Why The Last Jedi isn’t just Bad: It’s Toxic

This article contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Currently being regarded as the most controversial Star Wars film to date, fans of the popular franchise seem to have settled into two groups: this is either the best Star Wars film ever made, or the worst. Cinematically speaking, the movie has stunning visuals and a great cast of actors, but that’s not the problem.

The problem is that while The Last Jedi is being branded as the most feminist Star Wars film to date, its “feminism” seems like a cheap marketing ploy to appeal to a wiser audience and downplays some of the key problems within the film itself: it’s built on a foundation of sexism, misogyny, and racism. In other words, if you’re anything other than a white male, this film isn’t made for you.

And director Rian Johnson hasn’t exactly been shy about his opinion regarding the film’s white male villain, Kylo Ren. Rian told Empire Magazine that, “We can all relate to Kylo: to that anger of being in the turmoil of adolescence and figuring out who he’s going to be as a man.”

The only problem is that we can’t. Despite Rian’s insistence that this film is about the “transition from adolescence into adulthood,” Kylo Ren is already a well-established adult with a history of bad choices. We know from the canon Star Wars novel Bloodline, written by Claudia Gray, that Kylo Ren was at least 23 years old when he destroyed Luke’s Academy. At this point, he’s already an adult capable of making his own choices.

The film reveals that the final push towards the “dark side” was when Ben Solo awoke to see Luke standing over him with his lightsaber while he was sleeping. Without considering the possibility of a miscommunication, Ben Solo brought the roof down on the last Jedi, and then systemically went about converting or eliminating the rest of the students in Luke’s school before burning it to the ground. From there it can be presumed that he officially took on the role of Snoke’s apprentice, dubbing himself Kylo Ren as he joined the ranks of the First Order.

The problem is that it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing relateable about being a white adult male who decides to sign up with a Nazi organization and the very premise that we should try to have sympathy for such a character is chilling, especially when you consider that he murdered Han Solo not more than a week prior in film time.

But there’s another element to Kylo Ren that makes him harder to relate to. He comes from a place of privilege in society. Ben Solo was born to two war heroes, and while those might be big shoes to fill, there’s nothing that would indicate that Han and Leia were terrible parents to their son. In The Force Awakens, Leia admits that she sent Ben to train with Luke because she feared Snoke’s growing influence on her son (turns out, she had a right to be concerned). In Chuck Wendig’s canon novel, Empire’s End, from the Star Wars: Aftermath series, we see Han excited, if not a little daunted, about the possibility of becoming a father.

In other words, there’s nothing relateable when you think about a wealthy white male growing up sure of his place in the world and deciding to leave it all behind to join a fascist organization.

Compounding on this, there is someone who is relateable: Finn. Finn was not born from a place of privilege. If anything, we still know very little about Finn’s origins aside from the fact that he was abducted from his parents and raised to be a Stormtrooper. Despite years of conditioning and being ranked as the top cadet in his class, Finn was able to maintain his sense of self and when it came down to his first battle, he decided not to shoot and kill an unarmed villager.

This is the character that most people should be able to relate to. Finn is a character that isn’t sure of his place in the world. He grew up with the First Order and left everything that he knew behind him in order to try to do what he thought was right. Although he initially planned to seek a quick exit from the conflict at Maz’s castle, he didn’t hesitate to rejoin the struggle when he discovered that Rey was in danger. Finn spent most of his time in The Force Awakens running away from something – the First Order, from Jakku, from delivering BB-8 to the Resistance, but we see his progression throughout the movie to the point where he risks his life for Rey and helps the Resistance destroy the Starkiller base. At this point, Finn has rightfully earned his status as a hero.

Until The Last Jedi where Finn is again painted as selfish and cowardly, and the film does not shy away from this fact. Initially branded as a traitor by Rose when he tries to get the beacon as far away as possible to prevent Rey from falling into a trap, he is consistently belittled by Rose throughout the film. She consistently calls him cowardly and self-centered, and Finn’s characterization seems to shift in order to fit this description. When Finn is explaining his plan on hyperspace tracking to Poe, he is excited and confident: he can do this. When he gets to Canto Bight, he suddenly regresses, becoming immature and distracted by the glitz and glamour all around him. Finn knows what’s on the line. Rey is on the line. Poe is on the line. The Resistance has less than 24 hours, and yet he suddenly becomes bumbling and distracted.

This becomes Finn’s character throughout the rest of the film. Brash, impulsive, and worse, being frequently portrayed as the butt of everyone’s jokes. When we first see Finn, he is wandering about the halls of the Resistance in nothing but a bacta suit, as if Finn has suddenly forgotten how to care for himself. The film plays into the stereotypes that many people have about black male individuals. Instead of being treated as the hero of the Resistance, Finn is relegated to a comedic side role based on slapstick humor and unfunny comedy that ultimately doesn’t contribute anything to the plot.

In other words, Finn’s side plot reflects the film’s stance of diversity: we’ll wave it in your face for a few minutes before we wave it aside to make way for the two white protagonists. It’s a bold statement, but not untrue. Rian Johnson first joked that it would be “funny” to leave Finn in a coma for the entire film: “We did at some point joke that it would be great to just have him be in a coma for the whole movie and keep cutting back to him.” He explains that each of these cuts back to Finn would have him uttering some nonsense in his unconscious state, and at no point in the entire run time of the movie would the former Stormtrooper wake up. 

When John Boyega first accepted the role of Finn, JJ Abrams told him that he was going to be the new star of Star Wars. Rian Johnson blatantly admitted that it would be “funny” to simply delegate the black lead to the sidelines, where he doesn’t have more than a few scenes of incoherent babbling to serve as comic relief.

Not to mention, it’s Rose who ultimately has to teach Finn about the seedy belly of Canto Bight and how it operates: through slave labor. Another character shouldn’t have to explain to Finn, of all characters, the tortures and ills of slavery. After all, that’s the only life Finn’s known, taken as his family and raised in a life of servitude as a Stormtrooper to the First Order.

The underlying racism in The Last Jedi does not, unfortunately, stop with Finn’s character. We know a lot more about Poe Dameron’s character from the popular Poe Dameron comic series that highlights Poe’s adventures with Black Squadron before they find Lor San Tekka.

In fact, Poe’s arc is highlighted by its racism, as Poe’s character is reduced to a mere stereotype of his ethnicity. From the Before the Awakening, piloting flight logs, and comic series, we have a complete picture of who Poe is as a character. He tells L’ulo, “I’m the best. But you’re the best too” which highlights who he is as a person. He is a gentle soul that sees the best in people, trusting Finn not only to help him escape, but to lower the shields on the Starkiller Base when he said he could. Poe is a genuine nice guy who would give the shirt, er, jacket off their back to help a stranger.

And we see absolutely none of this in The Last Jedi. 

Poe is described as rash, dangerous, and aggressive by Vice Admiral Holdo, played by veteran actress Laura Dern. She’s dismissive of him, and while a part of it does play into more harmful stereotypes that I’ll get into later, in this instance, it’s hard not to. In the opening first scene, Poe is prepared to let everyone, everyone die just to take out a First Order Dreadnought. Even though successful, Poe seems more focused on the success of his mission than the countless deaths of his fellow Resistance fighters.

And that is not who Poe Dameron is. To say so makes a complete mockery of a fantastic character whose character has already been set and esteemed by fans. Changing his character to comply with stereotypes in order to try to advance the plot isn’t “moral ambiguity” or “challenging the character” – it’s just bad writing.

In short, Poe becomes aggressive, dangerous and hotheaded, all to fulfill the stereotypical role that the narrative wants him to play. His character attitudes are changed in order to fulfill a plot device, and that’s the conflict set up between himself and Vice Admiral Holdo.

This conflict is disappointing. It focuses on a female leader putting an aggressive, chauvinistic male in his place. It’s supposed to be empowering, but it’s not, especially when you have to have one character act so differently in order to get to that point. The problem is that the kind of feminism this movie is preaching is white feminism, which is dangerous in and of itself.

But what does white feminism mean in this case? Vice Admiral Holdo, and even Rose, both undermine and belittle Finn and Poe, treating them like children. This concept of infantalization upholds racist stereotypes of black and Latino men being both incompetent and irrational. In Poe’s case, it works to also uplift the alleged moral superiority of white women over people of color. And it’s not feminism.

It’s just disgusting.

Holdo is held up as someone that people in the Resistance are supposed to respect as a leader, and yet she refuses to tell the very people she’s leading what their plan is, citing Poe’s earlier reckless actions as an excuse. Even according to the Navy’s Leadership Principles, keeping your people informed is the second principle on the list. In other words? It’s pretty important. Vice Admiral Holdo’s refusal to do so is driven by petty motives, and while Poe is painted as ridiculous and childish the entire movie, he’s actually proven right when the First Order does the very thing he was afraid they would do.

One of the “lessons” from Poe’s story line is you should always blindly trust authority figures even when they provide no valid reason for doing so, and this is an extremely dangerous and topic example to set, especially in today’s society when people of color are so often made targets of police brutality, which again feeds back into the movie’s underlying theme of systematic racism.

Holdo herself seeks redemption from her mistakes by turning around and ramming her ship through theirs – an admittedly cool move, although it would be cooler had we not seen Admiral Raddus suggest the idea of plowing through a ship no more than a year earlier – and dies so that Leia can explain to Poe that Holdo was a good leader (without really stating how) because she was more concerned with fulfilling the mission without getting credit for it.

The problem with this? It means that Holdo had to die in order for Poe to “understand” what it meant to be a leader. This doesn’t work for two reasons. For one, Poe is a decorated Commander who had already served as a leader in the Republic Navy before joining the Resistance. Painting him as a cocky flyboy with a chip on his shoulder just doesn’t work when it goes against everything we’ve been told about his character. The “lesson” Poe was supposed to learn was one he already knew.

The second problem is that it meant that Holdo had to die in order for Poe to learn this lesson. In other words, we’re back to that age-old trope: a woman had to die in order to advance the plot/characterization of a male character.

And that’s where we get to our final topic: sexism. For a movie that preaches itself as so overtly feminist, it is rich with sexist undertones that are immediately apparent on the surface. Most of these are notably in the interactions between Rey and Kylo Ren, but there’s another character that I wanted to touch upon first. Rose Tico.

Despite Kelly Marie Tran’s boundless enthusiasm for her role, Rose Tico is ultimately underwhelming as a character. Despite mourning the death of her sister, her ultimate presence in the film seemed to be reduced to a girl with a bad crush on Finn.

I’ve already touched upon how poorly Rose treats Finn, but Rose herself seems to have gotten the short end of the stick in terms of the plot. Her character exists only to serve Rian’s image that your heroes aren’t what they seem, tazing Finn when she sees him trying to escape. From then on, Rose’s status seems to be downgraded to “Finn’s crush” as seen in the description of this deleted scene:

Originally, the film spent some more time clarifying the dynamic between Rey and Finn, and further setting up Rose’s crush on the Resistance “hero.” Rose chastises Finn for “pining for Rey,” which Finn quickly denies, claiming that he was “raised to fight” and that he finally found something to fight for in his friend, Rey. “Whatever,” responds Rose with a hint of jealousy.

Rose’s constant nagging of Finn and being catty about Rey enforces a negative female stereotype that has no business in a Hollywood blockbuster that claims to be catered to young girls, especially when it seems that Rose’s role has been reduced to working the love triangle dynamic between Finn and Rey. This seems like it could only lead to a destructive end for the character, especially considering how she attempts to save Finn’s life by almost sacrificing her own at the end of the film. Rose presents us once again with the trope that a female character must sacrifice herself in order to advance the plot of the male character, in this case, to prove her love for him. It’s a frustrating trope, made all the more exhausting when you consider what her role might be in the next film.

If you focus on the look Rey gives Finn putting a blanket over the unconscious Rose, it sets up tension for the next film: assuming Rey and Rose engage in competition for Finn’s attention, putting the two girls at odds with one another.

Because if the sexism in this movie wasn’t blatant enough, that’s just what Star Wars needs: two girls fighting over a guy. While frustrating to watch, it’s also extremely degrading to both characters and reduces both of their arcs into nothing more than instruments to direct the story of a male character.

Hopefully JJ will take the next episode in a different direction, but the damage that has already occurred in this film cannot be understated. There is, unfortunately, a lot of ground to cover regarding Rey’s story, so I’m going to start with the most visually striking one: Rey’s costume.

In The Last Jedi, Rey adopts what has been dubbed her “Jedi Training” outfit, trading out her three signature buns for a simpler hairstyle and trading out her light Jedi garb for a bit of a darker color. It’s a way for Rey to separate herself from the girl we saw crying desperately over her parent’s retreating ship on Jakku, keeping the same appearance a decade later in the hopes that they would come back to recognize her.

Many who speculated that Rey would undergo this physical transition after she discovered the true origin of her parents and worked to free herself of that disappointment found themselves disappointed. Rey didn’t change her clothes and her hair after she learned about her parentage from Kylo Ren, she learned about it after.

Despite being wet from the rain, another reason for this change is that she was shipping herself off in a box to see Kylo Ren, prompting those who want them to be romantically involved to start citing the Snow White parallels. It’s not hard to believe that the reason for this change was to make Rey appear more feminine. With her hair down, she looks more like a girl and less like the hardened warrior who had to fend for herself back on Jakku.

But wait, wouldn’t that mean that Rey’s entire role in the movie basically focused on developing Kylo Ren as a character? It does, and you wouldn’t be wrong to think that way. Even during Rey’s training sessions with Luke, the conversation is always geared back to Kylo Ren in some way, whether it’s Luke talking about his past or Rey assuring Luke that she won’t end up like Kylo. Either way, we hear Kylo’s name spoken more times between them than we actually hear anything about the Jedi or the things that Luke learned about the Force on his travels (say, Pillio, perhaps?)

It becomes clear early on that despite Rian Johnson saying that the film isn’t about what the fans want, that certain scenes were added in to appeal to a certain demographic. For example, Adam Driver’s uncomfortable shirtless scene?

Rian himself says that the scene had a “specific purpose” of creating an increasing feeling of “uncomfortable intimacy.” In other words, Kylo Ren’s shirtless scene is basically synonymous with a dick pic: no one asked for it, but there it is, one of the most subtle forms of sexual harassment. Think about this another way: if Rey’s character was really a boy, would the shirtless scene still be present? Or necessary?

Hint: it’s not.

The fact that Rey’s character only seems to exist to play a role in Kylo’s story is concerning, considering that she is touted as the protagonist of the sequel trilogy. Even though she witnessed him murder Han Solo no more than a few days prior, she becomes emotionally intimate with him pretty quickly, opening up to him about the strange experiences she had in the “dark place” beneath the island.

And therein lies the problem. When they touched hands, Snoke gave her a vision of Kylo Ren turning back to the light side to compel her to rush off to the Supremacy in the hopes that she could turn Kylo Ren back to the light and turn the tide of the war.

There’s only one problem with that.

It’s not her problem.

Rey was a civilian. As Kylo Ren himself told her, “You have no place in this story.” She has no part in the conflict between the First Order and the Resistance, and yet she was swept up in it all the same. It shouldn’t be necessary for her to rush off and turn the tide of the war, and while it fits with the Star Wars theme of how one person can make a difference, the trope that a woman must rush off and sacrifice herself in order to progress a man’s character and offer him redemption has been a long-running frustrating trope. If Rey wants to help the Resistance, that’s her choice, but it shouldn’t be necessary to rush off and try to save the person who kidnapped and abused her.

It’s one of the things that makes any sort of Kylo Ren and Rey team-up so off-putting. In The Force Awakens, he kidnaps her and invades her mind in order to try to find the location of the map. After she escapes, he confronts her in the forest, throwing her into a tree several feet up in the air in a move that could have potentially killed her. Then she wakes up just in time to watch him slice through Finn in a move that could have killed him.

Oh, and did I forget to mention how she watched him murder a defenseless Han Solo right before her eyes only moments before? The man who, as Kylo himself taunted, presented a father figure that she never had?

In other words, Rey has absolutely no reason to trust Kylo Ren. She has no reason to even want him to get redemption. For all of Rian’s talk about how he wanted to keep this film “morally grey,” trying to make a genocidal murderer relateable, or even redeemable, was not a step in the right direction. Wouldn’t it have been more compelling to watch Rey wrestle with the ramifications of eliminating Kylo Ren once and for all? Instead of trying to find redemption for the dark side, wouldn’t it have been far more interesting to explore a situation in which Rey realizes that good people must sometimes do bad things for an overall good to result? 

Perhaps, but that’s not the film we got. Instead we got a team-up between Kylo Ren and Rey where, moments after they work together, their alliance is quickly severed. Rey asks Kylo to call off the attack that is sure to eliminate the Resistance, including Finn. Kylo, however, refuses and tells her to move on and join him in ruling. He tells her, “You come from nothing. You’re nothing. But not to me.”

Fortunately Rey grabs the lightsaber and rejects his offer, and the final scene of her closing the Millennium Falcon doors on him seems to confirm that she has severed her connection for good. The problem? The damage has already been done.

Rian Johnson has already set up the Kylo Ren and Rey dynamic to be potentially romantic, between the shirtless scene, the hand touching scene, to be filled with an uncomfortable kind of sexual tension between the girl that declared to Maz, “I don’t want a part of any of this” and the man that murdered his father.

As troubling as that notion is, it does get worse. Kylo Ren tells Rey, “You come from nothing. You are nothing. But not to me.”

The problem is that Kylo Ren’s frequent gaslighting and emotional manipulation throughout the two films reaches its climax: he has discarded Snoke and wants to use the powerful, yet naive Rey, to further his own power. Still, the sexual if not romantic implications are there, pushed along by a group of shippers that call themselves “Reylos,” who desperately seek for Rey to redeem Kylo through, well, you get the idea.

There are several problems with this. One of the first ones is the fact that Kylo Ren is 32 years old, whereas Rey is only 19. While many are quick to claim that age is just a number, Rey is emotionally immature, having been isolated on Jakku for most of her life. There is absolutely no good reason to try to push her into any sort of relationship with someone who is so destructive, especially when the sole reason for doing so is to help Kylo Ren find redemption.

The line, “You’re nothing…but not to me” is a quote that unfortunately most women have heard far too often. It’s an emotional manipulation tactic in order to try to isolate a woman from her friends and family until she only relies on her abuser for support, and this is exactly what Kylo Ren is trying to do here. With Luke unwilling to teach her, Kylo wants Rey to rely on him, and solely him, so that he can use her power and manipulate her to further his own goals (which is to lead the First Order to…conquer the galaxy? It’s not quite clear.)

It’s a frightening message, especially when you think about who this movie is supposedly marketed to. Think about how many children dressed up as Rey for Halloween. How do we explain to girls that the man who killed Han Solo, the man who emotionally manipulated her and tried to use her just to validate himself, is the person that she should ultimately fall in love with? It paints a dangerous picture that girls internalize before they have enough experience to make their own decisions regarding their own relationships.

Remember Edward Cullen’s creepy manipulation in Twilight? Apparently that’s crept into Star Wars as well.

And this gets to the heart of the overall problem. The Last Jedi is ultimately soaked in sexism, misogyny and racism, and yet Kathleen Kennedy and Bob Iger widely praised the film before its release. How can Kathleen Kennedy, who said that she was proud to have a feminist icon in Rey, be willing to reduce Rey’s entire story to “the love interest?” If the executives and storygroup approved such blatant racism and actively worked to rewrite characters in order to fit their stereotypical narrative, what hope do we have that the next trilogy will be better, especially when they gave Rian Johnson full control over its content?

Rian himself believes that Darth Vader was worse than Kylo Ren, and while that is probably a conversation as controversial as the movie itself, Rian still wholeheartedly believes that despite what happened in The Last Jedi, that Kylo Ren can be redeemed. It shows that the storyline that JJ Abrams set up has been reduced to simply furthering the narrative of the white villain, and the rest of the characters are simply players in his story, which is why they exist as nothing more than stereotypes in Rian Johnson’s version of Star Wars.

And that’s the disappointment. While The Force Awakens received criticism for being too similar to its predecessor, A New Hope, JJ did set up some interesting and mysterious characters. While Captain Phasma’s role was ultimately underwhelming, fans were assured that she would have a much bigger role to play in Rian Johnson’s world.

Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out. 

Phasma’s quick dismissal wasn’t the only disappointment. Snoke was killed off without any satisfying explanation to who he was or even what he wanted the First Order to do. The Knights of Ren, which were mentioned in The Force Awakens and played a role in Rey’s vision, disappeared from the narrative entirely, instead being replaced by Rian’s Praetorian Guards.

For many, Luke Skywalker’s return was the biggest disappointment. Mark has made no secret in recent weeks citing how he didn’t agree with Rian Johnson’s vision of Luke and how he wished George Lucas had directed the sequel trilogy instead, a mere three days before The Last Jedi hit theatres. It fits into Rian Johnson’s grim version of reality: our heroes can be defeated, and idolizing legends is ultimately unsettling and disappointing when faced with reality.

But by disappearing into the Force, did Luke not himself become a legend, the very thing that Rian seems to chide against? The film’s “message” seems to give audiences such mixed signals, it’s not surprising that audiences claim that the film seemed better after a second viewing: basic elements of the plot just doesn’t make sense, like how the First Order has suddenly developed hyperspace tracking despite the film only taking place a few days after the events of The Force Awakens. 

There are other plot holes that point out the flaws in logic in the story: where did Rey learn to swim on Jakku? How can bombers drop bombs in space when there’s no gravity for the bombs to fall? Since space exists in three dimensions, why didn’t the First Order just have a ship drop out into hyperspace in front of the Resistance Star Cruiser and blow it to bits? And why was General Hux, a serious, straight-faced villain in The Force Awakens, who ordered the destruction of the Hosnian System, delegated to a comedic side role who’s only function was to serve as a cheap laugh and be the butt of an awkward your mom joke? Instead of using the antagonism between Kylo Ren and General Hux to show the crumbling of the First Order and how the small band of Resistance heroes we’re left with at the end of the movie might stand a chance against them, it seems that the First Order’s army, which was flowing with Nazi imagery in The Force Awakens has just been reduced to campy slapstick humor.

Despite these obvious problems, the most glaring ones still remain in the fact that Star Wars is a film that claims to market itself to the people it exploits and ultimately rejects. It’s no wonder that merchandise and ticket sales have dropped when the movie is back to focusing on a white male lead, like so many other before it. Kylo Ren tells Rey that you have no part in this story, that she doesn’t belong – something that minorities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community have been hearing their whole lives.

But if this movie isn’t made for these people, then why does Disney keep trying to insist that it is? Most people who have been critical of the film have been met with the chorus of, “You’re just upset that you didn’t get what you wanted” as if it’s somehow wrong to expect more from what you receive. The story was set up so that we would get answers. How someone as powerful as Snoke managed to manipulate Kylo Ren from the womb and grow the First Order from the seeds of the Empire, Phasma’s increased involvement, and especially the question of Rey’s parentage, has been dangled in front of us like a carrot on a stick for the past two years, and it’s ultimately unsatisfying to see all those threads being clipped off and brushed aside with a, “Oh! It didn’t even matter!”

If it didn’t matter, then why feel the need to keep up the secrecy and suspense for two years, when the final product is ultimately disappointing? (Point not withstanding, Kylo Ren tells Rey that Snoke showed him that her parents were buried in a pauper’s grave on Jakku. Why her parents would actually return to Jakku, or whether Snoke was actually telling the truth, is a matter that JJ has yet to resolve.)

It’s not wrong to be a critical consumer of the media that we consume. It’s not wrong to say that we deserve something better. Minorities and women can and should demand to be treated with more respect than they were shown in this film, and the overwhelming amount of racism and misogyny in this film is something that most avid fans of the film have not provided an answer for.

People who claim that The Last Jedi is a good movie, while at the same time acknowledging how deeply misogynistic and racist it is, are contributing to the larger problem we have as a society. It’s saying, “I know it’s racist and misogynistic, but it entertained me, so I’m okay with it.”

It might just be fiction. It might just be a story. But all media we consume influences us, subconsciously or not, in ways that we may not even be aware of. Star Wars may not be real. These characters may not be real.

But it still affects how you feel, and that seems pretty real to me.

73 thoughts on “Why The Last Jedi isn’t just Bad: It’s Toxic

  1. Really insightful article that brings up a lot of good points that I’ve been saying to people for a while now. Ever since the first trailer came out Finn took a backseat and Kylo Ren and Rey were pushed to the forefront, like we don’t have enough white heroes as it is? smh

  2. A well thought out and extensive takedown of a film that deserves a kick in the teeth. What’s best about this critique is that it is coming from a left-leaning perspective which shoots down the media narrative that the only people who dislike the movie are alt right Nazis. So important that you tackled how POC were badly mishandled in this movie, especially Finn and Rose. This franchise is getting too much of a free pass on that front.

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  4. This gave actual reason to my uneasiness and disgust with the film. This was a brilliant piece and those that argue against it need to read this more than anyone. Thank you for spending the time on this amazing article.

  5. Thank you SO MUCH for putting it into words. I knew there was stuff I didn’t like about the movie but I couldn’t find a way to articulate it and you went above and beyond in explaining things even I hadn’t fully realized. It’s such a relief to read this and know that someone out there understands and knows how to explain it.

  6. I liked the movie a lot, and I’m a girl. I think Rey’s character is still the lead and she’s amazing. I think the point of the movie was about the force, anybody can have it. Anakin was worst than Kylo, he killed every Jedi and more. We still have another film, we should wait to see. This trilogy is about a new generation of Star Wars, new characters!. And Rey rejected Kylo twice in the film, so don’t worry about her, the girl knows what she’s doing, calling her emotionally immature because she’s 19 is also mysoginist.

    1. Hi @Freddia, I have a few responses.

      “I liked the movie a lot, and I’m a girl. I think Rey’s character is still the lead and she’s amazing. I think the point of the movie was about the force, anybody can have it. ”

      And yet the only characters who do in this new franchise are white. AFTER turning Finn into a red herring. And then removing him from the position of lead protagonist.

      “Anakin was worst than Kylo, he killed every Jedi and more.”

      Order 66 killed most of the Jedi. Vader hunted the rest but he had help. Kylo killed all of Lukes students – kids included – aside from a handful. The only reason Vader is ‘worse’ is because he had a full ten years extra. Kylo’s well on track to eclipse him. Especially now that he’s space Hitler.

      “And Rey rejected Kylo twice in the film, so don’t worry about her, the girl knows what she’s doing, calling her emotionally immature because she’s 19 is also mysoginist.”

      No it isn’t, 19 year olds are the equivalent of college freshmen. Finn’s emotionally immature as well, and he’s a year or two older.

      The way shippers would have it she rejected him reluctantly both times and wishes she could be with him on a romantic level. Should this indeed be true, and she’s the key to bringing him to the light, it means that her character exists to be a means for a male to change himself through romance, and that’s a trope that should die a horrible death.

    2. Literally all Rey did in most of TLJ is swoon and pine over a guy who kidnapped and tortured her, tried to kill her best friend, and stabbed her father figure to death right in front of her. Any opportunity for character growth she had in this movie was sacrificed to her wondering if she could “redeem” this monster. That’s not empowering. It’s sickening.

      1. I think it’s sickening that so many people view a clearly mentally ill person as an irredeemable monster. There is no such thing as monsters. Only humans and other animals. Living, sentient creatures with actions driven by fear and self-preservation, equip with a beautiful and complex center of cognition that is so easily influenced and sculpted during early and crucial stages of development. There are living beings so seemingly lost and disturbed who have changed so radically for the better, and these instances have prompted my belief that all nearly all living things are capable of this “redemption” if the correct steps are taken. Sadly, in extreme cases, fear is the catalyst for their change. However, this is not the case. Things such as love and care, either yearned for or offered, can revolutionize a person. It will take time. Soon they will realize their own full potential. I admire anyone who sees hope in others when they can no longer see it in themselves.

        1. How is Kylo clearly mentally ill? Blaming acts of mass murder on mental illness is incredibly ableist and damaging to people who actually suffer from mental illness. It is totally possible for somebody to just be evil without being neurodivergent.

          Furthermore, Han did offer his son a chance at redemption, and he got killed for it. Kylo has already pretty violently rejected redemption. There is no point in trying to redeem him, especially not for Rey, who has no reason to feel anything but hatred for him.

          Kylo’s choices are what drive his destiny, just like every other character’s. Finn was kidnapped as a child and forced to be a soldier, which would be unbelievably traumatic to anybody, but he has still chosen to reject the First Order.

          1. I live with mental illness myself, and rather, I find it ablest to believe in “evil”, as do many others, especially in regards to emotional-behavioral. No animal is “evil”. No one is simply “evil”. In addition, one simply cannot compare two individuals who have experienced radically different development, and who each have radically differing neural chemistry. This is very basic neuroscience. Please reread my mention of input driven cognition and development. Almost no one is beyond change. However, it is incredibly unrealistic to expect “redemption” on the very first attempt. He hadn’t found an ounce of resolve in that moment. It will take time. He has already gotten so far. There is no “on and off switch”. I am confused why someone why would expect that. He must change himself, but he cannot do that alone. There are various reasons as to why turning Ben would be highly beneficial, though my own interest largely derives from empathy. That is what Rey experienced as well. You simply must attempt to understand the situation. I care for all lifeforms, no matter the occasion. I wish for him to do good to get better, to have a level of peace with himself. The majority of the Galaxy will never consider him a “redeemed” person. That shouldn’t matter. Those, even if it is only just one person, who were able to see the growth and struggle of this man will appreciate the change. Perhaps he will make a great sacrifice in the end.

    3. Anakins actions may be as evil as Kylos, but other than Kylo Anakin comes from a more understandable and sympathetic position, which makes it easier to see where his fall comes from and to understand how he would reach this point.

      He may be like Kylo a white male, but other than him, he comes from a position where he never benefited from any kind of privilege. He is born into an opressed position as a slave due to his mother being a slave as well. This means from his birth on, he was raised up in the least privileged position you could imagine, being a slave and therefore stripped out of any basic rights he should have as a sentient being. He lives his entire childhood without any right of self-determination in the position of an object, a good that can be marketed, owned and treated his his buyer want, just like his mother.

      You can see where his later fall from the Jedi and the concept of democracy come from due to his first interactions with both institutions. Anakin as a child idealized the Jedi and hoped for salvation for himself and his mother through the Jedi. This hope was shattered when the first Jedi he met clearly had no intention in either freeing him and his mother, nor to end the practice of slavery on his planet. Quite in opposition, they used his selfless nature for their own benefit, to get out from Tatooine. While he was freed later on by the Jedi, the Jedi themselves did still nothing to save his mother or end slavery. Which is even more concerning is that they didn’t saved him out of compassion, care for him as a human being or a slave or any other humanitarian reason but because of his force potential. They basically gambled him free to use him as a ressource for their own gain.

      Together with his interactions with Padme and the fact that the first thing he saw from the republic was that they were unwilling to stop aggressions against a planet belonging to the republic, Anakin already comes from a Position where he has little reason to deeply believei n the trueness of the values of the Jedi or in the value of a democratic nation. It is understandable while he would fall for the promise of an autoritarian law and order state when the first thing he saw from a democratic republic was ineffectiveness and unwillingness to stop injustices in front of them.

      Next, while he suffered constant criticism and devaluation from his Master and his superiors in the Jedi Temple, we saw over the entire trilogy how Palpatine set the seeds to manipulate Anakin and gain his loyalty. Palpatine was from the moment they met each other portraying himself as a reasonable and competent authority figure who was constantly validating him. If we remember his slave background, this becomes even more important: After he lived his childhood as a property, a slave, its not only understandable but absolutely human that he would strongly connect and sympathize with any person who helps him reconstruct his sense of self-esteem and self-worth. Its basically why cults work, it is a highly effective form of psychological manipulation Anakin couldn’t to much to defend himself against. We can easily see that Anakin over his entire adult life suffers immense feelings of inadequacy and constantly tries to compensate them through pushing himself to prove himself and aquire a higher social status, in his case the Status of a Jedi-Master. All of this absolutely has to come from his Slave Background and if we look at him as a former slave, its understandable why he wants so desperately to be a Jedi-MASTER. After living a life as property only to find himself in a highly hierarchical militaristic religious order, the title of a Master is properly immensely important for him to finally archieve a full feeling of self-ownership and self determination. His immense fear of separation is also understandable if we consider that as a slave child, he properly didn’t received much kindness or empathy from the outside world, which could explain why he is so deeply and desperately bonding with people who treat him with respect, empathy and kindness. Which is something Palpatine also did right from the beginning, like I said. Palpatine showed Anakin by far more validation, trust, respect and empathy than we ever saw in his interactions with Obi-Wan. He became a person Anakin could share his problems with, which he couldn’t do with the Jedi due to their dogmatic nature that stops from admitting any action that goes against their code of conduct and therefore stops him from opening himself up concerning problems that come from such actions, like his fears of losing his wife, he even at the end shared his own darkest secret with Anakin, that he is a Sith, giving him absolute power of him and creating a deep feeling of intimacy and trust. The Jedi on the other hand aggressively refused to validate him, even on basis of his own merit and actions. After all, he defeated a Sith-Lord and leader of the enemy faction and while Anakin highly promoted him for this, getting him a seat in the Jedi-Council, the Jedi reacted by refusing to give him the title of a Jedi-Master, something Anakin desperately wanted and probably emotionally needed, which came has to be a deeply humiliating and devastating moment for a person like him. Not only that, after they refused to give him the promition they ordered him to spy on Palpatine, a person who always acted nothing but with positive imput towards him. So, we can already see where his withdrawal from the Jedi and his loyalty towards Palpatine come from. Not only that, Palpatine also portrayed himself as the only person who can help Anakin save his pregnant wife. Anakin is as well a person who lost everything that represented family to him, his mother, twice. One time when he had to leave her to join the Jedi and a second time when she died. So its yet again some point Palpatine uses to gain control over him, as its for a normal person already natural to do anything to protect their partner and their child, even more so for a person who already suffered under seperation from his family and the loss of his family.

      And when he finally saw how Mace Windu wanted to kill Palpatine, the person he absolutely trusted and murdered, against the values the Jedi preached and on which basis he was already punished and refused a promotion for killing Dooku, the most likely thing happened. And with that, Palpatine had gained finally full control over Jedi and fully disconnected him from the Jedi, by forcing him into a position where he felt like he had to help kill his superior and betray his order and at the same time lost any respect or sympathy towards the Jedi. In this moment, he was easily accessibly for Palpatines lies that the Jedis where conspiring and gaining control over the Republic, which made it combined with the fact that he reached the point of no return where he made himself a helper of the Sith and a traitor to the Jedi already the more easier for him to fully dehumanize the Jedi. It was a position he was slowly manipulated into by his later Master and which insidiously used every single problem and issue he would have due to his background and upbringing to lead him into this point. And the Jedis were blind for this. Because of their Dogma, they treated him just as a normal student who are particularily raised to have as little background and attachement as possible, instead of seeing that the troubled kid with the highly traumatic and psychologically problematic background he had. The Jedi basically helped Palpatine in every was possible to creat their biggest Traitor.

      Kylo Ren on the other hand is the rich and privileged kid of two famous and socially acclaimed war heroes who comes from a position of privilege, like the writer of the article stated, and who had a loving and caring family. And yet, he was easily influenced by the new Space Hitler without ever meeting him personally, Palpatine and Anakin had like I pointed out a personal relationship for years which was founded on sympathy, respect, appretiation and validation, and gets himself easily pulled in direction of the dark side. And when he gets the opportunity to train with Luke Skywalker, basically the greatest guy on the universe, they guy who even made Vader redeem himself, he turned against him by the slightest moment of dissatisfaction and kills him and the entire Jedi-Academy. And then he joins the Space-Nazis…for the evulz. And then he kills his father in cold blood, for the evulz. Remember that Anakin attacked Padme on the other hand in a fit of rage after he did some stuff that had to be highly stressfull and traumatic for him and right after he started using the Dark Side freely, which is a kind of power which amplifies destructive emotions. Which makes Anakin force chocking Padme by far less evil and fucked up than Kylo killing Han. Anakin even shoved deep remorse and pain over his actions afterwards, which Kylo has not. I mean, in a court case in Germany, where I live in, Kylos cold-blooded, intentional and remorseless patricide would probably lead to a far higher sentence than Anakins emotional, unintentional and remorsefull murder on his wife.

      Not to forget that Darth Vader received by the narrative the punishment for his fall and his actions. He figuratively burned in hell and ended up as a highly mutilated Cyborg who has to live an existence of constant pain. His relationship with Palpatine turned from this point one into a deeply abusive one, where the emperor ensured that Vader would suffer as much pain as possible and stripped him from any kind of appreciation, validation, respect and empathy that defined their interactions before. Which makes the consequences of his actions against Padme even worse, as he got stuck in a abusive master-student relationship fully isolated from the world around him with the constant guilt that he himself killed his entire family that he wanted to save to desperately. And in the end, once there is a person who sees goodness and light in Vader, he is able to find this in himself again and sacrifices himself to save the Galaxy.

      Kylo on the other Hand suffers no consequences for his action outside of a scar which makes him arguably more attractive as this fallen bad boy archetype. What he get instead is constant affection and validation from Rey during Episode 8, with her willing to risk herself and sacrifice herself, just to save him. And he refuses. He doesn’t even redeems himself by killing his Master as he uses this moment simply to promote himself as the New-Space Hitler. Its not an action of heroic self-sacrifice to redeem himself, like Vader did, its simply backstabbing. Miserable, pityful and weak backstabbing. Everything turns out fine for Kylo, while everyone around him as to suffer for his own action and for the fact that he is simply a fully evil character.

      Kylo Ren is the worst kind of Draco in Leatherpants. He is basically Voldemort in this kind of Fanfiction where Voldemort gets shipped with Harry, turns back into smexy Tom Riddle and Dumbledore gets portrayed as this big evil villain for opposing Magic Nazis. Just as Luke got demoted, humiliated, destroyed as a character and in the end killed for one moment thinking about stopping the privileged white kid who dreams of becoming the galaxis next Darth Vader with no deeper motives than da evulz.

      It also hurts Reys Character arc. Because this is Kylos Story and Kylos Wish-Fulfillment and Luke has to be this miserable, petty weakling, Rey gets stripped off her opportunity to get into a real arc as a Jedi in Training, learning under and bonding with the legendary Luke Skywalker and grow into the new Hope, the new Future of the Jedi instead of being pushed into this role and become nothing but a weak Mary Sue. And yeah, Rey is a Mary sue. And no, its not sexist to call her a Mary sue. Whats sexist is the high prevalence of the Mary Sue Trope on female Characters. It hurts them and it hurts women, as it portrays women as unable to archieve greatness, strength and heroism through work, suffering and their own merit as their well-written male conterparts to and instead sends of the message that female characters have to be constructed overpowered and flawless because the writer themselves don’t believe that a woman without push can earn herself a position of power and strength. Its the worst and weakest kind of empowerment.

      1. That was beautifully written explaination.
        I don’t understand the hype Kylo Ren or Rey is getting. Kylo is a entitled, manipulative, selfish, sociopath without a shred of empathy. Whenever he is acting “conflicted” or “vulnerable” is him just grieving the fact that he didn’t get what he wanted. It’s completely selfish and other people’s lives that he possibly ruined for that process is not even put into factor for him. He is completely remorseless about slaughtering, kidnapping, torturing and mind raping people, if anything he seems to enjoy the power trip that it is bringing him closer to his image as Vader.
        What is painful to watch is that Han, Leia and Luke is thrown under the bus to make Rey look like a strong female character and Kylo a sympathetic villain (They are not BTW).In the Force Awakens, they make Han look like the asshole that caused Kylo to be evil, this is a fine case of victim blaming. In the Last Jedi, it is now somehow Luke’s fault that Kylo is evil. How did such terribly written films manage to convince such large number of audiences that their beloved characters is the reason Kylo is a victim of unhappy disfunctional home surrounded by unloving family is beyond me.
        The Last Jedi amps up how terrible Kylo is by trying to get Rey by his side. Telling her that she is nothing but not to him just throws in the fact that he is a creep as well. I don’t know how anyone could possibly think that Reylo should be canon. But then again Twilight exists so does it’s fanfiction Fifty Shades of Grey so I guess Reylo being canon isn’t too far fetched.

        1. How exactly do they make Han look like an asshole in The Force Awakens?

  7. This is great! Very well written. Brings up a lot of peoints that I didn’t even think about. 👀👀

  8. I believe she was called emotionally immature because she lived most of her life in solitude.

  9. I went into the film with an open mind, keeping in the back of my mind, “don’t believe everything you see on the internet”. After watching “The Last Jedi”, I was left with an uneasy feeling that I couldn’t put into words. Thank you for putting into words what I was unable to express – the misogyny and racism that was present.

  10. Thanks for stating this so eloquently. This movie made me downright queasy, and this was why.

  11. The Force Awakens was also quite racist (look closer at Finn’s background and how he is portrayed as a runaway), so there’s not really any surprise there.

    1. At least TFA treated Finn as a character who was courageous and important to the resistance. TLJ shoved him into a pointless and unnecessary side plot and had him constantly getting beat up for laughs.

    2. I can’t agree. Finn was portrayed as intelligent, capable of making plans that worked, and able to develop as a human being. Yes he was subject to brutality but showing a black person being subject to violence from an oppressive government isn’t called racism, it’s called “The News”. Little police brutality joke there. Finn controlled his destiny in TFA and did so in a way that showed he was a decent (if not perfect) human being. He could have simply kept running pnce he got away from The First Order. Instead he turned around and risked his life for his friends. Remind you of anyone? Maybe an old friend who got lightsabered?

  12. Thank you article writer,

    You absolutely nailed what a lot of people, young poc and women, found issue with the film. Finn became one of my favorite Star Wars characters after TFA and to see him, and John Boyega, be put on the back-burner movie wise and marketing wise is heartbreaking. I put so much trust in Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson only to be gradually let down as news of TLJ kept getting released. They may view themselves as ‘Liberals’ and ‘Feminist’ but really their racism and microaggressions are on full display to those who are not white.

  13. Brilliant analysis of a hideous disservice to women, person of colour, the LGBTQI+ community and a total disgrace to cinema and contemporary culture. And, should anyone want to question my perspective as being young or female or in some other way “inferior” — I grew up entirely unaware of white male privilege (the concept had barely begun to be discussed and was NOT something that could, for example, be studied at university when I was doing my degrees – “Women’s Studies” were battling to become part of the syllabus). I am a man almost 60 years old, who saw the original at the local Drive-In cinema back in the ’70s, and enjoyed it and the first 2 sequels as hugely entertaining, but I was a kid, and deeply closeted in a time when my life was literally in danger should I have come out (and my sex life, such as it was, could have seen me jailed for longer than first degree murder), so naturally enough, at that time I did not see the flaws that were, frankly, just part of the general culture in those days. That doesn’t excuse that, just places things in context. But here we are 40 years later, and shit has actually got worse, because people really do not have any valid excuse to produce this sort of misogynistic, racist, sexist, and (almost ironically) homophobic queer-baiting garbage. Thank-you so much for so thoroughly dissecting this poor excuse for a screen play and movie.

    1. What are you referring to when you mention “homophobic queer-baiting garbage”? As a gay man, I saw no homophobia in this or any other Star Wars movie, and any “queer-baiting” that you imagine might be there is only simple frustration because a nebulously implied relationship between Poe and Finn never materialized. I would like to see a gay relationship in SW too, but to call the movie(s) homophobic because it didn’t deliver what you wanted to see precisely when you wanted to see it is both small minded and delusional.

  14. The movie was bad, but race and sex had nothing to do with it. A little bit of racism or sexism in film is ok. If not, that’s like saying Djano Unchained was a bad movie because it showed slavery. The movie world and the real world does not have to be and is not connected. Trying to force them to is not going to get you anywhere or prove any point. “Racism still exists because I saw it in a movie”. No. Racism still exists because real people of minority are wrongfully dying. The movie was bad. They screwed up Luke’s character. The whole Rose and Fin story was unnecessary and made the tempo of the film unbalanced. Rey is a nobody, so why’s she even in this film? Who the hell is Snoke? Those, and many more, are what made the film bad. It had nothing to do with race or sex.

      1. That’s a pity, because it is actually one of the few comments here that got the point.
        The movie is plain bad and racism is not really the issue here. The problem is that they tried to make equality and political statements out of a movie instead of making a movie.
        The final result is that they were not able to make happy all people in search of equality and the they were not able to make happy all the people who just wanted to watch a good fantasy/SciFi SW movie.
        Utter disaster in the end.

  15. Ok, so I certainly agree with many of the issues that you presented here, especially about the racist undertones surrounding how Finn and Poe were handled in TLJ. But, I would like to give my opinion on some of the other points that you raised. Firstly (this isn’t in chronological order by the way) but you mentioned that a murderer like Kylo Ren is not relatable or even redeemable. I think it’s important to realise that Darth Vader was exactly the same, if not even worse – he had control of the galaxy for what, 25 years? And whilst the First Order did have a lot of Nazi imagery in TFA, the Empire was actually a Nazi-esque organisation, for example forbidding non-humans to become a part of the army or to become military officials, the abuse of other races etc. Darth Vader probably killed hundreds more than Kylo Ren did – he did murder like 20 children who were completely defenseless against him in a small enclosed room where they couldn’t escape – but he still redeemed himself at the end of ROTJ – so who’s to say that perhaps the same could be said for Kylo? For Kylo, it’s even more apparent – he decided against killing his mother on the cruiser bridge, suggesting there’s still a little trace of humanity left in him, whereas Darth Vader did not even flinch when locking on to his son’s X-Wing or chopping his arm off.

    Moving on, I have an issue with you saying that ‘Holdo had to die in order for Poe to understand what it meant to be a leader’. Yes, I completely agree that that lesson was one that Poe has already shown he knew, and that how he was handled in TLJ was pretty contradictory to the person we knew in TFA, but I think that this isn’t an example of the trope of ‘a female character dying in order to further a male plot or development’ – ignoring the fact that Poe already knew this ‘lesson’, I think the important fact is that Holdo’s sacrifice meant so much more than merely ‘teaching Poe a lesson’ – she sacrificed herself because she found the resolve in her to give her life to give hope for the rebels and by extension, the galaxy. Had Poe NOT taken anything from that from the way he was portrayed in TLJ, he’s a terrible character. Yes, perhaps it was integral to Poe’s plot – but Poe’s plot is irrelevant in this moment because she does this for something bigger than herself or any one person in this story. Had Poe been a female, or had Holdo been a male, would this have been a problem? No, but I feel like that’s a problem in itself – Holdo, being a female character, cannot sacrifice herself in the way she did because then Poe, being a male character, would have learned something from it. This just feels more like restricting what a woman can do, because of how it will affect a man. I definitely agree that the trope of ‘a woman dying/existing solely for the development of a male’s plot/character’ is a sh*tty trope that can go to hell, but I feel like this example of Holdo making a sacrifice already means so much more, and just because Poe takes away something (that he already knows) from it shouldn’t make her sacrifice any less heroic or empowering.

    I also have an issue with your comments on Rey’s different appearance. This isn’t like Leia in ROTJ where the expllicitly sexulised her for some sad fan service, they just let Rey’s hair down and changed her clothes a bit. You say that it ‘makes her more feminine’, but what’s wrong with making her more feminine? Now we’re in a bit of a dangerous position, because in telling women that they can choose to not ‘act like girls/women’, we are scorning those who do want to ‘act like girls/women’. Rey can be just as badass as she wants to with her hair down, I think it’s actually toxic if we say that something inoffensive like this is bad for her character. We need to give freedom for women to choose what clothes to wear, what makeup to put on, what hairstyle to take on – we shouldn’t be forcing them to adopt them in a certain way. We should be embracing femininity but also the freedom to choose something else, not scorning one or the other.

    Aside from that, I just have a small and rather inconsequential issue with you saying that the first order couldn’t possibly have come up with hyper-tracking in the few days since TFA – they wouldn’t have had to, they could have easily just kept that technology a secret until a more crucial time, like a few days after the destruction of Starkiller Base where the entire Rebel fleet was in a neat little chunk to obliterate. That feels more like a tactical decision than a loophole.

    Anyways that’s all I got and heck I realised just how much I wrote. I don’t mind a discussion going on about your thoughts on, well, my thoughts so yeah! I agree with pretty much everything else you wrote, just thought I should give my two cents on a couple of topics.

    1. literally nobody is sitting here saying what vader did was forgivable. people understand that though luke may have somehow been able to forgive him, there is probably no one else in that entire galaxy that could share the sentiment. even now online we understand that darth vader’s actions were not ok, and that no amount of apologizing or self sacrifice could suddenly make that ok.

      kylo ren though. kylo looked at all that death and destruction business and legitimately thought to himself “yeah im ok with this” and in fact, strived to make the damage bigger and badder (like how starkiller base is basically a scaled up death star). his actions were not ok and no matter what he does to say hes sorry (doubt it) theres no coming back from that. sorry not sorry kylo stans. your fave is bland trash and so is rian johnson

  16. And you know what else? TLJ doesn’t even pass the Bechtel Test. Leia and Holdo’s conversation doesn’t count because they’re talking about Poe.

    Most feminist Star Wars movie my ass!

    1. I hate the Betchel test, it’s not an indication of feminism, it’s an indication of female representation, and even then it’s flawed. You can’t tell from the Betchel test status whether a work is feminist, anti-feminist, gender egalitarian, positive towards men’s right or anything.

      Here’s a better test, the Genderless Alien Test. Assume you have an alien that doesn’t have two sexes and has never met a species that does. It watches the movie/reads the book/whatever. This is it’s only exposure to a world where gender exists. What does it think about the genders afterwards? For instance if it watched the original trilogy it would think that female are rare (<1% of the population), they are far more likely to have leadership positions than males and they're likely to be kinda badass.

  17. You’ve pretty much touched upon many aspects of “THE LAST JEDI” that I found disturbing . . . especially the portrayals of Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose and especially Ren.

  18. Firstly I’d like to say I tend to talk about things people get wrong not right, because they already know what they got right so don’t be too offended.
    “Poe is described as rash, dangerous, and aggressive by Vice Admiral Holdo, played by veteran actress Laura Dern. She’s dismissive of him, and while a part of it does play into more harmful stereotypes that I’ll get into later, in this instance, it’s hard not to. In the opening first scene, Poe is prepared to let everyone, everyone die just to take out a First Order Dreadnought. Even though successful, Poe seems more focused on the success of his mission than the countless deaths of his fellow Resistance fighters.”

    And that’s how he should be. The resistance barely survives even with the Dreadnought taken out, if it had still be operational when the Resistence retreated everything would have all died. The fighter pilots, everyone they knew in the main fleet and the dream of a resistence. Poe might be compassionate, but he is still a soldier, and a good one. He knows when to order an attack most of the attackers won’t be coming back from. In fact that’s a Rebellion tradition. The Battle of Yavin was, you might remember, pretty bloody for the Rebels. Sure it got toned down in the revised versions, but it was still an almost suicidal charge. Remind me, who ordered that attack? Oh yeah the same woman who’s calling Poe a “hothead” for attacking a much smaller target with more fighters with a much more viable plan.

    This isn’t about race BTW, sure white women humiliate miniority men, but that’s because there are no white men to humiliate. Males are stupid and need to be told what to do, by females whose plans end in disaster. But somehow we’re supposed to sympathise with the women. Really? Why?

    O

    1. Your last part is highlighting one of the issues of this movie (and the new trilogy overall). The characters are not really characters most of the time. They are just statements, poster of an ethnics/gender. And it is so because of a request of gender/race equality that in the end shadows the real diversity of the rebellion (where are all the Alien races that were essential part of this Galaxy in the first 6 episodes?) and at the same time proves failing when you try to make these new stereotyped characters do something. Hence, all White Males are bad and/or stupid. So, when they need a rebellion white male to be humiliated they cannot find one anymore and the closest to the definition is the poor Poe that ends up being totally modified for pure political purpose (not narrative ones).

      They they tried to make equality and political statements out of a movie instead of making a movie.
      The final result is that they were not able to make happy all people in search of equality and the they were not able to make happy all the people who just wanted to watch a good fantasy/SciFi SW movie.

  19. As troubling as that notion is, it does get worse. Kylo Ren tells Rey, “You come from nothing. You are nothing. But not to me.”
    And the worst thing is that gaslighting shouldn’t have worked for a millisecond. Rey KNOWS she’s not nothing. She knows she was pivotal in defeating Kylo and saving Finn. Are we expected to believe that someone who saved someone’s life several times, helped destroy Starkiller base, and had someone willing to risk their lives for them on a few days acquaitance is “nothing”? Or that she believes it?

    Now I know what people are going to say, the mind control is obviously working. But why should it work on one of the most talented force users ever? Are we really supposed to believe that you can just puppetmaster someone so powerful the can do the “Not the droids” trick without training?

  20. “Holdo is held up as someone that people in the Resistance are supposed to respect as a leader, and yet she refuses to tell the very people she’s leading what their plan is, citing Poe’s earlier reckless actions as an excuse. Even according to the Navy’s Leadership Principles, keeping your people informed is the second principle on the list. In other words? It’s pretty important. Vice Admiral Holdo’s refusal to do so is driven by petty motives, and while Poe is painted as ridiculous and childish the entire movie, he’s actually proven right when the First Order does the very thing he was afraid they would do.”
    Note that the only reason why Poe doesn’t go along with the plan is because he doesn’t know the details. So this is a complete failure of leadership.

    The youtuber “Charisma On Command” has a video “Why The Starks Will Always Get Betrayed” that talks about why telling people your plans and why they should follow them is important. It’s exactly on point.

  21. It fits into Rian Johnson’s grim version of reality: our heroes can be defeated, and idolizing legends is ultimately unsettling and disappointing when faced with reality.

    I have no problem with this. Look at what happened to the Rebel Alliance and the main protagonists in “THE EMPIRE STRIKES”. Look at what happened to nearly all of the major characters in “REVENGE OF THE SITH”.

    The problem wasn’t that the Resistance had suffered a major defeat in this film. The problem is that it suffered a major defeat so soon after the First Order had suffered two major defeats in “THE FORCE AWAKENS”. The problem is that the Resistance’s defeat in this film was just so badly written.

  22. Great take on this mess of a movie. Perfectly captured why RJ should never have been put in charge and why his focus on messaging instead of actual character development created this messy film with lots of very unfortunate/ugly undertones. Finn deserved so much better, and Rose and Paige could’ve had more development if not for the absurd plotting. The whole Poe/Holdo thing is a huge contrivance. RJ should really get over his Adam Driver fixation.

  23. Seriously, thank you so much for putting it into words!
    I was so relieved when I found this article because I’ve had more than an argument with some girl friends of mine after I stated that the new SW franchise isn’t in any way promoting feminism – to me it’s just a bad attempt of feminism according to white, male, awful writers!

    “But, but… we’ve got a female lead for the first time!”
    Too bad she’s part of the whole “Beauty and the Beast” trope.
    Now, most of my friends are Reylo shippers and they will never admit that Rey’s storyline is functional to Kylo’s. Basically she’s there so that he can be a creep, am I supposed to be happy or excited about it?
    For once I’d like to see a movie where a well-written female character simply minds her own business and just goes “oh hell, no! I’m not falling for that!” when the villain-with-issues tries to trick her into a dysfunctional relationship, because I do believe the whole Reylo situation IS abusive.

    “But, but… Luke did the same for his father”
    Leia didn’t and I’m not the one to blame her for that decision.
    Plus, I don’t think the Vader/Luke family bond can be compared to the Kylo/Rey force bond. Luke being the son of Darth Vader has so many more implications – first of all, Luke is destined to forever ask himself “will I turn to the dark side, like my father did?” and saving what little good was left in Anakin has a double meaning, almost a reassurance that if really there’s darkness in him (as there was in Vader) he will be able to fight it.
    Even if Rey turns out to be a reincarnation of Anakin I still wouldn’t want her to be so invested in saving Kylo.

    @Legion – quot “No animal is “evil”. No one is simply “evil”. […] He must change himself, but he cannot do that alone.”

    Well, human beings are in fact animals but we’re a little bit more complex than the average “beast”.
    Humans choose to do evil and Kylo made that choice, more than one time. He even reaches out to the Dark Side because the pull to the light is too strong, so he’s clearly self-aware.
    Is he redeemable? Yes, he is, but I’m not ashamed to say I don’t feel so sympathetic towards a man who tortured and held captive the very same girl who could help him change, because the whole idea of someone enduring abuse (physical or psychological) so that the person they’ve just met can be redeemed is just plain fucked up.

    “But, but… Holdo sacrifice was heroic!”
    Here’s what I didn’t like about her storyline: it’s not the sacrifice itself I didn’t like, it’s the fact that she was a new (female) character and we didn’t get time to know her.
    She was introduced and killed off within the same movie, that’s why I get the nasty vibe that Holdo sacrificing herself was the easiest way to show the emotional growth of another character.
    True, she might have been wrong when she decided not to tell Poe about her plans – as he was wrong thinking she was unfit to lead the Resistance. She was higher in rank and later on took full responsibility for her mistake, but somehow Poe isn’t in any way forced to deal with the concept of admitting he misjudged her, after all.
    And God forbid Holdo was a black woman.
    See, that’s what really bothers me: it’s not only a matter of depiction of the women in SW, it’s also how many of them are given actual lines in the movies or are listed as recurrent characters, with a solid backstory.
    Nobody could predict what happened to Carrie Fisher and there’s a tiny chance Phasma isn’t really dead, but we won’t find out until Episode IX. What we know at the moment is that we only have TWO female leads who will be recurring characters in all three episodes – Rey and Leia.
    Half the number of the recurring male characters (Kylo, Hux, Finn, Poe) and it sucks.
    Wedge Antilles survived the battle of Yavin, the battle of Hoth and then the battle of Endor, but Tallissan Lintra had to die in TLJ despite being one of the greatest pilot in the Resistance.
    And what about Jessika Pava? She’s the only female pilot shown in TFA but she’s not back in TLJ.
    Furthermore, male characters are generally recognizable and their name can be heard more than one time during the movie, while female characters often don’t get any recognition and you only know their name if you sit long enough through the end credits or google them yourself.
    I’ve been rewatching TFA to prove my theory and can confirm that we only hear Captain Phasma’s name ONE time, when Finn holds her prisoner.
    Jessika’s name is not heard but hey! she tells the squadron a pilot name Furillo crashed into Starkiller Base!
    Same goes for Kaydel Ko Connix, she’s at the briefing before the attack with many other female characters who are not given a single line while Wexley, Major Ematt, Poe, Han, Admiral Ackbar, Admiral Statura, Finn and even fuckin’ 3PO have lines. Somehow the only woman who’s allowed to speak is Leia.
    How is this feminist?!

    [sorry for any mistakes, I’m not a native speaker!]

  24. Toxic indeed. Carrot-on-a-stick is right.
    Yes to all of your points above*
    It is simply a fact that the Guatemalan-American, Asian-American, and African-American characters were relegated to “second-class” citizenship in the TLJ universe. Why??
    Why even introduce a token “Asian girl” if you are going to make her just that: token. And no, I’m not saying “token” as in supporting stereotypes, I’m agreeing with your assessment that she is plugged in simply to draw the Finn character away from the Rey character in order to isolate Rey within the unfounded Reylo storyline.  Lets face it: the Reylo dynamic is that of a manipulative sociopathic abuser and his prey. Yuck!

    At least we have REASONS to know how and why Darth Vader became a Sith.
    Kylo Ren should not be rewarded for killing Han Solo. (Just as Rian Johnson should not be praised for killing Luke Skywalker). On the other hand, we have nothing to work with other than an unrealistic, bastardized version of Luke, so…it becomes an illogical and disturbing loop!

    Furthermore, Rose absolutely does emasculate Finn–who was so wonderfully set up as a strong Hero in TFA. It breaks my heart to witness frankly. I could not have envisioned in a million years that Poe and Finn could get shafted so flagrantly.

    JJ Abrams’s film–though not “perfect” in an ESB sort of way–made appropriate use of its characters. It has a wonderful pacing that adheres well to the slow-simmer-building-to-a-climax SW formula.

    Rian Johnson on the other hand just drop-kicks us into a devolved, regressed mess, that reads more like a Star Trek film than a SW one. Yet, ironically, Star Trek would never lean on the shallow posturing of non-whites in their storylines! Race and gender OUGHT to be a non-issue in a sci-fi adventure, period.

    If Lando Calrissian and Mace Windu are allowed non-racially focused roles (I never once heard race or gender issues brought up re: SW before!) why then, all of a sudden, the pseudo-politically-correct rhetoric? 

    JJ Abrams’s “jokes” in TFA are wry and somber like Star Wars itself.
    Rian Johnson seems to adopt a “fake it til you make it” attitude toward the script, barely cognizant of SW history it seems. So instead we are given a send-up, a parody more akin to Monty Python. At this point why not? Force has become Farce! 

    Star Wars has always been a shared epic journey. The Rian Johnson film is a shallow [unclear] agenda-driven one-off. It is polarizing rather than unifying. First they whack us over the head with that tired “Hope” theme, then rip it’s heart out altogether without supporting details or plotlines.

    And I mean, c’mon. Are our beloved core characters STILL talking about HAIR?

    I just cannot comprehend how TLJ passed the muster as decent (let alone good) storytelling within the powers that be at Disney. Clearly it means they are all “in on the joke”. Well, it is a joke that is NOT appreciated by this lifelong fan.

    *(except the point of contention re: Rey and the water. Rey doesn’t really “swim”, so it’s moot. She pops up, treads water and sputters to shore. Not implausible at all really. And “classic” puppet yoda was wonderful…heartwarming.)

    1. Edit: please note. I fully acknowledge the important contribution that the original Star Trek tv series made to breaking race barriers, as well as the Next Gen era shows further dissolving the gender gap. My point was that Star Wars, with its own multitude of species and creatures, seems un unlikely forum for trotting out the equality lessons. Also, at the end of the day Star Wars was and is supposed to be a family movie enjoyed by “kids” of all ages. Most children are colorblind thankfully. But with regard to gender (as you suggested), unless a big deal is made on purpose, then why go out of your way to launch a feminist sub-plot? How is the heroine Rey dropping her Jedi studies to chase un unworthy boy a good example to girls?

      There is no example of ‘noble Palladin’ (should have been Luke–poster boy for aspiring Palladins) role modeled in TLJ. This film is a study in missed opportunities.

      Your essay Krasava is gloriously bold and insightful.

        1. Thank you so much for your comment, I’d like to add a few thoughts – hopefully now that I got rid of the flu and I’m not feverish anymore my reply would make much more sense than my first one!

          quot. “Also, at the end of the day Star Wars was and is supposed to be a family movie enjoyed by “kids” of all ages. Most children are colorblind thankfully.”
          It is indeed a family movie but if one has the opportunity to sneak a positive message within the very same plot of the movie… it’s worth a shot IMHO.
          Now, of all the issues mentioned above – such as equality, gender gap, feminist subplot – none of the authors seemed to be familiar with at least one of them.
          That’s why Rose doesn’t work. That’s why Rey and her relationship with Kylo don’t work.
          I’m not so keen on blaming just ONE person – as ScytheNoire said – for the toxic mess that is TLJ because when Episode IV first came out there really wasn’t a solid plot written for the next two chapters (in the first drafts Vader, Luke & Leia were not even related, if I’m not mistaken) but Kasdan and Brackett made it work nevertheless.
          What really baffles me is that who’s behind TFA relied on pre-existent plots and characters – Darth Revan and Bastila, anyone? – then Rian Johnson came and butchered the whole shebang.
          To be fair, I liked Kathleen Kennedy’s views on how girls can’t 100% identify with Luke (and I still find it amazing how many fanboys lashed out at her, saying “that’s ridiculous!!!” while simultaneously whining about a female lead in TFA… I guess it’s only ok for girls to identify with a male character, not the other way round) even though I think it’s not only a matter of identification, it’s also a lack of an actual female presence in the story that should be taken into account.
          As a female who grew up watching the original Star Wars trilogy, I’ve never wanted to be Princess Leia. I wanted to be just like Luke – strong with the Force, skilled with a lightsaber, I wanted my very own X-wing and astrodroid. Needles to say, I was pretty disappointed when I realized there wasn’t a single female character with a similar storyline and I couldn’t really choose a different option.
          Thing is… I’m not happy with Rey or Rose, either.
          It’s all about the misrepresentation of the few female characters we get to see, because these are women I myself have troubles identifying with.
          Rose characterization is heavily influenced by the micsonception that girls/women must be bossy in order to deserve respect or be taken seriously and Rey is stupidly close to the “Mary Sue” trope, even though it didn’t bothered me that much in TFA.
          In ANH Luke goes from farmboy to “you don’t believe in the Force, do you?” within minutes.
          Quoting Family Guy, Blue Harvest: “Oh, you mean that thing you just learned about three hours ago, and am now judging me for not believing in?”
          Despite living on the most useless planet in the universe he still got to fly T-16 airspeeders whose manual controls resemble the ones on the X-wings, so that he could be the one blowing up the Death Star.
          Meh, tell me again how he’s NOT a GaryStu?! (Always keep in mind we’re not supposed to know he’s Vader’s son, not at this point, so his abilities are a little bit too much if you ask me, even if his father was a random Jedi)
          It’s only in ESB that he struggles during his training, risks his own life and learns the shocking truth about his parentage/powers and this is what Rey’s storyline fails to deliver in TLJ.
          Then she truly goes full-on Mary Sue. She’s never really in danger, she’s not tempted by the Dark Side and she’s never presented with a challenge she can’t win. Not only it makes her character unsympathetic, it also sets unrealistic standards.
          She’s so perfect that she doesn’t even come across as vulnerable (not helpless, mind you) which leads Reylo shippers to state we should stop considering “torture” what Kylo did to her in TFA, because when he tried to mind probe her she actually resisted and ended up reading his mind in return, therefore what Kylo did to Poe was definitely worse.
          How about… NO.

          Quot. “How is the heroine Rey dropping her Jedi studies to chase un unworthy boy a good example to girls?”
          Tell me about it.
          And let me point out this last thing: Kylo didn’t know Rey – unlike Poe – was able to stop him. His intentions were vicious. Period.
          I can’t get over the fact that Reylo sends a very dangerous message, to both females and males. It’s like saying that if someone tries to assault you but you manage to overpower them or you already have the skills to do it… it’s no big deal!
          That’s how the authors are trying to force on us a “romantic” portrayal of their relationship and it’s effin messed up. Doesn’t matter if he couldn’t actually torture her because she was strong enough to resist, he still tried to!
          Abuse (or any attempt at it) should never be taken this lightly.

          1. Hi Stormageddon. Glad you’re on the mend.

            I agree with mostly everything you say above. Much respect.
            Star Wars is a morality play and should be imbued with meaning, absolutely. It always has Illustrated a contrast between integrity and virtue versus the solely self-serving path.

            Just one thought to opine tho’…I cannot get on board with KK’s assessment that girls and women couldn’t really relate to Luke. You’re much more open-minded than me because frankly I’m baffled by such blanket statements. I’m not even a tomboy and really wasn’t one growing up, yet like you, I envisioned embodying Jedi-like attributes; in my case all because of Luke.

            I could easily write a freestanding blog on the socio-cultural impact of Luke Skywalker as an archetype, an icon and a hero for me growing up. But no need. I know these sentiments are shared with countless other girls and women–overlooked by Kathleen Kennedy’s dysmorphic projections. She might never have cleaved fiercely to fictional role models in her youth. It’s anyone’s guess what exactly informs the decision-making process of producers.

            And yeah I’m beyond “blaming” anyone for the debacle that I feel TLJ is. We don’t need to heap blame shame and guilt on something that is already a royal bummer. And I’ll give you an example of an unfortunate non-Luke mistake in TLJ: I recently watched the force awakens on Blu-ray and was struck by how cute funny and endearing and believable BB-8 is. Contrast this with his portrayal in tlj and it’s like watching two different droids.

            Ta-ta for now 🤙🕊

  25. I think the real problem lies with Kathleen Kennedy.

    Star Wars falls under the Disney umbrella, and they have done a great job with Marvel movies, planning things ahead. When they purchased Star Wars, there was a lot of hope, because of how well they had done with Marvel. But they ignored what they learned with Marvel movies, and while The Force Awaken set up many great story possibilities and was ridiculously nostalgia filled, the threw away all that build up and nostalgia with The Last Jedi. Then to find out they didn’t have a plan going into the movie, the story wasn’t set up ahead of time, and they just let Rian Johnson come in and do whatever the hell he decided to do, is absolutely ridiculous.

    And thus, Kathleen Kennedy is at fault for not planning ahead and not having this film guided by great writers. It’s a real shame, and she should be fired, because I don’t know how JJ Abram is going to save that last movie after the mess he’s been left with.

  26. Do not let J.J. Abrams off the hook. He bears a tremendous amount of the responsiblity for this piece of garbage. Not just Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson. Also Disney didn’t give them the extra time they asked for. There are many guilty parties here. What a disaster.

    1. I’m probably a starry eyed fool for the saying this but I have faith in JJ Abrams.
      If he can go deeper into traditional SW lore and dial back his mass appeal blockbuster proclivities just a tad, he may just salvage the Skywalker Legacy, and possibly even redeem it. Hopefully while he’s at it he can avenge Akbar too, LOL.

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  28. Coming from the position that you needn’t attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity, I don’t think you need to invoke racism, sexism, or any other form of bigotry to explain the complete lack of worthwhile characterization in The Last Jedi.

    Rian Johnson is simply a hack, and Kathleen Kennedy is his enabler. However it doesn’t start with Rian. JJ Abrams is also at fault.

    Rey. Are we introduced to Rey as a human being with the normal skillset that we’d expect from someone growing up as a scavenger, maybe mechanically adept, tough enough to survive alone? Well, no. We get a Mary Sue, who’s instantly adept at anything the script requires her to be at any moment. A character with no real struggles is a hard character to relate to. Look at Luke in the originals. He got knocked around like the proverbial red-headed stepchild for most of the first two movies, and even after becoming a Jedi Vader was still spanking him until he gave into his rage. Rey is the new Katniss, the “chosen one”.

    Finn. A soldier as old as Finn is in The Force Awakens should already have been an experienced veteran, but perhaps one who’d only fought Republic soldiers up until then. The First Order’s depradations on harmless civilians could have been his wake up call, the moment where he decides he’s had enough of their shit. We’d then have a skilled armed and unarmed combatent who could have taught Rey to fight in ways she wouldn’t have learned on Jakku, such as with a blaster, and also acting as her bodyguard, protecting her from various attacks. Instead we got a “janitor” whose character arc was basically, “stop running away”. To be honest I’d have made Finn the main character of the franchise, and John Boyega has the presence, in my opinion, to carry the series.

    Poe. He didn’t get much setup in The Force Awakens, he wasn’t even meant to survive it, but we learn that he’s a skilful pilot, an excellent leader, courageous, and trusted by (and extremely loyal to) Leia. He made the right call in going after the Dreadnought, as others have noted, because it was an immediate threat to the survival of the Resistance. Instead of receiving approval for making a hard, but necessary, choice, he’s dressed down by his superiors in a way that would not be accepted in any military.

    Kylo Ren. The character of Kylo Ren might be summed up as, “Who the hell cares?” When we first meet him he appears more powerful than Vader, stopping blaster bolts in mid-air, pulling information out of other’s minds effortlessly, but then the helmet comes off. Instead of being an imposing, authoritarian figure like Vader, we get a hysterical man-child who flies into a mindless rage at the slightest provocation. A psychotic might scare you, but it in no way conveys the shear terror of Vader’s calm, impassive, ruthless demeanor. He loses to Rey in the first movie. After that? Whatever. Vader never lost, right up until the very end of the trilogy. It’s hard to consider a villain who couldn’t beat an untrained noob with a lightsaber a serious threat.

    I could go on and on, and believe me I have on other forums, but basically this series was a dead duck upon launch. The difference is that JJ Abrams could at least make a palatable dead duck, while Rian Johnson cannot.

  29. Here is something to consider (I too dislike this Star Wars Film and rank it near the very worst of the bunch). How will the events in the next chapter make us look back at the last two in a way that could possibly redeem them and be satisfying? In the novelization of TFA Han is the one that turns on Kylo’s Saber because Kylo can not go through with it which is why even in the film he says “Thank You”. While this was not shown in the film and the camera was pushed close it feels like it is something they plan on working in as a reveal…along with the fact that Kylo did not pull the trigger on his mother. If Luke returns as a force ghost to be some sort of conscious and then is able to see both those moments through his eyes (and reveals the first to us the audience) it is possible that he will somehow be the one to push Kylo and once again bring a balance to this time period of the Force. It would change how we all watched both of the last two films and would essentially be more of a typical Star Wars film. Rey’s story? I have no idea. I agree about everything else you said. I hated the comedy and the Canto Bight stuff. I always assumed that the Force could be given to anyone anywhere so that was never a needed reveal with broom boy. Great Article all in all!

  30. Very well thought out. I’ve had this discussion with my brothers a few times now, but one topic that you failed to mention is the exclusion of a black icon that Rian Johnson has started that he purposely left out even though he not only fit into the story, but the deaths of Han and Luke nessecitated that he be brought into the movie. How do you leave out Billy Dee Williams’ Lando? Your telling me that he couldn’t have had an impact on the story, especially on Canto Blight? Your telling me he woundnt have rushed to the side of Leia at the news of his friends death. Your telling me it’s not important enough to give us the one star wars character of color that we had growing up in the 80s a chance to grace the screen one last time as his peers were given the chance to do? I will freely admit that this pissed me off more than most of the offenses of this movie because it didn’t need to be. Now even if he is in the next movie, he can’t interact with his peers because of their on and off screen situations. What a waste, and it speaks to the kind of person that Rian johnson really is, especially when added to your valid critique. (Now, I will admit that I’m holding it hope that he and Harrison might share a scene together in Solo, but it’s a fading hope.)
    Thank you for your thoughtful article!

  31. Very well thought out. I’ve had this discussion with my brothers a few times now, but one topic that you failed to mention is the exclusion of a black icon that Rian Johnson has started that he purposely left out even though he not only fit into the story, but the deaths of Han and Luke nessecitated that he be brought into the movie. How do you leave out Billy Dee Williams’ Lando? Your telling me that he couldn’t have had an impact on the story, especially on Canto Blight? Your telling me he woundnt have rushed to the side of Leia at the news of his friends death. Your telling me it’s not important enough to give us the one star wars character of color that we had growing up in the 80s a chance to grace the screen one last time as his peers were given the chance to do? I will freely admit that this pissed me off more than most of the offenses of this movie because it didn’t need to be. Now even if he is in the next movie, he can’t interact with his peers because of their on and off screen situations. What a waste, and it speaks to the kind of person that Rian johnson really is, especially when added to your valid critique. (Now, I will admit that I’m holding it hope that he and Harrison might share a scene together in Solo, but it’s a fading hope.)
    Thank you for your thoughtful article!

  32. First, I want to thank the autor for this brilliant article. I’m myself not the typical feminist kind and modern feminist rhetoric in many cases, but I feel like the Author really made good points that can be shared by people who normally don’t share their kind of perspective, which speaks absolutely for them. Argueing from a specific political point of view in a way that people who normally don’t share this point of view can get behind and agree to their arguments really shows of their strength.

    I personally think the treatment of Luke Skywalker in this movie should also be highly criticized and pointed out as toxic and contraproductive. Deconstructing, humiliating and destroying the character of Luke Skywalker is in my opinion also something that should be deemed highly feminist.

    Because Luke is possible the best male role model we have in our modern culture and a heroic Paragon of universal virtues everyone can live by. Because in the end, Luke Skywalker differs from other action heroes, especially from the time when Return of the Jedi was created, by virtue of not saving the day because of his superior combat skills. Yeah, Luke Skywalker is a great pilot who managed to destroy the Death Star, a great Jedi, good with the Lightsaber and the Force and so on, but finally in the end these traits where not what saved the day. And this makes him so important.

    In the end, despite of all of his training and powers, he was still inferior to the emperor. It was not his force potential that destroyed the emperor. It was his deep love, trust, hope and believe in goodness. It was his skill to see light in a person who was at this time fully surrounded by darkness. Luke Skywalker is such an important role model and such a heroic character because he was able to threw his Lightsaber aside. He didn’t destroyed his enemy when he had the opportunity and any reason to do so, instead he strongly believed in the goodness in Vader. And finally it was this trust and this believe in goodness that redeemed Vader and destroyed the Emperor.

    I mean, we have many bigger than life, absolutely virtuous and heroic characters, but Luke was the one who in the end was mature enough to refuse violence and battle to win his conflict. He also despite of his virtue was not above rage and not without Darkness, which makes him much more real and admirable because he shows us that its not about not having this emotions and being absolutely perfect, but all about not giving in to it, not let feelings like anger, rage or revenge control you and define you. Its not about wielding the lightsaber and best the villain in duel, its about being able to throw the lightsaber away. And isn’t this the beauty of Luke Skywalker and Star Wars? That in the end trust and love are much more heroic and great virtues than strength and victory? To teach how the true Path of the Jedi is not to strike your opponent done but to reach out to them? After all, differently than Batman, Superman or Spiderman, everyone can be like Luke Skywalker. To reach his heroic qualities, you don’t need the Lightsaber or the Force or the X-Wing. Its all about refusing violence, not letting yourself be defined and controlled by rage, knowing when to stop the fight and reach out to your opponent and turning them through empathy, trust and love. Luke Skywalker teaches everyone that the most badass and heroic thing to do, the way of the Jedi, is to be an nice and loving and trusting person who is able to refuse violence. This makes him such a universal hero and role model and also such a great male model. And this is why its so shameful how Johnson treated Luke Skywalker. He destroyed a character that should have remained an example of positive, peaceful and humane virtues.

    I also feel like Leia was a better feminist character than Rey is nowadays. After all, Rey is defined by her powers and by her perfect and even holier than Luke attitude. She is the Disney Princess in a medium full of Disney Princesses that just reconfirmed the stereotype that girls have to be absolutely nice and caring. I think Leia is less of a universal role model, but a role model for a specific kind of girl that still lacks representation. Because Leia is not the nice, soft Princess. She’s not a nice girl by any means. She is a headstrong, fierce and self-confident woman. And she is rude. I mean, she can often act like kind of a dick and is really rude at times and I feel like this is her beauty. Because she doesn’t gets treated any worse or any less heroic because of that. Her dickishness is simply kind of her character, just like with Han. She shows you don’t need to be the Disney Princess to be a good person and a real woman. Which is kinda emphasized with her romance with Han in my opinion. Because in the end, she doesn’t need to change to be “good enough” for Han. Han likes her how she is, he falls in love with a fierce, strong woman who is his equal and who knows what she wants is perfectly able to argue and stand her ground with him. Leia doesn’t has to be worthy of Han. Han is worthy of her because he can love her for who she is. And she doesn’t has to sacrifice herself to save him. They help each other and their Relationship as equals and as lovers turns both of them into better people, both of them warm up through each other. I mean, I would say even nowadays Leia and Hans Relationship would still be revolutionary.

    1. @Shiza-Chan
      What a spot-on beautiful assessment of those subtle yet poetic qualities that make Luke Skywalker shockingly anomalous in the realm of archetypes. You have articulated Luke’s special significance in the spiritual and cultural zeitgeist so well here!

      Through Luke’s journey we may be quite literally witnessing the last of his kind.
      His is a type of agape love that is almost extinct in our world.
      He is naturalistic and proactive — the opposite of typical human Fight or Flight instincts.

      I watched the original trilogy, alone, and in a sort of meditative state recently. The tears I cried, cathartic and deeply personal, were the direct result of witnessing Luke’s range of emotions and spiritual growth. Everything else swirls around him like the chorus of a play.

      Luke’s Journey goes quickly ( from a cinematic standpoint) and is both messy and tidy at the same time. Looking back on the whole ( not just Mark Hamill’s breathtakingly sincere performance, but the uniqueness of Luke’s christ-like demeanor–temptations and all) I truly believe this was a lightning-in-a-bottle moment as fabled legends go. George Lucas applied esoteric qualities to this character that he himself may not have been fully aware of at the time.

      Luke’s twin always acted as a balancing Counterpoint. And somehow that twin-energy and Leia’s strong dignified Grace was diminished in the new films, right down to dressing her in oppressive garments. Although she is associated with unique costumes, Leia did not choose to wear the metal bikini and only donned formalwear for special occasions. When Leia was “at work” leading the rebels she was in suitable attire ( Hoth, Endor etc) not heavy gowns, makeup and flashy jewelry. At least JJ Abrams dressed her suitably in the war room scenes in the Force Awakens. No, Leia is more than just a prop. And she’s not there for anybody’s gratuitous pleasure. She’s realistic because she doesn’t have to play nice or be a “pleaser”. George Lucas even said her name is a play on the word Organic. I love how she just gets down to business and I love how she brings Luke’s daydreamer airiness back into focus, back into the Here and Now. She would have made an amazing Jedi Knight.

      The new films could have been as richly layered, esoteric and even fun, serving as an homage to the symbolism of Luke’s tossing away the lightsaber in the face of the unknown, as a singular rarity. He did not cast it aside in ROTJ out of indignation, malaise, resentment or reticence, but out of complete faith hope and love. And a deep inner knowing of what constitutes the difference between right and wrong when one listens to the inner voice of the Force. There are moments when Luke faces both Vader and then the emperor when you can actually see all traces of Fear melt from his countenance and from his posture.

      I don’t have much more to say about this really. Other than thank you for your astute contribution to this discussion!

  33. “But, but… Luke did the same for his father”

    No he didn’t. Luke never saved his father. Anakin saved himself. Luke may have inspired Anakin, but he did not save the latter. Anakin made the decision to save his son from death, because of the love he felt for the latter. And because of this decision, he saved himself from further descent into evil.

    I don’t know why Rey thought it was so necessary to save Kylo Ren from evil just a few days after he had a) tried to torture her by violating her mind for information; b) murder Han Solo right before her eyes; c) seriously maim Finn, someone she had grown to care for; and d) tried to kill her in a lightsaber duel. I don’t understand that. From an emotional point of view, that does not make any sense, considering Kylo Ren’s recent actions in the previous film and the fact that as far as she is concerned, they share no blood ties.

  34. You are amazing! Thank you so much for taking the time to sum up these issues. I have been saying this about Last Jedi since it came out, but a lot of “woke” liberal Star Wars fans want to put their blinders on and ignore all of this.

  35. I would like to add that Leia is totally sidelined and reduced in her few scenes to serving Poe’s totally contrived plot thread/character arch.

  36. Thank you!
    I didn’t really like the new series because I find Rey an incredibly annoying Mary-Sue and she takes up good chunk of the screen time. Also I can’t stand the the other character that takes up a lot of screen time, which is the emo angsty Kylo Ren!
    Both The Force awakens and The Last Jedi tried to make Kylo sympathetic and tragic but there is nothing tragic or sympathetic about him! He is a completely entitled sociopath who throws literal temper tantrums, commits terrible atrocities and he’s suppose to be the victim of a terrible upbringing who deserves redemption?
    This article greatly covers many of the things that is bothering about this film. Usually I would just dismiss the movie because “it’s just a movie” but Star Wars has a huge fan base with many followers and people are claiming Rey is a strong female character role model and Kylo Ren is a relatable villain.
    Really!? Seriously WTF!
    Rey is a bland Mary-Sue, how can she be a good strong female role model if she doesn’t have to work for or earn anything and pursue a toxic relationship. She conveniently has every skill necessary fall onto her lap for the situation she is in. Seriously if she is so force sensitive why does she drag heavy parts across the dessert if she could just force lift it or mind trick that guy into giving all the rations? No one taught her how to lift mountains of rocks or mind tricks, she learned it on the spot! Rey might be a superwoman who faces no real danger but for the rest of us, going into danger zone by yourself to “save” a bad boy isn’t exactly what I call a good example for anyone.
    How is Kylo Ren relatable!? If there are a lot of people who claims they relate to him, I’m concerned, looks like the purge is going to be legalized after all due to popular demand.
    If reylo is just a fantasy for for fans, whatever it’s their fantasy but to make it official canon is just terrible and opposite of a role model . It’s a shining example of what a relationship should NOT be.
    If anyone acts like Kylo Ren towards you in a relationship, get help, take evasive action, that is not a healthy supportive or respectful relationship. If you see anyone getting treated the Rey is treated by Kylo, get help, step in for bystander intervention because no one should be treated like that.
    What is disappointing about the sequels is that there was good potential of making the plot more grey instead of black and white like the previous movies and it looks like that was what the film was aiming for. Unfortunately the more interesting characters that could of developed that was thrown to the side, made into a joke, disrespected, not developed and/or killed off. Instead we got to focus on the bland Ma-Rey Sue, privileged Vader wannabe and their awkward cringy romance.

    1. Will people ever get tired of hearing themselves overuse the terms ‘mary-sue’ and SJW?
      I am fiercely critical of episode 8 but I’ve never once used either of those terms. My grievances with the Last Jedi have nothing to do with white privilege or lack thereof. I don’t dislike it because it has strong women in it.
      All of these comic book cry babies and MAGA mouth breathers have managed to make those of us who hated The Last Jedi–simply because it’s a BAD FILM–look like narrow-sighted nincompoops. Way to go! …add to the polarization rather than trying to bridge the gap.
      They (the PTB) really need to think about making episode IX The End. Just be done with it. Wrap it up w/a nice green bow and a proper send off for the OT-Three (especialy Luke) and then just put. It. to. bed.
      Pop culture needs to move beyond “a long tome ago in a galaxy far far away” and find new outlets and products . New themes, new riffs, new concepts, new poerty, new lyrics, new instruments. Don’t kill SW! Just edify and immortilize it with dignity in a timely way instead of flogging a dead Tauntaun.

    2. @MakeTAttooineGreatAgain totally agree with you about Kylo. Wishy washy war mongering sociopath with Borderline Personality Disorder. Chart busting Force capabilities one day, impotent the next. How did he and Hux align at the top under Snoke if they can’t even have a civil discussion? Ok. So Snoke was pitting them against each other to offset a threatening alliance, then show us as much. Rey is a great character now buried under the burden of this clown (shining example of who not to date or fall in love with) so who cares she was conjured out of nothingness if any potential fleshing out of her backstory is nullified by also being a sellout to a murdering bastard. What happened to his Knights of Ren? 5 bucks says we’re gonna find out in 9 on that one.

      Her inconsistencies and underutilazation are only underscored by those laughably atrocious “three lessons” imparted to her by long lost Luke. Luke’s singular focus should have been to save Han and Leia from potential harm if he truly saw the machinations of his nephew. It all just makes so little sense that I think the only solution is to bring in Mara Jade to “explain” everything.

  37. Really? The worst thing anyone could expect you to do is to sympathize and empathize with Kylo Ren? I also don’t like him, but I will never say that anyone at all doesn’t deserve sympathy and empathy. People seem to use the words “closed minded” a lot, nowadays – and incorrectly, too – but that’s some seriously closed minded bullshit. Morality is a concept that doesn’t exist outside of the human mind. No matter what someone’s done, if they’re suffering, they deserve empathy, at the very least. Also, I loved the movie even though I completely despise the idea that Hollywood is sexist or racist (meaning, I think that’s untrue, or at least entirely irrelevant.), and even though SJW’s are some of the least logical or rational human beings on Earth. It was a fucking great movie. I can only understand disliking this movie if one has some strong opinions against being preached to, and, even then, I can’t see it because I’m the same way. I guess I can also understand hating the movie because you feel like you’re being pushed too hard into empathizing with Kylo Ren. Tough break, assholes. Everyone deserves empathy. Empathy is not even hard to have for someone; it’s not like you have to condone something someone’s done just because you empathize with them.

    Ugh, this staunch opposition to empathy is just pathetic, so, whatever.

    1. Isaac, are you suggesting that everybody is capable of having empathy for someone like Kylo Ren? I actually find it easy to have SYMPATHY for him. Not “sympathizing with” but having sympathy FOR Ben Solo feels naturalistic and right, much the way I felt stmpathy for Anakin/Vader.
      Empathy and Compassion are not synonymous. Can you see (for example) how one might have
      sympathy and a feeling of compassion toward Ben, but not one iota of ’empathy’– if perhaps they (the individual in question) came out of a toxic relationship with an abuser who, in spite of all the compassion offered them, still turned out to be a self-serving monster?!

      Empathy is a mutable emotion–not a requirement in relating to fictional characters. The audience is allowed to judge fictional characters. In fact, we are invited to judge them!

      Ben holds up a challenging even relatable mirror for a lot of people, yes. There are a lot of “bad boys” in the world. If I were expected to empathize with them all, I’d be sick with confusion; my own identity lost within a sad energy-draining psychodrama. How ’bout we hold them accountable (as we ourselves are held accountable for OUR chouces as well) while offering unconditional love. Then stand back while they get their shit together…or, not.

      Is Ben capable of redemption? Sure! Is he going to trigget certain viewers along the way? Duh.
      Up til now his “job” has been to represent The Dark Side, be the villian. And so far (thank you dear writer(s)
      that equals LAME.
      Ugh. He makes me cringe. Poor ‘kid’? Ugh. No.

      The Solo-Skywalker Family story could have been sooo poignant, so rich in both backstory and legacy.
      Nothing seems to carry any real emotional (let alone spiritual) gravitas and sustainability any more 🙁

  38. I have no feelings for Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren. Why? I think he is an overrated and badly written character. I feel nothing for him. I feel more for monsters like Palpatine and Wolff Tarkin than I do him. I do not understand Kylo Ren as a character. I find him so inconsistently written, thanks to J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson. And I can’t take him seriously as a character, as long as he is portrayed in dramatic form. Perhaps if he was a character written for spoof, I could take him seriously or appreciate him.

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