How The Last Jedi made me a little less stupid

EBE2A7F2-3036-4688-874A-853C29AA7F46.jpegI got stupider in 2017. My stupidity manifests itself in different ways. Sometimes it’s difficulty in processing instructions. Sometimes it’s mangling words. Sometimes it’s this blog. (See “My Therapy Toaster,” September 21.)

For a while, I attributed my new stupidity to my cell phone, its incessant pings and distractions keeping my mind from being still long enough to think creatively or at least remember what I walked into the kitchen for.

But I’ve had a cell phone for a few years, and I never felt especially stupid before now. Oh, I’ve always been stupid but clever enough to get away with it. Now, I feel my stupidity is out there in the open. (See “Giant Louise Penny,” September 14.)

Then I went to see The Last Jedi, the latest instalment in the Star Wars franchise, and it all became clear.

Without giving away spoilers, I liked the film. It took the series in a new direction and undermined certain assumptions about the Star Wars universe. It certainly had its faults, but I was entertained and had popcorn as a meal, which is about all you can ask of an evening out. The biggest flaw I saw was my purchase of a large root beer without considering the absence of a pause button.

Having avoided all reviews and comments prior to the screening, I now took a look. The critics loved The Last Jedi. Fans, however, hated it. Not just “didn’t care for it”or “were disappointed.” HATED it! They hated the movie, hated Disney, hated its “agenda,” hated the new characters, hated what they did to the old characters, hated the director, hated the director’s mother, hated the director’s dog.

On the critics’ side, multiple think pieces defended the film, in some cases clinging to rationalization like the last life preserver on a sinking ship.

But it was the haters who intrigued me, and I found myself drawn to the battlefields of Twitter and its free-flowing rage. Overwrought these fans were. Ye-e-essss! They let the hate flow through them!

To paraphrase these tweets: “The Last Jedi has betrayed my deeply held beliefs in a fictional universe built around a 40-year-old action film!! #hatethelastjedi”

“I hated this movie so much. I hated it even more the second and third time I saw it to make sure I really hated it, which I did. I want my money back, so I can afford to see it a fourth time and hate it even more!”

“I demand that my art conform to all my preconceived notions and never, ever challenge me in any way!!! #deathtothelastjedi”

I’ve strongly disliked movies before (looking at you Forrest Gump) but I’ve never petitioned one to be entirely reshot. I was fascinated by the force (ha!) of anger about something so inconsequential. You’d think these people were Habs fans.

Then I realized that not only was I wasting time reading these angry comments but something more: I recognized that anger.

For the past year, I’ve been feverishly scrolling through my Twitter feed to discover the latest horrible, spiteful, self-serving political misdeeds in the United States, a country I don’t even live in.

I shared and posted tweets. About Alabama. Alabama! I did this because I needed to express my anger, anger that the jerks were winning. I wanted — needed! — that anger reinforced by others feeling the same way.

In other words, for the past year I’ve been like an outraged Star Wars fan, lapping up the snark and sarcasm, wallowing in all that bitterness, ineffectively directing my futile rage, angry that things weren’t going exactly the way I wanted. It wasn’t that spending too much time hating Donald Trump on Twitter was making me stupid. It was the hate itself. All that negative energy echoing back at me was replacing reason, creativity and, in some cases, basic coherence.

I’ve stayed off Twitter for nearly a week now and have limited most of my other social media. I feel smarter already, this post notwithstanding.

This is not to say that, whatever your county, you shouldn’t be paying attention or getting angry at those determined to tear us apart or satirizing them within an inch of their lives. We, after all, are the resistance. But to succeed, we need to be smarter than they are, and we stay smart through creativity and hope. Anger only leads to the dark side.

That’s something else I learned that from Star Wars.

Happy 2018, everyone. May the brain force be with us.

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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40 Responses to How The Last Jedi made me a little less stupid

  1. I’ve come to much the same conclusion – anger makes me stupid. My anger addiction was/is news site comment sections. For a while I rationalized it as strengthening my rhetorical skills, but as soon as I referred to the president as an “amoral jackwagon”, I knew that was a lie. Here’s to a kinder, more intelligent new year!

  2. Yes, people do love to get mad, to tge point where they’re just as mad as the people they’re mad at.

    Happy New Year to you Ross. I’m looking forward to Thursdays in 2018.

  3. List of X says:

    I think hate is unproductive which is why I try to avoid it. I’m more into cynicism, which is also unproductive, but more entertaining and demands a little more of intellectual effort. (This also means that stupidity can stay masked for longer). Also, cynicism doesn’t lead to the Dark Side (seriously? “The Dark Side”, is that the best the Sith Lords in your PR department came up with? Why not “The Freedom Side” or something that would encourage more people to join?)
    I haven’t seen the Last Jedi, but I thought Rogue One was the best one so far after the original trilogy, maybe even including the original trilogy which I haven’t seen until at least the 1990 or so, so I’m not as emotionally attached to it as a regular Star Wars fan. Also, possibly because my cynicism played a role there, too.

  4. walt walker says:

    I had the same realization about Twitter. I deleted my anti-trump account which I created solely to counterpunch with bile and hatred. I realized it was only making me worse and had no relation to making anything better. I’ve largely withdrawn from Twitter as a something that is pretty much pointless and more often than not brings out the worst in people.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’ve found a lot of links to good stuff on Twitter (McSweeney’s has been on fire this past year) but it’s infinite nature is a time suck, on top of all the negativity.

  5. Insight applied is a wonderful thing – love this post 🙏

  6. Bruce Anderson says:

    Good for you, Ross! I have the same feeling, and felt that the Star Wars movie I watched this afternoon with my youngest kid made a huge and currently relevant point: you don’t get to NOT feel angry and disappointed by what the universe throws your way, but you DO get to choose your actions in the face of what this aforementioned universe flings at you through the bars of its cage. And it had Yoda, fer cryin’ out loud!! With us always may the force be!

  7. Linking overblown sci-fi epics and U.S. politics seems appropriate. Present company excepted, too much political commentary is a bog of bitterness, snark, and cheap sarcasm. It’s cynicism and negativity is tiresome. “The Resistance” sometimes seems every bit as real as La Résistance, de Gaulle’s postwar myth-building — a fantasy of a united France of shopkeepers and peasants, valiantly facing down the Nazis. The old folks called it “preaching to the choir” when you only talk to those who agree with you, and denigrate those who don’t. It is not enough to be snide, you also have to have actual ideas of your own. In 2018, I’ll be interested in “show us the plan, Stan” people who want to discuss consensus-building and who don’t think electioneering is a dirty word.
    And after all that serious pontificating, I do want to say, that humor and mockery can be potent weapons, so fire at will, Ross Murray.

    • edit – should be “are tiresome” see, I’m tired and lacking in agreement.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Malcolm Gladwell (that contrarian) did an excellent podcast on, essentially, the impotence of satire. He makes good points, because he’s Malcolm frickin Gladwell. And I’ll be the first to admit that humour lets you cop out; you don’t have to commit to anything but the bit. But I’ve done it both ways. For 11 years, I wrote (mostly) serious editorials for the local paper, and now I only do this weekly column for a different paper. It may not change things, but humour has at least the advantage of skewing the perspective, looking at the world through a funhouse mirror.
      Thanks for coming along for the ride, Robert. See you in 2018.

  8. Ross, this was a very strong post. I can’t put my thumb on why, but it really struck a chord with me. Facebook recently admitted that spending too much time on social media can lead to prolonged sadness. That’s like Coke admitting it might not be in your best interest to consume their product. I’ve gotten into the habit of logging on at work and first thing, before any of my other tasks, I check El Presidente’s twitter fead. It’s just so addictively entertaining. But you’re right I should knock it off. I will. I will!

    Happy new year, brother, to you and your lovely family. Hold fast.

  9. pinklightsabre says:

    Yes, happy 2018. I avoided your post because we were planning to see it when we got back to the States. Dawn and I debriefed, both pretty disappointed with the film. Not maybe the same ilk as the Star Wars fans you describe, but more due to cliches and…well, I’m not a film critic. It’s making me sound stupid, which I don’t need much help with.

  10. Wise, you are. Strong, you will be.
    I kept an open mind and, like you, had a problem with a few things in the movie. But it sparked discussion with my kids over the following 24 hours and that tells me it was not shallow or devoid of meaning. That’s what we want from a good movie, right?
    Anyway, Star Wars fans can be a rabid bunch…your window into the world of Star Wars fans on Twitter is enlightening.

  11. Lex Leclerc says:

    “It certainly had its faults, but I was entertained and had popcorn as a meal, which is about all you can ask of an evening out.” hahaha. but point taken. anger does lead to the dark side.

  12. Trent Lewin says:

    I loved that movie, unequivocally. It was a true delight. It was essential Star Wars in a way that the last movie really wasn’t. It broke ground. It took chances. It rocked my world. I do understand the hate, but I think we should remember that the original wave of Star Wars fans is now old. They’re done with new ideas. They want their childhood back – but they’re not going to get it.

    As for Alabama and the craziness down south, it’s compulsive watching. I don’t know why I do it, but I do, and perhaps it makes me feel like somehow I really am smarter than the President of an entire country.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I’m that original wave; I just want my forties back.

      You are definitely smarter than the president, Trent. Definitely. Hey, great to hear from you. All the best in 2018!

      • Trent Lewin says:

        I’m that original wave too! But I’m okay with change and having new stories and directions in that wonderful universe George made. I never through a George would make a universe…

        All the best to you in 2018, Ross!

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