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Luke Skywalker: Identifying With Your Childhood Heroes As An Adult

*The Last Jedi spoiler alert*

Star Wars movies aren’t infallible. You can point out flaws in even the best ones like The Empire Strikes Back (Leia kissing her brother yet somehow “I always knew”, various characters pronouncing Han’s name in different ways). And there was some stuff in The Last Jedi that didn’t quite land for me (SuperLeia). However, there was one criticism that kept popping up in conversations that I just couldn’t wrap my head around. That complaint being, “Luke Skywalker wouldn’t act like that”. “Luke Skywalker wouldn’t abandon his friends,” “Luke Skywalker wouldn’t give up,” “Luke Skywalker wouldn’t try to murder his nephew,” “Luke Skywalker was acting more like Mark Hamill than Luke Skywalker”. It’s fine if you feel any of these feelings about Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi; I can’t make you like a movie. What I can do, and I hope that you’ll understand, is present my case for why everything about Luke Skywalker’s character in The Last Jedi worked for me.

Luke Skywalker is a hero, no doubt about it.But where I had previously thought of Luke as this undeniable badass, to almost myth like proportions, I now think of Luke as human.
About 2 years ago, I wrote a blog for this site called, “Of Course Luke Skywalker Is A Badass, You Fucking Idiots“. TL;DR: someone was questioning whether or not Luke Skywalker was a badass, and I was having none of it, as you can tell by the title of that blog and the fact that I took the time to write a fucking blog about a Star Wars character. I explained all of the shit Luke did during the original trilogy to explain why he was a badass. I’m bringing this up because the first iteration of this blog was going to be a small update to that blog to contain Luke’s actions during The Last Jedi and what we know he did after Return of the Jedi and before The Force Awakens. However, the more I thought about what The Last Jedi told us about Luke, the more I kept thinking that I couldn’t just pin his TLJ stuff at the end of that post. I had to recontextualize everything I knew about Luke from the beginning. Luke Skywalker is a hero, no doubt about it. But where I had previously thought of Luke as this undeniable badass, to almost myth like proportions, I now think of Luke as human. Yes, he’s really strong with The Force, and his actions have saved the galaxy multiple times, but at the end of the day, he’s still just a human being like you and me. He makes mistakes. He regrets. He feels depression. And events and people can alter his worldview.

So, let’s recap Luke’s journey throughout these movies. He grows up as a nobody farm boy on Tatooine, his kooky old dude friend turns out to be a Jedi Master, Luke begins his own journey to becoming a Jedi, and Luke ends up joining the Rebel Alliance against the Empire. Soon after that, Luke finds out that the guy who has been murdering all of the Jedi and tormenting his friends is his fucking dad. Luke takes some time off to train some more, saves his friends from Jabba the Hutt, sees that there is still good left in his father, dances all the way to the edge of the Dark Side only to realize what he was doing, and throws his lightsaber down. Luke has convinced Darth Vader that there is still some Anakin Skywalker left in him, and his father helps him defeat Emperor Palpatine. Luke is a fucking hero throughout all of the galaxy. He’s the posterboy for tearing down the Empire.

Also the universe’s “Got Milk?” poster boy.

Now here is where we get into what The Last Jedi tells us about what happened after that. Luke, riding high on his confidence as a Jedi Master and legend, starts to train a new generation of Jedi. Keep in mind, Luke is the only Jedi left, and he doesn’t have Yoda or Obi-Wan’s ghosts available for advice all of the time. One of his students happens to be his own nephew, Ben Solo, son of Han and Leia. The Force is strong with Ben and Leia wants Luke to train him before any of the Dark Side gets to him. Still, having grown up with parents who weren’t there for them as much as they could have been, Ben has conflicting thoughts in his mind. He’s a moody teenager who also happens to be unusually strong with The Force. A Dark Side user named Snoke senses Ben’s potential and his conflict and begins reaching out to him without Luke’s knowledge. Luke had sensed the Dark Side in Ben here and there, but one night, he felt the need to confront him about it. When Luke got to Ben’s hut, he saw the future (“the future, always in motion it is”). He saw everyone he loved and cared about getting destroyed by Ben Solo. For a slight whisper of a moment, Luke ignites his lightsaber thinking he could end it before it happens. That thought quickly exited his mind, though Ben awoke to find Luke standing above him with his lightsaber ignited. Fearing for his life, Ben grabs his own lightsaber and uses the Force to crush the hut on Luke. This is where some people had problems with Luke. “Luke wouldn’t try to murder his nephew!” That is true, and he didn’t try. He caught himself in the moment and stopped himself. Luke isn’t perfect. He still has impulses. However, this impulse cost him greatly.

Luke bought into his own myth thinking that he could save the galaxy again by training a new generation of Jedi. He failed. Luke realized that he wasn’t the myth that the galaxy was propping him up to be. Luke sank into a state of depression. And just like what any person with deep depression, he thinks everyone would be better off without him. He goes away somewhere where he can just be alone. Luke cuts himself off from The Force as to not cause any further damage, and goes to live out the remainder of his life in solitude. His family and friends still love him and need him, but his clouded mind doesn’t see it that way. If he came back, he would just fuck things up more. He thinks that the Jedi Order should die with him. It has only ever brought peril upon the galaxy.

Luke isn’t perfect. He still has impulses. However, this impulse cost him greatly.
This is where Rey finds him at the beginning of The Last Jedi. Luke explains everything to Rey, but she’s unconvinced. She still thinks Luke Skywalker can help. However, on the side, she has been having talks with Ben through the use of a sort of Force Facetime. Rey briefly sees Ben’s future, and it is positive (again, “always in motion, the future is”). Rey believes that if Luke won’t help, then Ben will and impulsively leaves the island despite Luke’s warnings that it’s not going to go the way she thinks it will. Luke then threatens to burn down the tree that holds the last of the Jedi texts only for Yoda to intervene and do it for him. Yoda arrives to tell Luke about the important of learning from failures. You don’t just pass on teachings of your successes in life but your failures as well. Just because Luke failed Ben doesn’t mean he still can’t make a difference and inspire others. And Yoda tells him this while wacking him on the forehead with his cane (this part isn’t necessary to my point, I just liked it because it was funny).

So what does Luke Skywalker do? He does the most motherfucking Luke Skywalker thing ever. Without a ship, he can’t fly over to Crait to help out the last of the Rebels. What he does though is use The Force to project an image of himself over there to help. He gives every last ounce of energy and power he has to help the Rebels get out of there so they can recover. He confronts Ben Solo, admits his failures and also informs him that he’s not even going to try to change his mind. Ben lashes out in anger, but Luke doesn’t even attempt to strike Ben. He dodges him and trolls him, stalling the First Order long enough for the Rebels to find a way out. Doing this with all his power, we see the real Luke back on the island, recovering from his actions. He is exhausted but for the first time in the film, he looks relieved, and he feels peace with himself. Luke dies the same way he started out on his journey, staring at two beautiful setting suns.

Luke Skywalker bought into his own hype and fucked off when he failed. He wallowed in his depression for years. When he learns that he can still be a positive force (no pun intended), he gives everything he has to help those who are important to him. Speaking as someone who has suffered from depression for over half my life, this speaks volumes to me, and I appreciate Rian Johnson for taking the character there, and I have to give credit to Mark Hamill for giving his best performance in a movie to date. To bring it back around from my first Luke Skywalker post on Mouthy Broadcast, Luke Skywalker is a badass but in a different way now. When I was a kid, Luke Skywalker was my hero because he was a badass Jedi who saved the galaxy. At 37, Luke Skywalker is my hero because he shows how one can rise above their depression to help people he loves.

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Peter Gardner
About Peter Gardner 8 Articles
Over 25 years ago, Eddie Vedder and Mike Judge secretly had an illegitimate love child together-- that child is Peter. Now he appears regularly on the podcast as an Honorary Broad. Naturally, we make him tuck his junk while recording.
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