This is Why I Love Luke Skywalker!!

When most little girls (and all the older women) were falling in love with Han Solo, I was OBSESSED with Luke Skywalker.  I loved him, I chose to be him when playing “Star Wars” with my cousin Bess, and I was super excited to see him return in The Last Jedi.  And unlike the people who shouted their complaints about Luke’s mischaracterization in that film, I thought it was perfect and I loved him even more at the end of it all.  But I didn’t have the words to explain why.

Here are some words that someone else said in a video review of Return of the Jedi:  “Luke wins by being a stubborn idealistic twerp.  ‘Love will save the day, father!  Love…and friendship!'”

Actually, just watch the whole thing now.  It’s really well done.

Because YES, that is exactly the Luke that I fell in love with: a man defined by his compassion and faith.  It’s worth pointing out that Jill Bearup made that video in 2015 before either film in the newest trilogy had been released, which is why it’s so perfect that I find those words to be perfect descriptions of Luke’s emotional arc in The Last Jedi.

The Luke we meet is a grumpy hermit.  Why?  Because this extremely compassionate man experienced a moment of judgment because he lacked the faith that Ben Solo could resist the allure of the Dark Side.  So he almost killed his nephew, and the consequences of that almost-action were devastating.  Death, destruction, and the loss of his identity.

But in meeting Rey, in being reunited with R2 and Chewie, and in seeing his sister’s famous hologram that once summoned his noblest impulses so long ago, Luke regains his compassion and faith.  He chooses to stop Kylo Ren in a way that will not harm him in the faith that his friends will escape, survive, and win the fight without him.  Which is…exactly the same faith he showed in Return of the Jedi.

Luke has changed when we meet him in The Last Jedi, and like, yeah? But even though he is at his darkest when we reunite with him, he doesn’t stay there.  His emotional journey is one of recovering his truest self, of reclaiming his compassion and faith.  Oh Luke, you stubborn idealistic twerp.   I love you!!

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Try This Thing Podcast

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I was never content to run just one blog, so it should come as no surprise that having discovered the world of podcasting, I wanted to try one of my own (in addition to the fun show I do with Lindsay: She’s Married She’s Single).

Today I launched Try This Thing, a recommendation podcast in which I review some of my favorite books, movies, tv shows, and video games.  I will usually be choosing things that are outside of mainstream appeal, because we don’t really need one more podcast talking about Avengers.

…Although if I someday create an episode about Avengers, well.  I sold out, I don’t care!

Today I released TWO episodes about the things most likely to be on my mind at any given moment:  The Lymond Chronicles and Black Sails.  Next week I will release the first of a mini-series in which I will try to summarize the plot of Final Fantasy 7.  A diversity of interests!

You can subscribe to Try This Thing on Apple podcasts or else listen online at PodBean.

 

The Lymond Chronicles and The Fleeting Fame of Twitter

I spent the first couple months of 2018 reading through The Lymond Chronicles, a six-book series of historical novels written by Dorothy Dunnett in the 1960s.  I picked up the first one, A Game of Kings, because a podcast I follow had recommended it.  When the first 50 pages proved to be VERY Scottish slang heavy, I tweeted the podcaster and asked for encouragement to keep going.  That interaction evolved into me live-tweeting my Intense Emotions and becoming Twitter famous.

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Let me be very honest.  By “Twitter famous,” I mean I gained about 50 followers who do not know me in real life, and I had a regular group of 5-10 people who would interact with me about these books, including a couple people who I started to consider friends.  An unexpected highlight was when the author of Flora Segunda (one of my favorite books, check out this review I wrote in 2013) liked and retweeted me because apparently she also loves Francis Crawford of Lymond.

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…And then I finished the series.  And two or three people stuck around to like my real life thoughts, but mostly it ended.  I no longer woke up to 20 notifications.  My fifteen minutes of fame were over.  And I could SEE how it had become an addiction for me, the likes and retweets firing dopamine hits to my brain that I didn’t know how to do without.

So I worked through it, dealt with my return to obscurity, and am now doing just fine!

HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHA.

Just kidding.

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I bought Dorothy Dunnett’s eight-book House of Niccolo series because I feel so empty inside without regular validation from total strangers!!

The end, no personal growth, just the sad but relatable truth.

How Black Sails Equipped Me With the Empathy Necessary for My New Job

I am rewatching Black Sails with a coworker, and I’ve been thinking about the similarities between the show’s themes and my work with women recovering from sexual exploitation and addictions.

The overarching question of Black Sails is:  which is worse, piracy or civilization?  History has made pirates into monsters, but the show is determined to make us see that civilization deliberately painted them that way, because civilized people need someone to point to and say: at least I’m not like THEM.  To be fair, the pirates often do monstrous things.  But civilization did monstrous things as well, only they had the resources to cover them up or blame someone else.

I see a lot of similarities in how the world views women who are prostitutes and/or addicts.  It’s unfortunately common to insult or dismiss them, to call them names or use them as examples of The Bad (I’m looking at you, Proverbs).  Adding addiction to the mix just makes it easier to alienate people and make monsters out of them.  At least we’re not like that, we think.

A while ago, I had a conversation with a friend about fostering.  I had always thought the hardest part of fostering would be knowing the relationship was temporary.  My friend said that the hardest part was that often you were not just saying goodbye to a child, you were sending it back into a bad situation.  I agreed with her, and then on my first day at my new job, I saw the “bad situation” children are sent back to.

On that day, a woman in the program tested positive during our random drug screening.  We had to call in her social worker and determine what was to be done with her child.  The woman was devastated, angry at herself for letting her addiction get the better of her, furious that she had jeopardized her relationship with her child for the sake of a temporary high.  An extraordinary solution was found, and since then I’ve had a lot of one-on-one time with the mother and child.  The thing is, she’s a great mother 90% of the time.  She’s attentive and loving and protective.  And sometimes she gets high and is wholly incapable of caring for her child.  I’m not at all advocating that women with addictions should keep their children no matter what.  But the story became much more complicated.

Perhaps it sounds silly to equate pirates with addicts, but if you think that then I have to assume you haven’t seen Black Sails.  Stories matter, and when we make addicts into monsters, they internalize that role.  Both the pirates in a tv show and the women I work with on a daily basis have done some truly horrific and criminal things.  But that is not all that they are, and when those are the stories we tell, we erase the goodness in them and the potential for recovery.

So we have to ask ourselves: why do we tell these stories?  To hide our worst impulses?  To assure ourselves that even though we lost our temper with our kid, at least we didn’t do this?  To make our sexual decisions seem better because at least we didn’t do that?  To minimize our own selfishness and pettiness and vindictiveness?  The thing that Black Sails tells us over and over again is this:  civilization and pirates are not all that different.  We all have the same dark impulses when pushed into a desperate corner.  And if we haven’t yet been pushed into that desperate corner, the least we can do is thank God for our privilege and practice empathy for those that made a bad decision in a bad situation.

Society spins narratives to make sense of the world and our role within it.  As someone who has always fared well from those narratives, I haven’t had to question them.  But there are women and men who live behind the labels “prostitute” and “addict,” and if we don’t take the time to understand their reality and see them as whole people with stories and contexts and futures, we make them into monsters.  And isn’t that a monstrous thing to do?

MoviePass, the Movie Theater Subscription You Need to Try

Several months ago, a friend recommended that I check out MoviePass, a Netflix-esque card and app that gives you access to one movie in theaters per day for the low price of $10 per month.  I was about to spend three months in a foreign country, but as my return date approached and award season movies were filling my podcast queue, I decided to give it a try.

READER.  This is such a good deal!!  If you see at least two movies in theater per month, MoviePass more than pays for itself.  I cannot imagine how it is financially lucrative, and I can only assume that prices will someday be raised.  So now is the time to take advantage of this amazing deal!

In my first month using MoviePass, I’ve seen 1. Call Me By Your Name (the sexiest and most accurate First Love movie I’ve ever seen), 2. Lady Bird (a perfect depiction of what it’s like to be a teenage girl), 3. Coco (a beautifully animated story about Mexican culture and the importance of family), and the premiere of 4. Black Panther (it lives up to all of its hype omgggg)!

PROS

  • MoviePass promises “Any movie, Any theater, Any day,” and so far I’ve found that to be completely true.  My small Midwestern city allows MoviePass at all of its theaters, though some require the physical card and others need only the app.
  • This is especially great for watching favorite movies multiple times in theaters, catching up on award season films, or checking out movies in which you wouldn’t normally invest money.

CONS

  • After signing up online at moviepass.com, you have to wait up to two weeks for your physical MoviePass card to show up in the mail.
  • If you want to cancel your subscription, you cannot rejoin for another nine months.

TOTAL SAVED

Call Me By Your Name ($8.75)
Lady Bird ($7.00)
Coco ($7.00)
Black Panther ($6.75)

MoviePass (-$10.00)

= $19.50 SAVED

Star Trek: Discovery Chapter 1

I’ve heard some Internet backlash about the newest Star Trek show, mostly centering around it being too dark.  However, since this is my first Star Trek experience (besides the J.J. Abrams movies), I found it really interesting and exciting.

It is, definitely, dark.  The first chapter of this show centers upon the Federation’s war with the Klingons, with the ongoing question of what sacrifices are worth making in pursuit of victory.  This includes animal cruelty, genetic modifications, and personal health sacrifices.  There is also the darkness inherent in acts of war.  Some of these, like a plot about sexual assault against a male victim, felt fresh and worth telling.  Others, like a throwaway line about what happened to central character’s corpse, went too far for me.

But this show isn’t all darkness.  Its characters are explorers and scientists who have been thrust into a war – they are still broadly optimistic and in awe of the world’s wonders.  While it does take a couple episodes for the U.S.S. Discovery’s crew to trust each other, they eventually become a really lovely team of diverse friendships and relationships.

Speaking of diversity!!  Star Trek: Discovery continues the franchise’s desire to show a better future world in AMAZING ways.  We begin with two female leaders of color, one Asian and one black, and it is a delight to watch them be smart and support each other.  Although one is soon replaced by a white man, it is worth noting that he is…the only straight white man in the cast?  At one point, I was shocked to see two straight white men sharing a scene together because that was such a rarity in this show, and then I later realized that one of them is actually of Pakistani descent.  It is so incredibly amazing to see such gender and racial (and alien) diversity played entirely normally.  That our show is led by a black woman is an incredible gift.

This first chapter is only nine episodes long, and each one is better than the one before.  If you are at all interested in the new series, I strongly suggest committing to this chapter in its entirety.  If you still don’t like it by the end of episode 9, it is not for you.  But for those that are turned off by the darkness of the first episodes…keep going.  I think you may come to love it as I did.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

It has been over a week since The Last Jedi was released, so if you haven’t seen it by now I honestly don’t understand your priorities.  But for those of you who have not, STOP READING.  This post is pretty much entirely made of spoilers.

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I LOVE LEIA

Whereas the two men from the original trilogy deal with their problems by running away, Princess General Leia stays in the action, leading the Resistance and clinging fiercely to hope despite all evidence to the contrary.  It’s no wonder the world has fallen in love with Leia, and perhaps even more so, with Carrie Fisher.

So much of this movie plays as a love letter to her, which is astonishing since it was completed before Fisher’s death.  Clearly, the woman is beloved and this film wants to honor her properly.  Was I the only one who thought-screamed, “That’s my Bipolar Space Mom!!!” when Leia rescued herself by using the Force to draw herself back into the ship after an explosion?  And let’s not gloss over that:  LEIA USED THE FORCE.  I don’t care about anyone who thinks it was hokey – the Force was bananas in this movie, and I loved it, so please complain elsewhere.  Leia finally got to use some of that Skywalker bloodline in something other than feeling people’s deaths long-distance.

Another scene that felt weirdly prescient was Luke and Leia’s reunion.  By the end of the movie we realize that it was an opportunity for Luke to say his goodbyes, but in the moment it just felt like a goodbye to Carrie Fisher.  I can’t even remember the lines very well, because I was crying hard throughout.  All I could picture was Mark Hamill watching the scene after his friend’s death and my heart was shattered.

Unfortunately, Luke is gone and Leia remains.  I am heartbroken that we won’t get to see more of Leia in episode IX, which was supposed to be Her Story in the way The Force Awakens was Han’s and The Last Jedi was Luke’s.  I don’t know what they’ll do, and I mostly trust them, but nothing they dream up will compare with Carrie Fisher alive and performing once again.

I LOVE LUKE

Luke Skywalker was my first fictional crush, and even though at the time I loved him for his purity, I love him even more now that we see he’s turned into a cranky hermit.  Every scene he’s in is a delight, and I 100% bought that his youthful idealism, once broken, would result in what we see in this film.  I also adored the revelation that, if even for a moment, Luke considered murdering his nephew, and that this is what turned Ben Solo entirely to the Dark Side.  This is my kind of drama!

Of course, we don’t end the film with Luke the Cynic – fittingly, it’s being reunited with R-2 D-2 and seeing his sister’s hologram that reminds him that there is still hope.  WHEN HE SHOWS UP ON CRAIT!!!  His decision to take control of his narrative and use his legendary status as a distraction to save the Resistance is beautiful.  I noticed that his hair was different and that he wasn’t leaving red sand footprints, but I didn’t connect the dots to realize he wasn’t physically there.  My awe at his ability to withstand so much firepower turned into awe at his projection ability, and then…having believed in hope once more, Luke dies.  I love that he disappears like Obi Wan, and I very much hope he will be a Force Ghost in episode IX.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • The “hope against all odds” theme felt very much like Rogue One to me.  Watching character after character willingly choose to die in order to help their friends live for one more day was suuuuper depressing and suuuuper beautiful.
  • I love Admiral Holdo.  I love that she contrasts Poe’s impulsive heroism with the boring, quiet, consistent heroism that is also necessary in a fight against evil.
  • After the movie, one friend said, “I think true Star Wars fans will be annoyed at the humor in this one.”  My other friend replied, “Uh, I’m a true Star Wars fan, and I loved it.”  YES, friend #2.
  • I don’t WANT to understand the Rey/Kylo shippers, but ugh, I kinda do.  Their loneliness and connection was pretty fascinating, but wow is he a classic abusive boyfriend.  “You’re worthless to everyone!  Except me.”  As interesting as their relationship was, I’m so glad Rey left him.
  • Although I have since changed my mind, I was initially disappointed with the reveal that Rey’s parents were nobodies.  (My personal fan theory:  she was the daughter of Luke and Leia.  I was really leaning into the oops! incest plot of the original trilogy, and I figured that explained why she was Extra Powerful.)  I appreciate this story a lot more now, especially connected with the force-sensitive slave boy at the end.  I assume that’s the direction they will take the story – showing us that the Force can be in anyone.  Really, I just blame the two year wait and how the Internet makes everything seem So Big, which made a reveal like this feel more disappointing than it should have been.
  • I love Rose!  She is a perfect human being, and I hope she continues to be a big part of the series.  I definitely ship Rose/Finn, and Rey can…I dunno.  She’s a Jedi, so probably she will be single, huh?
  • All the animals were great, from fish nuns to porgs to crystal critters.  Love them all!
  • It did feel overlong, and I was genuinely surprised when the movie didn’t end with Snoke’s ship exploding.  But then I really liked the scenes on Crait, so even though I don’t think it’s Good Plotting, I wouldn’t change anything about it.
  • Ending with the slave kids retelling Luke’s story and then revealing that one of them can use the Force is 100% a shout out to Star Wars fans who find inspiration in the story to change their own worlds in big and small ways.  It’s kind of unfair to make me cry seconds before credits, movie!!
  • “It’s not about destroying what you hate.  It’s about saving what you love.”  PLEASE let this be the theme of the last movie!  It is the most perfect sentence in the whole series.