First, a warning: this article contains spoilers. If you haven’t yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you may not want to read this. Then again, if you haven’t seen it by now, you probably don’t care either way – and there might be something wrong with you.
The newest Star Wars movie has made a huge box-office impact and by now almost everyone has had their say about it. And yet, I haven’t yet seen anyone comment on what to me is the most obvious detail about the nature of the story and its characters.
We have seen a ton of nerdy praise for it and tons of complaining about it too. We’ve had would-be intellectuals lamenting how Star Wars has “ruined culture,” which is ridiculous because Star Wars IS culture. This is nothing new. There were morons saying this sort of thing about Shakespeare. His plays were just pop culture exactly like Star Wars and some critics of the time accused them of being the work of an ignoramus with little Latin and less Greek. The same guys who hate Star Wars also hate Lord of the Rings and think we should all be reading boring post-modern novels with no values instead. You can pretty much tell which academics can just be totally ignored by seeing how they feel about Myth.
We’ve also seen Star Wars accused of being too feminist, praised as being really feminist and criticized for not being feminist enough. We’ve had people claim that it’s racist, in spite of having a really excellent black actor playing a lead role, because the character of Finn is “given his name by a white man.” Does it help that the actor who plays Poe is Latino? Of course, we’ve also had people claiming that the new movie is just “politically correct crap” because it features a woman, a black guy and a Latino as lead characters.
We’ve even had Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart’s extremely gay, extremely conservative enfant terrible, clickbaiting outrage by claiming all Star Wars is garbage. His half-funny argument is that the rebels are like ISIS, the Empire were the good guys and Jabba the Hutt was a misunderstood hero.
But I really think that all the progressives who are praising Star Wars have missed something really important. So have all the conservatives complaining about the new movie or its characters. Yes, this new movie features a really great woman lead character. And a really great black lead character. And a really great supporting character who is Latino; you may or may not consider that white depending on your agenda. But it also features a whole new set of villains – and these villains manage (just like in the original trilogy) to capture a kind of spirit of the current age. And those villains are absolutely meant to be Social Justice Warriors.
Let’s look at this from an historian’s point of view. Each trilogy came out more or less one generation apart from the previous one. And like all good Myth (and Star Wars is very, very good myth) it tells a really good story. A story that we’ve been telling ourselves for as long as we’ve been human, over and over again. This is called the monomyth. It’s the most important story there ever was, the only one that has stuck with us since the dawn of civilization. And like all good Myth, Star Wars reinvents that myth to fit the spirit of the age. Or in the case of each trilogy, the spirit of the age it was filmed in.
The particular version each generation has of its monomyth is really important because those little differences in the story can make a huge difference in the values an entire generation stands for.
The original Star Wars trilogy was created by 30-something Baby Boomers and the children who saw it were Gen-Xers. It was hugely important because it taught us how to understand the world. Its heroes taught us how to be heroes. Han Solo taught us that it was heroic to be an individual, to never take orders from anyone but yourself.
Solo taught all us Gen-Xers that when you have to, you shoot first. The fact that it was a value to us was proven by how outraged we were when George Lucas, having become decadent and cowardly like most of his Boomer generation, tried to retroactively change that into Han being the nice guy who shoots second. But Han also taught us that some things are worth fighting for: friendship, love and freedom.
Luke Skywalker taught us that no matter how small we might seem, any individual person has the power to change the universe – and that even in the face of the greatest darkness or evil, you win by not letting yourself be turned from what you know to be right. Princess Leia taught us that even when everything seems doomed, you need to stare down the face of power and tell it to go to hell – and that however you’re dressed (even in a slave girl outfit) you can be powerful if you’re determined.
And of course the bad guys taught us something too. The Rebels were heroes because they were a group of freedom fighters, standing up for freedom against the Empire, who were the evil old symbols of repressive authoritarianism. They wanted to rule us with power and with fear, and force us to obey. They were the all-powerful state and had to be fought.
The second trilogy was written by an aging and crazy Boomer for an audience of millennial children. And man did it screw them up badly (just like most of what the aging Boomers did screwed up the millennials). It was a great example of what a failed monomyth can do to harm a generation.
First off, it was a prequel, so it taught them that nothing you do matters, it’s bound to end badly. Second, it was full of CGI garbage-effects, so it reinforced in their young minds that nothing is actually real. But of course most of all, it messed them up because it made their hero Anakin Skywalker. They were literally taught to become villains.
Anakin was explicitly made for them to identify with – that’s why Lucas insisted on him being a kid in the first movie. And so they learned from Anakin in Episode 1 that they are all supposed to be chosen ones that the world revolves around.
In Episode 2, Anakin taught them that whatever they might feel is more important than responsibilities or what is right. By Episode 3, Anakin taught them the lesson of pretending to be a whining victim who blames all his problems on everyone else, while committing all kinds of atrocities.
Oh, and they were taught that the Republic and the Jedi (that is, civilization and its values) were naive and ineffectual and aren’t worth fighting for and could be subverted.
Now on to the new Trilogy, or at least its first movie. Here, the movie is made by a Gen-Xer for post-millennials. And when you consider it, it’s obvious that the millennials as a culture are the bad guys. Especially this guy:
— STARWARS-TFA (@TFAStarWars) December 1, 2015
Kylo Ren, in all his wussy glory, embodies the perfect essence of a millennial poster boy. And the movement he fights for, the First Order, are the embodiment of Millennial Social Justice politics.
You might have noticed that in the original Star Wars movie, all the Empire’s officers were old guys. They were dour-faced old men who wanted to take your freedom away because those were the kind of people who wanted to take your freedom away back in 1977.
But in the new movie, the First Order’s officers are all young. They’re also mostly kind of attractive in a fascist chic kind of way.
I don’t think this was done by accident: the First Order are all young because in 2015 it’s young vain narcissists who want to take your freedom away.
It becomes even more clear when you see the Resistance: except for our three protagonists, they’re almost all old men and old women. The leadership of the First Order are almost all young and the leadership of the Rebels are almost all old.
The First Order are literally the Rebels’ own kids, who want to crush and sweep away the freedom their parents fought so hard to win. They want to do this because freedom is not “secure” or “fair,” and because they feel like they have the right to tell everyone else what to do. They want to destroy the chaos of liberty to create a new society under their total control.
Still too subtle for you? How about this: the First Order literally kidnaps children to turn them into brainwashed stormtroopers that fight against freedom. The Individual, to the First Order, is the enemy.
One of the heroes of the movie is Finn, who happens to be black, and who realizes that he was just being used by the First Order who claim to be fighting in his name but don’t really care about him at all. He discovers this when they sentence him to re-education for having the wrong kind of thoughts. He wasn’t a person to them, just a demographic, only a number. He doesn’t get to be an individual until he breaks away from their Collectivism and joins the Resistance. I know a few black libertarians that I’m sure could relate to this guy, a whole lot.
And the First Order’s superstar, Kylo Ren, would be at home at any recent college students’ protest demanding censorship to protect their feelings. He’s a classic Social Justice Warrior, a self-absorbed crybaby who fetishizes Darth Vader the way real-life college-students worship Che Guevara (who also killed a whole lot of people in the name of helping each other).
As for Rey, she’s certainly a strong female character, but she isn’t an intersectional feminist hero fighting to kill all white men. She mostly wanted to be left alone but finds herself forced to fight against a gang of assholes who want to ruin her life in the name of her own good. Rey isn’t Star Wars‘ version of Anita Sarkeesian (whose whining victimhood complex and demands for state censorship would make her right at home as a First Order general). If anything, Rey is a lot more like Vivian James.
So The Force Awakens fills me with a certain sense of hope. In some ways, it’s pessimistic about the times we live in, where most of our own children are betraying us. But that’s also the message I hope the kids who will grow up watching this trilogy will end up getting – and figuring out exactly who the bad guys really are. Sign me up for the Resistance; I hear they need a new scoundrel anyways, and I learned how to be one from the very best.
Top photo by Getty Images
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com. Follow Kasimir on Twitter @KasimirUrbanski.
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