I have been watching the outrage and disappointment being voiced on social media and blogs regarding the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise and want to respond. As our family are long-time fans, since I first saw A New Hope way back in 1977, we all went to see the latest film, The Last Jedi, last week.
Warning: Spoilers there will be.
For me, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it wasn’t too long, the cinematics were beautiful and it was so great to see Mark Hamill back on the screen with an actual speaking part, it was also bittersweet to see Carrie Fisher on the big screen for the last time. Our 8, 6 and 3 year old boys all made it through the whole film and stayed engaged. My 14 year old twins weren’t as impressed, but I put that down to hormones.
So why so much hate? This Vox article by Todd VanDerWerff provides an excellent summary and even references this petition for those hoping to remove Last Jedi from the Star Wars canon. This Vanity Fair article by Joanna Robinson points to the notable disparity between the critic score, 93%, and the viewer score, 56%. Joanna also summarises what Todd says less clearly, that this negative viewer score is the result of ‘Make America Great Again’ white male misogynists who are angry at the films content.
In the context of the #MeToo phenomena and the spectacular recent fall from power of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Don Bourke (Australian TV), Matt Lauer (see the full list here) it feels like society is experiencing the re-awakening of female power. I can see how generations of men who have gotten away with, and even expected, their right to be in charge and treat women however they feel without consequence, might be feeling a little vulnerable.
The Last Jedi was full of recognition of the capabilities of women. From Rey as heroine, to both Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo as leaders and the addition of Rose Tico (a mechanic, Firefly anyone?). So many stereotypes toppled and paradigms shifted. I can see why this would make many men still living in a chauvinist bubble very uncomfortable.
Some specific elements include Leia and Holdo in their disapproval of young hotshot, Poe’s, aggressive approach to everything. The idea that rationality and wisdom, in the minds of women, is better at winning the day than macho action is repeated several times in the film. It is also shown that despite this tendency for rationality, women are equally capable of taking violent decisive action when the situation requires it.
In the scenes with Rose and Finn, it is Finn that is taking the path of a coward and Rose who surges ahead with confidence, integrity and dedication.
Luke has been sulking for many years over a mistake (a stereotypical male response) and it is Rey who draws him out and back into the fight. Without giving too much away about the final scenes, Luke’s means of defeating the enemy is the ultimate in passivity. Take this a little deeper and realise that throughout Luke’s island tantrum, Leia continued to fight the remnants of the Empire and the rise of the First Order.
I think that what Director, Rian Johnson, has done with Last Jedi is a beautiful addition to the Star Wars cannon, and is an excellent reading of the 2017 zeitgeist.
Slightly off the topic of rectifying the balance in the gender relations, Rian also slips in a bit of timely exposure for arms dealers. In my song Charlottesville, I tried to capture the reality that often in any fight between two parties, there is a third party profiting at no risk to themselves. I wonder who that third party is in the current gender war?
Star Wars related, but off the topic of the film, one of my 12 songs for Christmas this year has a Star Wars theme.
I can’t predict where #metoo is headed, if the views of these bizarre feminists, is anything to go by then nowhere, but I am hopeful, that it is the spark of resistance, that it will lead to balance and mutual respect. Long live the Rebel Alliance!