I was totally fucking blown apart by what they did with Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi. Just totally blown away. I’ve seen a lot of arguing over whether or not the direction they took old Luke in was right for the character, but I loved it so much I thought my heart would burst. I had a really intense personal reaction to Luke Skywalker, Depressed Asshole, and thought I should explain it.
I can’t believe they did this. Here’s what happens to Luke Skywalker, Mr. Hero’s Journey, the self-insert for every spoiled child of the late 70s and 80s: it turns out he was traumatized by what happened in the original trilogy, which everyone should just nod along with because of course he was. He finds out Space Hitler is his dad, then fights him to the death minutes before their personal reckoning changes political history for the entire galaxy. Everyone’s convinced he’s the real thing, Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, but he’s damaged goods. All that emotional violence ripped his brain apart. Can’t say shit about it though – people are counting on him.
So he fails. His anxiety explodes, dragging him into the pit. What’s worse, his anxiety drags someone else in, someone who relied on him. The failure crushes what’s left of him and then Luke Skywalker surrenders to depression and fucks off forever, just like you or I would.
Just like you or I might have, after an enormous personal failure.
It isn’t just garden variety depression, either – Luke is giving in to pure narcissistic self-hatred, isolating himself under the belief that “everyone’s better off without me”. I’ve failed, they should hate me, if they don’t hate me they’re fooling themselves. I didn’t become the person I was supposed to be – I wasn’t the person they thought I was, I let them all down. I should just disappear. It’s me, the last fucking jedi, thank God.
It is a catastrophically anxious reaction. I feel like this is a very familiar scenario to the anxious and depressed: internally your expectations for yourself are already skewed by anxiety and trauma. This is where many of your deepest insecurities lie, in the expectations you set for yourself. Any external expectations – fairly or unfairly - are heightened by that anxiety and quickly internalized. The anxious meltdown when failure inevitably comes is unbearable.
You’ve really let everyone down this time. Really.
For the anxious and depressed, this can open the gates for real, sincere self-loathing to begin. This is when you swim inside the bottle, this is when you just start eating, this is when your relationships crumble and you endanger your career. The suffocating, anxious dark.
Luke fucking Skywalker, in the drive thru at 3am getting two double decker taco supremes, a bean and cheese burrito and a large Diet Mountain Dew. He’ll finish Super Mario Odyssey at 5:30 in the morning and wait to tweet about it until after he wakes up at 6pm so people don’t notice he was up all night again. They wouldn’t really notice, but he thinks they would.
Luke fails again and again in this movie. I think they deserve credit for how much they commit to it, he’s actually depressed. Deep down in there, they aren’t fucking around, to the point where his friends show up and beg him for help but he’s submerged in thick, rich self-hatred and doesn’t help them. Rey leaves alone, convinced she’s wasted her time with this sad fucking nerd.
He’s inside the black mass.
Most of us can’t really pull out of the darkest, stickiest depressive shit like this thanks to a magical puppet intervention, but Yoda’s scene (the best scene in a movie that has like 10 best scenes) helps illustrate one of the ways out.
Yoda shows up and smacks him in the face with his little puppet stick and tells him to pull his head out of his ass.
Get the fuck over yourself, Luke.
You’ve chained yourself to the monument you’ve built to your failure. The monument must be burned. You’ve built a new self-image, one that reflects only your anxiety and depression, and it has to be ripped apart. Self-hatred has taken you and it’s preventing you from doing the only thing you’re actually supposed to do – the only thing that matters, helping the people you love and fighting for the things you believe in.
Melodramatically kicking yourself in the ass forever is a selfish waste of time, Luke. You failed, your anxiety made it feel like the end of the world, and you ran from it. Now you have to rip down this thing you built.
So he does. Luke gets the fuck over himself at a cosmic level, takes responsibility for his failure and goes out like a pacifist badass, giving every last piece of himself – everything he’s ever done with his stupid life – and gives all of it, selflessly, to the people he loves, the things he believes in. So much so that there’s nothing left at the end – he fades out.
It was the most heroic thing I think I’ve ever seen in a movie, especially a space wizard movie. To let go of your self-hatred and give yourself so completely to the people you love that you fade away in peace. It is a beautiful fantasy and, I thought, a particularly resonant message for the anxious and depressed about what you can be capable of, the kind of peace you may be able to find if you dig down deep enough and push yourself emotionally.
I may not be able to literally will myself into a life-saving solution for my loved ones, but I can try my hardest to get the fuck over myself long enough to truly dedicate myself to them and the things I really believe in. As a metaphor, it’s something to aspire to. I never thought I’d find myself saying “I want to be like Luke Skywalker when I grow up” in my 30s, but they somehow made a Star Wars movie that pulled those feelings out of me again.