Thank goodness the legacy of the old films has finally been broken.
Yes, there are spoilers in this article.
The Last Jedi appears to be causing confusion. Cinema goers and critics are being overwhelmingly positive in their reviews of the latest Star Wars film and yet, its Rotten Tomatoes rating is making the prequels look almost good. This is the age of fandom and where online polls are constantly hijacked by upset fans looking to express their rage, and the alt-right are already trying to claim credit for any backlash to the film. Their tears make the film even better. Star Wars has finally become the franchise it should have been all along.
Hamill may not have liked Luke’s story, but it was the best they could have given the character. The idea that Luke could never be broken ignores the fact that anyone can be impacted by mental health issues, and it also erases the history of the Jedi. Yoda was the greatest teacher, but Luke had to search for him the same as Rey. The Jedi were flawed, often lost in themselves and had little idea of how to stop fascism from rising. It’s not surprising to find Luke struggling to deal with Ben, both before and after he left to die. Luke sidestepping though was important for a much more significant reason – this is no longer Luke’s story. This is the story of Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Rose and a new generation of rebel scum, and it is this new generation that is making Star Wars truly great.
There are those still bitter that Lucas is no longer involved but he proved with the prequels that he was completely out of touch with what audiences wanted. It wasn’t just the terrible dialogue. The creation of Jar Jar Binks showed that Lucas wasn’t fit to tell the next story of Star Wars. The franchise deserved better than its original creator. Johnson and Abrams have pushed the story in the right direction. There’s still no Finn and Poe ship, but there is a much more representative cast and they are treated with respect. White allocishet men are crying online because their stories aren’t the ones being told now, and there aren’t racist caricatures for them to make memes out of. Little girls, and children of colour (and of all genders) can see characters they relate to, that they could imagine themselves being. It’s the Star Wars that should have always been. It is now a story for the entire next generation, and not just white boys. The passing of Fisher though is all the more tragic; she was the first great character for Star Wars as a woman who showed up Luke and Han Solo time and again, and she deserved a film focused upon her journey since the originals. However, she couldn’t have left the helm with a better captain in Daisy Ridley who has made Rey the heart and soul of the new era.
“Little girls, and children of colour (and of all genders) can see characters they relate to, that they could imagine themselves being”
The similarities with the originals shows the only reason why people are upset now is because of the efforts towards reflective representation. The stories are so similar and yet they were accepted when they were about white men. Luke was charming for being so innocent and wanting to connect with his family, but Rey is seen as weak and self-absorbed. She’s also been one of the most respectfully treated characters in film, and not once has she been used for male-gaze – and fans are livid that they won’t get their gold bikini shot. Han Solo was praised for being reckless and Leia smacking him down was praised as endearing, and yet Poe is seen as bland and weak for two women outsmarting him and being better leaders. Snoke gets complaints for being some random older guy bossing Kylo Ren around, and yet audiences knew nothing about the Emperor when he was introduced. It was only the prequels that gave him any kind of story. Fans have cosplayed, made fanfic and generally worshipped Boba Fett for years but how in the galaxy was his plot-line any more significant than Phasma’s? Why is one lauded and the other reviled as not being substantial enough?
Fans are happy with stories so long as they’re told by and fore mediocre white men, but that isn’t enough, particularly when it comes to a franchise that is supposed to focusing upon the entire galaxy. The backlash is due to the fact that no matter what, some fans are never going to be happy with this cast. This is the age of Trump, when his fans hijacked online polls, trolled youtube comments and made up blatant lies about Clinton. The loudest criticism of The Last Jedi comes from the same people. All legitimate criticism has been lost because the film has become about values; about whether to uphold white supremacy or be representative and dismantle the old power structures. This is one of the most political films of our generation, not because of its content, but because of what fans have made it become.
There is a staggering hypocrisy behind the criticism of the new films. Alt-right fans complain when the new films are too like the originals and then not enough like the originals. They will always find a way to be negative though because it isn’t about content but the cast. Yet, by centering the stories of women and people of colour, and having the main white guy as the spoilt, entitled villain, we have a series of films that have finally made science fiction feel tenable. The audience for sci-fi has always been diverse, and it’s about time films started recognising that. The hate for The Last Jedi is just an old establishment trying to cling to power because it knows it’s quickly becoming irrelevant. Thank goodness, we’ve got Rey, Poe, Finn and Rose to push them out of the fandom. This is exactly the generation of Star Wars heroes we need.