Submitted by Bad Billy Pratt
The best films defy the label of genre and provide a more ambitious and nuanced starting point- “Ghostbusters” (1984) is such a film. With the makings of what could have been a forgettable, early decade slapstick comedy culled from Saturday Night Live talent, the film-making team used this foundation to build something greater. Is it a comedy with sci-fi elements or a hilarious, sci-fi movie? How about a declaration of man’s triumph over God?
Understanding this is the true key to answering the Rey Question (RQ) or, better phrased, why men in the Star Wars universe must be humiliated and destroyed.
Science Fiction was always an atheistic genre- deliberately so. Although there is cross-pollination between the two, Science Fiction was born out of defiance to fantasy. No more would we need mystical gods- nineteenth century man stood on the verge of conquering the world, gaining incredible control over travel and medicine- he was beginning to know what it “feels like to be God,” in the words of Victor Frankenstein. In fiction, we no longer needed the god-like to venerate- we became our own gods.
The Ghostbusters were schlubby losers who started an extermination business and fell into saving the world from Satan by blowing it up with laser beams. They did not need superheroic powers or an ounce of traditional masculinity- all they needed was to fucking love science. Something anyone could do with enough grit and moxie- proven by Winston, hired off the street.
Science Fiction was always meant to be progressive, because man is driven to progressively conquer the world… until those with power replaced the urge for domination and redefined progress as striving for equality. Progress became a social goal. Since God was castrated by man, next was for man to castrate himself.
The strongest men exist as gods on Earth, so through fiction it became fashionable to tarnish this perception- as Jonathan Swift did with women in his poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room” (1732), where he reminds his audience not to get caught up putting the most beautiful women on goddess-like pedestals- after all, they shit as much as anyone else. Similarly, strong men have weak moments- only modern fiction has taken to dwelling on these moments while redefining strength as a willingness to show such weakness.
“The Mandalorian” will conclude with the bounty hunter defying the remnants of the empire and raising baby Yoda as his own. This was telegraphed at the end of the series pilot, as to not scare away a fragile, modern audience – the modern media consumer must know, up-front, exactly what they’re getting in a media product lest they become frightened and lose interest. Everything between now and the finale is histrionics on the way to the destination.
Which isn’t all bad, if you forget that what you’re seeing is ultimately being written as to neuter Star Wars’ last masculine character archetype while teaching you a lesson on leftist politics. This is an evolution within Disney. After the disastrous “Last Jedi” and the forgettable “Solo,” Disney Star Wars must take the long way around in accomplishing these goals. For us, this means that the bounty hunter gets to kick a little ass on the road to humiliation.
In both of this weeks episodes, there are subtle reminders that our hero is not a god amongst men but, rather, another inept man in-wait for a #badass women to show him the way. We haven’t yet met the Mandalorian’s Mary-Sue, but I’ll be shocked if the series is lacking one. The wise lady blacksmith who advises the bounty hunter has come close, but hasn’t quite tipped the scale into obnoxious Rey territory.
The second episode of the series has the bounty hunter robbed by Jawas (the little creatures from “A New Hope” who sell uncle Ben the droids). When he tries using the direct approach to reclaim his gear, he’s soundly defeated by rock throwing (similar to Ewoks beating up Storm Troopers in “Jedi”). The bounty hunter is then advised by the wise elder, male (!!) role model from the pilot episode to negotiate with the Jawas, learning the direct approach isn’t always best.
Taken for face value, this is a fine episode, and a perfectly acceptable lesson for any hero- there will be times when brute force isn’t the optimal strategy. The irony in “what may be perceived as harmless could be deceptive and deadly” would fit comfortably in Tolkien’s world. However, we are wise to Disney Star Wars’ game and we’re sensitive to the omnipotent woman/flawed man dichotomy. This juxtaposition will come to a Disney conclusion with Rey and Kylo Ren in the finale to Disney’s disastrous initial trilogy. I don’t hate the hero learning new methods of success, but it’s hard not to roll eyes at a bounty hunter getting shut down by Jawas after having seen Luke milk a tit.
As the Rey trilogy comes to a close, and we’ve witnessed our beloved Luke neutered while “General Organa” is ever so #badass, all we want is for a strong man to shoot first and kick Star Wars ass- “The Mandalorian” gets us half-way there, but begs the question, is half-way enough?