Spoiler Warning for The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and Star Wars in general.
I’m discussing Star Wars with the exclusion of Episode 1 to 3 here since I don’t consider them part of my personal Star Wars experience. You might disagree but that’s how I’ll do it.
I’ve enjoyed the Star Wars movies ever since I was a kid. I watched the original trilogy countless times, I really don’t know how often. Until about a year ago, my favorite of them was, as it is for many others, The Empire Strikes Back. Even after becoming aware of its many problems, it still remains an excellent piece of film making and I can watch it and the other two films over and over again. But although I really enjoy them I never really understood how much Star Wars meant to many people. So many fans seemed to have a deep emotional connection to these movies and I always wondered why and couldn’t quite understand it. Sure, I liked the movies, very much even. But they didn’t mean that much to me.
And then I saw The Last Jedi.
I had very much enjoyed its predecessor, The Force Awakens. It was a great movie, brought some much needed diversity and change to Star Wars and wasn’t afraid to cut old ties. Remember how upset people were at Han Solo’s death? Yes, things like that. I really like that this new trilogy is taking big steps away from the old one. The originals three will always be there to get back to. The Force Awakens took off in a very good direction but it felt pretty similar to how the old movies had felt: exciting, fun, adventurous and the good kind of silly.
The Last Jedi felt very different. It had something all the other movies did not: Someone to identify with. That someone was Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo. This was the first time I had seen a Star Wars movie and really felt connected to one of the characters. I begun to understand why some people felt so intensity about Star Wars and about individual characters in it. When I first saw A New Hope as a kid I had already begun to realize that I wasn’t a boy. Luke Skywalker and Han Solo weren’t people I could see myself as. But I also was far away from accepting myself as a girl so identifying with Leia also didn’t work for me at the time, as least not in a way that I would acknowledge to myself or anyone else. I watched these movies without having a character in them that I could see myself in and it lessened my experience of them.
Later, after accepting myself as a woman, the only female character (Leia) was just too young for me to identify with. In episodes 4 to 6 she’s in her early twenties, a time that I had long left behind at that seemed distant and foreign by then. Even her older depiction in The Force Awakens didn’t change that. Leia was burned into my head as the young woman I had seen so many times. It just didn’t work for me. In other movies, I often find myself drawn to identify with women who are at least around my age or older. I find it very hard to see myself in those who are significantly younger. Maybe that’s because I spent my twenties in this state where I hadn’t yet accepted myself.
When I was in the theater watching The Last Jedi and Amilyn Holdo was on screen for the first time I finally got it. I had found someone in Star Wars that I could imagine myself as, to look up to, to identify with. Suddenly I could put myself into that story and I felt so much closer to it.
Since then I’ve seen The Last Jedi many times and I still cry every time she turns that ship around and pushes that lever and every time she says goodbye to Leia. Every piece of dialog with her makes me smile and her speech still gives me goose bumps. She’s my hero in Star Wars, she has made it more than it was for me and I will always keep her in my heart.
Thank you Amilyn.