The Last Jedi is a great film if you need to hear and see a fight for the Resistance on the screen. It’s also one of my favorite movies in the franchise. (Come at me, Star Wars fans.)
The whole Star Wars franchise rests on the age-old question: When evil rises, how will good rise to meet it?
The changing nature of that evil says a lot about society’s current fears.
In the original Star Wars trilogy, the bad guys clearly resembled Nazis. Today, the Star Wars films focus on the new wave of militant white supremacy.
In the original Star Wars trilogy, Darth Vader, an evil masked man with a robot-like, respirator-aided supervillain voice, represents a return of fascism — with bigger, better technology. Imperial officers sport Nazi-like uniforms, while Vader’s henchmen are called Stormtroopers.
Audiences fearing yet another world war would have clearly recognized the significance of the Empire’s push for world domination and totalitarianism, its declaration of supremacy, and its blindly devoted followers marching in lockstep under the thumb of an authoritarian regime.
The new Star Wars films evoke our present-day fears. The new villain, Kylo Ren, is an angsty, conflicted, acne-ridden teenager who chose to turn evil.
Kylo Ren scares us because he knows the galaxy’s history and the war crimes the Imperial forces committed. Yet instead of seeing their cruelty and devaluing of life for what it was, he admires their violent displays of power and aspires to lead a new age of terror.
Why would an impressionable young man want to replicate the ideas of a hatred-fueled Empire that runs on mass murder?
Kylo Ren clearly made a choice to devote himself to an openly fascistic ideology, including the notion of genetics-based inherent superiority. He’s essentially an “alt-right,” Neo-Nazi white identity extremist.
In the new trilogy, the bad guys call themselves the First Order. Like the KKK and Neo-Nazis, they seek to emulate a fallen racist, totalitarian empire and restore “order” and “purity,” mirroring a mythologized time when “their” people held supreme power.
The repeated, colossal failures of the old Empire don’t seem to stop the new Imperial wannabes, any more than it stops people from donning swastikas or waving Confederate flags in the real world.
The Star Wars films hold great meaning for people of all ages, because, unlike Kylo Ren, we know we can’t afford to repeat the horrors of the past. We know what color our lightsabers would be. We know what side of history we’re on. More importantly, we know what we want the future to look like.
I’m young — I didn’t march with my mom on the National Mall at the height of the civil rights movement. I didn’t cross the bridge at Selma, throw a brick at Stonewall, hide refugees, or face a bullet or water cannon while on strike.
But once again, we’re faced with the crucial choice: Which side are you on? How will you fight for what’s right?
See the newest Star Wars movie, or don’t. Whatever you do, ask yourself: What can you do, today and every day, to fuel the Resistance and fight for a better world?
Olivia Alperstein is the Deputy Director of Communications and Policy at Progressive Congress. Distributed by www.OtherWords.org.