Editor’s Note: There are spoilers from Star Wars: The Last Jedi in this essay. This essay also stands on the shoulders of several social media conversation and feeds participated in after seeing the movie.
“I’ve heard rumors about his sexual misconduct,” said my friend Bridget as we sat outside The Museum of Human Achievement, on the east side of Austin, drinking spiked iced tea, and talking about our favorite comedians. Louis C.K. had been special to me. I had joked that his show “Louie” was the “Star Wars” of the modern forty-something sad bastards, something that spoke to us, to show us the way, an identifiable comedy with no jokes, a cringe worthy satire with fictionalized versions of himself. His stories were the perfect shape to put my fingers around and hold closely, poking fun at a surreal world lacking in heroes. Every Facebook joke I make is a “Louie” vignette. His daughters replaced with my dog. The Comedy Cellar replaced with my truck, The Millennium Falcon, a silver Toyota Tacoma that was just destroyed in a hit and run by who we believe was a drunk driver. I never saw him coming, I was just thrown into a wall at 70 miles per hour. I had been driving that truck for eleven years. It was junk to others, but so comfortable, so perfect for me. The paramedics told me it was amazing I survived. One month later Louis C.K. would lose his show, his job, his life under the rumors that became truth and an awkward confession. I so desperately didn’t want to believe them, just as I desperately wanted my truck back. Louis was who I wanted to be. He was rebel scum.
When I lived in New York I would go to the Comedy Cellar early and often on the weekends to watch comedians and their approach towards audience and language. Louis was my favorite. He was smart, but not cruel, sharp, yet self-deprecating, and once he found his rhythm with the audience he knew how to work them, like a Jedi mind trick. He knew how to manipulate them, move them with his set. That is what all-good comedians and storytellers do. They paint with a set of colors to get the reaction that reflect them, but rumors spread like wildfire between the bar and the bathroom stalls, we all knew his sexual misdeeds were true. I wanted to hold on to my hero, to put him on a pedestal and never let him fall, and as the truth came closer I didn’t know what to say, what to do. My heart was broken, it was broken for the victims, the women. My heart was broken for him, a man with such greater problems than I was willing to admit, and my heart was broken for myself-crippled with my foolish idolization, like a dumb child. I’m a forty-two year old man. How could I let this happen to myself?
A month later Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened in cinemas across the globe. It was met with critical acclaim being called “brave” and “risk taking,” breaking rules and convention, just like Louie’s show, but the fan reaction was mixed. The hash tag #LastJediAwful trended on Twitter, claiming the fans were cheated of their hero theories, their hero lust, their belief in what they thought Star Wars was, and should be. They didn’t want to believe Luke Skywalker could be so fallen. One man tearing the movie apart claimed The Last Jedi lost the forty-something crowd forever for doing exactly what the movie was attempting to communicate. The Last Jedi takes the audience by the hand and tells us our heroes are defective, damaged, and in the end, human. It tells us we need to give up our idols, our childhood heroes and loves, it tells us to grow up, to move forward from what is comfortable. The movie squeezes the audience’s hand and tells us our heroes will let us down, that we have to burn down the old and start anew and that, on occasion, we will fail too, that life can be cruel. Not everything can or will be explained, no matter how much we want it to, and little of that matters. What does matter are the choices we make, regardless of our heroes and the people we wish to be. Star Wars was the first movie I saw in the theater, it was for many of us forty-somethings. The movie closes with what is left of my childhood, my heroes, and the rebel scum that survived, zipping away and saying good-bye in the Millennium Falcon. The movie had flaws, the shape of the story wasn’t perfect, but it was liberating.
That night at the Museum of Human Achievement Bridget gave me a hug and asked me if I was fine to drive. I had just gotten a new automobile, a Subaru Forrester. It is more like the Star Ship Enterprise than the Millennium Falcon. It is a nice car, and it has taken me out of my comfort zone, and that is fine, I was fine. I drove away with a cracked humanity in the rearview mirror, growing older, growing up, and letting go. I’m done with Louie, I’ve out grown him, but I look forward to the next Star Wars movie. I can’t identify the shapes of the stories to come, and I like that. It is not the spaceship, or your heroes, that make you a rebel, it’s the choices we make, and especially when the paramedics are surprised we survived.