I’m still disappointed about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Let me clarify. I don’t mind the new additional elements of the Force. I am willing to overlook the cheap jokes, the tragic misuse of interesting characters in uninteresting situations, and even the plot points shoved down our necks in the spirit of adventure. It hard to write a story, let alone make a movie. I’ve let it all go.
Two months later, the thing that continues to irk me is the last scene: a black slave finishes telling the story of the Jedi, right before his white buddy picks up a broom with the Force and stares out into the stars, inspired that someday he too might become a Jedi.
I hate this scene so much.
Here’s the message the movie is trying to send: The Force isn’t an elitist power running through the bloodline of a chosen family. It’s for every single one of us. It plays no favorites.
Except when you show a handsome white boy with his new fancy power literally moments after passing over his black friend’s wishes for a heroic debut, it sure seems like you’re playing favorites.
I remember Jess’ father asking me beforehand if I was excited for the movie. I told him, yes – but not because I’m a hardcore fan. I am excited about these new Star Wars movies because few franchises have the power and freedom to effect culture like Star Wars. Scorcese’s Silence is a masterpiece, but people by and large ignored it (and will continue to) because it is inaccessible and complex. Any movie that takes place in the past, is ultra-serious, and is committed to unearthing deep, uncomfortable philosophical themes has a much steeper climb to mass popularity than a shallow, but entertaining movie.
But Star Wars has none of these problems. In fact, as far as most movies go, it has a blank check in terms of sending messages to audiences – and a major reason for this is that it takes place in a futuristic galaxy far, far away, but not too unrelatable from our own. This subtle, but potent prescriptive cultural power is rare, because you don’t get a lot of chances to be forward-thinking with something like a run-of-the-mill action or comedy movie (although, I think the Fast-and-the-Furious series somehow stumbled onto this power as well. A tangent for another time.) With the diversity inherent within Star Wars, it’s the rare opportunity to showcase people of every creed, race, sexual orientation, etc. in genre-defying roles, because they literally live side-by-side with an even more diverse group of aliens in a ever-expanding universe. Star Wars literally has the power to write the future as it could and should be, and what do we get as a revelatory, newly-expanded paradigm for heroes? The white man.
For all the new roles Star Wars is opening up for minorities in every sense of the word (Rose Tico is a particular favorite of mine), it has circled back to familiar territory. The message to colored people and women hasn’t changed: you will always be a sidekick.
We’re way overdue for a change.