This Halloween, I trotted out my old Anakin Skywalker costume. I’ve had it literally for 17 years, and worn it on more than one occasion. If you’re wondering, it’s the iteration of Anakin from the movies. I also have an Anakin costume from how he looked in the early years of The Clone Wars, but I’ve had it for less time.
So I dressed as Anakin and walked the neighborhood with my charges. I got the occasional “Obi-Wan!” from people and quickly corrected them. (I’m more than a little certain it would delight one of my friends to know that Obi-Wan “Not as Perfect as People Think He Is” Kenobi came to mind first for some.)
After all, Anakin is the character to whom I relate most. Take that for what you will.
Later in the evening, as I am handing out candy, a girl dressed as Rey sees me and recognizes me as wearing Anakin’s garb. She commented, “Jedi scum.” That was disorienting.
I responded, “You want to be a Jedi. Why would you say ‘Jedi scum’?”
And she said, “That’s just the way it is.”
I responded, “You stole my lightsaber.”
She responded, “We don’t talk about that.”
We don’t talk about that
My reaction, which I kept locked within so as not to frighten the child, was the reaction to every way that JJ Abrams (and Rian Johnson) screwed up Disney®©™’s Lucasfilm©™®’s handling of a complex and nuanced mythos. This young girl, shaped by the Sequel Trilogy, was given no innate respect or understanding for Anakin’s complicated journey. It was dismissive of the Jedi who, though terribly flawed and ripe for a fall when the Revenge of the Sith rolled around, still believe they’re striving to be a better way for that galaxy far, far away.
The sequel trilogy, as I’ve said before, acts as a sequel to The Empire Strikes Back thematically, and so Anakin’s journey is blunted when an audience approaches it from that vector. It’s not fair for the kids who are entering the story at that point in time. They are missing out on something very key.
She had no sense of respect for Anakin’s journey and no appreciation for the lessons Lucas was teaching with regard to redemption and love. She only understood things from the perspective of Franchise, Inc., and its very Marvel™®© way of treating complex issues.
If that’s the case, then what hope do we have for the continuation of that moral teaching tradition?
There is a hope, though. A light that shows the way, which we can hope is the one which is embraced moving forward. It’s not about dollars and cents and the easiest way to success.
It’s about the lessons we can teach and the heroes we can cherish. It’s about understanding why tradition and meaning matter. It’s about the hope for the future being love and perseverance, not simple platitudes and recriminations from atop soapbox channels.
Some might say I took an off-hand comment too far in my internal reaction. But I can promise you, as I‘ve been a student of Star Wars my entire life, that the idea of a Jedi aspirant calling another Jedi “scum” is something that never would have occurred to me no matter the age.
I blame Disney®©™. They approached Star Wars as just another property to exploit, like the relatively-vapid Marvel™®© franchise. As a result, kids aren’t being shown the proper way to enjoy the entirety of the symbolism. It’s just content to consume.
Am I actually “angry” as some might read into this? Not at all. This all was kind of inevitable once the House of Mouse acquired another intellectual property to exploit like some virtual strip-mine, and I’m grateful for all the people who are delivering beautiful additions to the mythos like The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch.
I’m just annoyed that it’s so easy for them to produce works that don’t remind kids of the beautiful complexity and core mission of Star Wars as originally envisioned. As I have grown, so has Star Wars, and it’s continued to ask important questions along the way. Heck, Star Wars: Rebels and The Clone Wars have challenged me as an adult in ways I didn’t expect.
It’s a true modern fairy tale, let’s start treating it like the precious rarity that is. Get your stuff together, Disney®©™, and let’s start giving these kids something they can think about instead of just reacting to it.
All that, from a simple Halloween encounter. She got an extra piece or two of candy, and a simple hope that something happens to restore the grand tradition of the best space fantasy ever told.