May the Fourth be with you! (That’s a little Star Wars humor for y’all.)
Today is Star Wars Day. This is the day when fans of the Star Wars franchise celebrate the grandiose space opera, the universe it inhabits, and the characters and themes that make up its story. Through its dazzling and creative special effects, and it’s story of the epic struggle between the light and dark sides of the force, Star Wars has truly become a mammoth cultural institution and captivated audiences around the world.
I, for almost as long as I can remember, have been such a captivated audience member. The original trilogy was a regular part of my childhood movie watching rotation, and I wasn’t mature enough to hate the prequel trilogy when they came out (I now, in my adulthood, correctly think the prequels are vacuous, try-too-hard disruptions to an otherwise excellent franchise). I also do sincerely love the two most recent installments to the main storyline with a particular affinity for “The Last Jedi,” the most recent installment.
As an extremely online Star Wars fan, I realize that this is a controversial take. A lot of people didn’t like “The Last Jedi” because of their fragile sensibilities and weird, lazy expectations for films. They did not like the prominent role of women characters in driving the action of a franchise largely made up of male heroes. They did not like the treatment of Luke Skywalker as something other than a pure, white knight of a hero. They wanted a backstory for Snoke. They wanted Rey to be related to a Skywalker or a Kenobi. They did not get exactly the film they expected, and that was problematic.
None of that controversy was significant or worth addressing, so I won’t. I will, however, address a real controversy of “The Last Jedi,” one that involves the treatment of a character that is particularly dear to the writers and editors of this publication and a not-insignificant segment of the Ole Miss fan base.
Admiral Ackbar should be the Ole Miss mascot. He isn’t, and that’s a shame. He is perfect for Ole Miss. He represents the spirit of Rebellion, fights for just causes, is hella weird, and looks good in white. We Mississippians have a lot of ideas about what we are, and when expressing them only end up discussing what we should be. Ackbar, however, is as he would present himself and as he should be. He is beautiful.
And, spoiler alert, he’s dead.
He was killed in “The Last Jedi.” His character was killed in an explosion. He didn’t even have so much as a line or a ceremonious exit. Just a “zap zap boom” and he’s gone. Everything we could have asked for — in fact something we did literally ask George Lucas for — was killed to make room for, I dunno, another robot that makes dumb blooping noises or something.
The real criminal here though isn’t Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux, nor Kylo Ren. They’re but fictional characters that inhabit a fantastical universe dreamt up by noted insane person George Lucas. They, despite being this story’s antagonists, are innocent.
Rian Johnson, who penned Episode VIII’s screenplay and directed its production, is the real monster here. He and his ridiculous-ass name wrote our dear hero, our Mon Calimari muse, our rebellion’s unflappable leader, right out of the Star Wars universe. He did so for no other effect than what seemed to be “for the hell of it,” and did not provide our hero a proper cinematic goodbye worthy of his heroism, nor any room for his deserved tribute. Instead, all we received in consolation was a flippant remark about his passing.
And now we’ll never have him as a mascot. We’re going to have a “Landshark” instead, which is both an erosion of our dear, dear bear tradition, and a poor enough a approximation to a humanoid squid soldier to be an insult. We don’t want this. We want Ackbar.
It’s all total bullshit, and it’s canon now. I am in agony because of this. On this Star Wars Day, I am reminded that my heart, like the Resistance as once led by Admiral Ackbar, is gravely wounded.
RIP, Admiral Ackbar. May the Force be with you.