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How 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' helps explain conservatism

Juan Mahaganti
Juan Mahaganti

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Jakarta | Wed, December 27, 2017 | 02:45 pm
How 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' helps explain conservatism

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi.' (starwars.com/File)

As a kid growing up in the outer rim of the Republic (of Indonesia), I did not have the privilege to be familiar with the original Star Wars trilogy. My first experience was with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which to me was one of the greatest movies ever made. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Imagine my surprise upon discovering on the internet that my beloved movie was bashed by the so-called die-hard fanboys.

I personally see nothing wrong with that, people have their own preferences and a debate over taste is infinite due to human subjectivity. So, if people think Episode IV: A New Hope is better than Episode I, fine, and we all can get on with our lives. Let me enjoy the prequel trilogy while others enjoy the original trilogy, and may the force be with us all.

But then, the new trilogy comes along, sparking another debate among fans. If Episode VII: The Force Awakens is criticized for being too similar to A New Hope, then Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is guilty of being too different, too revolutionary. The hate for The Last Jedi has inspired many fans to create a petition asking Disney to revoke the film from Star Wars canon.

Read also: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' fever hits Jakarta

It seems there are two types of Star Wars fans. The first is the visionary, those who are not afraid of novelty, who want something new, who want to push the boundaries and who aren’t afraid of the unknown. They don’t see things dogmatically and would be willing to revisit the old, and revise it if necessary. They know that it is wrong for Han Solo to shoot first, and since technology allows is, they have no problem erasing the old and writing something new. They see Star Wars as a canvas of creativity, not an icon to be worshiped.

The other type is the zealots, the people who want only the things from the past; the illogical romantic who sees something, then by some dogmatic indoctrination or sort of spiritual experience, can consider that “thing” to be sacred and would be willing to crucify anyone who considers it otherwise.

These people want the original trilogy to be treated as a holy book that can’t be violated. Not only do they love the first trilogy so much, but they also hate people who try to instill new ideas that can compromise the originality of Star Wars.

The zealots provide us with the realization that anyone can be a conservative, not only over religion or politics, but also pop culture.

American social scientist Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind reveals five moral grounds people have, which later help their political orientation. These are harm, fairness, authority, in-group and sanctity. Sanctity is explained in the way we respect what we consider to be pure or sacred, not just in religious terms, but in every facet of our life.

Read also: Against all political and religious odds

For right-wing Americans, religion dictates the sanctity of the body, which explains pro-life, anti-drugs and anti-gay sentiments, and so on. For left-wing liberals, novel ideas of naturalism dictate the sanctity of nature, leading to the idea of organic foods and going back to nature, etc.

The Star Wars zealots respect the sanctity of the Star Wars original trilogy, which helps explain why they hate any attempt of a new trilogy, be it a prequel or a new story.

To me, Star Wars conservatives are not only driven by sanctity, but also fear. It is sad to see how fear becomes the basis of political and artistic orientation. Fear can be manifested in many different forms, from our fear of the dark, to our fear of everything alien, such as immigrants, foreign culture, other nations or anything unknown. Fear is what paves the way for dictators, from Hitler to Palpatine.

Star Wars zealots represent the way the majority behaves. If it doesn’t break, don’t fix it. We are too afraid for the new, and new is unknown and uncertain, and uncertainty is bad. We love what is old, as old is our safe place. Fear is an important emotion, it is meant to keep us safe. But too much fear is the enemy of innovation.

The zealots forget that Star Wars itself is a product of innovation. George Lucas faced much criticism, mockery and rejection when he began pitching the idea of Star Wars.

The debate over The Last Jedi reflects the urgency for a discussion among whoever claims to be a Star Wars fan, that what makes Star Wars, Star Wars is not characters like Luke or Anakin, but what it represents.

To me, Star Wars is a reminder that great things can sometimes be ridiculed before revered. Star Wars is a reminder that innovation comes from passion and believing in your vision, as George Lucas did. Star Wars is not meant to be something as sacred as a religion, but an inspiration for continual improvement.

What happens to Star Wars makes me realize one thing: If Jesus Christ returned to the worl and condemned some present-day church to be unchristian, I have no doubt people will not hesitate to crucify Him again. (dev/kes)

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Juan Mahaganti is a Manado-based training and development professional, amateur writer and movie aficionado. Find out more at facebook.com/juan.mahaganti

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