Luke Skywalker and the Power of Story

While I was listening to Can I Just Say‘s podcast episode about The Last Jedi, I caught some serious Luke Skywalker feels again!  (See my other blog post fangirling about him here.)  What caught me this time was their discussion about his circular arc: how Luke goes from a young man longing to be a hero, to becoming a cynical and bitter man who sees that heroes are just flawed men and women, to finally accepting that despite reality, people need heroes to inspire them toward great things and to believe in the hope of goodness.  The Luke that is disgusted by the idea of people searching the galaxy for him, knowing that he’s committed or allowed atrocities to happen, eventually decides that it is selfish of him to be an authentic hermit.  Instead, he steps into the role of idealistic hero and puts on a show that will continue the legacy of LUKE SKYWALKER THE JEDI MASTER.  What changes things for him?  Leia’s hologram.  And that’s where things get meta!

The newest Star Wars trilogy is, to me, simultaneously an acknowledgment of its past failings AND a love letter to itself.  While it works hard to correct failures of diversity in its casting, it also celebrates the stories that a bunch of white people created.  Luke is the embodiment of that struggle – he is a man who is revealed to be flawed, but he’s still inspirational.  The fact that it is Leia’s hologram, one of the most recognizably Star Wars moments – “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” – that helps him see his simultaneous roles is so beautiful to me.  It connects the character to the story in which he belongs, and there is a catharsis there for those who need help accepting that their fav is problematic.

In this day and age, it seems like we only get one side of this issue addressed at a time.  Some books/movies/television shows diversify and become more culturally thoughtful and like to pretend that past regressive behavior never happened.  Others entrench themselves in their narrow storytelling, insisting that you have to end a story the same way it began.  I really admire Star Wars for taking the middle road, for admitting their failures and working to rectify them while also celebrating the fact that Star Wars is a hugely popular and inspirational story that encourages us to hope that good can ultimately triumph over evil.

As someone who is simultaneously obsessed with authenticity AND idealism, I love Luke Skywalker.  He wants so desperately for ideals to be real.  When he realizes that nothing can ever truly live up to his ideal, he removes himself from everything.  But eventually he realizes that ideals aren’t there to be attained.  Ideals exist as something to aspire to, something that pushes us beyond what we can imagine on our own.  So he completes the circle, becomes the ideal he always wanted to be, fully knowing it was isn’t his authentic self.  But that’s okay.  What the world needs is Luke Skywalker the Jedi Master who will be the hero of little slave children’s stories.  Who just might, in Episode 9, be the impetus for their reaching beyond what society has given them and dreaming of something more.

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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!!

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.

 

Obi Wan Remembers Anakin and I Get Goosebumps

This should be in a Sunday Summary post, but HOLY COW, while watching this I had waves upon waves of goosebumps running up and down my arms.

This scene with added flashbacks is just…everything that makes Star Wars so compelling.  The tragedy, the high drama, the surface story concealing so much history…

JUST WATCH THIS.

Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that I named my foster kitty Hans Harrison.  I’ve got a bit of a Star Wars revival going on in my heart!

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

cvr9780743264839_9780743264839_hr.jpgWhen I saw Carrie Fisher’s infamous Twitter reply (“You’ve hurt all three of my feelings”) to the unbalanced hate she received after the newest Star Wars movie, I knew I had to find out more about this sassy, brutally honest woman.  Imagine my delighted surprise when I found out she’s written books!  About herself!  Exactly what I wanted, handed to me in the easiest way possible.

Shockaholic is my first glimpse into Fisher’s life, which is so much more dramatic than I realized.  She’s Hollywood royalty, with all the glitter and horror that you’d expect from such a title.  She has bipolar disorder, and she has no reservations about sharing what that means for her and how she manages to survive a crippling mental disorder (i.e. the titular electro-shock therapy).  And she cattily addresses the very things that drew me to her in the first place.

You know the saying, “You’re your own worst enemy”?  Well, thanks to the Internet, that’s no longer true.  It turns out that total strangers can actually be meaner about you than you ever could be about yourself.  Which is saying a huge amount with me, because I can really go to town hurting my own feelings.  I know where they are…

Yes, it’s true.  All too true.  I let myself go.  And where did I go?  Where all fat, jowly, middle-aged women go–refrigerators and restaurants (both fine dining and drive-thru).  To put it as simply as I can and still be me:  Wherever there was food I could be found lurking, enthusiastically eyeing the fried chicken and Chinese food and pasta.  Not to mention the cupcakes and ice cream and pies, oh my!

How could I have allowed this to happen?  What was I thinking?  More to the point, what was I eating?  And having eaten it, why did I eat so much of it?  And having eaten that much, why did I so assiduously avoid aerobics?

Look at all that talent!!  She’s such an engaging writer, and I’m totally sold on reading everything else she’s created.  Rock on, Carrie Fisher.  Never stop being you.   Continue reading

I Cried During The Force Awakens, and It Wasn’t When You Think

I finally saw The Force Awakens!  I waited until my brother came home for Christmas so we could see it as a family.  Since so much of the Star Wars universe revolves around family, I think this was the right choice.  Thankfully, I successfully avoided spoilers before walking into the theater, so I got to watch wide-eyed and delighted as my 27-year-old self regressed twenty years and became enraptured in the world of my childhood.

If you haven’t seen it yet, STOP READING.  SPOILERS AHEAD. Continue reading

Sunday Summary #9: What’s On the Internet

1|  Intrepid Travel has created a year-long adventurer’s trek across the world, and I want to go so badly!  Covering “34 countries, 5 continents and over 200 breakfasts” (lol) it’s not a bad deal at $75,000.  Anyone want to fund me?

2|  I am so late to the Kid President game, but his pep talk is a thing of pure beauty.  “We got work to do – we can cry about it, or we can dance about it.”

3|  J.J. Abrams explicitly says his new Star Wars movie was made so that women and girls would feel included in the universe, and my 8-year-old self is SO HAPPY.  I’ve seen commercials where a young brother and sister team up to take down Stormtroopers with lightsabers, and I’m so glad a new nerdy generation will be raised without all the “I’m a girl – should I like this?” shame that I did.

4|  I’ve never watched The Tudors, but this emotional reaction to the historical inaccuracies feels like it could apply to most TV shows (and movies.)

5|  One Direction was on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where Harry lost a game of tattoo roulette and Louis sat on James’s lap pretending to be a cat, and I had absolutely zero feelings involving tearing my eyeballs out of their sockets and/or shouting into the sun.

6|  White Walls & Wanderlust put together a list of Christmas gift ideas, and I fell in love with the Etsy shop ResilienceStreetwear, which has t-shirts that say things like “Single and ready to get nervous around anyone I find attractive.”