The Power of Fan

Reversal, Rebellion, and Return in the Star Wars Saga


  • Jeffrey Richey



daoism, taoism, daoist, taoist, star wars, feminism, gender, yinyang, thelastjedi, theforceawakens, rogueone, theempirestrikesback, chinesephilosophy, orientalism, toxicmasculinity


The latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi (2017), unflinchingly embraces tragedy and the nobility of failure – themes and values that resonate with traditional East Asian thought, especially Daoism.  This is what makes it, along with The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), among the most spiritually mature and philosophically consistent chapters of the series.  These films celebrate the (not unlimited) power of the feminine, the hidden, the receptive, and the organic — in a word, what traditional East Asian thought names as y?n ? — in ways that help the warmed-over cafeteria Zen Buddhism/Daoism that is George Lucas’ Jedi mumbo-jumbo to actually hold together and work to provide a meaningful worldview. If these movies work as art — as opposed to fun action fantasy or fanboy service — then they do so as y?n tragedies.  If their protagonists function as authentic heroes – as opposed to adolescent wish-fulfillment or mere signifiers of hegemonic power – then they do so with y?n nobility.  That is, they acknowledge and embrace the realities of weakness, obscurity, vulnerability, and fragility in order to discover and develop the virtues of adaptability, resilience, transformation, and growth.  The Daoist concept of f?n ? – which combines the meanings of “reversal,” “rebellion,” and “return” – not only helps explain the power of the best Star Wars films, but also explains why some audience members have reacted so negatively and violently to the evolving saga.




How to Cite

Richey, J. (2019). The Power of Fan: Reversal, Rebellion, and Return in the Star Wars Saga. Unbound: A Journal of Digital Scholarship, 1(1).