HOW MUCH I HATED "THE LAST JEDI"

Hollywood wants women to explode! An article that never previously appeared on VICE.

  
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Multiplex movie theaters should be a designated dumping ground for all animal waste. This would be a somewhat redundant form of vandalism, since most movies are already shit, but I believe that contaminating movie chains in this way would be a powerful means of protesting the fact that blockbusters aren’t just bad art anymore—they have become toxic, filthy, and dangerous to public health. In particular, 2017 and 2018 hailed a new form of “Girl Power” through the fantasy universe: new heroines that encourage young women to join the military and blow themselves up in martyr-style suicide missions. 

It isn’t even paranoid to say that Hollywood has always been the propaganda arm of government. Movies, at this point—particularly any large budget “blockbusters”—must be viewed with great suspicion. A thoroughly jaundiced eye should be donned like a pair of internal 3-D glasses to safeguard against the inevitable subliminal messages and insidious brainwashing these mainstream entertainment vehicles inevitably Trojan horse into our psyches. 

Entertainment is a primary agent of social engineering. It is one of the most effective ways the power elite sculpt our minds and indoctrinate us into a passive acceptance of our socio-political-economic landscape, as our former democracies devolve into kleptocratic surveillance police-states and/or military dictatorships, and our freedoms, privacy, civil liberties and lifestyles steadily erode. Big franchise blockbusters are a particularly interesting way to read the tea-leaves and divine what upcoming atrocities the executive powers-that-be will require our society to regard as the new normal. They prepare the pubic psyche for bold new abuses already in development. 

Television, of late, has been explicit in this respect. Charlie Brooker’s ingenious Black Mirror isn’t so much a new Twilight Zone exploring the inexplicable and uncanny as it is a terrifying glimpse at what the current combination of technology and unchecked state authoritarianism is already careening toward. After the victory of A Handmaid’s Tale at the Golden Globes, the stars and creators expressed surprise: while shooting the dystopian drama, they had no idea it would be so relevant. While the sexual apartheid and total control of women’s reproduction would have looked like a bleak fiction during the Obama administration, one year into the Trump presidency it looked like a fairly accurate representation of the kind of porn Mike Pence is probably into. (Now, of course, we recognize Gilead as Texas.) 

Over the holidays a few years ago my old friend Dr. Redacto was in town. He tricked me into seeing The Last Jedi, the latest Star Wars installment, by implying that we were going to a late-night showing of the original Star Wars.

Right from the previews:  a barrage of bowel-shuddering kettle-drums underscoring flashes of mayhem and ultra-violence from the Marvel universe; gangs of growling, latex-muscled superheroes with high-voltage fists and no distinguishable human personalities assaulted entirely similar gangs of equally monotonous superheroes as buildings shattered sideways, Gotham-esque sidewalks upchucked into fiery blasts of gravel, tossing civilians to their deaths like croutons. 

I leaned over and whispered to Redacto: “Movies are officially dead now, right?” 

“Yup,” said Dr. Redacto. 

Obviously, nobody was expecting The Last Jedi to be a work of great dramatic intensity or deep human catharsis. While being deeply dispiriting,it isn’t a completely horrible movie. It was educational, if for all the wrong reasons. 

The only thing about the convoluted narrative that really made sense was its potential to make a lot of money disappointing audiences in Germany, Japan, China, Pakistan, the US, and anywhere else there is an audience who will compulsively watch anything the Star Wars franchise dredges out. 

Most Star Wars scripts are essentially vehicles for selling action figures, much in the same way that escargot are merely a strange protein that makes garlic butter chewable.

So perhaps unsurprisingly, the plot is essentially the same hoary Good Vs. Evil chestnut the rest of the prequels are. The enemies of the universe—the Dark Side elite, as it were—are morality-bereft, plutocratic arms dealers now (not unlike our United States). These war profiteers congregate to schmooze and rub bejeweled flippers in a Monaco-style casino/resort-town. The good guys, as usual, are the Rebels (a metaphor for our plucky, losing, economic 99%).

The Force is strong in the ideology of the rebels, but they are bereft of their greatest leaders (i.e. Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi—their Dalai Lamas, essentially). They’re losing hope, due to their incapacity to compete with the wealth of the Dark Side—on the ropes, on the verge of total universal defeat and annihilation. Their victories, though rare, are surgically intelligent and perilously heroic: in the first eight minutes, a female rebel soldier whose fighter-plane has crashed in enemy territory detonates her payload into one of the Dark Side’s bases at the expense of her own life.

It’s asymmetric warfare, only strangely enough, the Rebels seem more similar to radical Islamists than they do to us, blowing strategic chunks out of the {American} Evil Empire with the outmoded, out-teched, obsolete R2D2-equivalent of IED’s.

The artists and engineers over at Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch produced at least one remarkably lovely group of CGI creatures. The evil intergalactic Monaco has a racetrack; the competing animals are gorgeously muscled, fluid and graceful beings, resembling a hybrid of hyenas, horses and the blue hippies from Avatar, with the moist, frightened Bambi eyes of cartoon ingénues. But other creatures look like they were phoned in by the drunk, underpaid puppeteers of the Lucas Industrial Complex. A poorly anticipated race of deeply annoying puffin-creatures look like someone spray mounted feathers onto leftover extras from an expired option for Gremlins 4.

For decades, it has been clear that George Lucas has been George Lucas for far too long: he was bafflingly unaware of how racist the doglike, space-Jamaican Jar-Jar Binks was. This time, Lucas’ blind spot has its way with women, and peasants.

On one of the friendlier planets, there are innocent serf-like creatures in burlap tunics who look like catfish bred with the baby from Eraserhead. They are the black-toothed and idiotic equivalent of the serfs in Monty Python’s Holy Grail—sub-human but sentient, homely slave-frogs too dumb to do anything but manual labor. Noble servants from an inferior gene pool that work happily and willingly.

Women who aren’t soldiers/suicide bombers for The Resistance are best represented in George Lucas’s world by another new animal: a multi-teated creature that looks like an elephant seal mated with a Louise Bourgeois bronze, and which lactates on command.

What was most disturbing for me was that The Last Jedi communicates the same message that lay at the heart of the recent Wonder Woman. Women are as likely to be drafted as men in any upcoming global conflict, and I felt the underlying directive was clear: Ladies, you have no value as creators and protectors of life, unless you’re handy with enough megatonnage to out-fight men.  

The Last Jedi took this disturbing suggestion a step even further: the only real redemption possible for women is to become not just soldiers, but kamikazes. Not just fighters, but the actual equivalent of holy martyrs.  

The rebel victories are entirely the result of women enacting total self-sacrifice. (It happens in the very beginning, as I mentioned, and again at then end, when a lavender Marcel-Waved Laura Dern takes over a command position from the late, great Carrie Fisher.) 

This made all kinds of sense at a time when were in the midst of an ongoing, perpetual war with Eurasia, at once close to home and far away; regardless of Biden’s recent pullout in Afghanistan, we still have an absolutely committed enemy in ISIS that is intent on restoring the Islamist Caliphate, and we probably haven’t danced with them for the last time.

(As we learned in Vietnam: nothing fights like a zealot! The message here is: Young women of America! We’ll make sure your latex superhero Wonderbra is wired to the nips with Semtex, so you can righteously hurl your hot young tits against the Enemy’s mosques, wait, I mean Death Stars. In this way, you will have transcended your gender handicap, and become truly useful.)

It is terrible to lament these issues and point to causes of social and cultural distress without providing solutions, so in the interest of greater mental health I provide a solution: Always carry a plastic bag so you can clean up after your dog. 

Once you have patiently collected a sizable payload, heroically deposit it in strategic locations at your local multiplex. Even if only fifty of us did this in every city in America, we could create change.