The theme of good versus evil is one of the most popular cinematic overtones in history, and perhaps no other media franchise has captured the essence of this moral conflict better than Star Wars. Jedi and Sith, good and evil, peace and chaos, mercy and power. The idea that an underdog like Luke Skywalker could take on a Sith lord with the power to destroy planets is absolutely invigorating. Seeing the lightsaber duel between a father a son, with blades barking with sparks each time they clash, instilled a sense of hope, and as a child, we could almost see ourselves as Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi in the universe, standing up to the oppressive intergalactic Empire.
But, alas, when I was a child, I thought like a child. With the publication of Episodes VII and VIII, it is time to put aside childish things. In an article published at The Federalist, Gregory Morris provides a fair criticism of how the modern episodes are waging a cinematic war against their predecessors.
‘The Last Jedi’ chucks the idea of wise mentors down the garbage compacter. It democratizes the Force and denies not only that the current cast of characters includes special people, but that such people ever existed. In this movie’s telling, there never were any living legends. Consequently, the graying masters of both Dark and Light sides have nothing of value to teach their precocious pupils.
In short, the modern Star Wars adaptations have abandoned the traditional notion of good and evil for a postmodern, democratic, and morally ambiguous fairytale about how equality is the sole virtue worth attaining. Long gone is the galaxy where unique individuals undergo grueling training to attain proficiency in the Force. No longer is there a special class of defenders to maintain order and power; rather, we are met with nothing more than a cold, hard reality that everybody is special. And when everybody is special, nobody is.
Thus, whereas in the beginning of the Star Wars cinematic franchise one might be swayed to root for the Rebel Alliance, with their strong willpower and dedication to preserving the weak, with the current predicament of the cinematic universe one might second guess who the “good guys” really are. The lines are blurred. There are no heroes, no villains, and no unique attributes that distinguish the protagonist from the antagonist. The basic literary traits that define the genre of fiction have fled, and in their place, moral ambivalence and the democratization of the most powerful force in the universe have taken hold of the reigns. With these facts considered, there is only one conclusion to arrive at.
The Rebellion stands for nothing.
As an organization, the Rebellion is a loose-knit coalition of vastly different personalities united to combat the massive power of the ever-expanding Galactic Empire. The Empire, as an imperial autocratic force, represents an outdated ideology, and as viewers, we the audience are expected to automatically condemn the Empire for everything that it is.
Perhaps this condemnation by default is due to the black-on-black uniforms worn by imperial officers or the memorable and intimidating demeanor of the fearsome Darth Vader. Regardless, when it becomes evident that there is no good or evil in the universe, then there is no cause or driving force behind the death of innocents.
The Rebellion stands for one thing and one thing only: freedom. Yet, this is not a traditional notion of freedom, where a man can be free to pursue his desires and produce goods to provide for himself and his family; rather, the freedom sought after by the Rebel Alliance is of a brand that is incredibly familiar to the modern world. Freedom, by the Rebel definition, is total liberation from authority.
No respect is offered to the Galactic Empire by the Rebel Alliance. No recognition of the imperial order’s legitimacy as an empire or its right to rule over the galaxy is offered by the Rebellion. Because of the Rebellion’s inability to accept the reality of political authority, they cannot be understood to be anything less than anarchists.
With the above context, understanding that the Rebel Alliance is an organizational coalition that refuses the authority of political power, to which side of this war should the orderly belong? Snoke, as the supreme leader of the newly founded First Order, is a figurehead that embodies the virtues of order and power. If we take the Rebellion to be a purely apophatic standpoint, defining itself by what it operates against rather than what is actually operates for, then Snoke, and by extension the First Order, is the only visible manifestation of a vision worth fighting for.
The dark side of the Force is the side of absolutism and objectivity, and in a world filled with moral relativism and experiential subjectivity, perhaps those who stand for the preservation of tradition and the enforcement of order by divinely anointed authorities should arm themselves with scarlet sabers and take arms against the degeneracy of the Rebel Alliance.
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