**Warning: This post contains spoilers.
My husband and I are huge Star Wars fans! For the past couple of years, our favorite Christmas gift (well, technically Hanukkah gift for me) has been the release of a new Star Wars film. On Friday The Last Jedi, the second of three sequels, premiered worldwide. The largely female-driven film (it’s about time, Hollywood) follows the Resistance and its ongoing struggle to defeat the First Order.
The film was fantastic! With amazing action sequences, multilayered characters, and dazzling special effects, it’s two and a half hours of complete joy whether you’re an old-school Star Wars fan or not. What I wasn’t expecting, however, were the impossible-to-miss animal rights themes tackled in The Last Jedi.
The first pro-animal scene, and probably the most overt in terms of vegan messaging, features legendary Star Wars character Chewbacca and the porgs, a super-adorable alien bird species. Chewbacca is about to eat one of the tiny birds, who’s already been cooked, when he finds himself sitting next to others who are still alive. The birds look sadly at Chewbacca with pleading eyes, and you can all but hear them say, “Please don't eat us.” Chewbacca is torn. He looks at the roasted bird and then at his new friends. After going back and forth a couple of times, he simply can’t do it. He listens to his heart and puts down the roasted bird. For the rest of the film, Chewbacca forms a friendship with one of the porgs, who accompanies him on the Millennium Falcon.
Anyone still eating animals who’s ever met a pig, cow, or chicken has faced Chewbacca’s dilemma. Once you see animals as the sensitive and intelligent beings they are, the choice is obvious: friends not food.
Another striking scene involves animal exploitation for entertainment. In the casino city Canto Bight, fathiers (alien space horses) are forced to race. We see that the animals are brutally whipped, confined, and made to perform against their will. Rose, a brave new Resistance character, tells Finn how the treatment of the fathiers repels her. The scene ends with Finn and Rose liberating the animals, who trample and destroy the town that had enslaved them. After leading the fathiers to safety, Rose unbridles the last one, exclaiming, “Now it was worth it.”
Animals also play a vital role at the conclusion of the film. When the Resistance army is trapped inside a mine, their fate seems all but sealed. Looking for a way out, they follow the vulptexes (gorgeous crystal foxes), who lead them to safety.
It’s true that some other scenes do not appear as animal-friendly (Luke Skywalker goes fishing… ugh), but they are not given the same attention or emotional weight. For instance, along with the fishing scene, shot at a distance without much detail, we see Luke milking a dinosaur-like animal on Ahch-To. As he milks the animal, Rey looks on with disgust. The milk appears bluish green and extremely unappetizing. Looking at it, I was reminded of the very real pus in cow’s milk. Blech! Maybe that’s why fluid milk consumption has plummeted since the 1970s as more people gravitate toward delicious plant-based milk.
While it’s unclear where director and writer Rian Johnson stands on animal rights, The Last Jedi shines as one of the most impressive films in recent memory when it comes to pro-animal messaging. Here’s hoping that future installments in the franchise continue to raise awareness and make us think. May the force be with you—and may the change begin with you.