Rebels and Mutineers

So this post will be about a bit in Star Wars: The Last Jedi that has upset some corners of fandom, that means there will be spoilers, light ones, and if you are not in the mood for spoilers, engaged your hyperdrives now.


Ok, you have been given fair warning.


Star Wars, all the films, are American stories, told by Americans and aimed, principally at Americans and Americans love rebels. Our national was born in rebellion and even when a segment of the country took up arms against the rightful government we tell the story as one of honor and duty, not slighting those who rebel against us. It is baked into our national psyche to root for the underdog, the person throwing themselves against impossible odds. This carries over in our science-fiction.

Think how often commodores and admirals of Starfleet are either idiots, morally compromised, or simply insane, and our heroes are forced to ignore orders, throw mutinies in order to do what needs to be done. Over and over again we are treated in our fiction to mayors, governors, presidents, and police captains that must be disobeyed and ignored. This is one of the most used and well-known tropes of fiction. (Hell, I use it myself in the military SF novel currently being shopped around.)

So, even setting aside the gender issues and those are no insignificant, in The Last Jedi when Poe Dameron defies Vice Admiral Holdo we are conditions by generations of story telling to side with Poe. He’s our known hero, we’ve adventured with him before in The Force Awakens, this Holdo is an unknown, a stranger, and a superior who disregards our Hero’s sound advice. Of course we are going to think that its Poe who is in the right, we’re going to pull for his mutinous actions and secret keeping, and we’re going to expect that Holdo will get her comeuppance.

Only, that isn’t what happens.

Holdo knows what she is doing and it is Poe who is off the reservation. Poe’s action threatens everyone and in the end his mutiny is just that, a mutiny while under fire from the enemy.

Now some have tried to push the blame back on Holdo because she did not share her plans with Poe, but that is wrong. Poe, a hotheaded pilot disciplined for ignoring orders, has no need to know her thoughts or plans. No superior military officer is obligated to explain themselves to their junior officers. (Only in the face of illegal orders does a junior officer have not only the right but also a duty to disobey.) Poe was not command staff nor was he part of the logistics to implement the plan. Given his record and his position Holdo is perfectly justified in telling Poe only what he needs to know. In the end Poe learns how wrong he is and that is part of the theme of the film. We learn from our mistakes and Poe’s mistake costs them dearly but know it was his mistake.