How 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' Delivered a Rare Moment of Unity

There are few issues in 2017 that don’t inspire intense, nasty acrimony, whether it’s the upheaval of national politics and world affairs, the treatment (and abuse) of women in journalism and entertainment, protests of racial inequality taking place before NFL games and so on. Those issues and many more deserve the time and energy we spend in discussing and debating them. However, especially this year, it’s nice to take a break for a minute or two, to allow ourselves a bit of fun. Lo and behold, we have the new trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Star Wars, ironically considering its very dark storylines involving galactic upheaval, fascism and revolution, is one of the few pop-culture topics that is still capable of bringing the majority, if not the entirety, of social-media users together. Before the final Last Jedi trailer dropped during the halftime of last night’s Monday Night Football, the debate had already kicked up: Should people even watch the trailer? The film’s writer and director, Rian Johnson, had suggested that a person could choose to avoid it for fear of spoilers, which spun out into articles that made it seem like he was all but ordering people not to watch. That, in turn, spun into people arguing over the right way to experience The Last Jedi, or any big blockbuster. This was, undoubtedly, a frivolous discussion, but a weirdly welcome one in the midst of upheaval even in the world of entertainment, what with the recent and expanding allegations of sexual abuse against Harvey Weinstein.

Then, on Monday night, Twitter seemed to come together — to decry the slowness of the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears. The Last Jedi trailer wouldn’t drop until at least 9:30 pm ET, once the second quarter was over. So many Star Wars fans got exceedingly impatient as the quarter drew to a close slowly, with timeout after timeout called in a game whose score of 3-2 looked like the box score of a baseball playoff game. Finally, we got to see the last Last Jedi trailer, which has since (predictably) become the source of countless memes involving the cuddly new creatures called Porgs, as well as the more detailed appearance of Luke Skywalker, Porgs, a lightsaber fight between John Boyega’s Finn and Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma, and also Porgs. (People really like Porgs. I don’t blame them.)

When the first trailer for The Last Jedi unspooled at the Star Wars Celebration event this past spring, there was a similar, brief unity among most members of social media. On one hand, it’s admittedly very silly to expend this much mental effort on the trailer for a film that we’re all already going to see, a film we may well have purchased tickets to see. Debating whether any of us should even watch the trailer ignores the fact that everyone having this debate (or just about everyone) is already planning to find out the identity of The Last Jedi. (Although you can just go to Johnson’s Twitter to find out that it’s Luke.) Star Wars and its fandom have so permeated modern society in the last 40 years, and especially in the last five years, that people are worked up about toy stores opening early months in advance of a new film, just so they can get their hands on the latest merchandise.

There are easy downsides to this, yes. However, in a time when it remains immensely difficult to get people to come together on any number of serious topics, it’s oddly comforting to let down your guard and get excited for something like this, and to know that just about everyone else in your social circle is equally excited. The Last Jedi, still two months from release, might be a letdown from The Force Awakens. It might be better than the 2015 film, or somewhere in the same qualitative space. Right now, it’s a series of exceedingly well-executed trailers that do what trailers are supposed to do best: build a fever-pitch level of anticipation among general audiences.

Though Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens nationwide (and in many places around the world) on Dec. 15, we’re not all going to see the movie at the exact same time, nor are we all going to be able to immediately leap onto Twitter or Facebook to share our insta-reactions. Most trailers don’t allow that immediacy, either, but then, most trailers aren’t for a new Star Wars movie. We don’t yet know what The Last Jedi will portend come mid-December, nor what serious, real-world issues we’ll be debating at that time. But for a few brief moments on Monday, social media allowed itself a mental break from the ills of the world to talk about Carrie Fisher and Porgs and wolves that look like they’re made of ice. For how rare and fleeting such moments are, it was kind of wonderful. 

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