So I finally saw the new Star Wars. The wife and I waited until it came to a small, independent historic theater that charges fantastic rates for Sunday matinees. The movie itself was fantastically enjoyable, if a little predictable and a little too referential at times… but its heart was in the right place and it was a hell of a lot of fun. There were a few moments where JJ Abrams started shining through in the dialogue, or the camera work, but I can’t lie to you… I cried with joy when I saw the X-Wings ride to the rescue over the lake at Takodana.
BUT… the movie got me thinking. And you all know that’s never a good thing. I started thinking about my usual “chestnuts” as my wife calls them: history, sociology, and the patterns that can be seen in each. I also decided to dust off the skills I used to write my undergrad thesis, namely that people will often say or write things they are feeling into fiction because it is a more forgiving way to express yourself.
So this begs the question… what does Star Wars: The Force Awakens say? In my mind, quite a lot.
Think of how the different generations have experienced Star Wars. The Boomers saw it as the much-needed reprieve from the still-looming spectre of Watergate: good guys taking down bad guys, and now we can all feel a little better. For Gen X, they grew up with the movie and had the opportunity to look back fondly on a childhood experience and, more importantly, look on it again as adults and start to dissect it. Millennials also felt the rush as children, and had a front row seat for the prequels. Beyond the Millennials are children who have always known the prequels as a fact of life.
So what does this all mean?
The Boomers were the Dreamers, once upon a time. They were going to change the world, they were going to make it better… but Watergate was the final blow for a death of a thousand cuts as cynicism took hold. Most Boomers now see themselves as incrementally-minded “Realists,” believing that change can only truly come slowly. They now look on Star Wars as entertainment only, instead of one of the best cultural relics of their starry-eyed salad days. Boomers created Star Wars, but much like Kylo Ren, they aren’t own up to the light in them.
Generation X was the first to question Star Wars. One remembers the famous scene in the seminal Gen X slacker-opus Clerks where Dante sums up Gen X in one statement: Empire was the best Star Wars movie. His pal Randall is even taken aback by such a statement, calling it “blasphemy.” Gen X spent decades dissecting Star Wars which gave us people like Marco Rubio, who now think Anakin Skywalker was just a misunderstood man who had some bad things happen to him, and not a mass murdering sociopath. In many ways, both in fiction and reality, Gen X fell in love with the Empire, and this is seen in the WTO protester turned corporate office-holders scattered through the generation. Gen X’ers knew the game to be lost from the get-go in their trademark nihilistic worldview, and so gladly fall in line, much like the children trained from birth to be First Order soldiers. However, Gen X still loves what Star Wars means deep down in the part of their mind that experienced it with chid-like wonder, and when it comes to pull the trigger, just like Finn, they can’t.
The Millennials saw them both, the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy, as youth. They could see the good and the bad in both, some even going so far as to defend or even like the prequel movies into adulthood. To them, the horribly flawed world George Lucas bungled forth in the prequels is indicative of the time they live in: a time where cynicism reigns and an ineffectual government can do seemingly nothing against creeping fascism. Millennials feel for the young Obi-Wan and Padme, who appear to be the only noble figures in a society turning to garbage. They feel much the same way: wishing for those far off days of comparatively easy victories on the forest moon of Endor while grappling with the light side and the dark in themselves. Stand for your principles, or sell everything out for a job that barely makes enough to survive? Millennials are Rey, scraping out an existence yet dreaming of more and willing to go to the fight, knowing there’s nothing of any value left for them in their old lives.
And what lies beyond? The brash pilot Poe Dameron, not quite understanding the nuances of the fight, fresh faced and daring, but a powerful person to have in your corner. Their skill with technology is almost innate, much like Poe in his X-Wing, leading us to only wonder what the future has in store for this little-explored character. As we’re already seeing in the social trends, those beyond the Millennials will do even more to banish the darkness of cynicism and approach the light once again. It will be interesting to see if those beyond the Millennials, now possible even the children of Gen X, will influence and help their parents the way Poe brought Finn along for the ride.
And so, we close out the movie with the Boomers tortured by their crises of faith between the halcyon Eisenhower days their parents helped build and the cynical Reagan nightmare they put together. In their minds, they knew they had to slay the Eisenhower ideas in order to survive, but perhaps they were only obeying a higher, more sinister power? Meanwhile, Gen X lies in a coma after finally taking up the fight and falling nobly to the confused Boomers, who do outnumber them. The Millennials swear to take after the X-ers, and fly off in search of an old man, older even than the Boomers, to be their last hope and train them in the ways of the light.
Ladies and gentleman, Bernie Sanders is Luke Skywalker: a crusader since his teens, a believer in the good of people, haunted by mistakes he has made and times where he has come up short, being dragged into the fight because he knows it is necessary. Though once thought extinguished, a fascist group is on the rise again, lead by a white man with orange hair (as opposed to an orange man with platinum blonde hair) and now a ragtag group of rebels, Millennials and those beyond, are fighting back as best they can to remove this threat. We have seen already, as this group destroys other establishment worlds, that this fascist rise means to subjugate the galaxy neath a booted, authoritarian heel, but no one took them seriously enough except the Resistance. The time is now for Luke to return and bring back order and peace to a galaxy in chaos, but he is not alone. He has the youth of today, and of tomorrow, with him.
After the results of last night’s Super Tuesday, it is clear: there has been an awakening. First the dark side, in Trump, and now the light. Minnesota and Colorado are often seen as some of the most progressive states in the nation, and they see what is coming and what needs to be done. They have called out to “Bernie-wan” as their only hope, and it is time for nobility to make a comeback in a world threatened by cynicism. When the Man of Steel stands in his ruined city as a victorious god, that is a false nobility. When Rey seeks comfort in Leia’s arms, even after the battle against the Starkiller has been won, that is true nobility. When Hillary Clinton champions using an entire minority group as a tool, a “firewall,” that is a false nobility. When Bernie sanders stops his speech to attend to someone who faints, that is true nobility.
This is a lightning in a bottle moment. If nobility cannot win now, it may turn to cynicism. Fear, anger, aggression, the dark side are they, and just like the generations before, the Millennials and those after them could fall if something is not done. It’s time for nobility to make a comeback. If not now… when?