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May The Force Be With You (And With Your Spirit) – When Religion Fails the People it’s Meant to Help

For those of us who grew up in the church and those of us who are a part of it now, it’s incredible how much Christianese can bypass our filters as being normal, everyday terms. I like to think I’m fairly good at not dropping lines like “let’s fellowship with each other”, or “called to [insert ministry here]”, but just the other day, I had a friend stop me with a “wait, what’s a spiritual gift?” Whoops.

There is a very distinct subculture of American Christianity (with its own sub-sub-subcultures) where this Christianese language lives, and much of it is intended to be something good. “Fellowship” is meant to be about deep community. Being “called to” a ministry is about seeing God’s heart for a particular need. But when you live in an echo chamber of this language without grasping its heart, it can devolve into empty platitudes.

It can become Luminara Unduli’s words to Rafa Martez.

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They Are Just – Rose Tico and Dexter Jettster

“Poe Dameron is super cool. Finn’s super cool. Even though [Rose] is good at what she does, she’s not known. She’s not cool. She’s this nobody, this background player…”

Kelly Marie Tran

This was our introduction to Rose Tico: an interview with Entertainment Weekly, well before Kelly Marie Tran graced the big screen in The Last Jedi. From the beginning, Rose has been billed as someone overshadowed by the heroes surrounding her. If it’s not the Sequel Trio, it’s her own gallant sister Paige. The Forces of Destiny and Star Wars Adventures comics take it another step and emphasize this in-universe, as head mechanic Lazslo actively demeans her place in the Resistance. It’s a mindset that Rose herself internalizes. In Spark of the Resistance, she dismisses her own instincts because she’s not a Jedi like Rey or a great leader like Poe. She’s “just Rose” (emphasis mine).

“I can’t save them all. I’m just one person. I can’t even save one of them.”

Dexter Jettster (emphasis mine)

This was an unexpected glimpse at Obi-Wan Kenobi’s friend: a heartfelt journal entry as he takes on a Crimson Dawn labor camp. From the beginning, Dexter Jettster has always exuded confidence. The script for Attack of the Clones describes him as “not someone to tangle with”, and between gun-running on Ord Sigatt and brawling on Ord Mantell, his underworld background in Legends only increased this reputation. In the new canon, The Smuggler’s Guide starts with this similar tone of confidence only to come to a shuddering halt with Dex’s doubts.

In a franchise where many of our leads spend time believing themselves to be something more than life has planned, Rose and Dex seem to believe that they aren’t enough. It’s a galaxy full of cruel empires and powerful crime syndicates, and Dex is just one person, and Rose is just Rose. They are, as Tran continued in her interview, “just like everyone else” (emphasis mine). And grim though this perspective might be, there’s a grounding and a gentle inspiration in characters like these.

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Context Matters, or, Why I Didn’t Hate That One Thing in The Rise of Skywalker That I Was Expecting to Hate

I wanted “Middle Chapter Romance” to conclude my thoughts on this ship and just take The Rise of Skywalker as it came. Whether the end result was what I wanted or not, I planned to let it be. I don’t like talking about this. I’d much rather talk about “Twin Suns”. But, alas, The Rise of Skywalker made a set of decisions so incongruous that this topic is back gnawing at me, and I will have no peace until I’ve processed it all.

So.

That kiss.

You may recall that I have a special place in my heart for Larma D’Acy. If anyone deserved to get her girl, it was our gallant Commander. Yes, D’Acy, please cause a scene.

Nevertheless, this is exactly what we all expected when J.J. Abrams promised us LBTQIA+ representation in Star Wars. A minor character has a blink-and-you-miss-it moment of queer affection, and the filmmakers all pat themselves on the back for being so inclusive and progressive.

Of course, this isn’t the only kiss in the film, nor is it the one I aim to discuss in this article, but it does tie in to my reaction to the kiss between Rey and Ben. I don’t hate the Rey-Ben kiss as I would have expected to, but it still has me baffled and even angered. It’s all about the context.

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Middle-Chapter Romance – How The Last Jedi Holds The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones Accountable

As regular readers of the site may know, I do not interpret The Last Jedi as romantic. However, I understand many of the reasons why others do, even if I don’t agree. Romance has always been a part of Star Wars, and many relationships end up being mirrors of each other. For my part, I can read romance into The Last Jedi from that angle, though it’s not necessarily a positive spin. With parallels to the previous Star Wars romances visible, I can see this film as a commentary on The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones.

Movies are a type of communication. And like any type of communication, movies can communicate their ideas well, poorly, or anywhere in between. So when I speak about how the two previous “middle chapters” of Star Wars fail in their romances, I am not discussing the idea of Anakin or Han as romantic leads, nor am I critiquing fans who see either of them (or Kylo) as just that. I’m discussing how the film communicates those ideas of romance. This is a Doylist discussion.

The Last Jedi in general is a wonderful exercise in Watsonian and Doylist interpretations. “Watsonian” is from the universe: John Watson explaining the events of his adventures with Sherlock Holmes. “Doylist” is from the meta: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explaining why he wrote those events.

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An Element of Redemption – What The Last Jedi Tells Us About Grace

There was a moment in my first viewing of The Last Jedi in which I went “Welp, there goes my credibility. The website is never gonna let me write for it ever again.” Understand, I’m not much of a theorist. I’m better at reflective analysis, and overall, I prefer it. It keeps me from being disappointed that my Snoke theory didn’t work out.

Nevertheless, I tried my hand at theory in my first guest piece here at Eleven-ThirtyEight, ending on a claim that Finn would become an iconic Star Wars archetype – the arbiter of compassion – and would become a mentor of sorts to Rose. I was certainly wrong about that.

Yet somehow here I happen to be, on staff at the very site of my blunder. It’s a small example of some evergreen Star Wars discourse. We discuss frequently the nature of redemption, especially with our most recent antagonist, but this is a broad topic. One person may use “redemption” to mean forgiveness, while another uses it to mean recompense, and a third will use it to mean repentance.

Repentance is not the same thing as recompense, and neither of them are remotely similar to forgiveness, and yet all are invoked to build this idea of redemption. In my understanding of it, redemption is not a concept that stands on its own, but rather is comprised of many elements that weave together. One of these elements is grace.

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