The final trailer for The Last Jedi dropped just a few days ago, leaving all of us with some mixed feelings. For me, this is Carrie Fisher’s last movie, and part of me doesn’t want to believe that she’s really gone. The possibility of seeing her die on screen also gives me pause. Nevertheless, I’d go see this movie just for her, even if I wasn’t a giant Star Wars nerd. Carrie Fisher, the world did not deserve you. Rest in peace.
One of my favorite books when I was younger was Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. It had everything a girl with my interests could have hoped for: a plucky heroine, rebellion, a fantasy setting, court intrigue, epistolary romance… I adored it. When I got to the end of the book, however, I discovered something strange.
The last ten pages of the book promised a never-before-seen addition to the story. Excited to read more about Mel and Danric and the rest, I eagerly turned the page… to discover that the addition was a trite and honestly embarrassing epilogue. It was tooth-rottingly saccharine, and turned the kickass protagonist into a wilting flower too nervous to talk honestly with her husband. I didn’t have much of a critical eye at age eleven, but even then I knew it was a shitty writing decision. So why are so many authors going the way of the epilogue now? It’s terrible in so many ways, and it needs to stop.
Black History Month is tomorrow! This is a time for celebration, learning, and spotlighting cool stuff in Black nerd culture. I’m excited. In the meantime though, I want to talk about making good characters in our fiction. And because I’m still riding off the adrenaline, here’s another post about Steven Universe and Star Wars: The Force Awakens!
In the eternal quest to anthropomorphize everything, I think it’s pretty normal to occasionally look at generally featureless objects and idly wonder if they have a gender. After all, gender is typically a pretty significant part of identity for humans, and part of being human is to project humanity onto non-human things. Of course, most people can easily recognize that in reality, gender (as it exists separate from biological sex) is a uniquely human concept that can be applied to animals only in a very limited capacity, and to objects not at all. Thus, it was deeply surprising to me that the question of a robot’s gender became such a source of contention amongst Star Wars fans surrounding the release of The Force Awakens. It’s unclear who first voiced speculation about the gender of the adorably rotund new droid, BB-8, but it has spun off into a debate about the gender of every significant droid in the Star Wars universe, and opinions are bafflingly strong over in the gender binary camp. The more fascinating question, in my opinion, is whether an artificial intelligence can have a gender at all, and if so, what informs that aspect of its identity?
I firmly believe that one of the reasons why Star Wars is going to stand the test of time is because it’s the classic hero’s journey. Our plucky hero hears the call to adventure, but needs reassurance before they begin. Once our hero sets out, they meet all kinds of interesting characters and gains knowledge and training and spiffy tools to help them with their mission. Just when they think they’re at their lowest, they’re pulled out from despair and prepared for the final boss battle. Our hero wins, we celebrate, and our hero is a changed person for it. This model worked for the original trilogy, and it looks like it’s working for The Force Awakens, too.
You could probably name dozens of stories that fit this model without much effort. You see shadows of this model all throughout the Bible, too. In the Old and New Testaments we have all kinds of stories of people that follow a similar (or the same) framework. So it’d be easy to say that Star Wars is a Christian story, right? We have a great fight between good and evil, the Jedi are a lot like monks, and even the evil Darth Vader has that gloriously religious line: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Christian groups clamor to ride the hype train by injecting Star Wars themes into religious services. Alissa Wilkinson’s article in Christianity Today shows just how popular a “spirituality of Star Wars” is becoming in all sorts of religious groups, especially among Christians. But does it work? Is Star Wars really a universe compatible with Christian beliefs?
Ever since The Force Awakens came out, fans all across the internet have been making fun of its villain, Kylo Ren, for his whininess (here’s my favorite: Emo Kylo Ren). A new Darth Vader, he definitely is not. And you know what? That’s the point.
This movie has shaken the foundations of the kinds of people who we expect to see as heroes in a Star Wars movie, and it is incredibly significant that the only white male in the new main cast (Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe, is Guatemalan-American) is the villain. And not even a very competent villain. In comparison with the other, more diverse characters, and taking everyone’s actions into account, Kylo Ren really does seem like those entitled white, male geeks who are trying to “preserve” geekdom for others like themselves. And just like them, he is going to fail. He is already well on his way to failing.
Major spoilers beneath the cut, in case you’re one of the two or three people left who haven’t yet seen Episode VII!
Guys!!!! Girls!!! Everyone else!! This is the movie we as Star Wars fans deserve!! If you haven’t made plans to see it please reconsider your entire life and go see it instead.
Okay, so serious spoilers in this post. Serious, the spoileriest of spoilers. Snape-kills-Dumbledore spoilers. If this post were in my refrigerator I’d be throwing it out with one hand pinching my nose because it’s so spoiled. Consider. Yourself. Warned.