Star Wars

My Take on the Politics of 'The Last Jedi'

"The Last Jedi" focuses on the value of institutions, not just individual heroes. But it's still hard to tell what the rebels are fighting for.

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Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in

The Learn Liberty website has just posted my new article on the politics of The Last Jedi. Here is an excerpt:

The Last Jedi — the latest installment in the Star Wars series — premiered to mixed reactions from critics and fans last weekend. The film has many impressive scenes and action sequences. But critics argue that the plot is flawed in various ways.

The movie's treatment of political themes deserves similar mixed reviews. Unlike most previous Star Wars movies, this one at least implies that institutions matter, not just individual heroics. But it also perpetuates Star Wars' longstanding confusion about what exactly the "good guys" are fighting for. The series may belatedly value institutions, but it still gives no indication what institutions are valuable….

One Resistance fighter says that the movement will win "not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love." But what do they love, other than perhaps their friends and fellow fighters? Two lengthy movies into this new Star Wars trilogy, we still don't know.

Is it the restoration of the feckless New Republic — the same one that failed so dismally? Is it some new type of political system? We do not know. Perhaps the Resistance members do not even know themselves….

The Resistance's — and the filmmakers — neglect of such questions is paralleled by all too many real-world rebels, who sought to overthrow oppressive regimes without giving sufficient thought to what might come after — or to the possibility that it could be even worse than the current tyrants. Even in established liberal democracies, voters too often react to a flawed status quo by embracing "change" candidates without sufficiently considering whether their proposed changes are actually likely to improve the situation, rather than make it worse.

Last year, I wrote a Learn Liberty essay on the politics of Rogue One, the most recent Star Wars movie before The Last Jedi. I also previously analyzed political themes in Star Wars here and here.