Older man with unkempt gray long hair and a beard looking intensely at the camera wearing a cape

Your heroes aren’t perfect. That’s the lesson of The Last Jedi, the latest feature film installment in the Star Wars series. Your heroes aren’t perfect, and they can’t single-handedly save the universe. Sometimes they try to run from their problems. Often – okay, pretty much always – they make mistakes, and not just little ones. Sometimes they fail, with tragic consequences. They can help us, but ultimately we have to save ourselves.

It’s there when Rose finds Finn, great hero of the Resistance, sneaking into an escape pod because he’s convinced their ship is going to be destroyed. It’s there when General Leia slaps Poe for his showboating that ultimately worked but at the cost of far too many lives. And it’s there when Luke refuses to help Rey because his last attempt at training new Jedi went so horribly, horribly wrong.

It’s not a bad message to find us at the end of 2017, a year that, in progressive politics, has been more about movements than personalities. Heroes haven’t saved us. Leaders haven’t saved us. It’s all been down to ordinary people.

And that message in The Last Jedi has caused a lot of fuss – even more than expected these days, when fandoms are full of people who’ve forgotten that fans are supposed to be people who like things. Nobody wants to be reminded that heroes are imperfect. Especially not Xennials and Millennials who  grew up on stories about heroes, simple, reassuring stories told in bright colors and plain morality. It’s upsetting to think that Luke Skywalker, the great Chosen One, screwed up horribly and responded to that by deserting his friends and going to be a hermit on a rocky island in the middle of nowhere with only his regrets and a bunch of porgs.

(The porgs are pretty great.)

But that’s something we need to remember right now: Heroes are just people. Instead of the cynical view that this makes them failures, The Last Jedi reminds us that everyone can be a hero because heroes are just people. Rey of Jakku can be as powerful as Ben Solo, even if her parents were nobodies. Rose has plenty of things to teach Finn about heroism, even with all he’s already done. And a little slave boy on a faraway world can quietly tap into the Force and dream of being a hero someday just like Rose and Finn.

This has been a long, grueling year, but ultimately good work is being done. Everyday people have stood up to the ACA repeal and attempts by the Right to return white nationalism to the mainstream. Women have spoken out about mistreatment and for once they have actually gotten results. An unprecedented number of marginalized people have run for office and won. This has been a year of everyday people being heroes.

No, Luke Skywalker isn’t perfect. That doesn’t make him less of a hero. It reminds us that heroes are people, and each and every one of us, no matter how flawed or how hurt or how plain, can be a hero too.

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