This is Day 1 of my thing where I’m going to write every day of 2018. Supposedly.
During our New Year’s Eve phone call, my dad and I were talking about The Last Jedi, and he switched gears a little to remind me that Star Trek: Discovery returns (baruch hashem) on Sunday. This has me in a slight panic. And it has me reflecting on the light and hope that my favorite pop culture heroes have sown for us in 2017 — and what new acts of resistance 2018 may hold in store for them and for us.
2017 was basically a complete loss for humanity, etc.
But for my three primary pop mythos franchise obsessions, it has been a banner year. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we had Guardians of the Galaxy (good); Thor 3 (excellent); Defenders (quite good); Runaways (good); the end of Agents of Shield season three (good); the beginning of Agents of Shield season four (phenomenal s far; and uh… well, never mind about Iron Fist (indefensible). In Star Wars, we had Rogue One (yeah, it came out in 2016, but I was still watching it in theaters in 2017 because it was excellent); The Last Jedi (best since Empire; heart reacts only plz); and season 4 of Rebels (phenomenal; everyone get on board with this show immediately); it was the best thing in Star Wars this year.
And, in Star Trek — my first fandom; my second religion — a new television series, Discovery. My father and I and countless fellow believers awaited the return of Trek to television with a messianic fervor. It is excellent. It’s been one a break for a couple months, and it is coming back on Sunday. (Did I mention it’s coming back on January 2?)
So why am I anxious? Well, for one, I suffer from chronic anxiety, so it’s sort of a given. But also: I’m still in the throes of Last Jedi obsession. I’ve only seen it three times! I’ve been watching YouTube explainer videos by the ton! I just rewatched The Force Awakens this morning! And Empire yesterday! And I’m in the middle of a total Rebels rewatch!
I can’t go on like this. I’m at fever pitch. I need at least a month of cushion on either side of a major release. We had barely a month between Thor and Last Jedi, and less than a month between Last Jedi and the second half of the first season of Discovery! Can’t CBS and Disney work something out where these franchises get spaced out evenly enough that I can take a breath between major events?
Here on Earth, in 2018, we’ve just finished a bleak, demoralizing, punishing year. And we’re staring down the barrel of one that may be just as bad, or worse.
So do all of my pop culture heroes.
This year, the kids on Hulu’s new Marvel show, Runaways, discovered that their well-to-do philanthropist parents who gave them everything and love them… are actually a secret cult that sacrifices other teenagers to keep alive some kind of supervillain. It’s not one-to-one, sure, but a lot of us learned this year a great deal about the evils that keep us comfortable.
In pop culture this year, we have seen a theme of burning down an old, corrupt order — a call we’ve heard from left and right this year. Luke tells us, “It’s time for the Jedi to end,” while his nephew screams to burn the past to the ground. Thor and friends said farewell to the old regime of Asgard, revealed in its final days to be not quite the utopia it appeared to be.
The Agents of Shield are currently trapped in a horrifying future where an alien regime uses misinformation, back-breaking wage labor and random violence to keep the surviving humans in line. Too subtle?
Even Doctor Who is in on it. In the Christmas special, two very grumpy old men clung to life well past their prime, refusing to make way for a new woman. (And, of course, there was Wonder Woman!)
On Sunday, we will see Burnham, Tilly, Stamets and the other Federation faithful on Discovery continue their fight against civilization-ending nationalists from without and jingoistic militarists from within. And do keep your eye on the Sarek-Burnham relationship; it’s shaping up to be the most subtle portrayal of colonialism and paternalism ever on television.
[This last bit, below that X line, contains some Last Jedi spoilers. But it also connects Last Jedi with Hanukkah, which is pretty cool.]
Last Jedi was written well before we knew just what 2017 had in store for us, but it works so well for this year. Both were full of devastation for the good guys.
But right at the end of 2017, there was Hanukkah. In her Hanukkah sermon, my rabbi (her thought on The Last Jedi in the tweet embedded below) noted the Talmud’s sparse explication of the holiday. In the two-line narrative, the rabbis note that the heroes “searched and found only one vessel of oil.” But that one vessel of oil was enough. In a year of darkness, Rabbi Kushner said, all we have to do is search through what we have; whatever we find, it will be enough.
I loved the new Star Wars (of course) but thought it was fascinating that all my girls wanted to know was, “What are they fighting for again?”
— noa kushner (@noakushner) December 27, 2017
A couple days later, I was surprised to hear her words come out of General Leia’s mouth. The lightsaber is broken, the Resistance is decimated, Luke is dead. Yet Leia takes a look around and says, “We have everything we need.”
May we all find that 2018 brings us everything we need to tear this shit to the ground.
May the Force be with you.