Star Wars-ing: A Look at Luke’s Faith

A lot of people, after watching the Last Jedi, remarked: “that was not their Luke Skywalker.” It made wonder, who exactly do they think Luke is?

A lot of people, a majority of which is smarter than me, see Luke’s journey as a hero’s journey. I don’t. He is a hero; this is true. However, I’ve viewed his mission as more of a spiritual one. It’s his relationship with the force that helps define Luke, not being a Jedi. This is why I feel Luke is one of the most significant characters in film history. And that’s an essential point for this essay. It’s based on the films only.

Let’s start at the beginning. He is a farm boy with dreams of getting far away from home. He doesn’t care where; he wants to go. In fact, he is talking about going to the academy which is an Imperial academy. If believing in the Force is a religious/spiritual activity, Luke has been raised atheist. We can’t blame his aunt and uncle. They are doing the best they can. It’s not till he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi that he learns about the force. Of course, this makes Luke the most identifiable character in the story, because we learn about everything as he does. Through the rest of A New Hope, Kenobi serves as spiritual sponsor. Sure he teaches him a few things about being a warrior, but most of their time together is spent discussing the force. Having not believed in anything his whole life to this point, he now has something to believe.

Moreover, his belief is rewarded. He has to destroy the Death Star, and everyone aboard or everyone and everything on Yavin IV will be killed. But he does it by believing in the force. He even has a guardian angel in Kenobi in this scene.

In Empire, things change for Luke. It doesn’t come easy for him. Dagobah is his forty days and nights in the desert. Except, Luke is not Christlike. He doesn’t succeed in the way Jesus does. He doubts everything. He can’t accept that Yoda is who he is there to see (granted he crash lands on a planet and this is the first sentient being he runs into). He fails test after test. He fails because he does not believe.

Luke: I don’t, I don’t believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.

Before he leaves for Bespin, he is told by Yoda what will happen if he leaves, and he goes anyway. He has not put his trust in the Force, and he and his friends suffer for it. Granted, his friends would have suffered regardless.

When we see Luke in Return, he has transformed himself into a Jedi. This change has always troubled me a little bit. When did this happen? Who makes that decision? We assume it was Yoda, but there is no evidence that his return to Dagobah is not the first time he has been there since the events of Empire.

Nevertheless, he does seem to be at ease, the kind of ease one gets when they believe in something (or nothing as with most true atheists). He is confident throughout the movie, even to the point that he nearly fails. Also when he knows the Vader senses him, he says it as a true believer in the force would say it. Now, a lot of people say that Luke would never think about murdering Kylo Ren because he believes all people can be redeemed as he redeemed Vader. I don’t understand this. He tries to turn Vader back to the light because he senses the light in Vader. I don’t honestly think he would try if there were nothing but darkness there. And that’s what he detects in Kylo, darkness.

When is with Emperor in the throne room on Death Star II, Luke’s faith is put to the ultimate test. He has two people that are his superiors in their use and understanding of the force even if they represent the dark side. There is one Force. And he fails again. However, he quickly realizes his mistake. He suddenly remembers that he senses the good in his father. He chooses to believe. It is the only weapon that can destroy the emperor. He believes not only in the Force but in the goodness of the light side of the force. He is willing to martyr himself for this. He has surrendered entirely to it. It’s this act that saves and redeems his father. It is this act that destroys the emperor. Fight Vader was not the brave act; it was the refusal to fight him.

Now, this is not an original thought of mine. Also, I know a counterargument is the “science” of the force explanation in the prequels. I’m not rejecting that. Science is just another way of discovering how the universe works which is also the purpose of religion. They do not need to be at odds with each other in fiction or real life. It is there plain as day, and many people have written about it. This makes the backlash against his character in The Last Jedi so weird.

Now, before I dive in further, I am only lukewarm to the film. I have some issues with the plot, but none with Luke’s story.

Yes, Luke was a hero at the end of Return. But if these characters have life, then life has to happen to them. The idea that he rode off into the sunset and alls well that ends well is childish. Characters will have things happen to them, and not all of them will be good. Again, it comes all down to faith. Sensing the lack of good in Kylo, Luke has an extreme crisis of faith. He, in fact, has the “if you had the chance to kill Hitler” moment. He has to make an impossible choice. He chooses not to kill him, but that choice bears a toll on him. The crisis stays. This makes sense. No one knows what Kylo is capable of more than Luke. Luke has to carry the guilt of every evil action that Kylo takes. The choice still haunts him. Some people say a hero finds the next quest. Luke never finished this one. He doesn’t know what to believe. This makes Luke such a human figure. He is not some space wizard; he is a man with an impossible choice ahead of him. Not every trope has the hero go on the journey. Some have surrogates. In John Boorman’s Excalibur, it is Perceval who finds the holy grail. In Lord of the Rings, Sam carries Frodo. In The Last Jedi, Rey’s task is to remind Luke to believe in the Force. She comes close, but it is Yoda, his old master, that reminds him of his faith, and that faith doesn’t mean you have to be perfect.

Yoda: Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.

 

Luke now faces his destiny. He again shows his faith in the force. He has made up his mind about Kylo and Kylo is not Vader. The good is gone. Lost he is. Yet, again Luke does something he does in return. He is willing to be a martyr for the cause. He has found his faith, and this is what makes him a hero again. He literally gives himself over to the Force.

DoctorWho-ing: Getting Excited for the 13th Doctor

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We came to Doctor Who really late. We started watching the Doctor toward the end of Matt Smith’s run but before Peter Capaldi was announced. We were in grad school, so we had little time to dedicate ourselves to watching something new, so we were very selective.

In fact, we probably started watching because a lot of kids that have similar tastes to ours in school began to have Doctor Who school bags and lunch kits and telling us we should watch.

We almost quit in the first season on the episode with the farting aliens.  If you are new to the Whoverse or haven’t watched yet keep watching.  It will pay off.  In fact, it was just a few episodes that this show did something to me that Star Trek or any other tv sci-fi show has ever done – it made me cry.  The Doctor Dances does it to me every single time.  That’s when we knew were hooked.

Then, David Tennant made us cry a lot. Matt Smith, who is the only con guest we didn’t enjoy meeting (more on that later), got us all in our feelings.  Those years made us love the show even more. We love Peter Capaldi, but we didn’t find his arcs didn’t have the same emotional attachment until the very end (also more on that later).

We can’t wait for the 13th Doctor.  This is a show that has over 50 years of stories and having Jodie Whittaker at the helm frees up the writers to take the Doctor places, he she has never been before.

So watch this space for more Doctor Who blogs, think pieces, convention experiences, and hot takes!

ComicCon-ing: A Look at Cons From Around the Country

Potterverse: This con focuses on the world of Harry Potter. This con takes place in Rockville Maryland. Guest include: Dan Folger, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Fisher-Becker, Jon Campling, Tolga Safer, and Trevor Butterfield

The Official Outlander Convention: This con focuses on the TV show Outlander and takes place in Secaucus, New Jersey.  Guests include Caitriona Balfe, Graham McTavish, Stephen Walters, David Berry, Cesar Domboy, Gary Lewis, Lotte Verbeek, Lauren Lyle, Andrew Gower, Richard Rankin, Scott Kyle, and Gillebride MacMillan.

Michigan Comic-Con: Detriot will be hosting the Michigan Comic-Con. Guests include John Rhys-Davies, Cary Elwes, Nichelle Nicholls, Ray Park, Jewel Staite, Lea Thompson, Michael Biehn, Renee O’Connor, Kevin Conroy, and Billy West.

 

ComicCon-ing: Upcoming Local Con Updates

Teaching: How Buffy Made Me a Better Teacher

We are taking the week to prepare for the start of the school year (Thursday!), so we are reposting some of our older blogs.  

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With the announcement that Sarah Michelle Gellar will be attending Star Wars Celebration, I’ve been thinking more about the show lately.  It also helps that it’s been in entertainment news lately because it has reached its 20th anniversary.

When I first watched the show, during the original run, I just watched it for the drama and humor.  Both were top notch, even if the special effects sometimes were not up to their level.  It wasn’t until the second time I watched it, that I realized the brilliance of Joss Whedon.  It amazes me that he wasn’t a high school teacher  (his mother was, though).  He captures high school perfectly.

By this, I mean he captures all the horrors of high school.  “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” showcased a girl (Clea DuVall) that just wasn’t noticed in high school.  When I watched around 2010 it reminded me of what that feeling felt like.  It reminded me that I need to reach every student, not just the attentive and the troublemakers. “I, Robot…You, Jane” was well ahead of its time with it’s stories of making friends on the Internet. At the time of the writing, only real nerds did this kind of stuff, but it still resonates today. “The Pack” might be a little too on the nose with it’s group bullying storyline.  I mean that as a compliment. “Earshot” looks at a student who reaches the point where he wants to commit suicide.

The brilliance of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that you can watch it from both sides.  When you are younger, you see it through the eyes of the Scooby Gang.  When you are older, Giles, Joyce, and Angel are you window into this world.  When we met Anthony Head, I thanked him for making me a better teacher.  The show not only gives you a viewpoint to the life of teenagers, but it is written in a way that builds empathy for them.  This is the mistake most shows about that age group make…they divide us from the people.  Most teenage shows have the older people be obstacles or people that don’t have a clue.  Not here.  Giles and Joyce are responsible adults who truly care about those in their charge.  They don’t always understand everything, but they always try. Through them, we become protective of the Scooby Gang.  Because of them, I have become more empathetic to my students’ issues.

Angel even furthers this.  He is perpetually young, but he is the oldest soul on the show.  And because he has a soul, he sees the tragedy in almost every situation mainly because he has seen every situation many times. As a teacher, you often just repeat years.  The students change, but the problems don’t.  Too often, you see students make mistakes before they make them.  This can be as simple as putting off homework or as complicated as choosing the right college/vocation.  We treat high school students as kids because they are, but at the same time, we ask them to decide their future.  The future is always the biggest and baddest big bad.

I know I won’t have time to tell Ms. Gellar all of this.  I am fully expecting to be so star struck that I’ll be surprised if I can utter actual words.  But I had to thank her, and the cast, and Mr. Whedon in some form.  So I choose this one.

 

ComicCon-ing: Why We Go to Conventions

This is a reposting of an earlier blog. 

Doing all my post-Star Wars Celebration write-ups and the podcast, I took the time to think about why do we go to cons.  They can be expensive, frustrating, and exhausting experiences.  Yet, we keep going and going.

Yet, we keep going and going.

Yes, we are collectors.  We love collecting autographs.  I know collecting signatures doesn’t make sense to some people, but I usually counter that argument by asking the person what they collect and point out why THAT is absurd.  (When you really think about it, collecting is an absurd practice). We love meeting the celebrities and crew members of films.  We want to show our appreciation for them. Both of our collections are extensive.  But this isn’t the reason why we go to cons.

Yes, we like to fill our house with geek art and objects. I love our Batman in New Orleans prints.  I love all the Zelda pieces my wife buys because she loves them. Our goal is to make one of our rooms, the Nola Nerd Couple Lounge. But this isn’t the reason why we go to cons.

We love collecting comic books.  We collect all Star Wars comics.  We love going to panels at cons where comic book creators are speaking and then searching out their books for them to sign.  One of my most prized pieces is the issue of Iron Fist that marks the first appearance of Misty Knight.  Misty’s creator, Tony Isabella, signed our copy.  It is framed and hanging in our Nola Nerd Couple Lounge right next to our Stan Lee signed comic.  But this isn’t the reason why we go to cons.

When we drove back from the con we, along with Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple’s sister, debriefed each other on our day.  The part where we got the most excited was when we were talking about talking with people in lines.

The real reason we go to cons is that we love being around individuals who love the same things as us.  It’s the fandoms that make cons enjoyable.

I waited for two and half hours for Hayden Christensen. While meeting him was fantastic, it also was a blur.  However, the guy from the UK in front of me had, not surprisingly, the same interests as me.  We talked about cons.  We spoke about music. I didn’t feel like I waited for two hours. Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple had the same stories about people she met in line. She told me more about the guy she was in line with for Tiya Sircar, then she did about Mr. Sircar. Waiting for Phil Noto, the person in front of me chatted about comics books. Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple joined an online group of autograph collectors and did a meet up with them on Friday and had a great time.

If you check other write-ups and podcasts of Star Wars Celebration, you will notice that meeting other fans is the usually the number one reason why people do this.  Being with other fans is where the real lasting memories are made.

In my very first blog about a con, I entitled it Nerds of the World Unite.  I was just glib with the title. Now, I understand how correct I was in my title. We go to cons to feel united with other people like us.  We do this the same way people go to football games, political rallies, or book clubs.

We go to be with our tribe.

Listening: The Cars

This will be a semi-regular feature where I pick a band I haven’t listened to more than what has played on the radio. I was going to try to make it weekly, but I quickly realized that was too lofty of a goal since I really want to listen to the entire band’s discography.

The Cars are a great singles band.  There is no denying it.  But here is the thing, a lot of those “singles” actually aren’t.

Look at their first album. “Just What I Needed,” My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Good Times Roll” are actual singles. However, side two has three songs that have extended radio airplay.  “Moving in Stereo’ especially has a special place in most men’s brains because of a certain movie scene.

Again, that song is not a single, but it’s no longer a deep cut.  And that’s the great thing about The Cars: almost every song sounds like a single.

The Cars are a new wave band and sometimes it shows and dates their music.  Surprisingly, though, it’s mostly on the most experimental tracks. Yet, none derail any of their albums.

One of the strongest aspects of The Cars sound was that main songwriter Ric Ocasek knew when a song wasn’t right for his voice.  While he may have been able to pull off “Just What I Needed,” he knew that Benjamin Orr was the one to sing their best song, “Drive.”

I hadn’t listened to “Drive” in years.  I thought it might sound dated when I came upon it again.  God, was I wrong. It has a beautiful melody that shows a synthesizer can be an emotional instrument, but it’s Orr that’s the star on this song. He does the remarkable feat of sounding emotionally vested and, yet, somewhat detached.  His phrasing is sometimes not where you expect it causing the listener to get caught up in the drama in the song. If this was the only song The Cars ever recording, they would belong in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.

What really surprised me was how much I liked Panorama, the album with the fewest charting tracks. While it doesn’t really have any songs that stick out from the others, it is a great album through and through.  There is no filler.

Actually, The Cars whole discography is strong. For a band known for its many singles, their albums are mostly great from the first song to last.  A lot the credit needs to go to producers Roy Thomas Baker and Mutt Lange. This, in turn, led to Ric Ocasek being a great producer in his own right with credits such as Weezer’s Blue and Green albums along with Everything Will Be Alright in the End.  The Cars was a band with a gifted songwriter who knew and played to the strengths of his bandmates.

Next up: Dio