‘The Last Jedi’ controversy

I finally got around to watching The Last Jedi (2017) tonight. This is the Star Wars film that created so much of a stir three years ago for its perceived nods to identity politics. Google “The Last Jedi SJW” and you’ll get some idea of what I’m talking about.

I’m coming very late to this controversy. I’ll therefore be brief, but I will have my say. The Last Jedi is well…rather ho-hum. But the controversy about it is much overblown.

I am the sort of viewer who is supposed to be offended by The Last Jedi. The original Star Wars is part of my youth. I was nine years old in the summer of 1977, when I watched the first film in a cinema in Cincinnati with my dad. The last installment in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi (1983), came out when I was fourteen, and a freshman in high school. Back in the day, I loved Star Wars.

I’m also politically conservative. Guess who I voted for last week! Poke around this blog, and you’ll find that I don’t care much for divisive identity politics. This blog is full of microaggressions and triggers!

I also recognize that the cast of The Last Jedi is perfectly—and improbably—racially diverse and gender-balanced. And yes, I caught the not-so-subtle feminist messaging in the film, too. Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) reminds me of an officious manager I had to endure for three years in the corporate world.

And finally, all the bad guys in The Last Jedi are white dudes.

Yes, all that’s true. But…so what? I didn’t think it was racist to make Lando Calrissian a shady (and Black) character in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). I never complained about the predominance of white males in the original Star Trek. I could have cared less! I still don’t care.

In 2013, there was a loud and unnecessary brouhaha over actress Alice Eve appearing in her underwear in a scene in Star Trek Into Darkness. I was like, “Big deal; Alice Eve looks damn fine in her skivvies.” Because she does.

Alice Eve in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Therefore, I’m not going to get worked up over a little self-conscious diversity in The Last Jedi. Furthermore, I rather like the characters Rey (portrayed by Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega).

This isn’t 1978; and yes, I understand that filmmakers, novelists, and television show runners take diversity into account. Partly this is politics, but partly it is just good marketing.

For example: It would be self-defeating to create a story/film/TV series with no interesting female characters. Women are one half of the viewing/reading audience, don’t forget!

I frankly roll my eyes at the outrage over The Last Jedi. But then, I rolled my eyes at the outrage over Alice Eve’s underwear scene in Star Trek Into Darkness.

I have a message for everyone: Lighten up! Life is too short to get worked up over freakin’ science fiction movies.

That said, all of the Star Wars films to come out after the original trilogy (1977 – 1983), have been lesser films for me. I remember watching The Phantom Menace in 1999, and thinking: This isn’t as good as any of the first three films.

Part of that is nostalgia, perhaps. I’m open to that possibility. Also, my youth at the time. I was nine years old when I watched Star Wars (1977) for the first time. I was in my early thirties when I saw The Phantom Menace

I rather think, though, that Star Wars should have ended in 1983. All of the films since then have failed to capture the dramatic feel of the original trilogy. At the same time, they haven’t been equally compelling in their own right. To me, they feel like movie versions of fan fiction.

Speaking of Daisy Ridley: She was born in 1992, fifteen years after the first Star Wars hit the cinemas. The Star Wars franchise is now more than 40 years old. It was great! But it’s time to move on to other stories.

Allow me to reiterate: I don’t like divisive, bean-counting identity politics. I don’t like contrived outrage over innocuous cheesecake scenes like the Alice Eve scene in Star Trek Into Darkness. (Everyone really, really needs to lighten up.)

But I’m good with diverse characters and strong female characters. I would just like to see them in something other than yet another Star Wars sequel/prequel/standalone. That universe has already been milked for all it’s worth.