Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I’ve got some thoughts about The Last Jedi. Just in case anyone reading this has not yet seen it, here’s a nice promo picture from the movie. Below that is the “continue reading” tag. Don’t click on it if you don’t want spoilers.

General Leia

If I’d seen this movie forty years ago – even twenty years ago – I’d have thought I’d died and gone to heaven. An action movie with that many women in key roles? It was the story I’d been waiting for my whole life.

But these days I want more from my adventure stories than simply women in the roles that used to always go to men. About halfway through this movie, I found myself thinking, “Yeah, there are women in charge and in the pilot seats, but they’re fighting the war the way they always fight wars.”

And then two things happened that gave me some hope that there was a little more to the story than the same old same old. For one, Rey reaches out to Ben Solo/Kylo Ren in a way that offers him a real choice. For another, Leia shuts down Poe after his two disastrous efforts to do the classic male hero defy-all-the-rules-and-win-the-day bit.

Those are small choices, and this isn’t a subtle movie, but they did give me hope that incorporating women was changing the story for the better.

And I must say, the fact that the Rabid Puppies are up in arms about the story because girl cooties makes me even fonder of it. Really, they should be thrilled with the movie, because the Big Bad of the story is one of their own. I kept envisioning Ben/Kylo sitting in Leia’s basement, tweeting abuse to Jedis.

That man is the perfect Petulant Puppy. I confess it’s a little harder to see him as the terror of the universe.

I enjoyed the movie. I didn’t like it as much as I liked The Force Awakens, but then that movie is essentially an updated version of the first Star Wars movie, which is now called A New Hope (I think), but will always be Star Wars to me. It blew me away when it first came out, because it changed movies in a powerful way. I’m sentimental about it, so I enjoyed the updated version.

And, of course, The Last Jedi is the middle movie of a trilogy, and, based on having read a lot of trilogies in my time, I tend to find the middle book (or movie) weaker than either the first or the last.

I have two main problems with the movie. First, I think they blew some storytelling opportunities. Luke’s emotional crisis over how he dealt with Ben is not handled very well. It’s all very disjointed, and the fact that he needs the ghost of Yoda to give him a kick in the pants makes me think he never really grew up. (Also Mark Hamill looks like a hobbit to me. I think it’s the way the robe hangs on him that does it. Wrong movie, I know, but still.)

Maybe that’s the theme of this movie: None of the men ever grow up. I mean, Poe mansplains war to Leia and the Admiral. Ben/Kylo is a petulant puppy. Finn isn’t quite together. The women, on the other hand, are absolutely with it.

Still, getting back to Luke. The story needs him to teach Rey some stuff. He doesn’t, not really. That young woman who has so much power – she’s special in spades – has not received anything like the kind of training she needs. Luke could have been freaked out and still done better by her than a couple of words.

The chase for the McGuffin by Finn and Rose gave us a lot of fun, but really did very little for the story. However, I’ll forgive it because it gave us Rose, and Rose is absolutely wonderful.

But my real problem – the true reason that I’m not jumping up and down over this film – is that I still don’t get why Our Heroes are once again the rebel resistance fighting the Big Bad. I mean, about forty years back, they defeated the Empire. One assumes they built a democratic republic of some kind and set up a better government. But if they did, it didn’t last very long.

This criticism obviously applies to the first movie as well. Why isn’t this story about the plucky defenders of the republic that got built after the empire was thrown down? You could still have powerful Big Bads coming after them. You can have romantic heroes on the side of the government. Really you can. (Have the filmmakers never heard of the Spanish Civil War, where the good guys were the democratic government?)

This bothers me a lot, especially given that the rebels are down to so few at the end. On the other hand, given the current political situation in the US – complete with women leading the resistance – it’s timely if you don’t think about Star Wars history.

I’ll definitely see the next one. They’re letting girls have a lot of the fun. Why no, it’s not up to 50-50 yet, and I won’t be satisfied until there aren’t any men in the story at all except maybe among the bad guys. I hold with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose answer to the question about the right number of women on the US Supreme Court is “nine.”

But the women get fight scenes and moral dilemmas. That’s still my kind of story.

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Girls Just Wanna Have Fun — 8 Comments

  1. I’ve twice attempted to watch Star Wars and failed both times. I’ve never tried again, for that one or any others. They were just too — well, stupid and boring and pointless — by my pov. Obvs, millions feel differently, but there ya go!

  2. I am beginning to sense that the Jedi’s fatal error was going big. They had an HQ, a large number of members, all that fancy stuff in #s 1-3. They had all the trappings of power and success. They made the classic error of the winner — they became their enemy.
    So it all went to pieces, and they’re eating dirt like they deserve. Fine. It’s in this movie that we see how they really have to win. From the bottom, as a liberating force of justice for the toilers in rags at the bottom of the economic pile. They don’t need brown hoodie robes. They need pussy hats.

    • But what happened after the victory against the empire in The Return of the Jedi? How did it all get so bad again?

      Bottom up is good. It does appear that the heroes do not come from the former royalty. This is a good omen.

      • Let us hope we never see those movies, during which Luke steers Kylo Ren into disaster, the Jedi completely flake out, the Republic goes down the drain, etc. But I fear we will, someday. They’re going to grind this series around for ever amen.

  3. I agree with pretty much everything you said, Nancy (except the part about wanting men only to be bad guys in the movies; give me 50/50 and I’ll be happy). It rocks to see Rey and Rose and the other women taking point on so much of the story. But the story was flawed, as you said. And one thing you didn’t say was, why was Leia all gloom and doom near the end (There is no hope!)? That’s not Leia speaking; that’s the script writer wanting to make things seem as dark as possible. The real Leia would have been saying, “Okay, what are we gonna do to get out of this one?”

    • Good points, those. You’re right that the bad guys should be 50/50. I just care less about representation of bad guys in a universe where some of the good folks come in shades of gray, but the bad ones do not.

      And you’re right: Leia would never have said that, not after all the fights, not after tossing Poe on his ass.