Angela Watercutter, Wired, December 15, 2017
There is a scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi — I won’t say too much, but you’ll see it yourself — where a young Asian woman does a brave, selfless thing to help the Resistance. It’s a very sweet, very Star Wars Hero Moment, but it’s also an important one. Los Angeles Times film writer Jen Yamato called out its significance for fans of color on Twitter, noting “films like these leave their mark on entire generations — representation matters.” She woke up the next morning to a stream of mentions telling her to “stop making everything about race.” Her reply? “I hope you all enjoy the new Star Wars.” The implication was obvious: They won’t. The Last Jedi isn’t here to appease the old guard.
And that goes for both categories of reactionaries — the Star Wars fan upset that the franchise’s heroes now include (::clutches pearls::) women and people of color, and the misogynist, racist, classist, dark side of the populace that’s always been present, wielding power in one form or another. In themes and plot, The Last Jedi asserts again and again that monolithic dominance isn’t good for anyone. The movie isn’t here to Make the Galaxy Great Again. It’s to tell the stories of the people who want to actually fix it.
(Spoiler alert: Minor spoilers for The Last Jedi follow.)
This isn’t the first time that this phenomenon has occurred, and it won’t be the last. The so-called alt-right took on Rogue One for its female hero and diverse cast. There was, prior to its release, blowback against The Force Awakens for its “black stormtrooper” — the character who turned out to be Finn. (Boyega’s response to the backlash at the time? “Get used to it” — a sentiment that seems all the more prescient now.) Every Star Wars movie from here on out will probably be considered in the context of the period and political climate surrounding its release.
Jedi have always been leery of politics and politicians, and George Lucas himself has said that George W. Bush is Darth Vader and Dick Cheney is Emperor Palpatine. But writer-director Rian Johnson’s movie seems to be turning those covert ideas into overt messages — first by portraying a universe with a more inclusive cast of characters, and then by making them actually talk about what it means to “resist” (aka be in the Resistance) and how to achieve those goals.