A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.... it all had meaning. But was deceitfully overturned and made into a feast of meaninglessness.
Here in this post, I would like to state my controversial opinion on the already controversial topic. I am also aware that almost everything that could be said about it was already said. So I would like to just express my own perspective without trying to "prove" any point. Therefore it may feel more like collection of thoughts rather than structured analysis. If this is not what is bothering you, please read ahead.
This should not be surprising, that as fan of fantasy and sci-fi, I was also into Star Wars since my childhood. This is not something unusual, since Star Wars fandom is spread far and wide across the globe. For me personally, original trilogy of Star Wars films was a great story packaged in sci-fi wrappings. Myth of good and evil, ties to spiritual concepts, space knights with values. That was everything I needed. But besides that I got something far more important, which is meaning.
Story of original Star Wars had meaning. The world-building, journey of the characters involved, twists, all was meaningful. The ending was satisfying and resolved the entire story perfectly. We knew what is what. Light Side was the light side and the Dark Side was the dark side. Heroes went through turmoils and came out as fully matured characters, ready to take responsibility for the future.
But this dramatically changed, especially since Disney took over the entire franchise. I admit that after seeing The Force Awakens, I've given this new production benefit of a doubt. I really was hoping that despite some issues with the movie, the entire saga and expanded universe can bring back this, what was so fantastic about originals. But after watching The Last Jedi, my feelings changed. And at first I didn't know what exactly was bothering me, but definitely there was something wrong. And now, after some time, I can fully share what it was.
In simple words, these new movies killed meaning of Star Wars. Everything that was meaningful about it was overturned and made into a feed of pretty looking, but empty entertainment. Instead bringing something real into the table, it became postmodern attempt to convince us about ultimate meaninglessness of the world around us. In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons why people have so many issues with this new movies. Even if most of them don't even realize what is the root of their concerns. And The Last Jedi in particular attempted to destroy everything that was meaningful about original trilogy. Everything was mixed up and turned overhead. No surprise then that it was this movie which shook the Star Wars fandom, regardless if one liked or disliked it.
But what's the deal with this meaning anyway? Meaning is something that human beings need to lead healthy and significant life. If your life has no meaning to you, you feel depressed and down. Meaning is basis of our vision of life, gives us direction and purpose. If the world around you feels accidental and without meaning, you would probably feel helpless and insignificant. Meaninglessness means that you are lacking the very basis of why you exist.
It is a lot that can be written about in what ways new Star Wars create meaninglessness, denying meaning having any importance in our lives. This can be seen in small as well as in big things. Below I will give examples of both.
First, let's examine small thing. One of the simplest examples is meaning of the concepts behind names like the First Order and Supreme Leader that appear in the new trilogy. Many people argued that this is no different from the Empire and the Emperor from the originals. But for me, on the concept level, it is radically different, and for a very simple reason. When we watched original Star Wars and heard about Empire and Emperor, we already had concepts of those in our heads. We new what empires are and how they work. Therefore there was no need to expand much on the persona of the Emperor. But in the sequel trilogy, we have no idea what the First Order not only is, but what it could be. The same goes for the Supreme Leader. We can't have any idea what the Supreme Leader means, instead of that he rules over "bad guys". In this sense, archetypal concept of the emperor tells us infinitely more through our subconscious than the term Supreme Leader ever can. And this happens even though, on the surface level, it may seem like there is no difference.
This of course touches the topic of archetypes and their role in culture and also how they live in our subconscious. To state it very simply, when I tell you that someone is strong as Hercules, you immediately know what I am talking about. But if I tell you that someone is strong as the "highest guy", you probably would be a little bit confused. And that's because when I am talking about Hercules, I am accessing your subconscious, cultural understanding of that archetype. This in return changes everything, because I don't have to explain to you in a hundred words what I mean. Instead I can use simple analogy. But when I am using something that you are not that familiar with, it becomes less meaningful to you. And if something is less meaningful it becomes confusing.
Unfortunately, this is what happened with new Star Wars trilogy so far. There are many little things for which we don't get explanation, but also don't have anything to refer it to. Therefore the Supreme Leader and the First Order seem meaningless and confusing. Same can be said, for example, about the character of Rey. It may seem like her arc doesn't differ from Luke's in original trilogy, but just a little mention by Obi-Wan that Luke's father was a Jedi, gives our subconscious tons of meaning and makes us perceive Luke in the certain way, without us even noticing it. This shows that present Star Wars creators are completely unaware how these things work or they just don't care. But it matters if we get even these little meanings or not. For me story without them is just groundless.
Now the big thing. Original Star Wars were meaningful because they sticked to certain values and vision. And new trilogy for some reason wants to convince us that these values and vision are not important anymore. The biggest example here is of course, character of Luke Skywalker. In The Last Jedi he became antithesis of every value he believed in. And values are something that really determines who we truly are. But in some mysterious way Luke decided to stand against every single positive value he held. First of all he denied his faith in family ties. He left his friends. And of course, going with postmodern belief, stopped holding good as a value and became morally ambiguous. And this is not only exactly opposite to who he was in original trilogy, but also contradicts rules of character and personal development. In The Last Jedi he was totally different character, because the movie showed us someone who didn't went through development that "real" Luke Skywalker went through. In this sense like someone already said, he was more like Jake Skywalker than Luke Skywalker.
I can say, that from the point of view of my training as a life coach, characters in the original trilogy, through their adventures, made significant breakthroughs in terms of personal development, maturing and becoming fully grown human beings. This means that characters went through challenges that made them permanently better people. Meanwhile, in the new trilogy, all original Star Wars characters act as if their entire journey didn't happen. And like I said, I mean that in terms of the personal growth. In fact, they all could use a good deal of coaching. Which from the point of view of their previous development is totally not understandable, because they already went through the lessons that made them better people. They already expressed positive values, which allowed them to become who they were.
But now we got image of broken individuals withing the broken world. Individuals that can't cope with their problems properly. This shows our minds that there was no meaning to their efforts to overcome their obstacles and come out stronger and more wise. Through this we are told also that all values that these characters had that led them to that point are not important, there's not much meaning to them.
The other major thing is that today's Star Wars really suffered from their "lack of vision". Will they pay for it or not only time will tell. This is nothing new to Star Wars observers. Many people already noticed that one of the main issues of the new trilogy was lack of clear direction and plan from the start. No great endeavor can succeed without vision. But modern movie creators and producers try to prove otherwise. This is also symptom of going towards meaninglessness rather then meaning. In this way, subconsciously we are again told that meaning is not important and meaninglessness is a normal thing. Because why we should care about our movies having any sense? Just watch and enjoy them, right?
But without vision, we are directionless in our lives. This is true for individuals as well as for more collective endeavors. If you don't have clarity about your life it makes it purposeless, which becomes a problem for many individuals these days. And that's why very often people seek help in things like life coaching, therapy and so on. Principles of life coaching say that until you have clear vision about your life, you will not be able to experience fulfillment. Question is then, what kind of vision modern movie industry really promotes. Is it helpful to us as individuals?
This all may sound not that important for some people, since movies are perceived as just entertainment. But stories of any kind, even in movies, have tremendous impact on society. They influence our subconscious, ingrain certain beliefs and promote certain values. So what we consume mentally is extremely important to our personal lives, which then contributes to the state of entire culture. It is not only about eating or not eating junk food, but also about consuming and acquiring junk beliefs, values and visions. And yes, it does matter what perceptions and concepts we let into our minds. That determines our lives more than what kind of food we eat or do we exercise regularly or not (which are also important things, but we shouldn't see ourselves as bodies only, which is another modern myth that we are constantly told).
Sadly, what is happening with Star Wars these days is only small part of overall attempt to kill sense of meaning in people's lives. Majority of movie industry is geared towards giving us flashy entertainment that ultimately lacks vision, has no positive values and produces unhealthy beliefs. It is no longer matter of just not having meaning in the media we consume, but getting exactly the opposite. We are fed with ideas of meaninglessness, moral ambiguity and materialism. It means that through modern stories we are thought to believe in ultimate lack of meaning in the world, that good and evil are just concepts, and that there is nothing more to us than just bodies. Old stories on the other hand were made for the exactly opposite purpose. They were directed towards creating harmonious society by teaching individuals how to act within the world.
Besides being sci-fi story, original Star Wars trilogy held concepts that were rooted in spirituality. Even though they were overly simplified, still gave us sense of reality beyond our mundane understanding. Force was something more than just basic superhero ability to throw rocks. It was matter of personal development, inner growth and ability to connect with something greater than we are. Dark Side was just an illusion that one can have power by oneself, and can rule and control others. Light Side was selfless and about surrender to greater power and recognizing our spiritual nature.
Judge me by my size, do you?
And well you should not.
For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.
Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.
New movies don't explore these themes at all. Force became material ability to do stuff without Dark or Light Side to it. This makes this concept flat and without depth. Unfortunately this is common trend in modern times, to water down spiritual concepts.
Above I've mentioned beliefs several times. Alongside values and vision, these are crucial to our personal growth. Very often, people are holding beliefs that are limiting them, not allowing them to fulfill their goals and dreams. If I believe that I am not capable of doing something, I won't even try and find out if it's true. If I believe that I am not significant, I will act as insignificant person. And these believes limit ourselves from becoming our full potential. Sometimes. or rather most often, we acquire such believes from other people, our family, peers and so on. But in today's world the one of the most powerful influences on our beliefs is media industry and stories it is telling us. Movies are big part of that, especially movies for kids, because kids are most susceptive to acquiring beliefs.
Beliefs that new Star Wars express, unfortunately are more limiting in nature. It seems like they are empowering like before, but underneath and in truth they are messy and not consistent. We are told there is no clear distinction between good and evil. That sacrificing for others and greater good is stupid. That there is no meaning to heritage. That there's no spiritual strength, only material one. All of these, are modern beliefs that many people have. And it might be even strange for you as a reader, why I seem to be against them. It is because in reality they are disempowering you as an individual. This is at least something to consider. Again, just be aware what you are consuming and how it can impact you in a long run. And don't be fooled that it is just entertainment, because it is not. Through stories that we hear as children and adults we can be made to belief anything that people creating them want us to believe, if we are not aware enough to counter this.
In the end, it is a question of what kind of culture we want to live in. What kind of life we want to have. Media and movie industry are powerful force that contribute greatly to shaping both these things. But it is us who decide what kind of media we consume and let our children consume. We have to choose, if we really want us and our children to have their life vision, values and beliefs based on vision, values and beliefs that today's movies represent.