Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dear Rian Johnson,

I go to the movies to escape, and The Last Jedi certainly provided that for 150+ minutes this weekend. A few of those minutes, though, jarred me right back into my body, looking wide-eyed from the darkened theater out into the sometimes darker world. (This is the part where, if you're reading this letter and you're not Rian Johnson, I should warn you, "There will be spoilers.")

I work with young people -- a vantage that renders social media both fraught and fruitful. So, when Rey and Kylo start chatting across distance (Forcebook?), I can't help wondering: Where are the mentors and role models to coach these kids through using their new powers?

Supreme Leader Snoke, loafing around in his creepy lounge-wear, definitely should not be permitted this role. Maybe because I just completed Team USA's SafeSport training as part of youth coaching responsibilities or because the US gymnastics team and its former team doctor have been in the news, I can't help seeing Snoke as a prototypical predator. He exploits his power to finagle alone time with Kylo and Ren, then grooms them with false promises. (Rather than being red-clad enablers, what if Snoke's' Praetorian Guard had mandatory-reporting responsibilities?)

And what about when Benicio del Toro's DJ pulls back the veil from the military-industrial complex that's been profiting from all these Star Wars? When our legislators propose tax cuts favoring the wealthiest citizens alongside 12-figure defense budgets, I now picture DJ smirking in the shadows.

One of the movie's most visually arresting moments occurs when Vice Admiral Holdo jumps a rebel transport to light speed through the First Order's command ship. I heard the theater audience gasp in the initial beat of silence when Holdo's maneuver draws a slice of light across her target. On one hand, a noble sacrifice that helps her compatriots to safety; on the other hand, what distinguishes her from present-day aggressors using vehicles as weapons? (Another kind of doubled-edged dizziness fills me when thinking about Chewbacca, Porgs, sustainable food supplies, vegetarianism, and my own eating habits.)

For this viewer, moments like these in a fictional galaxy far, far away probe tensions in our own time -- escapism sparking reflection. Not all moments of connection need to carry such weight, though. I'll close with an allusion from the movie in a different register: Finn scrambling out of his wrecked speeder, just after his rebel co-conspirator careened into him to stop his kamikaze run at the First Order's latest weapon of mass destruction. "Why'd you do that, Rose?" Finn asks, holding his injured friend in his arms. Suddenly, he's Jack, and the two of them may as well be in Titanic.

Thanks for sharing your creativity and for getting me thinking.

A fan


  1. I read your piece even though I haven't seen the movie yet. I'm going to hold onto your piece and use your writing as mentor text on using precise vocabulary. Your piece is filled with exact names. It could also be a mentor text for ways to compare a movie to real life and include hyperlinks as evidence. Plus, it is about a topic that my MSers would love to read. I wonder if they will agree or disagree with you?! I look forward to finding out. Plus, I need to go see the movie, too. Thanks for the nudge. Happy New Year!

    1. Back atcha, Sally. Thanks for the encouraging feedback.

  2. Art imitates life...so many amazing connections. Maybe I'll go see the movie.

  3. I've not been a Star Wars fan, but your criticism makes me curious about this one. Maybe I will go see it.

  4. Enjoyed this slice immensely. See what you can do with "Three Billboards" & "Murder on the Orient Express". !yaeY weN yppaH