Stories and Status Updates

[Spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi abound! Beware.]

[And Harry Potter, for that matter.]

Just a couple brief thoughts on storytelling today, inspired by this article from The Verge a couple years ago about endings. It takes a look at modern franchises like the Marvel movies or Star Wars, and their seeming inability to commit to an ending.

Take Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, for example, the stage play that continues the adventures of Harry, Ron, Hermione, and their children. Why does it exist?

The story doesn’t build upon Harry Potter, so much as it updates on its characters’ status. Like a Christmas card from a distant cousin, it pours over many details without saying much.

I agree with that assessment. For all that I love Harry Potter—and I love it a whole lot—the play just wasn’t for me. Everyone has a different relationship with the stories they love. I can appreciate that some people like knowing facts about what happens to characters once the book or movie is over, but I can’t do it. For me, Harry’s story ended when Voldemort died, and further information feels bereft of stakes or narrative thrust.

Stories are more than people doing things. More than knowing Harry was a fairly mediocre father after the Wizarding War. A character beat should have narrative thrust, and Harry’s narrative ended when all was well.

This is why I thought the choice to make Rey’s parents nobody of any significance was so brilliant in The Last Jedi. We were expecting them to be somebody important. She was expecting them to be somebody important. To make them, indeed, somebody important would have simply been a confirmation, a status update, a couple new lines in her Wikipedia page.

Instead, she has to grapple with the worst possible turn of events, the same as Luke did. She has to work her own way toward an ending.

We can only pray that Disney allows her one.

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Sorry this is so short this week. I blame the weather, which has been beautiful in Minnesota after last weekend’s enormous snowstorm. Hopefully next Monday I’ll have something more substantial. See you then!