Monday, January 1, 2018

The (Not Quite) Last Jedi and Identity

The haters are wrong. It wasn't as good as The Force Awakens, but it was a good movie and good Star Wars.

Honestly, I think a huge part of the issue is, of course, that TLJ (spoiler alert) killed off the last straight white man for the audience to either identify with or want to be with.

Because, the truth is, young white boys get to see themselves all the time.

And because of that, they don't actually learn to do the mental shift required to identify with a protagonist who is not like you. They don't know what to do when the lead is a girl and the love interest is a black man. The Last Jedi threw them no bones - the added hero character is an Asian woman and, furthermore, an unattractive Asian woman. Kelly Marie Tran is a brilliant actor who deserves all the breaks she can get, but she is not what Hollywood would call beautiful.

So, older straight white men (and yes, I'm generalizing, because I know plenty of straight white men who did like the movie) see nobody to identify with except the villains. And the villains, to be honest? They're inept. Ren only wishes he was as cool as Vader, and that's the point. Ren is toxic masculinity incarnate, a whiny manchild who has never been pushed to grow up. Who (spoilers again) genuinely assumes that the white woman will choose him and his path of evil and has no idea what to do when she refuses him. The entire arc of Rey and Kylo (apologizes to Reylo shippers) is about a woman looking at a typical, sexist, whiny man and going "No thanks," albeit wrapped in fantasy trappings.

As for the white women who hate the movie? White women are raised to want to be with the lead. The original trilogy threw us a twist there, but Leia still ended up with the dashing white guy, just as we're raised to dream of. Even if our parents don't do it to us, society does.

So? I suspect a lot of what's really behind the hate is people who don't know what to do with a lead who is not a straight white male (Poe is not white and probably, to be honest, not straight). They don't know what to do with a woman who chooses a black hero over a white villain. (Even if Finn somehow ends up with Rose, which seems unlikely, Rey has still chosen Finn. Hence the "Everybody Loves Finn" meme circulating).

They don't, in fact, know what to do with a black lead who is loved by everyone. Rey loves him. Rose loves him. Poe probably loves him, even if it's being kept low key.

The white women, especially those raised by more racist families, see a lead they aren't "allowed" to dream about being with - well, two leads, because they're both wrong in some way.

The white men can't relate to a woman or a black guy because they've never had to.

Meanwhile, those of us who had to wait until our twenties to see a major character who matched our demographics, who spent our childhood having to compromise, to accept that all the cool stories were about boys except the ones who were about straight girls...we've always had to make that mental shift and learn to relate to the other. For those who have never had to, the movie is a cognitive disconnect, something they don't know how to handle. And for those who's best hope is to love the lead...well...

So they hate it.

(Note: If the reason you hate it is because you can't drop bombs in space, I rolled my eyes at that one too).