Was I Too Hard on the Last Jedi?

I have come to  what is for me an absolutely shocking conclusion.  There are people who like The Last Jedi that aren’t being paid by Disney to say they do.

Most of these, unsurprisingly, weren’t Star Wars fans.  I know it seems odd but you have to remember, while there are Millennial fans of the franchise, it’s not as universal to them as Harry Potter is. 

And I had also underestimated the rabid fascination of the Reylo fanbase. Although I sure as hell wasn’t the only one.

Star Wars was a Gen X thing.  We liked a masculine adventure where the hero is physically over matched in the beginning then throughout the plot crises he faces, grows strong enough to finally face his antagonist.  The OG trilogy certainly delivered on that.  Heck the OG film delivered on that.  Luke was a slacker farmer kid who couldn’t keep his mind on job at hand.  He just wanted to get out of that one Dewback town and get to The Academy.

Then he begins his hero’s journey as pretty closely defined by Campbell’s Monomyth. 

Luke gets the Call to Adventure by Obiwan. And refuses because change is scary and adventures, typically speaking, are somebody else in deep shit far, far away.

External force impacts Luke’s world and destroys it.  There was nothing left on Tattooine after the Stormtrooper’s Beru-bacue at the Lars family farm.  Luke journey’s to the Underworld is represented by Mos Eisley. There Luke begins a transformation that will strip him of his pride, sins and weaknesses.  He receives Supernatural Aid in the form of the Force and represented by his father’s mystical weapon (remember, his father wasn’t Darth Vader back then).  He begins his Road of Trials aboard the Deathstar.   He reaches the Abyss when his mentor is killed, thus paying the price for his rebirth. 

Luke only got into this with the hope of meeting a hot girl above his social status level. He wanted to impress her by rescuing her because Luke clearly had a crush on Leia (so damn awkward).  But now that he is Transformed, he has a higher purpose.  The survival of the Rebellion is more important than his own life.  He thus ascends out of the Underworld when he fires his proton torpedo and Ascends into the Light.

It’s been used a few times since.  Most explicitly with The Matrix.

However it has recently been refined by the Harmon* Story Circle.

And it is this oversimplifed version of the Monomyth that was used to create Rey.

The thing to remember about Rey is that she is supposed to be a heroine that appeals to women.  And believe it or not, she does.  Oh, not the women who liked Star Wars, most of them hate her as much as the rest of us men.  But the core of Rey’s support comes from women who never were all that into the OG trilogy.

Women generally speaking aren’t going to be into the story of a guy that goes to some martial arts temple and spends fifteen years learning to be the Kung Fu Beast.  If you are interviewing a twenty-year old new graduate and she says, “I want your job.”  She means today, maybe she’ll give you ten minutes to box your stuff but she means forget waiting my turn for thirty years, I want your job right now.

The fact that Rey is intuitively good at fighting and flying and the Force use doesn’t bother that audience.  Because that’s not what they are there for.  They want crippling emotional problems and Rey delivers there. One of the first things she says is, “I’m no one.”   Rey has crushing abandonment and self worth issues. 

So consulting the Story Circle we see that Rey wants something.  She needs to belong.  Family would have been preferable but she’ll settle for becoming a Jedi.

Now as a little exercise here lets pretend that she was not going to see Luke Skywalker but GrandMaster Krall, Hero of the Zanj Wars and the last member of the Vashtari Warriors.  But GrandMaster Krall tells her that the Vashtari Warriors aren’t worth being a part of and that it’s just as well that they die with him.

Looked at from that perspective it almost doesn’t suck.

But it is Luke saying these things.  That in itself makes it pretty clear that this was written by someone who didn’t have any emotional investment in Star Wars at all.

So anyway.  Luke says, the Jedi aren’t worth being a part of.  Which robs Rey of any hope of belonging there.  Kylo confirms that Reys parents will never be able to resolve her abandonment issues because they no shit abandoned her (retconned later). But Kylo then offers the Dark Side.  However Rey decides that that isn’t for her either.

She Returns to the Resistance Fleet…Squad (there’s what twelve of them by the end of that movie?)  She has reached the top of the Story Circle.  Her life has resumed as is nothing happened but she has Changed.

So in answer to my question.  No, I wasn’t anywhere near hard enough on The Last Jedi because THIS IS CRAP!!!

6 thoughts on “Was I Too Hard on the Last Jedi?

  1. Yeah, if you look at romance novels, or just the songs women tend to like, there’s often a theme of going through journeys or “chapters” in life, usually very passively, and being “changed” by them. The change is the important part; whether anything was accomplished is irrelevant. So you’re right, it doesn’t bother them in the least that Rey went nowhere and accomplished nothing. She Changed (or felt changed, which is just as good).

    A lot of Gammas loved TLJ too. Some are probably just white-knighting, but I think most of them mean it. It spoke to them too, but in their case it was more about tearing down male heroes.

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  2. The whole thing baffles me. Well, the Reylo shippers don’t baffle me. Their extreme emotional attachment to it though is frightening. However, women are always looking to match people up. Plus, they dig the bad boys, even if he is an immature brat. Add in that they made Rey as homely looking as possible and it’s instant female fodder. That could be them seduced to the dark side.

    TLJ dropped a nuke on the franchise.

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  3. Probably a mom thing. That toddler has accomplished nothing but he is changed!

    Joking aside, he can now go to the toilet, or refrain from hiring his playmates with blocks.

    And none of these women have kids they raise, so those instincts have to go somewhere…

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  4. To be fair, the “Go back to where you started, but changed” idea can work – Tolkien, for example, used it to great effect; I guess the important thing is if you’re going to use it for something other than Emotion Porn for the main character.

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  5. Thing is, that sort of thing CAN work, if done correctly and not at the expense of the prior story and other characters (who are male) and if the central character actually has depth.

    By a serendipitous chance, I’m re-playing KOTOR as a light side female for the first time, and the experience is…interesting. I find myself thinking they could have adapted a fairly good Star Wars story or two with that as the template. If it were set in the distant past or future of the original trilogy and didn’t damage the heroes’ accomplishments. It would even explain how a young woman could be developing such extraordinary skills and powers. It would explain why Revan always wore a mask – to be more imposing and to get instant respect.

    I can even imagine the third act – or concluding movie – after the revelation: the MC is crushed and shattered, but rather than give in to despair she’s determined to undo the mess she’d made, even at the cost of her own life (and maybe she doesn’t intend to survive, until the Carth romance/redemption/realizing she really is a different person, etc. Here I’m ignoring KOTOR II, Knights of the Old Republic and all the rest).

    It also puts a new light on Malak’s character, always following Revan’s lead, then ‘lashing out’ at his master.

    Might have been an interesting sequel movie or two/three…but it would never happen. Just having a female MC with something to atone for is a no-no.

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  6. Literature Devil has a few videos that seem to tie right in with this theme:

    Basically Rian Johnson effed up the Hero’s Journey because he didn’t deliver what the formula had promised. You can’t make a hero, build him up, train him, arm with loads of Chekhov’s guns, then decide at the last second that he isn’t relevant and have the main villain die from stubbing his toe instead. Maybe that would work in a Rick and Morty episode, but only because R&M are meant to be a deconstruction of adventure tropes and a nihilistic black comedy that, frankly, only has one joke.

    Also, women tend to have different tastes in genres than men and, those women who like the same things that men like, tend to like those things for the same reasons. Making a dull, emotional thud of a woman the main character of Star Wars didn’t get a lot of new female fans on board, and it pissed off the ones who already were.

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