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How To Talk To Your Family About The Force Awakens

HowToTalkToYourFamilyAboutTheForceAwakens

WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE THAT HAS BROKEN EVERY BOX OFFICE RECORD KNOWN TO HUMANITY SO IF YOU’RE READING THIS AND HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE, THAT’S REALLY WEIRD. LIKE, ALMOST, STATISTICALLY WEIRD, THAT YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE BUT MADE THE CHOICE TO CLICK THE LINK. ANYWAY, THERE ARE SPOILERS.

In these tense holiday times, many sensitive subjects come up when we gather with our families. For example, someone you know–a loved family member even–might say something stupid about Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Here’s a list of 7 common complaints and how to handle them using your choice of the dark side or the light.

1) “I don’t even get the whole Star Wars thing.”

The Dark Side:
I’m sorry you hate joy. I bet you also dislike music and laughter. Those are both totally overrated, too. Why don’t you write a think piece about how much ice cream doesn’t even really taste that good, jump on your hoverboard, and roll the fuck out?

The Light Side:
I understand Star Wars isn’t for everyone and everyone’s entitled to their subjective opinion. That said, there are reasons it’s hugely popular with millions of people and has been for multiple decades. On its surface, it’s fun. It’s an epic saga about space wizards who cut each other’s arms off with laser swords. That’s just fun. But it’s constructed on deep themes of isolation, longing, free will versus destiny, individual agency in the face of institutionalized oppression, and lots of bad parenting. It speaks to essential challenges of humanity but also the aliens look cool. Go ahead and critique it or dislike it, but, at this point, what is there to not get?

2) “There were too many action scenes in it.”

The Dark Side:
It’s called Star Wars, you dumb moof-milker, not Star Talk About Our Feelings.

The Light Side:
Star Wars was inspired by old Saturday Morning Serials. The movies are designed to be thrilling by having lots of different action scenes. That said, they usually do a great job of not only advancing the plot through the action scenes, but also advancing individual characters’ journeys and relationships. For example, in The Force Awakens, when the rathtars are released, the action serves to strengthen the bond between Finn and Rey. During the First Order’s attack on Maz Kanata’s castle, Finn isn’t just using Luke’s old lightsaber to fight a cool Riot Stormtrooper; he’s making the choice not to run away from his fears. Also, saying there were too many action scenes in a Star Wars movie is like saying there are too many repressed emotions in a Jane Austen movie.

3) “It seemed like a reboot of that first Star Wars movie.”

The Dark Side:
*push glasses up the bridge of your nose with the power of the force*
The first movie is called A New Hope, asshole.

The Light Side:
Yes, it uses similar thematic elements, but it should. The goal of this film was to honor the old characters and stories while introducing us to new ones. The idea of mashing-up the very old and the very new is at the core of the franchise. It’s ancient hero myths but now there are aliens who look like big stressed-out fish. That’s Star Wars in a nutshell. While The Force Awakens played with our familiarity, it also introduced plenty of new things to the Star Wars galaxy. We’ve never had characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8. They are not carbon copies of Luke, Han, Leia, and R2-D2. They are unique, new creations. Besides, Star Wars has always had a deep sense of nostalgia. From the very beginning, Luke wants to be a Jedi to follow in the steps of his father. There’s always been a generational theme. The movies have always been about adventures that happened “a long time ago.” And at this point, that deep connection to the past that was introduced in A New Hope is now an actual connection to our shared cultural experience in real life. We share Finn and Rey’s amazement because Han Solo is a legend we met a long time ago both in the story AND in reality. There’s no way to tell this story that isn’t deeply, deeply nostalgic.

4) “Okay, but why did there have to be another Death Star thing?”

The Dark Side:
It’s called Starkiller Base. Also, come up with a better plot device under the same amount of pressure, then make it the bestselling movie ever. I’ll wait.

The Light Side:
The movie is a big tentpole blockbuster with multiple plates to spin. By all means, say you don’t like those kind of movies, but get used to saying that a lot because those are the movies that exist now and their storytelling needs are different than It’s A Wonderful Life. The Force Awakens is trying to tell a big story about the state of the galaxy, but they couldn’t have too many political scenes or everyone would have yelled at them for doing “that prequel shit.” They also wanted to keep the focus on the interpersonal relationships. The Starkiller Base served a bunch of narrative functions: it wiped out the Senate and the Republic’s fleet by destroying the Hosnian System, created a ticking clock, a specific point of rivalry between Hux and Kylo Ren, and the opportunity for multiple characters to have heroic moments. When you’re already spinning that many plates, why not use something the audience is familiar with and makes sense in universe?

5) “Kylo Ren was too whiny.”

The Dark Side:
Your brain is very small. It’s worth one quarter portion.

The Light Side:
Kylo Ren is a great new Star Wars character–he’s petulant, insecure, and desperate. This is so much more interesting than a confident, monologuing mad man. And yet, we know by how much maintenance his hair must take, that deep inside there is still patience. He still cares. There is still a possibility for redemption.

6) “Han died for no reason.”

The Dark Side:
You didn’t actually watch the movie, did you?

The Light Side:
The movie resets Han’s hero’s journey. We meet him as a washed-up smuggler who is running away from his responsibilities. By the end of the movie, he makes the choice to go back and plant the explosives on the thermal oscillator because, as he says, “the galaxy is depending on us.” That decision opens the hole that Poe Dameron flies through. On top of that, Han has no desire to face his son. He’d rather write him off as gone, having too much Vader in him. But Han makes the brave choice of facing his fears and trying to get through to his son. He could have walked away–instead, Han talks first.

7) “Rey learns to use the Force too fast. She’s kind of a Mary Sue.”

The Dark Side:
If someone says this at dinner, just force throw a plate of ham into this guy’s face. Because it’s probably a guy who said this.

The Light Side:
First, google Mary Sue because you’re probably using it incorrectly. Then, take a good hard look in the mirror and make sure you’re not just upset about a female protagonist. If you haven’t rage quit this blog then we can move on to super nerdy force power discussion. Strap yourselves in.

Yes, Rey develops her abilities in a different way than we’ve seen other Jedi–which is cool–because see above about the mix of the old and the new.

Rey discovers her power step-by-step. Her abilities first “awaken” when she’s piloting the Falcon off of Jakku. She explicitly says to Finn she’s flown before, but she didn’t know how she did it so well.

Next, she fires a blaster.¬†She has a slight look of surprise like she’s aware of her own increased accuracy.

Next, she’s captured by Kylo Ren and his beautiful hair. She discovers she can not only resist his attempts to use the force to read/invade her mind, she can do it back to him. At this point, we know Rey has heard tales of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi. It’s not surprising that she would’ve heard of the old Jedi Mind Trick. Also, Kylo Ren just tried to invade her mind. Then she does what we’ve seen many Jedi do, she concentrates, believes in her ability, and successfully mind tricks Daniel Craig dressed as a stormtrooper thus fulfilling someone’s slash fic bingo card somewhere.

Finally, the big lightsaber battle. It’s not a shock that Rey would be able to call the lightsaber to her, since the lightsaber itself was calling to her at Maz Kanata’s castle. She has a connection to it that Ren apparently doesn’t. Even with that, for the first half of her battle with Ren, Rey is just keeping alive. She’s slashing and running. We know she’s good at that because we’ve seen her do it with her staff back on Jakku. But then Kylo Ren mentions the force and she does exactly what Maz Kanata had told her to do: Close her eyes, let the light in, and it will guide you.

We were told way back in A New Hope by Obi-Wan Kenobi that the force obeys your commands, but it can also guide your actions.

What Rey lacks in training, she makes up in her connection with the force. Also, Kylo Ren is massively wounded, tormented about killing his father, insecure about this new force user, and probably still worried about his hair.

From a certain point of view

So those are a few thoughts you can share with your grumpy aunt, sexist uncle, or hipster cousin over the dinner table about the true power of The Force Awakens.

Just memorize all of this and repeat it verbatim to your family. They will ask you where you read that and then they’ll worry for my sanity.

Because, as Qui-Gon Jinn taught us, our focus determines our reality. So maybe this is a light, funny blog about a space movie. Or a thoughtful analysis of a film with deep themes and emotional resonance. Or the ravings of a crazy guy who saw the same movie four times opening weekend and can’t wait for a Rey action figure that comes with a lightsaber to be released.

All of those things are true from a certain point of view.

Happy holidays and may the force be with you.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy you can help make more blog posts possible by supporting me on Patreon. You can also check out Ken Napzok and I discussing some of these same issues on our podcast Force Center. Finally, I made a whole album of Star Wars comedy called Rebel Scum that you can listen to with your ears should you choose.

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