The Last Jedi and the Power of Failure

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an ode to the power of failure. The main characters fail at many of their plans. However, the more they fail, the more they learn and grow. This film shows the benefit of learning from mistakes, giving this tale great power for our times.

Spoilers for: The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens

How the Characters Experience Failure

The Last Jedi follows Poe, Finn, Rey, and even Luke on parallel character arcs. Each character makes mistakes and faces real consequences.

  • Poe destroys the First Order dreadnaught but loses his fleet. Later, his mutiny fails, ending in the restoration of the old Resistance leadership (who did know what they were doing, thanks). In fact, the mutiny makes things worse. The plan he should have trusted was weakened because he interfered.
  • Finn fails to escape and lead Rey away from the conflict. Then, he and Rose fail to find the code breaker they were sent for. Their mission to deactivate the First Order’s tracker ends in failure when their supposed ally betrays them. Worse, this ally reveals the Resistance’s escape plan to the First Order. Near the film’s end, Finn tries to make a suicide run to take out the battering gun, but he fails at that too.
  • Rey tries to get Luke to train her, and he never suitably does. She tries to get him to come back with her, and he never properly does. She goes into the cave looking for answers about her parents, and she finds nothing. She tries to turn Kylo to the light side, and he definitely doesn’t.
  • Before the movie takes place, Luke failed to restart the Jedi Order or train his nephew, Ben Solo. Instead of preventing Ben from turning to the Dark Side, Luke encouraged it. Then, he failed the galaxy a second time by deserting it. During the movie, he fails to end the Jedi Order. He also wants to give Rey three lessons but only manages two.

These actions might seem like a zero-sum gain. From a tactical standpoint, the characters wind up in situations similar to or worse than the ones they were in before. Yet all of these failures have a deliberate purpose: to help the characters grow.

How Failure Can Be a Teacher

Master Yoda, the wisest character in the Star Wars universe, says, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” The film doesn’t just state this message — it proves it. Each of the characters’ failures leads to important lessons, character development, and thematic revelation. There is an inverse relationship between the success of the characters’ plans and the lessons they learn, which is the way life often works.

It is only because the characters fail that they learn what they learn and grow the way they do. What they want is different from what they need. Separating character want and need is a classic storytelling technique that this movie executes successfully — the characters pursue what they want, and they don’t get it. Instead, they get what they need.

Poe Learns How to Be a Leader

Poe wants to be a heroic one-man army. When all you have is an X-Wing, every problem looks like a Death Star. He needs to learn that, as General Leia Organa says, “there are things you can’t solve by jumping in an X-Wing and blowing something up.” Through his failures, he learns that he needs to value other people’s safety over his personal glory, retreating when losses are unacceptable. He learns to respect others’ abilities instead of the piloting skills that let him escape while everyone beside him dies. He learns to use his brain rather than his weapons. Because he never took the deaths of his comrades lightly, and because his intentions are good, he grows from being a warrior to being a leader.

He also needs to learn to respect women in authority. At the beginning of the film, he thinks he knows better than the women in charge. He is proven wrong twice: first when General Leia teaches him to retreat when the odds are too high, and second when he learns that Vice Admiral Holdo had a better plan than he did. Eventually he comes to respect her, as shown when he echoes her words: “We are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down.” By listening to Holdo and Leia, he starts strategizing, observing, and reflecting. This allows him to pause before running out to help fight the First Order with Luke. Instead, he finds a hidden escape route and leads everyone toward safety.

Finn Learns What’s Important

Finn wants to lure Rey away from the rebel ships. He fails to steal an escape pod and instead gains a valuable ally in Rose. He is awed by the splendor of the casino’s patrons until Rose teaches him that people only become so rich at the expense of the most vulnerable (a timely lesson for America, as we face increasing income inequality).

Finn also discovers opportunists who create conflict for their own gain, demonstrating that “good” and “bad” are complicated. He encounters traders who sell weapons to both the First Order and the rebellion. He promises payment to a code breaker in exchange for helping the rebels break into a First Order ship, but the code breaker sells them out. Finally, when Rose stops Finn from taking out the battering gun, she teaches him that what you save is more important than what you destroy.

Rey Finds Her Own Agency

Rey wants to find her parents, or at least a parental surrogate who can reveal what her “place is in all this.” When she fails, she learns that she needs to trust in herself and choose her own place. Master Yoda teaches Luke: “We are what they grow beyond — that is the true burden of all masters.” Just as students grow beyond their teachers’ leadership, Rey’s failure helps her grow beyond the desire to find parental guidance.

Rey wants to convince Luke to return, and then she wants to turn Kylo Ren, believing they are the only hope for the Resistance. Her failure to do either allows her to stop searching outside herself. She fails to retrieve the hero the Resistance wants, so instead she becomes the hero the Resistance needs: not a legend or a defector, but a protector.

Rey achieves the overarching goal of the entire movie: the survival of the rebels. Rey could have marched out on the salt plains and tried to fight Kylo Ren, but, like Holdo, “she cared more about protecting the light than seeming like a hero.” So rather than trying to become a symbol or destroy her enemy, Rey uses her power to preserve other people, nameless people. She provides cover for the rebel speeders, draws off the TIE fighters, and then opens the back door. It’s an unglamorous, essential action — exactly what the Resistance needs.

Luke Learns to Face His Mistakes

Luke wants to destroy the Jedi Order and die alone. Most of his failures take place in the past: he failed to restart the Jedi Order, failed to save his nephew from the dark side, and failed the galaxy by turning his back on it when he refused to deal with his mistakes. He needs to accept that his students’ futures are beyond his control, stop closing himself off from the Force, and reach out to the sister who needs him. He fails in his professed goals, but gets what he needs when he learns to confront the consequences of his mistakes and failures instead of running from them.

The failures of The Last Jedi come from the characters’ motivations, misconceptions, good intentions, and hang-ups. They stem from how these characters would believably behave if put in these circumstances, and they further the characters’ development.

How The Audience Shares These Failures

The Last Jedi lures the audience into making the same mistakes as the characters. We understand their motivations, view the story from their point of view, and share their knowledge of plots that succeed in the Star Wars universe. We share in both their failures and their revelations.

  • Like Poe, we underestimate Holdo. We put our faith in flashy hotshot heroes we know over an unknown woman we are told is competent, partly because we are used to stories like A New Hope. We are both proven wrong.
  • Like Finn, we root for risky individualistic schemes. In another Star Wars movie, those could have been successes. Finn and the audience both see such plans go wrong.
  • Like Rey, the audience is lured into thinking Kylo will turn. After all, Vader turned in Return of the Jedi. Then we share her discovery that he never wanted to turn, and all hints to the contrary were part of his power grab. Likewise, we share Rey’s belief that her parentage will be important, as it was for Luke in Empire Strikes Back. We share her disillusionment when we learn the truth. As the YouTube channel Folding Ideas states, the reveal is deliberately disappointing. We are meant to feel what the characters feel when they are faced with failure.
  • Like Luke, many fans are dismayed by the failure of this future to live up to the hopes set by Return of the Jedi. Many audience members are also disgusted by what the Jedi hero almost did — and so is Luke. We are in the same place as he is; we are no more disappointed in him than he is in himself. It is a painful history, but that is the point. By sharing in his disappointment, the audience can share in his redemption.

The Present Day in a Galaxy Right Here

Through the characters’ failures, The Last Jedi makes timely statements relevant to current events. Because we share the characters’ mistakes and failures, we share in their lessons. We come out of the movie stronger and wiser.

  • Poe’s arc teaches about the dangers of toxic masculinity and how well-intentioned men can overcome that training and become better allies. It shows that men should listen to experienced and qualified women, trust that they might know what they’re doing, and not mansplain their jobs to them.
  • Finn’s arc reveals the evils of uncontrolled capitalism. It shows us how the super rich live glamorously through the exploitation of the poor. It warns against those who sell dangerous and unethical products to anyone regardless of how they will use them.
  • Rey’s arc teaches us to embrace our own agency. This extends to spheres we’ve been excluded from, such as the violent traditionally “masculine” forms of heroism common to male Star Wars heroes, and spheres that are looked down on, such as the traditionally “feminine” act of protection.
  • Luke’s arc teaches how those with visibility and privilege can use those advantages to help marginalized people.

The Last Jedi teaches us how a free movement can survive a totalitarian extermination: by protecting what we love rather than destroying what we hate, using brain rather than brawn, respecting women, working as a team, retreating when necessary to fight another day, and even learning from failure itself. These are values that patriarchal societies, like America, traditionally associate with women. Now that liberal America is facing the aftermath of a crushing defeat, such lessons are more essential than ever.

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  1. E

    Thank you so much for writing this! You put words on everything I’ve been thinking and more. I’m happy to see that there are people who won’t bash this movie for being different.

  2. Mr. Bottle

    I’ll be honest. I would appreciate this lesson far more if the movie didn’t butcher the characters and their established personalities to do it. As it is, the movie took everything I appreciated and loved about Star Wars and spat on it and slapped me in the face for expecting differently.

    I would also appreciate it more if the movie didn’t actually defy the most basic rule of storytelling: the actions of the characters must matter.

    They turned Poe into a walking latino stereotype in defiance of all previous characterization. Holdo’s plan was nonsensical and it is infuriating to see people think a white woman putting down a man of color and refusing to address valid concerns is at all empowering or “feminist.”

    They completely sidelined Finn and reduced him to selfush and cowardly in defiance of his character arc in the Force Awakens.

    Rey is reduced to being a prop for Kylo Ren’s character, a man who abducted, tortured, and assaulted her, killed his own father whom Rey had grown to appreciate as a surrogate parent, attempted and nearly succeeded in killing Finn. Rey is extremely naive here and that naivete would absolutely have been a death sentence on Jakku.

    There is no emotional continuity between Luke as we see him in Return of the Jedi and how we see him in the Last Jedi. I don’t care whether or not it is possible, they completely failed to justify it in the narrative provided. Given that lack of justification, it’s simply character assassination and incompetent writing.

    As I said before, I would appreciate this lesson. But given how it butchered characters in order to do this (and to make us sympathize with Kylo Ren whom I would have appreciated more as a villain.)

    The movie attempts subversion of Star Wars but failed to do so competently – that is why much of the fanbase, like me, are so infuriated.

    Because I want to be constructive, I’ll offer what they could have explored if they wanted to go for this theme.

    1) The failure of the Republic, Old and New, which led to the rise of the Empire and First Order respectively.

    2) The failure of the Rebellion to actually address the flaws of the Old Republic, which they ended up idealizing, leading to problem 1)

    3) Go in-depth into how the failure of the Jedi to a) address the problems of the Old Republic and b) actually treat Anakin as a person, not a tool they can mold and how this led to the rise of the Empire, the fall of the Jedi, and Anakin’s transformation and enslavement as Darth Vader.

    4) How Luke exactly failed to prevent Kylo Ren’s rise without defying his narrative in RotJ. The solution is simple, and would subvert expectations: Ben Solo chose this. There’s even evidence in the movies to support this where he actively defies the “Call to the Light” and rejects both his father and Rey (who should honestly know better, but that’s a different problem). Give Rey’s arc of trying to redeem Kylo to Luke (who fits the arc much better anyway) and then show that Luke CANNOT redeem Kylo. This sends a very strong message: you cannot redeem those who actively and consistently reject redemption.

    I hope my comment, while more than a little angry (I really, really hate this film), was constructive in the end.

    • N

      While I do understand that Poe’s race complicated the issue, I wouldn’t call Holdo’s plan nonsensical. Rose figured out that there was a device tracking the Resistance through hyperspace, sure. But it’s heavily implied, if not outright stated, that the existence of such technology is not common knowledge. Given that, it isn’t unreasonable for Holdo to believe that someone in the Resistance is a spy continually leaking their destination coordinates. Rose, Finn and Poe all refuse to tell Holdo about the tracker. So Holdo, in the absence of better advice, continues to believe that there is a spy, yet does not have the resources to try and unearth the spy because they’re all still in danger. So she goes with the simpler temporary solution of assuming everyone is a potential information hazard; therefore, she hides her plan from everyone including Poe. This is a military(ish) organisation; she would have expected people to obey orders. She isn’t entirely wrong about the dangers of an information leak: as mentioned in this article, one of Poe’s first actions during his mutiny was to blab Holdo’s plan to Finn and Rose while they were in enemy territory, so the codebreaker overheard, so he sold that information to the First Order, so the remnants of the Resistance were decimated. Even if Poe had mutinied but kept his mouth shut, or told Finn and Rose to make sure they were alone before he conveyed his message, it would have been less of a disaster. While the execution of this plotline leaves room for improvement, Holdo was not the problem; she did the best she could.

    • N

      Regarding your constructive advice: yes, I agree that all 4 of your points could have been explored in a lot more detail. Unfortunately I get the sense that The Last Jedi was hamstrung by the prequels and The Force Awakens. The prequels destroyed the story of why the Empire rose and how the Jedi failed, and why Anakin became Darth Vader. The Force Awakens was in a hurry to get to the “good stuff”, that is, Leia and company being the plucky underdog rebels, so the New Republic was wiped out with no time spent on getting the audience to care. Sure, Leia could have spent TLJ talking about the failures of the New Republic the way Luke spent the movie talking about the Jedi’s mistakes, but it would have gotten repetitive after a while.

      Also, Rey was naive, but it isn’t out of character. Remember in TFA she says “I thought [Luke Skywalker] was a myth!”. It’s possible that she interacts at completely different planes with her acquaintances on Jakku and with the Skywalkers, in that she worships the ground the Skywalkers tread without critically analysing their actions, a courtesy she probably never extended to others on Jakku. Luke could talk Darth Vader into redeeming himself, so why can’t Rey do the same to someone who a) models himself so closely on Darth Vader, b) visibly wavers a lot more and a lot sooner than Vader ever did, and c) is related to the great heroes of the galaxy? (Until “I am your father”, Vader barely showed any softer emotions; not to mention Kylo spends a lot more time with his helmet off than Vader, so he seems to be wearing his heart on his sleeve.) She tries to imitate her heroes too closely, and falls flat on her face, which is the point of her arc: she has to figure out her own identity.

      Kylo being sympathetic can cut both ways. Often when there’s, say, a mass shooting, you’ll get neighbours/coworkers/relatives saying, “Oh, he was/is such a quiet/polite/nice/intelligent boy/man.” Kylo is that kind of person: bad in spite of being sympathetic. You think he’s decent, but he’s beyond redemption. The danger is that this can be flipped into the “Hitler was an artist” argument: he’s not a bad person because he’s sympathetic, which is (correct me if I’m wrong) the danger that you are perceiving. Again, given how closely TFA followed A New Hope, and was rightly called out for doing so, the filmmakers probably felt they had to do something with the character to avoid an exact Vader rip-off, so they went with making him sympathetic. And, it could have been executed better, but an exact remake of the original trilogy is not what anyone wants.

      • SunlessNick

        Rey and Kylo both got precognitive visions of them fighting Snoke’s guards together, and read more into it than they should have – it was Rey’s reason for thinking Kylo could turn, and Kylo’s for thinking she might – they were both wrong.

        • N

          Thanks, SunlessNick; I’d forgotten about the visions. That too. Rey’s conviction that Kylo would turn was in character and made sense in the context of the plot.

    • N

      P.S I appreciate that you pointed out the racial part of Holdo vs Poe. I had never looked at it in that light. (Okay, this is last reply to your original comment, I swear.)

      • American Charioteer

        “This is a military(ish) organization;”
        I think you got at the heart of the problem right there, N. In both The Last Jedi and Rogue One, we see no trust in the chain of command, which I attribute to a failure of leadership. Instead of saying “I have a plan, wait for further orders;” Holden basically said “you don’t matter, get out of my way.” It has nothing to do with being female, this is just poor leadership.

        • N

          Yes, I agree that Holdo could have just said she had a plan (without revealing what the plan was). That inability to read people was, I felt, her biggest flaw in the movie.

          I don’t know how far Rogue One can be compared to this. Rogue One follows the trope/cliché of maverick heroes defying authority to save the day. The authority figures have to be incompetent and/or adversarial for that trope to work. But TLJ was about how mavericks don’t always save the day just by disobeying orders. So the authority figures don’t have to be incompetent; they just have to seem so from the mavericks’ perspective.

          • Nite

            It’s pretty difficult when the writer and the director want their audience to admire a work about heroism where every character is flawed in a way they weren’t before.

            My father dislked TFA because of the changes in Leia’s and Han Solo’s character. He HATED TLJ, because of Luke’s inconsistency — not only the character, but his arc.

            Myself? I hated that Poe was (ILLOGICALLY) portrayed as irresponsible — by the way, that first scene with the bombers shows nothing nothing but incompetence from the Rebels as a whole, they sure don’t deserve to win. And I hated that Finn was completely sidekicked… and portrayed with excessive cowardice and naivety.

            The movie upset both an old generation guy like my father and me, a hipster (LOL).

    • Laura Ess

      Poe’s Latino? I did not pick that up in either this or the previous film! I thought he was like, “Generic European”. But then I live in Australia where there’s not a lot of folk who speak Spanish, only .05% at the last census. And I know nothing about the actor’s background. Wow.

      • SunlessNick

        Yeah, Oscar Isaac is Guatamalan (and since that was where they filmed the Yavin scenes in A New Hope, the character was born on Yavin).

  3. ~Lcnthrp

    I’d argue that Admiral Holdo also made her share of mistakes:

    + By dismissing a fighter she saw as beneath her, she failed to channel his efforts in a productive direction, even though she has known him to be itching for something to do. Furthermore, Poe attempt at discussion was an indication of Lea’s lesson getting to him. Holdo closing herself off had her waste what her predecessor accomplished.
    + Confident in her competence and authority, she failed to emphasize with her subordinates. Even though her speech steeled their will against the Last Order, she didn’t think to build rapport between her and others. Even though all it would take is explaining the plan. The resulting mutiny consisted of multiple people, not just Poe.
    Admiral Holdo was both competent and badass, but her arrogance made these assets go to waste.

    • American Charioteer

      I believe you are exactly right, Lcnthrp. Holdo didn’t even have to explain her plan, she just had to treat her subordinates like they matter. She reminds me of a First Sergeant I served under who like Holdo was widely respected as a first-rate soldier, but whose ability to lead was crippled by arrogance.

    • Laura Ess

      Now maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall that it was ever explained HOW the baddies were tracking the Resistance ship. I know that Rose & Finn’s mission with DJ was to destroy the tracker, but what exactly was it tracking?

      That being the case, perhaps Holdo was right not to explain much to anyone who didn’t need to know, because perhaps there was a spy on board with some form of transmitter? Just an idea.

  4. Ari Ashkenazi

    I’d like to preface my comment that while I really don’t like this film, that dislike has nothing to do with the increased diversity present in the Star Wars universe. I loved the new inclusions of Rose and Holdo, and I’m still hoping we see both of them again. Now, onto my response.

    I do agree that his film is attempting to use character failure to drive both audience tension and character growth. I also agree that Ryan Johnson was attempting to subvert expectations. Where I disagree is that I believe he utterly failed in both cases.

    Poe’s story starts with him sacrificing a large percentage of his forces to take down a First Order ship, and ends with him calling off a suicide run on the First Order laser ram. Superficially the situations are similar, Poe reacting differently to a suicide run, but that’s all they share. During the attack run at the beginning of the film Poe conducts his attack when he had the easy out of joining the rest of the fleet to escape, going so far as to disobey orders. During the suicide run on Crait, Poe calls off the only chance the resistance has of surviving. If they don’t destroy the ram, everyone is dead. I get the idea of teaching him that sometimes you need to retreat and look for a non explosion based option, but when you have nowhere to retreat your options are somewhat limited.

    Finn doesn’t really learn anything this film. In fact, he seems to adhere to the same arc he had in The Force Awakens. He starts the film trying to run away, teams up with someone more driven to fight, then by the end pits himself against a vastly superior opponent to save the day. He certainly fails a lot along the way, but we never see him learn from those failures accept to get back to where he was at the end of TFA.

    I would also argue Rey doesn’t learn anything or grow as character this film. She starts opposed to Kylo and looking to help the resistance, and ends the film in exactly the same place, minus Luke, Holdo, and a few hundred extras. Like Finn she certainly fails quite a bit along the way, but all those failures do is reset her to the beginning of the film. The closest thing would be her temptation to join Kylo, but that is soundly rejected. As much as subversion is brought up when discussing this film, it seems deathly afraid of moving the characters out of their established boxes.

    Out of all the characters I do think Luke has the most developed arc, but poor pacing and little payoff subtract from Mark Hamill’s amazing performance. We spend so much time on this island with Luke and Rey where Rey keeps asking the same question, and Luke keeps giving the same answer, until Rey eventually leaves. She’s learned very little besides old Luke is a grumpy ass. Luke, on the other hand, learns quite a bit, something we see culminate with the final duel on Crait. When Luke was revealed to be a force projection and said the line, “see you around kid” I was legit excited to see what the next movie might do with Luke mentoring Rey, however that is cut short, as the fake out of Kylo stabbing Luke is then faked out again by having Luke become one with the Force anyway. Yes Luke learns to face his mistakes, but the door is then immediately shut on what he might do with those newly learned lessons.

    Although not touched on directly in this post I would also like to comment on the poor treatment of both Rose and Holdo in this film. Rose, along with Finn, is shunted off onto a meaningless side quest that results in less than nothing, and her final act is to prevent Finn from saving everyone by sacrificing himself. I’m not saying I wanted Finn to die, but as it’s written all she does is squander the Resistance’s last hope for survival. Her line of, “That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.” is absurd in the context it was used. Finn was fighting to save what he loved, the only way left to him.

    As for Holdo she gets the shortest end of the stick. Through most of the film she’s depicted as non-communicative and lacking any sort of plan besides “run until we all eventually die”. Thankfully this revealed to not be true, but it still begs the question, why didn’t she either share the plan, or at least say there was a plan? Commanders are not obligated to share their plans with subordinates, but when moral is so low you need a taser armed guard to keep people from deserting maybe it’s a good idea to let folks know you have something to, if nothing else, get them to stop running away.

    Along with these character issues are a slew of pacing, story, and internally consistency issues that, in my estimation, puts TLJ above only the prequels in terms of quality. Many of these issues could be ignored or dropped in the next film, but I worry that Ryan Johnson’s focus on tieing up all possible loose ends from TFA will be a weight around JJ’s neck when he steps in for the final part of this trilogy.

    • N

      I agree that Finn was wasted, Rose and Holdo could have been better integrated, but I’m not sure that Rey learned nothing. She, of all people, should have picked up on the theme that clinging to the past just because is pointless (hence the point about her parents being nobodies, when right from her introduction in TFA she’s been waiting for her parents to come back). She desperately wants Kylo to revert to Ben; and goes to the First Order base because that’s how Luke got Vader to switch. Luke derides her for saying the Force is used to lift rocks, but at the end she decides that, trivial use of the Force or not, she has to lift rocks to save her friends. While she does steal the Jedi books, I would be very surprised if she accepts their lessons uncritically instead of adapting them to her situations as she goes.

    • SunlessNick

      Luke become one with the Force anyway.

      But thanks to Yoda, we now know that Force ghosts can affect the physical world. So Luke may not be as gone as he looks.

  5. SunlessNick

    Failure extends to the villains too. Kylo still wants validation and acclaim, and to somehow build a new legacy while still being the legacy of Darth Vader. He feels a connection to Rey and tries to leverage her realisation about her parents to degrade her and then offer her a place next to him where she can still be special. He loses that, gets no revenge on Luke, instead being the butt of the most epic Force feat that ever feated, and is left alone surrounded by people without a shred of respect for him.

    Hyperspace rams aren’t a common tactic, which implies they aren’t generally an effective one. Except against Hux apparently. Snoke blows it in the throne room even more than Rey and Kylo do. Phasma’s out-like-a-punk death is exceeded only by Boba Fett’s.

    Regarding Rey’s parents, I wasn’t at all disappointed that they were no one special – it was something I was very much hoping for. (I also think it was set up in the Force Awakens: we were introduced to Rey’s fantasy of them, which set up the question of who and where they were; and then were straight-up told by Maz that this was the wrong question, and something that was holding Rey back. But a large segment of fandom only paid attention to the first half of that).

    Something else I like about the film is that it presented the idea of a balance between the light and dark sides of the Force in a way that makes sense – by reminding us that it’s not about Jedi and Sith. The Force arises from all living things, which means from all ecological processes – including the death and decay that fuel new life – and at the level of ecology that’s natural and necessary. It’s only when your scale those things to the human level that they take on moral considerations (and so a balance between light and dark doesn’t have to extend to a balance between good and evil, or between Jedi and Sith, because those are just extrapolations of parts their users mistake for the whole).

    • Cay Reet

      Ying-Yang instead of good-evil, then.

      • SunlessNick

        Sort of – yin/yang when you’re talking about ecology, but when sapients centre their philosophy and actions around the yin part, it becomes evil.

        • Cay Reet

          The point about Yin and Yang is actually that neither of them is good and neither is evil – they can be seen as male/female, as hot/cold or as other opposites, but none of them is completely right and none of them is completely wrong. The universe needs both.

          The force itself is a neutral energy, the use and the value others put to it makes sapients see it as good or evil, light or dark. That means, of course, that there are no ‘dark side’ or ‘light side’ powers and a Jedi using force lightning (often considered dark side) to protect others (because the lightning allows for the Jedi to attack several targets at once), it would still be light side.

          • SunlessNick

            Or to .cauterise a wound.

          • Cay Reet

            Doesn’t the lightsabre do that, too?

          • SunlessNick


          • Michael

            Cay Reet, I like your concept of the Force, I’m just not sure the Star Wars universe supports this. There the dark side and light side seem to be real, different things. I don’t think Force lightning would be inherently evil, but that remains unclear (we only see bad guys use it).

          • Saumya Kulp

            “The universe needs both.” And others. All sorts of others.

  6. Adam

    Awesome article! Your analysis brought up ideas I’d never thought of! I loved every word of it! Except “such lessons are more essential then ever.”

    “then ever.”

    than ever?

  7. Cherie

    I’m really glad you wrote this, because it perfectly encapsulates my feelings on the film! Just because the characters failed doesn’t mean the narrative did.

  8. Michael

    I really didn’t see an indication that Poe’s disagreement with Leia and Holdo involved their gender at all. There’s no real indication of sexism at all on the good guys side (not yet anyway), especially given the fact that women *are* in such positions of authority. So that part seemed uncalled for. On the other hand, perhaps you mean it as a message to real world people. I do agree it’s good to see women this way in fiction.

    • N

      With Holdo more than with Leia: she’s a thin, middle-aged, purple-haired woman wearing a flowy dress into battle. When people in our world think of a soldier, the first image that comes to mind is often (though not always) a muscular manly man wearing trousers and holding a weapon or two: almost the exact opposite of Holdo. So while TLJ does not explicitly say that Poe’s reaction to Holdo is because she doesn’t fit his mental image at all, Holdo is so clearly constructed to subvert the soldier stereotype that this story arc does have implications for how women in our world are judged for random things that have nothing to do with their jobs. (Not to say that Holdo was perfect; but Poe’s instant distrust of her was a massive overreaction.)

      • Michael

        I hadn’t even thought of that, given the very different styles in Star Wars. In-universe though I don’t see any indication it was about that, but more the clash of personalities. Out of universe though I see it could come off that way. It’s good how in the end they portrayed her as worthy.

  9. Tracy W

    I know I’m 9 months late but I just have to say that I’m afraid I was quite disappointed in how General Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo were portrayed as mediocre leaders at best.

    General Leia is a senior member of the Republic and the Republic has just been totally swamped by the First Order, who has managed to acquire armies, fleets of ships and has a whole network of arms dealers who are openly keeping slaves. That implies some massive political incompetence by the Republic. It wouldn’t be so bad if Snoke was portrayed as a master of manipulation, but this is the guy who gets killed because he fails to look out for a betrayal from an underling he just thoroughly insulted. General Leia is being beaten by this nitwit? Princess Leia would have arranged for Snoke to be pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables by a band of Ewoks and become the laughing stock of the galaxy.

    Vice Admiral Holdo, well she did have a plan but it wasn’t a plan that, when it was unveiled, made me gasp with wonder at its ingenuity. The whole of the sub-plot of Rose and Finn going off to that casino I was expecting Holdo to suddenly unleash a rain of terror on Poe’s head for sending off the one shuttle that could escape the First Order’s pursuit and reach distant planets. Nope, Holdo had no use for it. And she did no contingency planning – when it turns out that the First Order can track the smaller ships, she’s like “well bugger me”. She’s an admiral who’s never heard of Murphy’s Law? Then, her one moment of awesome, ramming the bad guys’ ship, is thematically wrecked by Rose shortly after telling Finn that sacrificing is not the way to win.

    Oh yeah and Rose goes off to the casino and gives Finn a rant about the people there getting rich off the back of the poor. Then she comes across some child slaves, uses their help to unleash a stampede of racing animals through a casino, never mind the risk of severe injury or death to any workers there, then she flies off leaving the kids to the mercy of their masters without a moment of concern about their fates. This could have been a moment about the horrors of war, of how Rose is torn between her loyalties to the Republic and her natural revulsion at leaving these innocent kids to their fate, but no, Rose just forgets about them. She’s like a satire of left-wing “activists”. Was this sub-plot written by a Ayn Rand cultist? Oh yeah and then Rose and Finn never consider the possibility that D.J. might betray them. I was so excited to see an Asian woman in a big movie who’s not a conventionally beautiful martial artist (I mean I love Michelle Yeoh but I’m greedy for diversity), and this is what they do to her?

    About the only woman who gets shown as being really good at something is Rey, the young, beautiful, white woman. Wow what a surprise. General Leia gets beaten by a guy in a bathrobe, Rey escapes from a collapsing ship, gets back to the Millennium Falcon, works out where the secret exit to the Republic hideout is and arrives in the nick of time to stage a rescue. So much for experience.

    It’s like the whole thing was written by a misogynist, except that most of the male characters are idiots too.

  10. TwkTongSg

    Well, TLJ is a mockery of TFA, and Star Wars as a whole, the combats are so small scale and boring that it should be renamed Star Skirmishes instead of Star Wars. But it’s funny and amusing to watch, it’s only bad for fans with strong emotional attachments to the original and prequels, and those whom like TFA. The fact that it feels like a parody of Star Wars instead of a part of Star Wars was the most amusing and entertaining part of the movie.

    Hux had been transformed from a Charismatic young militarily leader capable of motivating millions of storm troopers in TFA to a clown. Leia becomes just a shadow of her former courage self, and Holdo is a moron, no one in TLJ seems to understands basic military tactics and strategy.

    Finally, it’s not Poe’s fault that Leia purchases bombers that are made of paper. Also, asking people to have blind faith in higher command just makes the resistance seems like the evil and authortarian one, even Hux in TFA need to tell a good story to his troopers why they are the good guys and why they need to defeat the republic.

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