The redemptive power of Leia’s love for Luke [#TheLastJedi SPOILERS]

YourMyOnlyHopeThis post contains spoilers for The Last Jedi, starting right in the first sentence below the fold. You’ve been warned.

One thing I haven’t seen talked enough about is the redemptive power of Leia’s love for Luke.

Of course none of us missed that it was R2D2 playing Leia’s old cinnamon-bun call to Obi-Wan that drew Luke back to the cause. For those of us still mourning Carrie Fisher, it was a grab-the-hankie moment (one of a few in The Last Jedi).

But it’s easy for us as fans to be caught up in our own feelings in that scene–both nostalgia for the film A New Hope and grief at the actress Fisher’s passing–and miss the real storytelling meaning of that moment for Luke’s character arc.

LukeGreenSaber-MOROTJ

It wasn’t simply nostalgia for the old days that resurrected the Jedi in Luke. What had been holding him back was an intense self-loathing and inability to accept and value himself as a flawed person. Luke’s lifelong traits of starry-eyed idealism and passion can have a black-and-white flavor to them, and although he has shown himself to be forgiving with others (Vader), black-and-white thinkers are often most unable to forgive themselves.

shawscene

This rigidity proved to be a kind of brittleness, so we end up with the bitter hermit. Luke, alone on an island, unable to show his face and afraid to let anyone close enough to really see him, consumed with shame over his failure to be the ideal hero.

luke

So what does it take to break that log jam? Of all the people in the universe, Leia is the one most familiar with Luke’s highs and lows, virtues and vices. As the mother of Kylo Ren, but also as his sister (and who has a more earth-bound view of a guy than his sister, right?), she is someone whose love was never conditioned on the perfect hero image that we understand he enjoyed with the public following Return of the Jedi. Her love is resilient to Luke’s ups and downs before and after that.

lukeleia

Portrait by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair

In Annie Leibovitz’s gorgeous portrait of the pair (above), it is Luke who evokes the image of Christ’s sheltering and healing embrace of unconditional love, for a Carrie Fisher we know had a sometimes prodigal child kind of life with achingly deep lows.  But in The Last Jedi, it is Leia who provides Luke with a gift of unconditional love that evokes our Christian understanding of God’s love. That we needn’t (and can’t) hide any of our sins from God, but are loved in spite of all the faults revealed by that piercing omniscient gaze. Sometimes it is the only thing that can give us the strength to pick up and continue the fight.

Comments

  1. Aussie Mormon says:

    Leia appeared to Luke as a hologram (via R2D2).
    Luke visited Leia+Co as a force-hologram (via the force).
    Each saved the other without being there in person, providing comfort via ghostly messengers.

    Of course Luke really became one with the force afterwards and I presume we’ll see him as a force ghost in Ep9, to provide spiritual assistance to Rey like Obiwan did for him in Ep4-6.

  2. Yes, Aussie.

  3. Hope Wiltfong says:

    Love your thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.

  4. This is all kinds of awesome (or I’m just too much of a Star Wars Geek. Definitely one or the other).

  5. This is wonderful, Cynthia.

  6. ❤️

  7. Michael Craddock says:

    The Last Jedi is a horrible continuation of Lucas” legacy.

  8. Michael Craddock, watch the Star Wars holiday special that Lucas directed and *then* we can’t talk horrible continuations.

    Cynthia, I love this.

  9. Not a Cougar says:

    ReTx, to quote a League of Their Own, “Can’t we do both?”

  10. Thank you, Cynthia!

  11. This makes me so happy.