“These flames do not only eliminate the final end of the old era, they also light up the new. Never before have the young men had so good a right to clean up the debris of the past. If the old men do not understand what is going on, let them grasp what we…young men have gone and done it. The old goes up in flames, the new shall be fashioned from the flames of our hearts.”
~Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany, 1933
What happens when you “let the past die?” You’re doomed to repeat it.
James Whitbrook writes a piece for i09 entitled, The Most Important Line in Star Wars Is an Ode to the Peril of Living in the Past.
“May the Force be with you.” “No, I am your father.” “It’s a trap!” Star Wars is full of iconic notable quotables. But what has become my favorite line in the entire saga is a line from The Last Jedi that speaks to a wider existential debate about where the franchise is at right now: “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.”
And with it, all of the rest will fall, because Disney has built a house of cards.
“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to”—spoken by Kylo Ren to Rey in one of their several Force-powered FaceTime calls throughout The Last Jedi—is the iconoclastic beacon that distills everything Rian Johnson’s movie did for me as a viewer into a single turn of phrase. It’s poetic, dramatic—a little recklessly destructive, even, but we’ll get to that. But it’s also cleansing: In order to keep moving forward, you have to let go of your past, cut it away from yourself if need be, rather than be defined by it. Rather than be trapped by it.
It’s also deeply stupid. Letting the past die rather than learning from it is the best way to repeat the mistakes of the past. It’s what leading young people to think that Star Wars is diverse for the very first time in history despite Lando Calrissian appearing on screen 38 years ago. Despite Carrie Fisher casting the strong female lead mold for decades to come 41 years ago. Letting the past die leads to stupid decisions because people make mistakes that could have otherwise been avoided, were they aware of the past.
It’s what leads young people to think that Kylo’s line, “let the past die, kill it if you must,” is shiny and brand new, when in fact Joseph Goebbels expressed the very same sentiment back in 1933, in regards to the book burnings being conducted by German student activists.
So the primary thing that Kylo Ren’s line teaches us is that the screenwriters are ignorant.