In this week’s video, Chris takes a look at character development by examining the recent Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. He compares the character development of Luke in the original Star Wars movies with the character development of Rey through The Last Jedi. Chris explains why he thinks Rey’s character development is not as strong as Luke’s and how that has affected his overall view of the movie. For more, check out the video!

What The Last Jedi Can Teach Us About Character Development
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  • Chris Fox has once again summed up a fundamental story-telling concept in a way that’s accurate, makes sense, and demonstrates what writers should consider when creating and developing characters. While the new Star Wars movies are entertaining, I believe the intention to create a strong, female Jedi lead has resulted in a weak and rather unsympathetic character. Characters are not strong because they are perfect. Characters are strong because they are not perfect but yet still find a way to overcome their imperfections in pursuit of the greater good. Rey is not given the chance to do this. As such, it robs her of potential power, especially emotional power.

    If I live long enough, it will be interesting to see how lasting this new set of characters will be. Personally I think the popularity of the new movies are more indicative of a change in our society, where the irrefutable need to struggle to achieve worthwhile goals is no longer as widely recognized or as desirable as it once was. Certainly the shared experience of this growth is disappearing from many video stories. Is this a trend? A temporary blip? A misrepresentation of reality? While I believe there will always be an appreciation for the classic story-telling model, especially in the written word, I believe a new model is emerging for movies and TV that relies more on a social media mentality, where receiving many tiny shots of dopamine from your entertainment are preferable to a longer-lasting prefrontal cortex satisfaction. If that’s true, the video-based entertainment coming out over the next couple decades will probably concentrate more on individually entertaining moments and less on overall story arc.

    The good news for writers is that this may drive more people back to the written word as they experience less satisfaction with other story mediums.

    For movie and TV suppliers, it means that allowing a character to be flawed loses viewers before they have the chance to experience any character growth (because moments in a story are increasingly judged in isolation). Consider allowing someone who has never seen Star Wars to watch just a minute or two where Luke is complaining to his Uncle about not wanting to work and then asking them what they think of Luke. This is how entertainment may be judged in the future. If the individual dopamine payoffs of appreciating Rey’s awesomeness in a given moment outweigh the overall story-arc payoff, who cares is she doesn’t develop? If story moments have no future and no past, what counts as entertainment? For me, personally, some suspension of disbelief is vital and necessary above everything else. But is that true for general audiences? The success of the new Star Wars movies seems to indicate that it isn’t even a consideration. If you see it, it’s real. Logic need not apply. Future and past are irrelevant. The isolated moment is all that matters. Pretty lights. Moving pictures. An always awesome characters showing her awesomeness.

    I’ve asked a lot of people if they were bothered by Rey just knowing everything without training. They respond that they didn’t even think about it or that it’s perfectly believable because she’s just so powerful with the force that she doesn’t need any training. Except that, as viewers, we were never given that information or explanation. Rey doesn’t even know she has any powers until she needs to use them–and then she just does. And it works. First time out. While Chris mentioned that he identified with Luke because he understood the need to struggle to achieve worthwhile goals, a great many people now identify with the ability (or the desire) to accomplish anything, first time out, with little to no effort, struggle, or sacrifice. No judgment here. Just observation. And curiosity about what that means for modern storytelling.

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  • Exactly this, Chris. I guess the question is, why? Why make her “perfect”? Is it too much to see a female struggle and/or learn something to rise to the challenge? The cynicism in me thinks it’s more about showing females in the most positive light possible and, unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with her at all. I missed the old Luke and hated how they changed his character. I couldn’t even get behind Rose’s character because after her life in slavery, she didn’t even look twice at the slave kids and freed the horse-like creatures instead (but we don’t have to touch that subject 😉 ). A perfect opportunity to come full circle and it just missed the mark.

    There’s a reason why the fundamentals work; don’t stray from them.

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