The Politics of The Last Jedi

December 22nd, 2017

In “The Last Jedi,” the latest installment of the Star Wars series,  something powerful hidden in plain sight is revealed.

It’s all there in the opening battle sequence, and the theme never lets up until the closing credits.

In this heartening vision of the future, inclusive, multi-racial pluralism is unabashedly championed over white male-centric mono-culture.

This film wears its egalitarian sensibilities on its poofy Jedi cloak sleeve.

On the bad guy’s ships, there’s nothing but white men. It’s as if the evil Empire is defending the ramparts of white privilege. And the ramparts are crumbling.

Cut to the rebel ships, crewed by a radically diverse team of women and men and aliens of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. And here’s the kicker – they’re all being led by, gasp, women, and, double-gasp, women over 50 years old.

Let that sink in.

In this #MeToo Trump era, where the white patriarchy is rightly and finally under full-frontal assault, “The Last Jedi” arrives like a postcard from the edge, the front lines of a war to restore pluralistic, multicultural justice to a galaxy not so far, far away. The reverence this film shows for the power of older women resonates deeply. And it helps us see the valiant heroism of the women who dare to stand up to the unrepentant, deep-seated misogyny of the Roy Moores, Harvey Weinsteins, and Donald Trumps of the world.

And the good guys refer to themselves as “the resistance.” Sound familiar?

Watching a diverse rebel alliance work so beautifully together to overcome the monolithic old guard reminded me of something — the Women’s March last January.

There is something beautifully refreshing about all of it. And it does my heart good to know that generations of children will watch “The Last Jedi” over and over again, internalizing its vision of a world that works for everyone, where men and women of every color, body type, age, ethnicity, and religion stand stronger when they stand together, and where love, mercy, community, and wisdom are valued more highly that money, power, and control.

The best art is inherently seditious, challenging the status quo not by logic and argumentation, but through brilliant storytelling, heart-wrenching conflict, and ineffable spirituality. The mythos of the Star Wars universe is many things, but at its best, like all science fiction and fantasy, it calls us to a vision of our own infinite significance.

All that in a popcorn movie? Yes. All that and more.

Peter Bolland

Peter Bolland is the philosophy and humanities department chair at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California where he teaches world religions, Asian philosophy, world mythology, and ethics. Bolland is also a columnist for both Unity Magazine and the San Diego Troubadour. An award winning singer-songwriter and poet, Bolland draws on the world’s wisdom traditions as a frequent lecturer and performer throughout the San Diego region.
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