Spoiler alert – I’ve tried hard to avoid spoilers, but fans may prefer to see the film first before reading on..
We socialists are a rum lot. Being an activist necessarily means being different to most people - we attend a lot more meetings for a start. That leaves less time for other things, like engaging with popular culture. I have an idea that we then feel a need to justify not watching Strictly or listening to Radio 1 say rather than simply admitting we’re just too busy.
“Didn’t that bloke off Holby (or is it Casualty) win Strictly? That black girl, can’t remember her name, should have won – racists”, said hundreds of well-meaning left wingers who hadn’t watched it. I mean, why would you? For the record, his name was Joe and I’d have voted for him.
I found myself arguing with party colleagues earlier this year who denounced Dunkirk because none of the characters were played by black actors. No matter that black people were marginalised in the actual events portrayed or that one scene addressed that very issue, albeit tangentially. By refusing to see the film these people were sadly denying themselves an opportunity of discussing war, class, race and nationalism with friends who don’t go to meetings but might turn up to the cinema to see an anti-war film.
Which brings me to Episode VIII of Star Wars, the most commercially successful film franchise in history, now owned by the Disney corporation. Star Wars is, of course, a child-oriented adventure yarn. As such it has goodies and baddies, monsters and magic and lots of fighting. It is, in short, tosh.
But, episode VIII is significantly different to anything that has gone before, and socialists should see it. The central character is a young woman and yes, in keeping with the zeitgeist of our time, she is skinny and pretty. Her love interest however is so unimportant that the entire 2 hours 45 minutes passes without a single flirtatious glance, let alone a kiss. Several of the other central characters are women, older women, young women, women with different ethnicities, disabled women, poor women. None of these characters are part of the story because of who their boyfriend, husband or father is.
Then there is The Force. Earlier episodes have suggested that The Force is a special power only afforded to the chosen few and, much like hereditary titles, passed on from father to son. Episode VIII changes all that, The Force is now available to everyone - absolute nobodies can have the same powers as a Jedi master. The film’s title isn’t a sign that The Force is dead, rather that it has been democratised.
Even left wing films tend to portray change as being brought about by heroes rather than collective action: High Noon, Lincoln and Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall and I, Daniel Blake focus on the individual against the system.
The Last Jedi, however unconsciously, has a much more insurrectionary message. Changing the world is a task that requires collective action and we can and must all be super-heroes.
Go and see it and then talk to your friends about it, you know, the ones who don’t go to those meetings.