The slew of action-hero movies of the last 15 years have been fun. With the right technology, we have seen our favorite comic and sci-fi heroes materialize. But the stories have become awfully predictable, right? And when you’ve seen Spider-Man take his umpteenth pounding without any real consequence, it gets to be kind of a bore. The movies lately seem, like the characters, unable to grow and advance. But 2017 was exceptional in that we got two movies that dared to venture beyond our expectations: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Wonder Woman.
It wasn’t just powerful female leads that made the films unique, but what the lead women represented: a balance of power, restoration to wholesomeness, and evolution (new life.) The tired paternalistic power models of being first man/lone hunter/ultimate warrior/unvanquished leader are shown to be childsplay compared to the sophistication of challenges in The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman.
These films depict so beautifully that the missing element in spiritual completion is the female nurture element. It needs to be exalted as the male power element. Without both we are stuck in an endless cycle of warfare, in ourselves and with others. We live in an imbalanced world.
Although both films take place in an alternate version of our world and galaxy, they are exciting representations of the spiritual-political Earth, 2018. Star Wars, from its inception in George Lucas’s mind, is built on tenets of the hero’s journey, which is the basis of all mythology and at the origin story of every world religion. Beyond the great costumes, weapons and drama, the real magnetism of the Star Wars saga is the spiritual undercurrent infused in all our lives.
Matters concerning The Force are matters concerning Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc. and spiritual matters for people who claim to have no belief in any organized religion or a concept of God. Dialogue in The Last Jedi goes deeper into Force theology than ever before, with Luke teaching Rey that the power is available to anyone, and with Yoda, the master himself, dismissing Jedi traditions as a distraction to true learning. Referring to pupils, Yoda says, “We are what they grow beyond.”
In his Answer to Job, Carl Jung argued that the old, fearsomely paternalistic God of the Old Testament atoned for wronging man by giving us Jesus, who is a more feminized version of God (preaching care, all-inclusiveness and forgiveness) than ever before seen. But Jung also posits that Christianity will evolve further yet when it exalts the complete feminine/Mother aspect of the spirit equally with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Learning all about The Holy Trinity may be a distraction to learning more about The Holy Quaternity. He proposes Mary to be the missing link.
D.C. Comics propose Wonder Woman and Star Wars proposes Rey. Making their case, the Star Wars creators crafted The Last Jedi with several strong female leads in addition to Rey–Carrie Fischer, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran–who disrupt typical macho recklessness to show a new kind of leadership based on care and preservation rather than an attitude of “all or nothing.” Rey possesses an unflagging sense of justice, equality and benevolence. She ultimately inherits the responsibility of regenerating the practice of the Force and leading the Rebels to a new home. The spiritual journey of Star Wars is reborn in her.
Wonder Woman finds that her destiny is to save mankind from itself. As an Amazonian goddess, her mission is literally a holy one. She has to defeat the God of War, Ares, which, as true to mythology, is a symbol of man’s destructive spirit. (I am not missing the political correctness of terms, I am referring to mankind and man to primarily refer to males or male-like habits.) She learns that one hero alone cannot change the world, except by charitable leadership, modeling the way, and inspiring and caring for everyone.
She says, “I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves – something no hero will ever defeat. I’ve touched the darkness that lives in between the light. Seen the worst of this world, and the best. Seen the terrible things men do to each other in the name of hatred, and the lengths they’ll go to for love. Now I know. Only love can save this world. So I stay. I fight, and I give… for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now. Forever.”
Along with the powerful “#Me Too” movement and the takedown of men who had abused their power and influence at the expense of women’s dignity, these films represented a very strong showing for the ascendance of women and the spirit of Mary in 2017. In a year of so many huge political woes and setbacks, it was a great blessing. This is the voice of God still speaking, undaunted by entities of hate and fear.
If you ever feel overcome by the noise and nonsense of our world in turmoil, let these characters guide and inspire you. They aren’t just works of fiction – they are ideals that we are projecting for the future of our world. They reflect and resonate.
For Christians, pray to Mary, the one who endlessly brings new life and light to our world. She gave us a teacher who still challenges us to love and forgive those we would rather destroy. Mary did not abandon this teacher, her son, even after he was tried and executed for being a criminal. She never stopped believing in him. Her courage and valor were unswerving.
I found 2017 so inspiring that my hope for 2018 is that it will continue the ascendance of Mary’s spirit in our world and religion. I pray it will continue to influence the behavior of men, particularly men of power. On December 31st, 2017, I celebrated this prayer with a performance of The Canticle of Mary during the Sunday service at Greenpoint Reformed church. I hope you find it enjoyable as a meditative piece.
The Milton Street Revival Band, lead by Music Minister Jason Benjamin, performs music services at Greenpoint Reformed Church every Sunday at 11AM.