The Last Jedi: The Hero is Us

The Last Jedi: The Hero is Us

The Hero is Us

When I was eleven and saw young, innocent, naive Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star, it gave me hope that I, even as just one person, could conquer what this huge scary world would throw against me. If I could get a ride on the Millennium Falcon (my parents’ car) and with a little help from my friends, I didn’t have to be afraid of the future.

Now that I’m fifty-one, the world is much different, especially the last few years. I’ve already driven the fast cars (X-wings) and have switched to commanding slower but larger vehicles (SUVs), already made a ton of money during the bountiful years and had reality slam me during the lean ones. I’ve built my library of psychological, emotional and physical scars, had my philosophies torn apart, deconstructed, reevaluated, been thrown under the bus and have thrown people under the bus myself, and will now have to live with that shame forever. And the hero that I thought I was going to be when I was eleven never happened, because I know that life doesn’t work that way.

And this is why I embrace the idea of Luke Skywalker and all the ne’er do well “heroes” of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Luke is me, right now–disenchanted, confused and despondent by what’s happening in the galaxy (have you been paying attention to world news lately?), trying to figure out what to do when everything that’s been tried seems to not be working. What else to do, except hide in an island?

Those who are facing the conflict head-on aren’t doing any better. The Resistance fleet, led by Leia, are barely able to defend themselves from constant attack, never a moment to take a breath, to enjoy a little victory, always counting casualties and adjusting their strategies.

How many people do you know have lost their jobs and switched careers, accepted underemployment, redirected every penny of discretionary spending just to pay the rent and groceries (send all power toward the rear shields), and never mind the health coverage. You see this happening, right in front of you on the big screen—hundreds of people and transport ship after transport ship sacrificed, just to save the most important aspects of the Resistance fleet.

I’m seeing more cars on the side of the road lately, and I wonder how many of them simply ran out of gas because they didn’t have the money. No different than the Resistance fleet trying to buy time before their own ships ran out of fuel.

Even the bad guys seem to not really know what they’re doing, from Kylo Ren having to tell Hux how to command his own crew, to Snoke being betrayed by his own student. How accurate a commentary is this to the leadership around the world recently?

Then there’s Finn and Rose, who continually fail one objective after another, but wind up freeing race track animals, and giving children in the lower class hope, and the middle finger to the one-percenters. I wonder how many Occupy protesters and animal activists cheered during those moments.

And I wonder how many children in poor neighborhoods around the world paid attention when the stable boy willed the broom into his grasp.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an absolutely flawed movie for an absolutely flawed world. But its magnificence lies not in its telling us that heroes will save the day, but in showing our ability to hold on until help arrives. And even when it doesn’t, we have no choice but to figure out how to hold on a little longer.

This year of 2017 has been the year of unlikely heroes, from what I consider to be the best superhero movie of the year, Logan, to the breakthrough Wonder Woman (is it a coincidence that Time Magazine’s Person of the Year are women?), to the Punisher on Netflix, to The Last Jedi. The most touted movie of near-invincible heroes with their godlike powers, Justice League, tanked, and I don’t think it’s just because of its production problems.

I think people of America, of the world, want hope, but in a different way. The solution isn’t as clear cut as blowing up the Death Star anymore.

I think, because so many regular citizens have been betrayed by those who are supposed to protect them, to look out for them, that the people, us, want heroes that we can identify with, to be heroes ourselves. Older folks want to identify with the aging Wolverine, and Professor X, with his scheduled doses of meds and injections. Young adults who are struggling financially identify with Chris Pine’s Toby Howard in Hell or High Water. Women want to be represented with the idea of Diana of Themyscira, not as a sex symbol, but as a fighter who will sacrifice herself to protect the weak, even when others think it’s not worth it.

Nowadays, we need a different kind of hero. We don’t need a spotless one that wears a cape and can fly. Our heroes are flawed, but they’re out fighting fires even when it seems hopeless. They’re out spending their own money to buy classroom material, even when they might be laid off next month. They’re out trying to navigate boxes of paperwork and standing in long lines so that the people they’re caring for can get the best health coverage and medicine possible. They’re out sacrificing everything, even when the outcome is simply to buy more time to survive.

 

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Credits

Music is “Orbiting A Distant Planet” by the Denver, Colorado group Quantum Jazz, through the Free Music Archive:
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Creative Commons License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/