Luke Skywalker, losing his religion

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it
Oh no I’ve said too much
I haven’t said enough

-R.E.M.

I did manage to get Darth Boot (my ‘walking’ cast I’m not allow to walk in yet) into a movie theatre to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I think it will surprise no one that it’s the one holiday event I absolutely could not bear to miss. I’m going to have to see the movie again to decide what I Really Think about it but what stands out to me right now is Luke Skywalker, man.

Spoilers ahead, of course

This piece about Depressed Asshole Luke appeared on my Facebook feed is a great take on it. In summary: Luke as a character is kind of astonishing because in the middle of the epic Star Wars universe, he’s allowed to have what is a very non-epic reaction to loss and screw ups. And in this writer’s view, “The failure crushes what’s left of him and then Luke Skywalker surrenders to depression and fucks off forever, just like you or I would.”

But as I’m in the middle of a midlife crisis involving a career switch, I have a different view from basically the same road. I suspect this line is generational. So I’ll just put it out there: Luke is maybe one of the most Gen-X characters ever.

From his whiny unwillingness to invest in Leia and Ben’s Rebellion until his own family is killed, to his commitment to his absent father’s essential goodness with a little soupçon of “but I can do it better,” Luke definitely had that vibe. He didn’t take Yoda too seriously. He created his own little rebel family, and found his own sister to boot. Then he signed up for Jedi Master and set to work building his career.

And then, of course, the corporate world goes to shit. Turns out senior management i.e. the Jedi Order was a bunch of idiots. Who does Ben Solo take for a mentor? The self-obsessed, culture-defining, Boomeresque Darth Vader. Luke is essentially middle management, trying to create balance in the force, caught between the colossal screw up of the generation before him and the untrained, kind of whiny generation after him. (Kylo Ren, Millennial Sith.)  And what does Luke have to pass on to Ren? That the Jedi represent a string of failure and bad choices. He’s invested everything, including his own failure, in a religion and organization that…means nothing.

All that work to get to the top and it turns out the top is really just about eating the young. The only way to win is not to play.

Yoda confirms this, with the kind of smarmy self-assurance only those already dead, or those who actually got union-powered pensions, can deliver. Or as my favourite Despair.com would say:

mistakesdemotivator

(I might point out that Luke’s retirement plan involves milking creatures and fishing on a remote and stony island. This is pretty much the backup plan I have repeated to myself at stressful career moments, although mine is more like “cash out my real estate and run away to Thailand.”)

So how does Luke resolve this?

Well we all see myths through our personal lenses but I’m going to say…he realizes it’s all narrative. Luke becomes the hero the Resistance needs – but through the power of story alone. It’s not the Jedi religion or whoever owns the best blasters who saves the day but one guy, meditating on a rock, who understands that the human story is both ethereal and powerful — and creates one for others.

The Boomers thought that they would change the world, but instead they drove it into the ground. The Millennials are probably going to save it. But it’s the detached and ironic Gen-X who keep the tradition and tell you what it all means. (At least according to Vanity Fair which, what-ever.) It’s just a laser sword, dude. All right, fine, at least think about where you’re pointing it.

I have a feeling that the next film will deliver on Rose Tico’s promise that “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” Which is all well and good, if you love the right things.

A few other notes:

  • Love that it’s midlife battle-axe women who come up with all the plans, even if theirs suck just as much as the men’s.
  • I wasn’t blogging when I saw Justice League but one day I might have to write about the use of “Everybody Knows” in both Pump up the Volume and JL.
  • Miss you, Carrie Fisher.
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