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Rebellions Are Built On Hope: Why Rogue One Matters Now More Than Ever

by  in CBR Exclusives, Movie News Comment
Rebellions Are Built On Hope: Why Rogue One Matters Now More Than Ever

“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope.”

As I struggle to sleep, as I clutch my couch cushions, as my rage ejects tears from my eyes like missiles, these words from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” rally my resolve. “Rebellions are built on hope.”

On Tuesday I woke up possibly the proudest I’ve ever been to be an American, to rise early and do my patriotic, democratic, civic duty to vote — and to vote for the most competent, ready, tested and fearless candidate for the job that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. And also, on top of that, the candidate was a woman. For the first time in history, Americans had the choice to vote for a woman — a representative of over half our country. The enormity of that didn’t escape me, not as my hand filled in a small oval with black ink. Each tiny, swirling stroke of my pen was a political act, a stance I was taking: “I believe in this. I believe in her. I believe in America. I believe we are ready, and I believe we are ready to keep moving forward. Stronger, together.”

I choked up behind the privacy of my voting station’s screen.

I had no idea that fifteen hours later, my expectations of a historical celebration trampled under the oppressive boots of reality, I’d be the most ashamed I have ever been in my life because of a decision a quarter of America’s population made. Embarrassed, ashamed, enraged, angry, bitter, callous, cruel, despondent, horrified, terrified — I’ve careened back and forth from being all of these things, recklessly. I’ve screamed, cursed and cried at the realization that my future — the legality of my impending marriage to the man I love, not to mention my safety in parts of the country if I mention that I’m a man in love with a man — has been twisted into a gnarled knot by the hate of others. My blood runs cold with fear. I’ve shut down social media, I’ve watched nothing but “Friends” on Netflix, I’ve read “Planetary” and listened to Gang of Four.

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But those words — “Rebellions are built on hope” — are louder than a comforting sitcom’s laugh track or the rebellious buzz saw guitars of post punk. I’m disgusted that this turn of events had to happen to make “Rogue One” resonate with me this powerfully. I mean, it’s Star Wars, so it was going to make me an emotional wreck regardless of recent events. But the most dangerous outcome did happen, so the film does resonate, even more than ever. And it sends a chill over my skin and ignites a fire in my belly.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” tells the story of the group of Rebel fighters that stole the plans for the Empire’s massive weapon, the Death Star. The trailers we’ve seen so far and the fact that we know what comes next (1977’s “Star Wars”) sets the impossible stakes perfectly. The sense of dread that hangs in the background of every trailer is palpable; it’s another character in the cast. The odds seem insurmountable: an Empire at the height of their power, a fledgling Rebellion that’s yet to score a decisive victory, the looming shadow of a powerful weapon that we know can annihilate a planet. This enemy is all-powerful, draping its black shadow over the citizens it controls, leaving them hopeless in the dark. The heroes, call sign: Rogue One, are a small band of disparate and desperate fighters united by their staunch desire to halt the Empire’s march of death and liberate the galaxy.

“Our rebellion is all that remains to push back the Empire.”

America has gifted a man that’s never wanted for anything its most powerful position. He raided the very party he claims to be a member of, bending and breaking their once respected leaders to fit his will, humiliating and slandering them with glee. And now they’re his party — and now they have it all, the House, the Senate, the White House.

“The power that we are dealing with here is immeasurable.”

The party has devolved in the past year because of this man’s influence, as he smothered any inclinations they may have once had towards empathy or compassion and instead fostered hate — in its purest, basest form — in its wake. Rallies turned to violence as everyone from disabled children to non-white supporters were attacked and expelled with force. And that’s what this party now says they always wanted. That’s what they now say is the best for America. They celebrate his victory, even though it’s come at the cost of their very morals.

“So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.” It’s from “Revenge of the Sith,” but the phrase resonates in the wake of this cataclysmic event. Emperor Palpatine’s insidious takeover of the Galactic Senate and it’s manipulation into the Empire would be an apt metaphor — were the winner in question anywhere near as smart as the fictional Dark Lord of the Sith.

It’s disgusting that a man, a man that’s gloated about sexual assault and earned fame and fortune partially as a purveyor of objectification, has been rewarded. It’s disgusting that a man endorsed by the most vile hate groups in the country now speaks for our country. It’s disgusting that the man that’s a heartbeat away from the presidency believes you can electrocute the gay out of people. It’s disgusting that a man that called Mexicans rapists and sees terrorism in the face of every Muslim man, woman and child now wields the power of our nuclear arsenal.

“If the Empire has this kind of power, then what chance do we have?”

We have hope. If they have hate, then we have hope. And we have “Rogue One,” which has suddenly become the most relevant movie of 2016 — and it hasn’t even hit theaters yet. Fiction is powerful. Fiction is inspirational and aspirational; it’s where artists take their hopes and dreams and make them real through story. We strive to be like fictional characters (General Organa, Luke Skywalker, Rey, Han Solo) because they’re the vessels through which creators express the values they want to see in the world. You want people to be braver, you give them a Leia to look up to. You want people to be able to find their own inner strength? Here’s Luke and Rey. Think being selfless is more important than being selfish? Learn from Han Solo. We need a very specific story right now, and we need “Rogue One” right now.

When I look at the “Rogue One” trailers, I see what I want from America. I see a multicultural group standing strong together led by a rebellious and courageous woman. That’s what we are working towards, and what we will continue to work towards no matter what. That’s what America — a land created as a haven for the persecuted, to be able to realize their limitless dreams — was created to be. The Empire is oppressive; the Empire crushes the rights of others and excludes non-humans from their ranks. The Rebellion is inclusive. “Rogue One” stars an English woman, a Mexican man, an actor from Hong Kong and one from China, and a British Pakistani rapper/actor. People from so many backgrounds can see themselves in this cast, and they finally have a hero to call their very own.

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And here’s the big one: the Rebellion is led by women.

The amount of misogyny unleashed in this election, from the victor himself specifically, appalls me — and it appalls me that any woman you talk to will say, “Yeah, no duh. It’s always been that bad. Of course this happened.” How is this acceptable? How is this electable? How can anyone think this boy is a better leader than her? Star Wars gives me hope, and I hope to God that Star Wars inspires its audience. “Star Wars” gave us Princess (now General) Leia in 1977, a feminist icon burdened with carrying the weight of representation of all womankind on her shoulders in those first films. Portrayed by a damn legend named Carrie Fisher, Leia is a revelation of a character. I can speak from personal experience; Leia, with her take-charge attitude and unbreakable strength, taught me that women are strong as hell when I was a child. Leia’s a ferociously brave woman driven to lead, look out for and protect the less fortunate, and possessed of overwhelming competency and dignity. She’s also never afraid to do the damn work herself. Does that sound at all familiar? Doesn’t that sound like a president? That sounds exactly like who got my vote.

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But Leia’s not alone in her leadership. We have Mon Mothma, whose regal presence commanded a scene in 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” You look at Caroline Blakiston’s performance in that one scene and you know, unquestionably, who’s in charge. And then there’s the new guard, which includes Daisy Ridley’s Rey. This time around it’s the young girl who gets to go on the hero’s journey, who gets to travel from being insecure to powerful. And now we have Jyn Erso in “Rogue One,” and Felicity Jones seems to be drawing on a lot of Han Solo style swagger for the role of a street fighter turned freedom fighter.

That’s what I believe in. That’s what America is. It’s all of us. It’s women, men, trans people and non-binary individuals of all backgrounds and orientations all standing together for the common good — because it’s the right thing to do. We stand together because caring for each other has to be better than destroying each other. That’s what the Rebellion stands for. That’s what we’re seeing happen in those “Rogue One” trailers. And that’s what we will see happen over the next four years, despite what hatred is broadcast from the most respected office in the world.

“You are rebels, aren’t you?”

Yes. If being a rebel means being proud of being gay, then yes. If being a rebel means that I believe people of all faiths deserve to be treated with unyielding respect, then yes. If being a rebel means that I believe that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, then yes. It’s a punch to the gut that it’s come to this, that the upcoming change in power has shifted my own sense of patriotism on its axis. But yes, if that’s what it means, then I rebel. I will rebel by becoming active in my community, by championing diverse voices, by using every skill I have — like my words (no, I have the best words) — to voice what I know to be right. We are all together in this.

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And we are stronger together. We are Jyn Erso, or Captain Andor. We are Bodhi Rook, Chirrut Îmwe or Baze Malbus. Some are General Leia and some are Han Solo, Luke Skywalker or Ben Kenobi. We all have Rey, Finn and Poe inside our hearts. We can find our inner Mon Mothmas and Admiral Ackbars. We are Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren. We are Sinjir Rath Velus, Sana Starros and Mara Jade. We rebel together because we know that all people were created equal — and nothing can break that truth.

And I have hope that millions of Americans believe in the same truth, because forward is the only way we can move. I have hope that we are stronger than one hateful man, that we cannot be broken or divided. I have hope that there will come a day, soon, when we do not base the merits and character of an individual on their outward appearance or where they come from or who they love or the gender they identify with. I have hope in the next generation, the generation that has grown up only knowing a black president that spoke intelligently and passionately of unity and fought for the equal rights of all in the face of great opposition. I have hope that they understand the grave, horrific mistake their parents and elders made when they voted for this man. I have hope that they will continue the rebellion and make the future great again.

“We have hope. Rebellions are built on hope.”

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