To say that nerds had problems with The Last Jedi is a vast understatement. Many lamented that the 2017 film was “inauthentic” Star Wars and, almost a year later, are still kvetching about how anything it portrayed outside the boundaries defined in the original trilogy is simply unacceptable. This is dumb for about a hundred reasons, but one of the biggest is that the original three Star Wars movies had the most epic, most awful blunder in the entire franchise: Luke and Leia kissing.
And this sums up the biggest problem with grown-up nerds.
I’m talking specifically about those fans, primarily in their thirties and forties, who feel shortchanged by the newest installments, remakes, and reboots of the franchises they grew up with. These fans argue that modern-day renditions are not wholly faithful to and are therefore worse than the originals they’re modeled on. They hold dear what they watched and read and played with in the 1970s and ’80s and almost always find major flaws with any new version.
This sums up the biggest problem with grown-up nerds.
Because Star Wars fandom is so large, this subsection of nerds is accordingly bigger and thus more prominent, which is why the declaration that The Last Jedi was somehow wrong sounded so damned loud. Fans were aghast that the movie dared expand the Force and its powers. Some were traumatized to see their childhood hero Luke Skywalker transformed into a hermit (myself included, although I liked the movie). Then there were the nitwits up in arms that women and minorities had speaking roles. Still, these fans all had two things in common: a sense of ownership over the franchise and a perception of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi as perfect, inviolate entities to which all new Star Wars movies must be compared.
In reality, the original trilogy is far from perfect. Any adult who watches the originals with fresh eyes can discern that these beloved movies have significant issues (and I bet most modern kids can, too). The dialogue frequently borders on painful, the timelines are a mess (Luke trained with Yoda for a week, tops?), and using the Death Star twice in three movies is lame as hell. When I was growing up, every Star Wars fan I knew hated the Ewoks with a passion; after the prequels and Jar Jar Binks, the warrior teddy bears have been forgiven and are as beloved as anything else from the Star Wars universe of 1977 to 1983.
The fact that the Ewoks have become retroactively great among older fans is proof enough that their complaints about the “correct” Star Wars are frivolous and futile. But there’s an even more damning example, because somehow we’ve all given a free pass to the fact that the heroic siblings Luke and Leia kissed. Twice.
I can already hear countless nerds typing furiously. And sure, I’ll grant you that Leia kissing Luke “for luck” in A New Hope before they swung through the Death Star chasm was a quick smooch, too fast to be considered romantic, so it probably shouldn’t count. And it could be argued — as people will argue after reading this — that their kiss in The Empire Strikes Back doesn’t really matter either, since Leia was only doing it because she was pissed at Han.
To hell with that. This is bananas, and it’s even more bananas that George Lucas decided to make them siblings retroactively. Early scripts of Empire not only included a second romantic kiss between the two, but also a scene where Luke discovered he had a twin sister named Nellith(!), hinting that Lucas didn’t make this bonkers retcon until Return of the Jedi was in production. So, not only was this unnecessary weirdness a problem that could have easily been avoided, but Lucas actually had to go out of his way to make it happen. This is some incredibly shoddy storytelling, to say the very least.
I can already hear countless nerds typing furiously.
But here’s the wildest part: Everybody is cool with two of the most iconic and beloved brother-sister heroes in pop culture smooching, because it happened when the people watching were simply enjoying it, not critically combing over it for anything that conflicts with their personal notion of “authentic Star Wars.”
Can you imagine how many people would lose their minds if these movies, with this revelation, had come out in the past five years? The internet would collapse under the shock, anger, and burning hot takes. Fans would be appalled and furious, and it would be a lot more justified than their niggling gripes over The Last Jedi’s minutiae.
I’m trying to think of some modern equivalent at the same level of pop culture dominance. All I can think of is if Ron and Hermione, after a half-dozen Harry Potter movies slowly positioning them as romantic partners, suddenly discovered after a couple late-night make-out sessions in the Gryffindor dorm that Mr. Weasley had cheated on Mrs. Weasley 16 years ago and that they were half-siblings. People would practically explode. Chaos would rule the land.
The forgiveness — no, the utter nonexistence — of what should truly be an uncomfortable moment for all Star Wars viewers is, to me, the perfect encapsulation of “nostalgia goggles.” The reason the adult nerds who have spent 2018 freaking out about the rules of space magic are cool with Luke and Leia’s kiss(es) is because they absorbed them as kids. One of these problems is bigger than the other, and here’s a hint: It’s not the one where Leia, daughter of and sister to two of the most powerful Jedi in the universe, has picked up a couple of Force powers over the past 30 years.
It’s very annoying that nerds are complaining merely because a new Star Wars movie is slightly different than the movies they enjoyed as a kid. But in a way, it’s also heartening to realize that the kids who are growing up with Rey and Finn and BB-8 now are simply falling in love with the movies, just as we did when we were kids. Of course, this possibly means that in 30 years, as adults, they’ll be complaining that Episode 20 is completely unfaithful to the Star Wars canon, and the cycle will continue. If you find this more depressing than uplifting, there’s some consolation: At least there won’t be any more Skywalker family make-out sessions.