back to The Last Jedi. It is the exploration and inquisition of our reactions to events/movies/art that matters. Without intense examination of our own motivations and our own reactions to things there can be no growth.
The Last Jedi, like Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice provoked people to visceral, all-consuming anger in a portion of their respective fanbases. These stories are our modern mythologies.
You can dismiss that as the rantings of half-formed man-children or you can show a little empathy and realize that they, like those that have had their illusions ripped from them by the election, are reflecting a part of the same anxiety and fear of the future that exists all across the political divide, in all of us.
In many ways having Batman murder bad guys is akin to Jesus rising again with an AK-47 and mowing down the Pharisees. These characters and stories are that important to them, even if they are derivatives of the more abiding, universal texts.
That said, while I’m happy to engage that anger I’m not sympathetic to those still holding onto it after four freaking years. There comes a point where you have to face that thing you reject: that person, movie, poem, etc., go into its cave and overcome it.
Otherwise, did you not actually listen to the stories you thought you loved so much?
After a long time of dealing with this, privately taking more than ten thousand words of notes on this subject, I finally just put them all together into one place. One measured monologue.
Because what’s the point of pointing out all of the things wrong with the world if I don’t also try to equip you with the tools you need to face what it’s going to throw at you? This isn’t about The Last Jedi or Man of Steel. It’s about all of us, all the time, having to do the hard work of self-examination to build a version of ourselves capable of withstanding the pressures of the day.
That Batman so many hated watching on screen in BvS, the one obsessed with murdering Superman, is the end game of toxic fan culture. He’s fully objectified his target… “You were never a god…. you weren’t even a man,” he growls at Clark in rage. The same thing happened to Zack Snyder. Only empathy brings him back. His daughter committing suicide brought many back from the brink.
Well, today, only empathy with people like Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy can bring many Star Wars fans back from their anger. And if you can do this with something as innocuous as a movie franchise then you can maybe begin to do it in your real life as well.
Because, the flip side to that is even more true. If you can’t ever forgive the sin of The Last Jedi then how can you ever forgive something or someone even more important to you?
This is the essence of storytelling. This is why we create stories. Why we tell them to each other. It’s why the Bible and other religious texts are the collected wisdom of hundreds of generations of humans. They are practice runs and training manuals for how we deal with each other in real life.
YouTube has empowered an entire sub-culture of MGTOW’s, itself the ultimate expression of male weakness in the face of toxic femininity, to obsess about these things and drive ad revenue to them.
Their hate has made them powerful. They hold sway over a whole rotten sub-culture wallowing in their hate.
And I believe very strongly they have been helped along by those very people intent on destroying all positive aspects of culture and community. Maybe that’s a little too tin foil hat for you.
But how else do you account for the theatrical cut of BvS? A cut designed to make the movie and its hero, Superman, as unlikeable and unwatchable as possible?
If you want proof many executives in Hollywood hate us, I give you that cut and Joss Whedon’s abortion of Justice League as living proof. There was something willful at play there.
Star Wars, as much as you personally may dismiss is as silly, was and is important to millions of people. And if you were someone trying to destroy a culture wouldn’t you help something so important to entire generations of Americans as Star Wars to destroy itself? Wouldn’t you encourage the fans to fight among themselves, to nurture that anxiety in the real world spilling into their ‘safe space?’
It’s not like we haven’t seen this playbook before either.
I know that those same commies worked really hard to separate my generation from the religion of our parents. Star Wars came out at the exact right time in 1977 to have the biggest possible cultural impact it could. And the brunt of that impact, because of the malaise of that decade where myths about America first started failing rapidly, was felt most strongly in my generation of American boys.
So, doesn’t it only makes sense for them to destroy Star Wars, or even better, encourage it to destroy itself rather than let it thrive during the apotheosis of Great Reset?
Or are Millennial soy-boys going to try and tell me today’s communists are okay with Christianity now?
I believe this is true because it is these men they are trying so hard to bankrupt, marginalize, discourage and prevent from having any voice or political power in society today. That’s why they hated Trump so much. They knew the power of our resolve. That’s why he had to go and that’s why they had to do it in the most dishonest and discouraging way imaginable.
And The Last Jedi gave us a Luke Skywalker that saw this coming and hid from it only to come back out and become an even bigger legend than ever before by saying he was sorry and admitting his failure.
The sad truth is that all that is good, precious and dear to us is under assault by people who are committed to depravity and control. We do ourselves zero favors thinking of people as enemies those who we share a common love but different opinions about. We can only repair this breaking world if we realize that. Otherwise, the suffering will only continue.
If we can get back to that empathy with those we disagree with, then maybe, just maybe, Star Wars, like the Myth of America, will have validated itself as something still worth considering.
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