Sunday, April 16, 2017

The End of The Force Dicotomy in The Last Jedi and Other Questions [Contributor: Melanie]

Hold on just one second, kids...

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After months and months of patiently waiting, our prayers were answered in the form of The Last Jedi’s first teaser trailer ahead of its December 15th release. And it had a lot more to say on the topic of the film’s content than I expected. There’s a lot to pick apart in each frame (and I have) but the overarching theme the trailer is presenting is one of the most complicated arguments fans have made over the years: the possibility of a morally dubious view of the Jedi.

When we first hear the word Jedi, it’s through the mouth of Obi-Wan — the quintessential perfect Jedi who pushes the party line that the Jedi were the protectors of peace and prosperity. They used their abilities to serve the Republic as protectors, warriors, and spiritual guardians. Or they were bounty hunters often contracted by the senate for violent odd jobs. However you you want to put it. Potato, potahto. In that same thread they were a cult that brainwashed members from an early age, separating them completely and permanently from their families, banishing emotion, teaching ultimate selflessness and duty to the Jedi Order.

And, despite what they wanted you to think, they had the same flaw as their Sith counterparts: a polarizing view of the Force. Light or Dark. Passion or neutrality. Self or others. There was no in between. If you weren’t controlling your emotions completely, meditating on peace, and rejecting personal gain then you were probably off plotting the destruction of the galaxy and Using Your Powers For Evil™.

In the trailer Luke and Rey seem to focus on the inclusion of both sides of the Force: “The light... the dark... the balance.” This is quickly followed by Luke proclaiming the Jedi must end. It’s a shocking statement, but likely one. And like all great lines in trailers, probably taken out of context. The teachings of the Jedi Order resulted in their own destruction. The stoked the fires of Anakin’s frustrations by refusing to mend any of their beliefs to help reach him. And they were essentially so far up their own butts they couldn’t even see real threats in the form of Darth Sideous. Yoda puts it a bit more eloquently, noting they were prideful and blind to not see the entire Republic had fallen under the thrall of a Sith Lord. Again, the potato thing.

So, what Luke is likely saying (hopefully) is that the Jedi and their Spartan doctrine have lived out their relevance. The Jedi mindset belongs to an ancient order more interested in creating obedient warrior monks. The fact of the matter is, we’re talking about living, breathing people who have these natural gifts to sense the Force around them. Both people and the Force are inherently mixed in their morality, their goodness, their selfishness, their passion, and their ability to control all these things. If you try to create the perfect Jedi, you have a man (Obi-Wan) who was blind to how best help his best friend from turning into a monster. If you preach only Sith ideology of self and passion you get a guy who enslaves the entire galaxy and kills a lot of people.

Let’s get some Gilgamesh up in here and point out that all things ultimately go back to the id, the ego, and the superego (and they all go back to Gilgamesh too). The Sith is the id, the emotional identity that does nothing but crave. The Jedi are the ego, the consuming need for selflessness. Somewhere in the middle of this (and in the middle of all of us) is the superego, the part of the grand design that acknowledges the desires, knows the cost, and finds the balance in between.

Or something. I don’t know.

Apparent from the deep analytical goodies, the trailer also brought into the spotlight some questions we desperately want answered:

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1) Who is Rey?

The most popular theory out there is, of course, that Rey is a Skywalker. It’s not that far-fetched, considering Luke had a wife and offspring in the original Star Wars Expanded Universe (re: Star Wars Legends). Contextually it also makes the most sense considering the main saga has always been about the Skywalker family. But, on the flipside, the new trilogy seems to be interested in reinventing itself, to some extent. Perhaps we will leave the Skywalkers behind and pass the torch...

Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

No matter what, her identity is pivotal to the story. This is made clear in the novelization of The Force Awakens where Kylo Ren makes it clear he knows who Rey is and has, apparently, been on the hunt for her.

2) What is the fate of Finn?

A small but pivotal line from The Force Awakens makes mention that the current breed of Stormtroopers are subjected to conditioning from childhood, Unsullied style, for complete obedience. The trailer seems to show Finn in a med pod, very much still comatose. A while back in another post, I flirted with the possibility that Finn may find his training and conditioning trigger and revamped from his injuries, perhaps waking up still trapped inside the mind of a sculpted soldier. It would be quite the test of friendship for Rey and Poe to find themselves challenged with bringing their friend back from the dark side...

Tragic? Painful? Excellent, let’s do it.

3) Will Luke die?

Since the title was revealed, fans have been panicking that it suggests Luke is going to bite it. The fact of the matter is, the German and French translations of the title prove Jedi is meant plural in this sense. So if he’s dying, it has nothing to do with the title. But, as all great monomyths go, a mentor needs to die. And though Rey found a father figure in Han Solo and dealt with the pain of losing him, she’ll likely find something much stronger and deeper in Luke (who might also be her ACTUAL space dad).

4) Who is Snoke, and do I really care?

Honestly, there is so much interpersonal drama that I forgot Snoke was a factor. In hindsight, he’s probably the weakest part of The Force Awakens. Unless he turns out somehow personally connect to the Kardashian-level drama that is the Skywalker family, he will likely remain the weakest part of the whole thing. As of right now, he’s an outside element, an environmental factor responsible for some roadblocks, but Kylo Ren’s personal connection to Rey and his own inner turmoil seem like the much bigger antagonists.

Maybe Snoke matters. Some people have theorized he’s some time-traveling version of Kylo Ren himself. Maybe he’s important. Maybe he has an uncontrollable twitter handle and won his seat of power by dubious means. I don’t know, I’m not psychic.

Get hype, kids. It may be April, but the countdown for Episode VIII starts now.


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