Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair writes an article entitled, Star Wars: The Last Jedi Offers the Harsh Condemnation of Mansplaining We Need in 2017
She heils The Last Jedi as:
I understand that SJWs are prone to wishful thinking and fantasy making, but we’re actually in the Trump era right now. It won’t be the post-Trump era until after Trump is either voted out of office, or leftist fascists orchestrate some way to force him out, because they refuse to accept the results of elections they don’t like. Only then will it be the post-Trump era, because “post” means after. Capiche?
The Last Jedi opens with a familiar sight. A cocky flyboy—fan favorite Poe Dameron—zipping around a big, evil ship taking out cannons with the help of some Red, Blue, or Gold leaders. Defying a direct order from his boss, General Organa, Dameron leads the rebel air force into victory, yes—but also a lot of fiery casualties. The toll of this mission is driven home by the poignant death of Paige Tico—and while Poe expects to be greeted as a conquering hero, he instead finds his boss enraged. She tells him he needs to understand the chain of command and what it takes to lead. “I need you to learn that,” Leia lectures him. He gets a slap and a demotion for his trouble. It’s only the first of many such lessons in a movie that takes time away from the light and dark battles of Rey and Kylo to deliver a stinging referendum on gendered office politics.
And it’s a deeply stupid and contrived lesson that has no application in a real world tactical military sense. Particularly given that Holdo and Leia lead all but a dozen or so Resistance fighters to their deaths. So it turns out that Poe was right. Wars are won with bold cunning and daring actions. Wars are not won by sitting on one’s hands, as the end of this film unwittingly demonstrates.
Honestly, young boys don’t go to Star Wars films to have the filmmakers wag their idiot fingers at them, and lecture them to listen to their mommies. Rather, young boys go to Star Wars films to escape such things for a couple of hours. Or at least they did.
The Poe-Leia relationship may be somewhat fraught, but The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson really doubles down on this theme when Leia goes into a coma and is replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Poe, clearly hoping to be tapped to stand in for Leia, immediately criticizes his new superior. “That’sAdmiral Holdo?” he asks a fellow resistance fighter while taking in his new boss’s gown, purple hair, and jewelry. “Not what I was expecting,” he almost sneers.
Well sure. Military commanders, even female ones, usually wear uniforms into battle rather than cocktail dresses.
That Holdo is kind yet dismissive of Poe only enrages him further. She urges him, for the safety of all concerned, to “stick to your post and follow my orders.” He doesn’t; as a result, many rebels die.
Did you stick around for the full 2.5 hours? By the end of the movie, all but a dozen or so Resistance fighters die, thanks to the leadership of Holdo.
Speaking about her character’s stylish-yet-firm leadership, Dern told Vanity Fair: “[Rian is] saying something that’s been a true challenge in feminism. Are we going to lead and be who we are as women in our femininity? Or are we going to dress up in a boy’s clothes to do the boy’s job? I think we’re waking up to what we want feminism to look like.”
Well if the goal is to lose the war, then clearly you want to choose the former.
One might argue that if Holdo had filled in Poe on her plan—to evade the First Order fleet long enough to get within range of an old base on Crait—Poe would have listened and fallen in line. But to borrow a phrase from Poe himself, this mission was a “need-to-know.”
The fighters needed to know, so that they could all work towards the same goal, rather than against one another. The only reason to contrive the secrecy, was to elevate the inherent stupidity of feminist ideology, which is really nothing more than unvarnished misandry.
And as soon as a frustrated Holdo and Leia let Poe in on the plan, he blabs about it over the comms to Finn loud enough that Benicio del Toro’s D.J. can hear—and, later, sell them out. If Poe had just listened to Leia and Holdo from the start, the rebel fleet wouldn’t have been quite so decimated by the end of the film.
Or if Finn had not gone off on a pointless wild goose chase, none of that would have happened either.
Poe does clearly learn his lesson by the final frames of The Last Jedi—and only then do his admiration for Holdo, his respect for Leia, and his realization of just how much he doesn’t know position him to finally become the leader these powerful women hoped he’d be.
The primary thing he didn’t know, was that a droid could have replaced Holdo as the pilot in her silly suicide maneuver.
It’s clever for Johnson to have put this story on the very likable Poe. (Both Leia and Holdo are careful to reassure audiences that they, too, like the guy.) We expect dismissive sexism from the First Order (how many times do they refer to Rey as “The Girl?”), but to see it from a friendly face is even more instructive. Any female boss in 2017 or American still nursing the hangover of the 2016 presidential election can tell you that even nice guys often have trouble taking orders from women.
Only if the orders are as moronic as Holdo’s.
All but a dozen or so Resistance fighters dying by the end of the film, demonstrates that the women leaders were mostly wrong. So that message failed. Besides, whatever happened to gender equality and equal representation? Wasn’t that going to be some big lesson in the Sequel Trilogy?
Needlessly? Destroying the battering ram would have prevented the First Order from ramming through the Resistance’s blast doors, and killing all but a dozen or so of them. What makes Finn’s attempted sacrifice needless, but Holdo’s sacrifice glorious? Just the genitalia of the characters? Or is there something of merit in the distinction?
What did he teach her? She went to him, barked at him about what he’s done and why he did it as though she were there, and then bests him in a lightsaber battle. She doesn’t appear to need any teaching at all. She already knows everything. Yoda even says so.
And it was very anti-climactic.
But by and large, The Last Jedi’s examination of gender politics does fit into this trilogy’s message that the true heirs to the power in this universe are not white men like Hux and Kylo but women and people of color.
Though The Last Jedi began filming in early 2016—in other words, long before a referendum on Donald Trumpvs. Hillary Clinton informed every aspect of American storytelling—it’s impossible to ignore the parallels on screen here.
Or to roll your eyes at the petty silliness of it all.
The film’s progressive ideology is already ticking off some calcified corners of the fandom—the kind of fans who dismissed Ridley’s heroic Rey as a too-powerful “Mary Sue” after the last film. But just because some Star Wars lovers are out of reach for the message this movie delivers, there is still hope for a new generation.
Just like that kid at the end of The Last Jedi, holding his broom aloft and wearing the resistance jewelry left behind by Rose, an entire generation of young Star Warswatchers will remember the brave, smart, capable women of The Last Jedi—and the consequences of doubting their leadership.
Or they’ll just remember the alien nipple milking sequence, and not much of anything else.