I watched this video from Wisecrack the other day by Jared Bauer regarding “what went wrong” with The Last Jedi. After Hal posted it on his TLJ Edit thread I decided to comment on it. I felt like I should post it here instead because I didn’t want to start a discussion not directly related to his edit on that thread. Hope you guys don’t mind.
Link to video: https://youtu.be/dLYUc5t6wag
I think Jared premise is really great, I think he is mostly right, but I think he missed an important dinstinction.
I think he’s right when he says that Kylo Ren has the right idea. Things have to change. Rey wants things to change too. But I think it is the way that Kylo Ren and Rey want to go about it is why Kylo Ren’s way is wrong, and why she doesn’t join him in the end.
Kylo Ren talks about letting the past die, but he is still the leader of an army full of Stormtroopers and Star Destroyers, and by the end fight on Crait you can tell he hasn’t let go of the past because his resentment towards Luke blinds him and allows the Resistance to escape. He wants change through violence. I think a symbol of Rey realizing this is when Kylo reaches his hand out to her, but he is still wearing his glove. This is a contrast to the first time they touched hands, when he removed his glove as a sign of honesty and vulnerability. There is a symbolic dinstinction.
Kylo wants to bury the past while I think Rey will want to learn from it. I think Luke also realized this, it’s what his whole conversation with Yoda is about really. Luke felt the next generation would be better off without the baggage of the Jedi, but in reality they would be better off to learn from those mistakes in order to not repeat them, to grow beyond them. Basically, accepting and learning from your failures rather than forgetting or submitting to them.
The Jedi will live on, but they will be different, they will evolve.
I think this parallels the whole “fighting for the right reasons” thing that Finn and Rose’s story is about as well. The movie doesn’t flip flop on being a hero or not being a hero. It’s about defending first and attacking only when necessary. I’m not saying this movie is a perfect work of art, I still I’m not crazy about the execution of the Rose-saving-Finn moment in the film, but this movie is far from ruining Star Wars in my opinion.
And I think his references to Carl Jung are fantastic, I think looking at the issue of balance through the lens of Jung can help understand what I think Johnson was going for. But, I think Jared interpreted the finale from that perspective differently than I did.
If the dark side of the Force can be symbolic of Jung’s interpretation of the unconscious self, or the Shadow, then the Sith want to submerge themselves into the Shadow as means to gain primal power and dominance over others. The old Jedi feared the Shadow and did everything they could to keep the conscious self in control.
But balance is acknowledging the Shadow, one’s own dark side, and becoming a more well-rounded and self-aware person from accepting the darkness in all of us, but not submitting yourself to it.
Rey isn’t reverting back to the old Jedi ways. She’s growing from the old ways. She knows things have to be different. But she doesn’t want to kill innocent people to achieve change like Kylo Ren does. That’s a big difference.
Bonus: Interestingly, there’s this idea that the “acknowledgement of the shadow must be a continuous process throughout one’s life", which fits well with Luke’s big mistake. He didn’t permanently overcome his Shadow in ROTJ, the Shadow is something one must constantly face throughout one’s life. When he almost failed to hold his shadow back once again, it shattered his faith in himself and incorrectly decided the galaxy would be better off to start from scratch and learn to acknowledge one’s shadow from a blank slate. Not learning from his mistakes could just perpetuate this fight for another thousand generations to come as they slowly figure it all out again.
Both Rey and Kylo Ren are coming to terms with their shadow in this film. Kylo Ren is incorporating the monster within him rather than hiding behind his persona (his mask). He had split his ego like Vader had and identified as his shadow self, rather than accepting both sides are the same person. He couldn’t determine his identity, a big theme in TFA. But in TLJ, he smashes the helmet and even calls himself a monster in the film recognizing this fact. He believes he is merging with his shadow in a way to become balanced, but he is wrong.
Typically when one faces their shadow, they must face the thing that they resent the most about themself, their fears, their shortcomings, their anxieties. In Rey’s case, she resents the truth about who she is and her parents. The fact that they were bad people and that ultimately she’s a nobody. But in the end, she faces her own shadow and finally acknowledges it.
Acknowledging your shadow gives you strength, and it allows you to respect and better understand yourself, but when people fail this reflection is when they think that having strength justifies being cruel to others.
A person shouldn’t be cruel.
But being able to be cruel, and choosing not to be cruel is better than not facing your shadow and not being able to be cruel. That confidence in ones self prevents internal and external conflict. It’s similar to the idea of most martial arts. You don’t learn to fight so you can fight, you learn to fight so you can prevent fighting. But if you need to fight in order to protect, you can.
That’s what the Jedi are meant to be. A Jedi uses the Force for defense, never for attack. The Jedi unfortunately lost their way, because they were trying to prevent the Jedi from fully facing their shadows. They feared that if they fully incorporated their shadow, that many would only give into it and become cruel. They feared that many would fail like Jedi of the past had, so they assumed that protecting them from their shadow was the safer option. That’s why Jedi had to avoid fear, anger and hate. The old Jedi were taught to repress or expunge their shadows. But really, a Jedi must accept that they are only human, and understand those emotions rather than cutting themselves off from them.
This is the dinstinction. Kylo Ren’s incorporation of the shadow has made him cruel, his resentment of the past makes him want to kill it. While Rey is capable of joining Kylo Ren, to be cruel, she chooses not to because she sees that dinstinction. She also resents her past, but chooses to grow from it rather than letting it make her cruel.
The message of the movie isn’t to kill the past like Jared thinks it is, it is to learn from it. Grow from it. That’s what wisdom is.
The film is also not trying to tear down the Campbell’s monomyth either. The stories associated with the monomyth have always been a way for storytellers to teach society about morals and how to act. To tear it down would be to contradict the entire point of Star Wars. It’s trying to recontextualize it. To remind us how the myth and the legend is important to ourselves and our own lives. It humanizes Luke in order to show us that not only legends go through the hero’s journey of self recognition and affirmation. Luke is human, like all of us, and we all have to go on our own hero’s journey to accept who we are.
And Luke’s act of facing his own resentment (his failure with Ben) and accepting it is what inspires others to go on their own hero’s journeys, like good ole broom boy.
A reddit user, DH80, also made a great post about how Luke’s journey in TLJ is actually a completition of his hero’s journey. I’ll share it here: https://www.reddit.com/r/StarWars/comments/8azql2/how_the_last_jedi_explored_the_last_stages_of_the/
Yes, the original trilogy was more black and white, but not completely. The point of the Last Jedi is to remind us that things aren’t just black and white. We can’t just destroy evil because the potential for evil is within all of us. But the movie doesn’t “backpedal” on those ideas. The last act of the film is showing how we must accept the darkness within us. Kylo’s solution is WRONG. He’s not coming to terms with his darkness, he’s still being controlled by his shadow like any dark side user. He’s getting closer to the truth than most dark side users, but he’s not there yet, which I think IX will possibly deal with.
Jared also talks about how facing one’s shadow is important for the political side of the movie. Things have ended up in a similar place despite winning the war at the end of ROTJ, true. But Jared makes a point how that would make a strong point if the movie stuck the idea it was trying to make. He says it didn’t, but I think it did. I think to have things change, the Resistance can’t win the same way as the Rebels did in Return of the Jedi, by destroying the shadow, the Empire. There must be some kind of peace, or reconciliation with the shadow (the First Order) in order for things to be different. I think this will be where Finn comes into play. I’m hoping his role in IX makes him crucial in helping members of the First Order come around on some kind of resolution to the war, whether it be integretation/unification or some kind of reconciliation/armistice.
If you think of the Old Republic as an individual, then the Empire and the Emperor were just a representations of that individual’s shadow and inner demon. The Galactic Civil War is just a representation of the struggle to come to terms with it, it’s a full-on ego split. But in the end of ROTJ, the self only repressed that shadow rather than reintergrating it, which is what I’m assuming Episode IX might be about.
Like I said, I don’t think The Last Jedi is a perfect movie, we can discuss clarity or execution, but I don’t think it is a fundamentally broken movie. This is not where The Last Jedi went wrong.
TL;DR: Kylo Ren and Rey both represent distinct approaches to face your inner shadow, but Kylo Ren is still facing it in a negative way while Rey is facing it in a more positive way. Violence versus non-violence. That’s the difference between killing the past and growing beyond it.