It’s now clear enough to me that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the best of all the Star Wars movies released since A New Hope. That’s just one person’s opinion. Plenty of other people were not on board with Rian Johnson‘s rather radical deconstruction and obliteration of the mythology that had carried the Star Wars films’ narratives for a few decades. Some of them had genuine gripes: the storytelling was a bit similar to the original trilogy, the film’s politics only went up to the water’s edge, and the writing leaned on a few heavy cliches. Other critics of the film, however, had an issue with the film’s choice to stress inclusion, both in terms of sex and race. Those are the petty people who have clearly gotten into J.J. Abrams‘ bonnet.
During a talk with IndieWire recently, Abrams made it clear that fans that pushed back against The Last Jedi over the choice to focus on female storylines – Rey, Holdo, and Rose most notably – were not voicing a complaint about Star Wars as much as expressing fear or agitation over being threatened. This is relatively evident to anyone who has listened to Star Wars obsessives who nitpick the realism of Rey, Leia, Holdo, or Rose’s actions in The Last Jedi as well as The Force Awakens while not even mildly criticizing the gaping holes in logic that powered the original trilogy. And yes, a disproportionate amount of the invective seems to be coming from white men aged 15-45, who were most prominently represented by Kylo Ren. They were also represented by the returning Luke Skywalker but his rejection of the Force and the Jedi Order seemed to sour the character on many young men who found some illusionary purpose in believing in the Force and its use for good.
To be fair, Abrams seems to be talking specifically about those who were vocally opposed to the female leads on the internet. This is what he told IndieWire:
“‘Star Wars’ is a big galaxy, and you can sort of find almost anything you want to in ‘Star Wars,’…If you are someone who feels threatened by women and needs to lash out against them, you can probably find an enemy in ‘Star Wars.’ You can probably look at the first movie that George [Lucas] did [‘Star Wars: A New Hope’] and say that Leia was too outspoken, or she was too tough. Anyone who wants to find a problem with anything can find the problem. The internet seems to be made for that.”
When asked about whether any of this has affected what he has planned for Episode IX, Abrams said:
“Not in the least…There’s a lot that I would like to say about it, but I feel like it’s a little early to be having the ‘Episode IX’ conversation … I will say that the story of Rey and Poe and Finn and Kylo Ren — and if you look, there are three men and one woman, to those that are complaining that there are too many women in ‘Star Wars’ — their story continues in a way that I couldn’t be more excited about and cannot wait for people to see.”
Abrams also pointed out that he faced some blowback from The Force Awakens, and he’s also had to deal with the not-so-quiet Star Trek obsessives who are not fond of his takes on their favored mythology. And of course, he’s absolutely correct. Change and inclusion in the DNA of movies – casting, writing, producing, and directing included – is required if one is going to find anything new out there and a year after Get Out was released, it seems like change is well underway. One would not have to look further than this weekend’s big release, Black Panther, to see the sublime results of this shift. If it happens with Star Wars, all the better.