WARNING: This piece contains spoilers for The Last Jedi.
Image nabbed from YouTube
Bishop Robert Barron is a theological expert, intellectual giant, and heir apparent to the Catholic media crown of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He is not someone I care to disagree with, certainly not publicly. That being said, I have to sort of, kind of take issue with his review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. His article is well worth reading in its entirety, but his general conclusion can be summed up in this excerpt...
"The mythic and archetypal dimensions are all but overwhelmed by an aggressively feminist ideology. The overriding preoccupation of the makers of the most recent Star Wars seems to be, not the hero’s spiritual journey, but the elevation of the all-conquering female. Every male character in The Last Jedi is either bumbling, incompetent, arrogant, or morally compromised; and every female character is wise, good, prudent, and courageous."
Yeah, let's talk about that. To begin with, I'm not going to contest the existence in Hollywood of a mindset that would like nothing more than to do away with any portrayal of what it sees as "toxic masculinity." My own parish priest once told me over dinner that he believes it started with Alan Alda's character in M.A.S.H. and he would brook no argument otherwise :) Whether or not that's actually when it began, it's a fact that such an anti-male movement is at work in some corners of Tinseltown. Not every corner, but some.
I'm also not going to argue that Bishop Barron shouldn't have interpreted the movie in the way he did. A film is a collaborative work of art, and each person viewing it may construe what they saw differently. That's how art works. So, if it's His Excellency's takeaway that The Last Jedi was a feminist screed, so be it. What I am going to do, though, is give a couple of reasons why I disagree with such an interpretation.
Reason one is that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not a stand-alone film. If it existed in a vacuum, I might be more sympathetic to the Bishop's read. However, Star Wars has been around for forty years, and during that time I've seen plenty of guys save the universe. In fact, if you take all of the characters into account, the franchise has been something of a sausage party. Luke, Han, Chewbacca, Lando, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Mace, Yoda; they've all had their time in the spotlight. So the ladies get to shine in a couple of films while the guys play second banana. Big deal. Nothing Rey does takes away from what all the men did before her. And it won't take away from all the men who come later. Star Wars is going to be around for awhile, probably longer than I will. I'm sure another man or two will get to be the main hero at some point.
Speaking of Rey, that brings us to my other reason. While many who watched The Force Awakens pegged her as something of an insufferable Mary Sue, The Last Jedi actually explains Rey's seeming invincibility. Hint, it's not because she's a girl. Perhaps this is the part where the good Bishop fell asleep, as he admits to doing, but at one point Snoke reveals that as Kylo Ren grew to power in the Dark Side, the Force itself chose someone to bring to prominence in the Light. Why exactly it chose Rey isn't given, but absolutely nowhere is it hinted it's because she is female. By all appearances, she's simply the right person in the right place that the Force can use to accomplish what needs to be done, as long as she's open to it.
As a Christian, I kind of like that. It's actually nice that Rey is a nobody, as the movie goes to great pains to point out again and again. She's just a girl from humble origins whom the guiding force in the Star Wars universe has chosen to bestow its graces. There are plenty of times in the past two films in which Rey is about to have her butt handed to her, but then she surrenders to the Force in a kind of "let it be done unto me" sort of way, and the Force sees her through. It's nothing inherent in her gender that makes Rey so powerful, it's the Force working through her. There's a good Christian lesson in there for both women and men alike if they want to think about it.
I could go on, but I've blathered on enough to make my point. While I can understand Bishop Barron's take on The Last Jedi, I just can't agree with it. But that's always been part of the fun of being into movies. You watch'em, you argue about'em, then you start over again with the next one. And considering how much money The Last Jedi is raking in, there will definitely be a next one. And a next one after that. Happy arguing, everyone!