Warning may contain spoilers, to which I say, “Get Thee to the Theatre!”
The other day I saw this meme, and it got me thinking…
First, let me start with my problems with it. Male fragility is real, but so is toxic masculinity. Wrestling with the “dark side” and the “light side” of life does not make you weak. Period.
This is the oldest struggle of all time. The struggle of existence, the struggle of life, of good and evil. People who struggle with “sin” and “virtue” doesn’t make you feeble, it makes you human.
Second, I will say that the Star Wars franchise has largely dealt with the story of two Skywalker men, Anakin and Luke, and we do not have a franchise about Leia. All of this is to say, how do we know she has never been tempted to go to the dark side, “not even once”? I think it is a disservice to her charicter to say she has never been tempted. I also think it is a disservice that we may never see it.
But here’s what this meme did make me think about that I think is really important. Like, really, really important.
The force, the light, the virtuous, choosing the good and being confident in those decisions: requires community.
Leia is a strong woman, no doubt about it. She was raised in resilience having lost her mother (who she remembers in Return of the Jedi as being beautiful but sad) and being adopted by the Senator and raised on Alderaan she is raised by her family and her community to resist the Dark Side.
She knew it could be done, she had confidence in that because from a young child she was taught that hope existed and was the one thing no one, not even the Empire, could ever take away.
Her family, at least we know her father, was very active in the Rebellion against the Empire and she was a trusted member from a very young age.
One of the only things I don’t like about The Last Jedi is that I have talked about moments in the storyline of the prequels, which I still refuse to acknowledge exist. I’m not engaging in their content, but their story.
It has been joked that fanbros don’t like the Last Jedi because of male fragility and I tend to agree. Luke isn’t the hero they wanted. I say, too damn bad. He was the hero we deserve, and was consistent with his charicter. Luke is shown as still wrestling with demons, wrestling with the idea that he doesn’t know everything there is to know and Yoda only confirms that.
In the prequils (grrrr) Anakin is around 8 years old when the Jedi Counsel says he is “too old to be trained”. Luke is about 18 years old when Yoda tells Obi Wan’s ghost that he is too old to be trained.
Luke only shows that the training of the Jedi that takes a lifetime to accomplish cannot be complete in a few weeks or months. Luke was never fully trained. He may have become a master, but he was never fully trained. That lack of “full” training is what created Kylo Ren. And what was the largest demon he carries from his lack of training? Fear.
He fears that dark side in a way Leia doesn’t. Luke fears it may overcome him, a fear Leia knows she can resist, because she has her entire life. She was trained to, she was given the confidence to, because she never, not once, had to resist it alone.
The training to be fully in the light, fully in the force, without wavier, without temptation of the dark side needs to happen from birth and with a team of people around you. The community is everything.
This was the legacy of the Jedi order that Leia, of all the Skywalkers, is the only one to receive. It is not that Leia has never been tempted but that she doesn’t fear it overcoming her.
When Rey finds the dark in her meditation she goes to it, not “in fear of it” but because “it’s trying to tell her something”. Luke is the one afraid.
In all the moments we meet Leia on screen she doesn’t have time to grieve (see, Star Wars really DOES belong in the Disney Dynasty!) but the strength of her community gets her through. There is work to be done.
The meme is correct, she has watched her home planet destroyed, and personally felt the disturbance of the force as “millions of voices cry out”, she learned her biological father was a mass murderer and dictator. She has “lost” (either through death or abandonment) all the other men in her life she cared about.
In The Last Jedi one of the most beautiful lines happens when Leia says to Vice Admiral Holdo, “So much loss, I can’t take any more.” Holdo, “Sure you can,” she says. “You taught me how.”
And how did she model that strength? Leia is a charicter of grace and virtue because she has the power of community and hope that only comes knowing that people are on your side.
So if that’s the lesson that Skywalker men need to learn? Then I’m all for it.
Leia doesn’t push her grief aside nor do I believe she has “never been tempted by the dark side” she simply has the power of a hopeful community around her, which, by the way, is exactly what Luke teaches Rey the Force is all about.
And Leia is the master teaching that lesson to her students. Not just the people of the Rebellion/Resistance she commands, but a new generation of Jedi.
Her last scene says it all.
“How do we build a rebellion from this?” Rey asks.
“We have everything we need.” Leia says with grace and truth, hope still in her soul. A knowing that only comes through the time and experience of being held with other amazing people time and time again.
May the Force be with you.