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The Last Jedi and a certain point of view

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I once joked that the The Last Jedi is essentially fifty expectation vs reality memes strung together, and it is that challenging of expectation that has made it so polarizing among viewers. Some have lauded it for flipping the saga on its head and pushing new boundaries, while others have raged against how much it breaks from Star Wars tradition. But in revisiting the film two years on from its release, what strikes me the most about it is actually how much it rhymes and echoes against the films that came before it, something that I think has been very obfuscated amidst so much focus on what expected pay-offs it doesn’t deliver. 

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Silent, violent girls: X-23 vs Eleven

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It is pretty striking that Stranger Things and Logan, within the space of a year and completely independently of one another, both gave us characters who are twelve year old girls that have been locked up, experimented on and used and abused for their unique abilities. Both girls are characterized by violent rage and scenes where they tear through entire groups of baddies who are after them, both are alienated from the outside world and from civilian behavior, and they even both have a shoplifting scene where they’re oblivious to customs of buying/selling and just walk into a store and take what they want, and turn violent when stopped by clerks. Both also have a sort of father issues narrative, and: both are somehow and at least at first presented as being silent.

There’s something very uneasy in thinking about the juxtaposition of all of this, but I do think Logan is more successful in not falling into traps of otherizing Laura and letting all this negatively affect her portrayal. This isn’t to pit Laura against Eleven, which might be rich of me to say given the title of this post, but it’s useful to examine harmful othering that unfortunately comes across with Eleven.

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Ex Machina and the death of the sexbot

EX MACHINA, Alicia Vikander, 2015. ©A24

[Major spoilers for Ex Machina]

There is so much that could be endlessly dissected and discussed in Alex Garland’s 2014 masterpiece, but one thing I particularly spent a lot of time thinking about after first watching Ex Machina was the dichotomy of it as yet another film that sexualizes its female AI, but one that uses that both explicitly and implicitly as commentary on gender and how men perceive women. The important nuance here is that the sexualization is consciously imposed on Ava by the film’s two male characters: It is never something inherent in or defining of her, but a view that the men project onto her.

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