Archive for Guest Editorials

Nobody’s Perfect: In Defense of Rey From Nowhere

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As Episode IX steadily approaches, a year and a few months away from release, debate around the parentage of Rey has continued almost unabated, arguably intensified by The Last Jedi’s “surprise” revelation. Some fans still seem to want an easy way to connect the dots from Rey to the core family of Star Wars, even indirectly, as if the term “Skywalker saga” was a mission statement rather than a convenient identifier.

Part of this stems from how the information is revealed in The Last Jedi: a terrific anticlimax, prompted by Kylo Ren. Prompted…but not issued. The text of Rian Johnson’s film builds this up and suggests it through Rey’s tendency to look for parental figures wherever possible, even when those whom she latches onto are inadequate in some way. The “reveal” isn’t some fake-out gotcha, it’s a natural progression from what we’ve already been given, albeit couched in Abrams’s typically coy storytelling tendencies in The Force Awakens. We’ve been conditioned to expect reversal, so much so that a greater surprise comes from straightforward progression.

In a way, The Last Jedi fleshes out the thread that can make the sequel trilogy a truly essential addition to the epic of Anakin and Luke Skywalker: a story of individuals within the galaxy far far away interpreting and reconciling the tales that have come before to carve out their own path. And perhaps the best torchbearer for this journey of interpretation, emulation and discovery is someone who is a nobody from nowhere, someone without the baggage that weighs so heavily on the new arch-villain Kylo Ren. Rey, as it turns out, operates very differently from her predecessors, the Skywalker boys. She is grappling with entirely different types of problems – no more or less difficult, but complex in a different way. To that end, the scenarios in which we find each of Star Wars’ three core protagonists when first introduced to them (chronologically) hugely inform their stories to follow, both in nature and resolution. In some ways, Rey is far ahead of the Skywalker boys when we first meet her. In other ways, she isn’t. It is this contrast that helps drive this new generation forward, and helps reshape what it means to be a Jedi with “the most serious mind”, and the appeal of a nobody in the galaxy far, far away. » Read more..

The (New) Last Jedi: How Buddhism Could Inspire Rey’s New Jedi Order

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“The legacy of the Jedi is failure. Hypocrisy. Hubris.” — Luke Skywalker

Luke Skywalker spends most of The Last Jedi brooding about the failure of the Jedi Order and telling Rey why it needs to end. Luke is despondent. He has spent years reflecting on his failure with Ben Solo; equating it with Yoda and Obi-Wan’s failure with Anakin Skywalker. However, with Luke’s death Rey is now on her own. She has nothing but the Jedi texts salvaged from the tree and with those she will need to do what Luke Skywalker could not: rebuild the Jedi Order.

It is my belief that Episode IX will operate as a saga epilogue in balance with The Phantom Menace’s prologue. It will take place several years, perhaps even a decade, after The Last Jedi, just as The Phantom Menace takes place ten years before Attack of the Clones. I think this gap will function well for the story because it will give Rey time to grow up as a Jedi Knight, it will give Kylo Ren time to tighten his grip on the galaxy as the new “Emperor”, and it will give the Resistance time to gather resources in order to be able to challenge the First Order.

So, what can Rey do? How can she build a Jedi Order that stands the test of time and doesn’t fall to the same mistakes her predecessors made? More importantly, how can she build an order that can defeat Kylo Ren? I believe that storytellers will look to human history to guide Rey’s future. The Jedi Order is an amalgamation of the samurai, the Knights Templar, and Buddhist monks. This third influence, Buddhism, needs to come to the forefront in Episode IX if Rey is going to be successful in her quest to bring the light back into the galaxy. » Read more..

Connective Tissue: How The Force Awakens’ Characters Inform The Last Jedi – and Vice Versa

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Reviews and reactions to The Last Jedi—a film released seven months, and also an eternity ago—have become well-worn by this point. But beneath heaps of praise, as well as tiresome accusations of feminist cabals destroying the Galaxy Far, Far Away, a curious middle ground has emerged—the notion that The Last Jedi, while a perfectly competent film, was a bad follow-up to The Force Awakens.

To be clear, Episode VII and VIII are very different films, but I’ve been irked by how often “TLJ ignored TFA” is accepted as fact. Other writers have addressed TLJ’s solutions to TFA’s supposed “mystery boxes”, but I find discussions surrounding TFA’s new Big Three much more interesting. While much of the common wisdom around this film holds that TLJ jettisoned the character arcs of TFA to tell its own story, evidence shows the opposite is true.

More than I expected on first viewing, TLJ sticks to TFA’s character arcs with near reverence, often relying on subtle moments from TFA to ground interactions. And on the flip side, after watching TLJ, TFA’s characters feel incomplete without the resolutions provided by the trilogy’s second volume. » Read more..

Souls, Reprogrammed: The Complicated Droids of the New Canon

lando-l3-comicIn Solo, we’re introduced to a fascinating new character. She’s all about liberation: she knows the plight of her people, she knows what’s holding them back, and she’s excited and able to fight for her own liberation – and others’. She will not let people in power, either over her or over others, rest easy in their oppression. They will be challenged at every turn. She is not afraid to use her strength against people who fight her and oppress her kind.

Her name is L3-37, and she’s a droid. Normally, droids are not treated as anything more than appliances, really. Astromech droids are used for navigation in Rebel starfighters. Other droids act as servers, masseuses, or torturers. (Hey, someone has to do it, right?) But rarely do we see a droid in such, well, personable fashion. Since the introduction of the Legends character HK-47, disobedient droids have been growing in prominence, taking on a wealth of characteristics. From murder bots (Triple Zero and BT-1, for example) to droid liberationists like Elthree, Star Wars is forcing us to consider something new: maybe droids are more than just machines. Can they truly think, or even obtain sentience?

Long ago, before the Legends reboot and the new canon, Becca Hughes asked us to consider what the franchise had to say about droids’ sentience and the way they were treated in secondary materials. She compared the role of Artoo and Threepio in the films (as characters in their own right, robots or not) and compared them to the battle droids (rather soulless automatons, created so that the heroes would have something not alive to destroy). Ultimately, these questions led her to investigate the role of Darth Vader, and his cyborg parts, and look into what it would mean for the franchise to feature a sentient, living droid. Would it break the franchise to consider a droid as a sentient, living being? One way that this question may “break” the narrative bounds of this franchise is by how it reflects on our heroes. I will look at the first question through the lens of C-3PO, followed by an investigation of K-2SO and L3-37. » Read more..

Droids, Sex, and Consent: Should It “Work”?

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Prior to the release of Solo, co-writer Jonathan Kasdan stated in an interview with The Huffington Post that he “would say” that Lando was pansexual and added that he loved “the fluidity — sort of the spectrum of sexuality that Donald [Glover] appeals to and that droids are a part of.” Glover would soon jump on board, asking, “How can you not be pansexual in space?” The younger Kasdan tweeted in self-congratulation, “Sorry to have brought identity/gender politics into… NOPE. Not sorry AT ALL ‘cause I think the GALAXY George gave birth to in ‘77 is big enough for EVERYONE: straight, gay, black, white, brown, Twi’lek, Sullustan, Wookiee, DROID & anything inbetween [sic]”.

Of course, this metatextual promise of LGBT representation followed a now-familiar pattern and remained exactly that—metatextual, and at best implicit in the film itself. And yet there is the faintest glimmer of some sort of loving, though platonic (and opposite-sex), relationship between Lando and L3-37. It’s never explicit, and Lando devotes most of his fawning attentions on attractive, apparently female, humanoids. But it is there. It’s present in Lando and L3’s bickering yet comfortable relationship, in how L3 only recognizes Lando as captain and not as owner or master. It’s there in Lando’s tolerance, though not acceptance, of L3’s revolutionary droid ideology. It’s certainly there in L3’s suggestion to Qi’ra that she has contemplated a relationship with Lando, that she believes (or at least jokes) that Lando loves her, that she knows that they would be physically compatible (“it works”) though not compatible as a couple. And it is most strongly there when a distraught Lando rushes through the battlefield on Kessel to recover his fallen companion, frantically attempting to repair her even as she dies in his arms.

But now a Star Wars film has injected droid sexuality squarely into its canon by way of a throwaway line without actually addressing what this means, and in so doing the franchise is now loaded with certain disturbing implications. Allowing for droid sexuality rapidly complicates the issue of droid sentience—droids who can and will have sex or the performative appearance of sexual desires could, if lacking sentience, be creepy sex tools; if they are sentient, then at worst they are sex slaves. » Read more..

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