Your dreams must die. You will have to figure out how to make it in this world on your own. No one is going to solve your problems for you. The future starts today.
If you’ve seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you know many of these statements sound familiar. (If you haven’t seen it yet, spoilers abound below. You’ve been warned.) The plot twists and turns, and major characters who seemed like they could follow a certain trajectory end up coming off the rails a bit or don’t quite live up to expectations.
It’s almost like reality caught up to the long-running series. The director is trying to prepare all of us for the inevitable. Beloved characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are going to die. New and evolving characters might actually turn to the dark side (or at least toy with the idea in a serious way). Things will not go as planned.
There’s a metaphor at play here. I’m convinced The Last Jedi was not made for people who watched the original series when it was in the theater. It was made for people who grew up playing with the toys maybe or who had to sit through the prequels. More than anything, it was made for people who have certain expectations about how a Star Warsmovie will resolve plot twists, and ultimately how life itself won’t quite turn out perfectly in the end. Part of the joy of this process is in discovering that a sudden roadblock is actually a door to something else. The end of one thing is the beginning of another.
This is not how Millennials see life. Working with them, raising them, talking to them on a daily basis means I’ve seen how they view the world (and the universe). It’s meant to meet their needs, to follow a fairly predictable path–for things to work out nicely.
One of my favorite scenes in The Last Jedi comes somewhere around the end of the second act when the characters sent to disable a tracking device aboard a First Order ship end up failing miserably. This is not the Star Wars I know and love, but I’m OK with the plot twists because they remind me of real life. I was summarily jettisoned from a corporate career once and became a writer. I felt the dull thud of a dead end and then realized that failure was actually a door to another opportunity. It turned out wonderfully.
For a Millennial, the idea is for all plans to succeed–for everyone to get a trophy just for playing the game. I’ve noticed many Millennials love The Last Jedi, but a few despise it as well. The ones who love it have maybe experienced enough failure in life already to know that Darth Vader won’t always turn back to the light in the end, that the heroes won’t always save every last ship in the squadron, that the Rebels (er, the Resistance) might end up barely making it in the end. There’s no trophy ceremony at the end of The Last Jedi like there is in Star Wars, and there’s no trophy ceremony for most of us in real life as well.
I watched the movie thinking about how even the main plot point is allegorical. It’s basically this–the good guys almost run out of gas. The bad guys are waiting to destroy them. It’s so mundane, so non-farcical. It’s like the plot of my actual day. If I don’t get the spreadsheet done on time my boss is going to chew me out. That’s the real Millennial nightmare. Not saving the entire galaxy, not destroying a weapon the size of a moon. If you compare any previous Star Wars movie to The Last Jedi, you will discover that previous movies were all about wish fulfillment and achieving everything you ever hoped to achieve, but the entire point of the new movie is that dreams must die. They will die. You should expect them to.
Luke Skywalker dies at the end of the movie! That’s not supposed to happen. In his own words, that’s not possible! Yet, it teaches us a lot about what to expect in real life. You will have to figure things out. Entitlement won’t save you. Nothing will. Only you.