Grief and Star Wars: The Last Jedi

LAST JEDI SPOILERS ARE PRESENT. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET, DON’T READ. RUN TO THE THEATER.

A lot of people have been talking about The Last Jedi in very different ways, and there is a little bit of hatred being tossed toward the film. Not from a majority of people, but enough to cause a stir.

There are a lot of reasons for the negative reactions, and I thought I’d try to explain one reason that I think is pretty clear.

A lot of people are hurting right now.

A lot of people are going through the various stages of grief, and don’t realize that’s what is happening.

The loss of Carrie Fisher was felt by so many before 2017 began. Then, again when Star Wars Celebration happened, and (even if you couldn’t be there, you could live stream it) especially when Mark Hamill did a tribute talk about her, which was capped off by a surprise performance with a live orchestra, and John Williams conducting, playing Leia’s theme. I heard that there were many people there just sobbing.

And here we are, at the end of the year, experiencing what we now know to be Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Leia. As I understand it, Leia was going to be the focus of the third act in this trilogy of films, like Han was in The Force Awakens and Luke was in The Last Jedi. My guess is that Leia would have been shown using the Force in ways we’ve never seen from her. I also think she would have had a moment with Ben Solo that mirrored the moment when Han confronted Ben Solo in The Force Awakens. I think it would have been a conversation between her and her son, where we, as an audience, would have been held captive at the edge of our seats, wondering how it would turn out this time.

But alas, none of that is going to be… Leia isn’t going to be in Episode IX, and it’s been confirmed that they will not be bringing her back in the same way they brought Tarkin back for Rogue One.

And Leia wasn’t the only place where grief was felt.

Luke was the unexpected one this time around. The same sort of response that Abrams got when Han died last time around. The same sort of response when the now “Legends” Star Wars New Jedi Order book Vector Prime dropped a moon onto a planet on which Chewbacca was trapped, leading to his ultimate end. A very large reaction to the idea that we may not see Luke again, except maybe we will… as a Force Ghost.

So now, we’re not only grieving the real-life loss of Carrie Fisher… we’re also grieving for the loss of Princess Leia… and we’re also grieving for the loss of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, who had only just regained the faith that he had lost.

I do understand that some folks wanted to see Luke do a stunt as a Jedi Master, similar to Vader in Rogue One. Perhaps taking out the entire fleet of First Order walkers, etc., with the Force. And I think that would have been absolutely awesome, and a great way to bring Luke’s journey to a close. I do think, however, for me, that he did have that moment. It wasn’t the action, taking out a walker or all of the walkers by himself. It was the force projection, talking to Leia, talking to Ben Solo, brushing the “dust” from his shoulder, etc., and all of that from the other side of the galaxy. Incredible.

In three screenings of the movie, which I really loved, for the record, it only got stronger and stronger, and Luke and Leia’s journey in this film becomes all all the more poignant.

And that brings us back to the point. We’ve lost so much, and I can understand the frustration, anger and sadness that many are feeling right now.

Star Wars: A New Hope was released over 40 years ago. Many people have spent hundreds or thousands of hours with these characters, and not just in the movies, but in comics, books, games, toys, and the list goes on and on. For many of us, these characters feel like our friends or family. We’ve invited them into our lives, even though we may not have personally known them. We’ve built emotional connections to them. And that connection has only grown over years of spending time with them.

Think about that… the characters have been around us for over 40 years… so when one of them dies, even fictional, we have the capacity to react to it the same way that we would with a family member or friend. And this film had two, or three depending on how you look at it.

And here’s the most important thing that I want you to understand: It is perfectly fine to grieve over the loss of a fictional character.

We are going to experience grief from loss, whether real or fictional. It’s not a process that applies to everyone the same way, or in the same order. There are stages of grief, but they aren’t really defined, or steps, and they can, and often do, blur together. But remember, it’s okay to feel sad, anger, and pain over this. It’s okay to cry. You’re not alone. Clearly there were, and are, many people expressing their grief in ways that may not be healthy. Some are suppressing these emotions, and bottling them up. All of this is completely natural, however.

It’s okay to experience the grief that comes from the loss of characters that we love.

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