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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Three Ways The Last Jedi Reflects Troubling Trends in Culture

It should be no surprise that The Last Jedi, the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, is by all measures an instant success. I went to see the film and was optimistic based on the initial buzz and reviews. And while I didn't walk away hating the movie, I didn't walk away for the theater inspired or excited as I had after the A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back.

Then something funny happened. The more I thought about it, the more the film began to bother me. After a second viewing, I became more convinced that there are some serious worldview issues with The Last Jedi that sit at direct odds against the original trilogy. I want to go over three of them with you below. However, in order to do so, there will be spoilers so stop reading now if you haven't yet seen the film.

1. Faith and tradition are disposable

Most people know that George Lucas was a friend and fan of Joseph Campbell and his teaching on universal myth. Campbell knew that the traditions and teachings passed from one generation to the next shape humanity. Lucas picked up on this in his original saga; Luke Skywalker typifies Campbell's mythic hero.

Yet in The Last Jedi, the accumulated wisdom of experience over millennia doesn't matter. In fact, what's called for is a clean slate. Writer and director Rian Johnson shows this time and again with his “burn down the canon” script. The most telling scene in the film is that Luke, The Last Jedi Master, has been hiding away on the very planet that contains the original texts laying the foundation for the Jedi faith. He is shown as their guardian, but he is contemplating destroying them so the Jedi faith would be no more. He worries that the faith can be abused and therefore be an origin for evil as well as for good. Luke thinks that by ridding the world of the Jedi, he will likewise rid the world of the Sith.

Such a point could've been a rich vein for development. However, Johnson takes away the opportunity for thoughtful discussion and instead has the apparition of Yoda set fire to the texts himself, justifying it to Luke by asking “Have you read them? Page-turners they were not.”

I think the scene is indicative of the modern view towards religion in general and Christianity in particular. Christians are called “People of the Book” because of the central place Scripture holds in instruction and training in righteousness. The Bible tells us that human beings are born with a nature that gravitates toward evil. We learn that selflessness rather than our natural drive towards selfishness is the proper attitude to hold. But if it doesn't entertain us—if it isn't a page turner—then get rid of it. It's the modern attitude of “tl;dr yet I can comment on whether it's valuable or not.”

2. You don't really need to put in years of work to be competent

Much has been made about how quickly Rey became proficient with the Force. She can match any of Snoke's Praetorian Guard, theoretically the best of the best that Snoke could muster. Heck, on the island she is able to duel against Luke Skywalker and come to a draw. We saw Luke continue to try and fail to lift even one rock via the Force during his training, yet Rey is able to remove a landslide immediately without pause. Yet, given the timeline of the events in the film and how Rey had to get back to the action, she couldn't have been gone more than a few months at most. Her training seemed to last only days.

The concept of instant gratification is endemic in our culture. So many people today believe that happiness and comfort are the default position and any tragedy or hardship means someone else is holding you back. That isn't how the world works. The security you enjoyed growing up came at the expense of years of your parents' sacrifice and toil, working day by day for the eventual success they then enjoyed. There are no cheat-codes to life.

3. Men are inconsequential

The most obvious message The Last Jedi sends is the one that Johnson clearly sought to send, that is that men offer nothing uniquely beneficial to society. The main protagonist, Rey, is female. So are all the leadership of the Resistance. Kylo Ren and Snoke are bad guys and are men. The double-dealing code-breaker is a man. The arms dealer is a man.

Even in the first few moments of the film I had a hard time believing that only women would be in the top levels of command. As the film progressed, its agenda became more overt and more satirical. It is the women in this film who time and again save the day while the men just mess everything up. Poe is a hotshot who recklessly expends a number of lives taking out a ship that makes no difference in the rest of the film. His later plans are shown to be useless as Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holdo had a plan in the works all along. Even Finn, in his bravado charging the enemy, needs to be saved by Rose.

The egregiousness of this fiction is distressing. Men have long been the punching bags of media. War is an ugly thing, but it is and has always been men who time and again put their lives on the line to protect us from the evils that threaten our way of life. Men would willingly die to save women and children because they understood the weaker needed protection by the stronger. But now our society says the unique thing that makes men men is itself dangerous. It needs to be checked and men need to behave more like women. When you take away a man's self-understanding as provider and protector, you rob him of his place in the world. Why then would men in this or future generations stand up and put their lives on the line when a real enemy threatens?

Image courtesy LearningLark [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Concerning #1, Rey took the books from the tree. The scene at the end of the movie on the Millennium Falcon, shows the books in the drawer. When Yoda commented, "Rey has all the information she needs", he knew she had taken the books. For Luke's comfort, he was able to burn down the tree to deal with his own issues of good and evil.

    I do agree with your overall concern of the disposable nature of our society.

  2. Disagree.
    #1 The books were saved. This troubled me also until the reveal at the end.
    #2 Rey is a wunderkind by Luke’s own admission. Also, Rey could hold her own in a fight before she ever touched a light saber.
    #3 On at least two occasions this movie shows women saving men from doing something wreckless. Women are good at this. This is a demonstration of gender difference.

    1. Further to #3 - Wasn't the big hero at the end Luke? Who is a man...

  3. First of all there have been and still are and always would be prodigys in the world (men and wòmen) given gifts of talent by God, who have benefited humanity, ie Mozart,Madame Currie. Second Rey shows faith is worth fighting for against all odds, to the point of risking her life to defend it and even try to turn evil to good. Much like our evangelists today. And finally no one is debasing men here. They are giving young people-especially girls-- the idea that those that are statistically equal in society yet the most abused-to the point of having body parts cut off by men-- can and do contribute as much to society but in a different way. By the way there are women in the military from administration to fighting without which the army would never run

  4. First of all, there have been, still are and always will be prodigys in the world--men and women-- given gifts by God to make humanity better ie Mozart and Madame Cutie.

    Second Rey shows religion is worth fighting and dying for to the point of trying to convert Kylo Rem. Much like our evangelists today. She also tries to fight ultimate evil and almost dies

    Lastly it shows young people--both young men and young women-- that a segment of the population statistically equal yet abused to the point of having private parts cut off, can and do contribute to society in a different way.

    By the way the military is full of women from administration to the fighting force without which the army would never run.

    You are very antiquated and flawed in your thinking which can really hold humanity back.

  5. Why would you bother to watch the movie? The SOP tells us not to read fiction so obviously watching fiction should be avoided as well. Society has no time for the real star wars yet spends millions on fantasy & the watchers can repeat many scenes from the movie while never bothering to read any truth from scripture.

  6. While I agree with the conclusions of #1, I too think that wasn’t really what the movie was trying to say. Rey took the books (I didn’t notice that she did so, it had to be pointed out to me after the fact). I think the burning of the tree was more Yoda’s kicking Luke in the tail to get him to take action, which he did.

    About point #2, much digital ink has been spilt about Rey being a “Mary Sue.” I think people are forgetting that she’s been training her whole life. In Ep VII we see her living in a Mos Eisley-esque wretched hive of scum and villainy. And, while Rey grew up in this inhospitable place she learned to fight. She is, in Ep VII, already skilled in hand-to-hand combat, much like Luke was already a skilled pilot before Ep IV. I don’t think she’s nearly as much of a Mary Sue as everyone is complaining.

    Point #3 is pretty spot on ... though it’s worth noting that it’s Adm Holdo’s fault that Poe is so wreckless. If she had gotten over her silly pride and just let him in on the secret plan Poe wouldn’t have attempted his crazy scheme.


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