It was maybe ten seconds of screen time, but there was a moment in “The Last Jedi” so utterly depressing that it ruined the entire series for me.
Okay, huge spoiler alert. Be aware, if you read on, that I’m going to reveal a huge plot point in the most recent “Star Wars” movie. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to know about it, look away, look away, look away.
Still with me? Good. Let’s move on.
Okay, to just refresh your memory:
At one point, it becomes clear that The First Order (or whatever we’re calling The Bad Guys at the moment, which is why, hereafter, I will simply call them The Bad Guys) can track The Resistance (or whatever they're calling The Good Guys them now, which is why, you know, I’ll just call them The Good Guys) through hyperspace. So Poe and Finn, two of the The Good Guys, hatch this plan to get aboard this really big Bad Guy ship that’s tracking them, and disable the tracking device.
Along the way, The Good Guys steal a ship with the help of a new character, D.J., played by Benicio Del Toro. Throughout this story thread, the Good Guys say a lot about how arms dealers are the worst kind of people, making tons of money while every one else kills each other. It turns out that the ship that The Good Guys have stolen belongs to an arms dealer.
So as D.J. Is going through a holographic inventory of all the weapons this arms dealer has sold to The Bad Guys, Poe talks about how this arms dealer is a horrible person, selling all these weapons of mass destruction to the Bad Guys.
Then we see a holographic image of an X Wing, the primary fighter of The Good Guys…which means, of course, that this arms dealer was also selling weapons to The Good Guys.
D.J., a cynical, opportunistic character if there ever was one (which means, by following the rule of tropes, that he will join The Good Guys in the next film) glares at Poe, a cynical look in his eye, and then mutters:
“You were saying?”
…And that killed the series for me.
Great, I thought. All this wonderful stuff about rooting for The Good Guys doesn’t mean anything. In fact, everything that I’ve been rooting for doesn’t mean anything.
Because this moment made me realize that above all, The Good Guys and The Bad Guys are just just fighting this huge mega conflict to line the pockets of scum who are making money off of them.
My mind started to spiral downward. The series, after all, is called Star Wars, and it is about the glorification of, you know, war. Throughout, we’re rooting things to blow up, and for people to die.
And through it all, the big money and power is funneling toward the folks who are building the weapons so that everyone else can die.
I just never thought about it until that scene, but there it was: all these things—the X Wings, the Imperial Fighters, The Death Star, the Imperial Walkers, the land speeders, and, yes, the light sabers—cost money. Someone had to buy them.
And someone made money selling them.
My mind fell further into the murk. I started thinking about how the construction of many components of cell phones involve rare metals, and how, in Third World countries, children toil for long days, earning pennies, just to get the metals for those components.
This, of course, got me to thinking: how many rare metals are in a light saber?
So yes, it’s great to root for death and destruction, and to cheer as things blow up, justifying all of this by the fact that it’s The Good Guys who are killing Bad Guys, and blowing up things that belong to The Bad Guys. Yet as the character Finn reminds us, an awful lot of those Bad Guys aren’t Bad Guys at all, but genuinely Good people who are fighting against their will. No doubt, one or two of these people, hating what they were doing, died when The Death Star blew up, and we cheered for their deaths.
And all those stormtroopers who can't shoot straight? There have to be a couple among them who hate what they're doing. There just have to.
And we cheered as they died, all of them.
And throughout this all, every last bit of energy is fueling these Star Wars, with not a penny going toward Star Peace (notice how strange the words “Star Peace” sound?). In fact, a key element of the film involves the destruction of a sacred library that holds Jedi texts, and, heartbreakingly, a smug aside from Yoda that these books didn’t mean that much anyway. Yes, we find out that there are still copies of those books in existence, but still, the holiest of holies, the original library of the Jedi Knights, is gone.
So libraries don’t matter. Books don’t matter. Schooling doesn’t matter, unless it’s military schooling, the better to learn to kill others, and blow things up, to in the massive, galactic Star Wars.
And through it all, above The Force, stand arms dealers, laughing at the idealism of The Good Guys as they sell them weapons, and making sure to sell weapons to The Bad Guys as well, so that the war can continue.
No money for education. No money for social services. No money for health. Just a world of money for death and destruction, all so that we can cheer as people die as The Star Wars grind on and on, endlessly, and the notion of Star Peace fades away.
So, to screenwriter Rian Johnson, I say: thanks pal. You made me realize that, for forty years, I’ve been played.
Okay, this is a miserable essay, and I have many positive thoughts as well. Because I want to limit my essays to 1,000 words, I had to leave them out of this, but I promise…I’ll post them in the coming days. I don’t want to want to leave you here, frozen in carbonate.
Stay tuned. May the Force Be With You.