Sketches: Star Wars

Chewie & Han

Gentle Reader,

My mom has chronic intractable migraines. Fancy doctor-speak for severe headaches that last for days and don’t respond to treatment. She once had one that lasted nearly a month. I’m amazed that she continues to be able to handle life.

Every so often, I get a little taste of her experience. Yes, I get headaches on the regular, and have had more in the last couple of years than I ever did before, but for 8 days now I’ve been sliding along a pain spectrum from “wow, this really hurts” to “please, just let me die.” Yesterday, it settled behind my right eye. Hasn’t left yet. I don’t really want to do anything, and stayed in bed as long as I could today, but there comes a point when the misery makes me restless.

So I pruned my roses, pulled some weeds, dusted the house and painted my toenails.

Now, let’s talk: Star Wars. (Prompt submitted by my husband, Chris, via our many and varied conversations about these movies).

Aged Roughly 10

It was a muggy, overcast summer evening. We’d gone to the library as a family that day. Either it was a weekend or my dad took some vacation time, because he was with us. He’d spotted a VHS copy of a movie that he’d loved as a young adult and brought it home. He was still sporting the fantastic mustache that he brutally shaved off a decade ago, the mustache that my brother, my husband, various friends of mine and I have been trying to convince him to grow back ever since. (He has resisted our pleadings. I believe this is out of a desire to simply be contrary).

That movie? The Empire Strikes Back.

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” flashed across the screen. The first chord of John William’s epic theme played. I sat there on the green-and-white checked couch, wearing a big t-shirt that served as a nightgown, the humidity causing little hairs to curl across my forehead and the back of my neck. Pretty sure the big, orange Tupperware bowl was full of hot, buttered popcorn, because Dad always made popcorn when we watched movies. (I have that bowl today). Always in an air-popper, never on the stove (as it should be).

I was immediately hooked. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen A New Hope. I got it: Darth Vader was bad, Luke Skywalker was good, Princess Leia and Han Solo were meant to be together, Chewbacca and Yoda were cool. Lando Calrissian, how could he betray the good guys? He’d better get it in the end! How could they put Han in carbonite? He’s going to die! Would Luke really become a Jedi?

Still my favorite movie in the entire franchise.

Aged 17

A bunch of my friends made a Star Wars fan movie for a drama class project. They spent hours on that thing, crafting a story, figuring out how to do make-up so that a few could be aliens, rotoscoping all of the lightsaber scenes. A real labor of love. I wasn’t in the movie (I don’t remember why), though I heard about every detail, every bickering match, every moment of fun and wonder.

Candidly, I got annoyed with the whole thing. The boy I was dating at the time was involved and every spare moment was given to finishing the project. I don’t consider myself clingy, now or then, but what teenage girl is going to be happy when her boyfriend spends no time with her, particularly at the end of Senior year? Of course, now I know that those boys did a great job (and that the one boy was nowhere near worth the stress and pain).

I wonder who has a copy of that movie now? It’s been years since I’ve seen it.

Aged 21

Chris and I, dating for six months at this point, stood out in the rain, in line for the midnight premiere showing of Revenge of the Sith. I have never gone to another midnight showing and I probably never will, not only because I turn into a pumpkin after 8:00 p.m. but really because that night was special. It can never be duplicated or equaled. Everyone was happy and excited. Complete strangers were delighted to share their theories about the movie with each other. There were a few super-fans dressed in costume. It was all very fun.

At last we settled into our seats in the theater, eager for the show to begin. The “please, silence your cell phones” screen stretched out before us for what seemed like hours. Finally, nothing but blackness before our eyes. Yes! We were ready! Then…nothing. For a long time.

A guy in the back of the theater shouted, “Bring back the cell phone screen!” To this day, Chris and I quote that to each other when we go to the movies.

The movie did eventually play – technical difficulties and all that – and we loved it. By far the best of the prequel movies.

Aged Almost 34

I don’t know why anyone is complaining about the Solo movie. We saw it a week ago and have no complaints. It was a light, entertaining few hours. I felt the same way about The Last Jedi, a hugely divisive movie within the fandom. But here’s the thing: Any time I watch a Star Wars film, I am, for a moment, transported back to that summer night, eating popcorn, my dog Petey stretched out on his side, panting in the heat. It’s good guys and bad guys and feeling tense but knowing that the good guys will surely win in the end. It’s fun. That’s all it has to be.

I mean, really: Star Wars is a space opera. Nobody needs to be looking for deep messages. Just enjoy.

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Heroic

Battle

Gentle Reader,

Oh, the things one sees on the internet.

A few weeks ago, I saw Star Wars: the Last Jedi. At first, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the movie. It is so different from anything else in the franchise. There’s a weird alien milking scene. I couldn’t bring myself to care about two of the secondary characters. Space penguins and space horses roll across the screen. I came away with the sense that this story is all over the place.

Time passed, as it does, and I began to realize just how much I enjoyed The Last Jedi. It is all over the place. Some of the characters needed to be cut. But the basic story – as saga of good vs. evil, mistakes, regrets, temptations, failure – is very good. The interplay between the three people the viewer is meant to be most invested in is fascinating. While there is substance to the argument that one of the heroes, Rey, is a “Mary Sue” (an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character), her scenes with the villain, Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, crackle with life and energy.

I’m looking forward to 2019 and Episode IX.

Of course, not everyone feels the same. The Last Jedi is a terribly polarizing movie. I won’t get into all of that here, save to highlight these tweets:

Capture

Capture 1

What?

As I said, viewers are split on this movie. Those who hate it, really hate it. They have their reasons, some more valid that others. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what Denny Burk, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, is talking about here. The movie I watched highlighted the strengths and weakness of all the characters, male and female. Since his complaint is focused on the women, however, let’s look at them (spoiler alert for those who have yet to see the movie): Rey failed in her mission to rescue Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. General Organa and Admiral Holdo made mistakes in their battle against the First Order. Rose didn’t achieve what she set out to achieve. The Resistance would have been completely wiped out had Luke Skywalker not strolled in to save the day.

The women in The Last Jedi aren’t perfect. (Again, Rey may be an exception, but that is a hotly debated topic).

Burk reaches to make his argument and it shows. Christian men and women – complementarian and egalitarian – took him to task over his statements. None of them labeled him a heretic (as far as I know) and I’m not doing so, either. I simply have a really hard time understanding how a few female heroes peppered across a landscape dominated by men is a sign of anything other than recognizing that women have always been heroes, just as men always have.

Consider Abigail. Her husband, Nabal, isn’t the brightest crayon in the box. David, still on the run from King Saul, is tired and hungry. So, too, his men. David sends some of them up to Nabal’s house to ask for some food. Nabal is like, “Yeah, no.” David goes, “Okay, so I’m gonna kill all you dudes.” Abigail hears about this and:

Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five sheep already dressed, five seahs of roasted grain,one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and loaded them on donkeys. And she said to her servants, “Go on before me; see, I am coming after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.

So it was, as she rode on the donkey, that she went down under cover of the hill; and there were David and his men, coming down toward her, and she met them. Now David had said, “Surely in vain I have protected all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belongs to him. And he has repaid me evil for good. May God do so, and more also, to the enemies of David, if I leave one male of all who belong to him by morning light.”

Now when Abigail saw David, she dismounted quickly from the donkey, fell on her face before David, and bowed down to the ground. So she fell at his feet and said: “On me, my lord, on me let this iniquity be! And please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant. Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent. Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal. And now this present which your maidservant has brought to my lord, let it be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your maidservant. For the Lord will certainly make for my lord an enduring house, because my lord fights the battles of the Lord, and evil is not found in you throughout your days. Yet a man has risen to pursue you and seek your life, but the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living with the Lord your God; and the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling. And it shall come to pass, when the Lord has done for my lord according to all the good that He has spoken concerning you, and has appointed you ruler over Israel, that this will be no grief to you, nor offense of heart to my lord, either that you have shed blood without cause, or that my lord has avenged himself. But when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.”

– 1 Samuel 25:18-31 (NKJV)

Her actions are heroic. She took her life in her hands. David could have slaughtered her on the spot. She had no idea if he would listen to her reasoning. Her quick thinking and bravery saved her husband and all the other males around, as well as preventing David and his men from falling into the sin of murder. (I don’t know everything there is to know about ancient hospitality customs, but I’m fairly certain that one was not supposed to kill anyone who refused to share bread).

This ongoing battle over “authentic femininity” and “real masculinity” is a waste of time. Jesus, the true hero of Scripture, labels believers “the Bride.” No one who submits to God can escape this fact. Jesus’ eschatological discourses in the Gospels and the book of Revelation are rife with wedding imagery. We who call ourselves Christians don’t get to choose our role. We are the Bride, waiting for her Groom.

In a passage many of us know well, we, the Bride, in our waiting, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are commanded to:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…

– Ephesians 6:10-18 (NKJV)

Man, woman, child. Doesn’t matter. Put your battle gear on and do the thing. Sweat flying, blood dripping, muscles aching, voices hoarse. Fight.

We must not indulge in delicate sensibilities and fragile egos. The war is here, now, and souls hang in the balance. I want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers and sisters. I want to function in the gifts and calling God has given me and I want to do whatever I can to support others as they do the same, for time is short. Not one of us is guaranteed the next breath.

Let’s cease fretting over who can be hero and instead look to the Hero, who empowers and enables us to do heroic things.

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