Poe Dameron and Other Important Muggles

In order to write this post, I had to take a very charitable interpretation of The Rise of Skywalker, one where Finn’s force sensitivity is made explicit, and Poe actually gets to be interesting. 

Honestly, I could just have written this post about Han, and I will talk about him quite a bit in it.  But Han already had his essay, and Poe didn’t, and I thought I should be nice to poor Poe.  Poor underused Poe.

Finn: She’s not herself!  You have no idea what she’s fighting!
Poe: And you do?
Finn: Yeah, I do!  And so does Leia.
Poe: Well, I’m not Leia.
Finn: That’s for damn sure!
  – The Rise of Skywalker

For me, Poe may be the most frustrating of the three main characters in The Rise of Skywalker because, unlike Rey, who has a kind-of arc that doesn’t hold together very well, and Finn, who has no arc at all, just a bunch of plot holes where his arc would have been, Poe has the bones of a really great arc, but they’re missing the connective tissue to give them shape.  If that connective tissue did exist, I think it would mostly consist of Poe’s conflicted relationship with the Force.

Poe is, for lack of a better word, a Muggle, which in this case I use to mean a person who isn’t Force-sensitive.  He knows that the Force exists, but he can’t use it himself or even really understand it.  That fact sets him apart from the three characters he interacts most with, and could explain many of the tensions in his relationships with them:

  • Rey: Poe does not understand why Rey spends so much time honing her Force powers when she could be helping on missions.  From his practical, down-to-earth, get-it-done perspective, she would be much more useful in combat than doing weird mystical Jedi stuff.
  • Finn: Poe realises that Rey and Finn are both Force-sensitive, giving them a bond he cannot understand.  He feels both envy – that they have something he cannot share in – and jealousy – because he fears that Rey’s bond with Finn threatens his own relationship with him.
  • Leia: Leia is probably Poe’s most important relationship in the series.  He loves and respects her and tries to live up to her example, but he knows that in one respect he can never be like her, because she is Force-sensitive, and he is not.  This knowledge gives Poe an inferiority complex that Finn unknowingly aggravates in the scene quoted above.  When Leia dies, Poe fears that he will never be worthy to take up the mantle of leadership from her.

Leia, however, does not have these reservations about him.  She may sometimes be frustrated with Poe’s rashness and impulsivity, but she also knows that he is a good soldier with a good heart.  And, given that Poe has a lot in common with both Leia and her late husband, it’s not hard to imagine that she sees in him the son she would have liked to have.

Speaking of men Leia loves…

Han Solo is in a similar predicament to Poe.  I have to admit, I feel a bit sorry for Han.  In the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, he was basically in a situation where the three people closest to him – his spouse, his child, and his best friend – were all Force-sensitive, and he wasn’t.  I sometimes wonder how he handled it.  I’d like to believe he always handled it like a mature adult (though he’s not exactly got the best track record), but it can’t have been easy.  He knew that his wife had a bond with her brother he’d never be able to share.  He knew that his son had a connection with his uncle that he’d never understand.  He may have been part of their family, but he must always have felt a bit like an outsider.

Yet being an outsider never diminished Han in the eyes of his friends or the love he shared with them.  He was still valued as a husband, a father, and a friend, regardless of Force powers.  At the same time, being a husband, and father, and a friend to Force-sensitive people must have changed his perspective on the Force.  He couldn’t have spent thirty years in a relationship with Luke, Leia, and Ben while continuing to see it as nothing but a “hokey religion”.  At some point, he must have accepted it as real and important to the people he cared about, even if he himself would never be able to “grok” it.

That’s why it’s appropriate that, in The Force Awakens, it is Han who introduces Finn and Rey to the concept of the Force.  No longer the dismissive sceptic, he freely admits that the Force is real and that he was wrong to doubt its existence.  He may never have experienced the Force himself, but he can be the guide who points the young heroes towards it and starts them on their own path to becoming Jedi.

And, though this situation may sound fantastical, ones like it are actually very common.  Because we’re all “Muggles” in some way or another – meaning that we’re all on the outside of some sort of experience.  If you’re allosexual, you’re a Muggle to asexuals.  If you’re a man, you’re a Muggle to women.  If you’re white, Asian, or Indigenous, you’re a Muggle to black people.  If you’ve always been able to see and hear, you’re a Muggle to those who never have.  If you’re neurotypical, you’re a Muggle to those who are neurodivergent.  The reverse is also true.  And, though we can try to learn about these different experiences, there will always be a level on which we don’t share them, and on which we will be forever separate from those who do.

But does being a “Muggle” to someone mean we can’t have community with them?  No.  Because bonds of friendship, family, and allyship cut across these divisions and bring us into relationships with people who have different experiences from us.  And, if we accept that their experiences are real, then we can continue to be important parts of their lives.  We can support them in their struggles, even if we do not share those struggles.  We can validate their feelings, even if we don’t feel the same way.  We can defend their actions, even if we act differently.  And, if people do those things for us, then we can value them and our relationships with them, despite our differences.

If I could add just one scene to The Rise of Skywalker to fix Poe’s arc, it would be a conversation between Poe and Finn after Leia’s death.  I’d have Poe express some of his reservations about Rey’s Force powers, his fears about his relationship with Finn, and especially his doubts about his own fitness to lead the Rebellion.  And then I’d have Finn talk him out of his misgivings.  He’d remind Poe that Leia loved and trusted him.  He’d tell him that he is a good leader.  And, perhaps most importantly, he’d remind Poe that it was Poe who brought him into the Rebellion in the first place, who gave him a name and an identity outside of the First Order.  He would help Poe realise the truth: that he is enough in himself, Force powers or no.

At the end of the movie, Finn gets caught in the middle of a group hug with Rey and Poe on either side of him.  I’d like to think this represents Finn accepting the two sides of his identity: as a Force-user and as a Rebel soldier.  He came to one of those identities through his relationship with Rey and to the other through his relationship with Poe.  Neither identity is more important than the other, and so neither relationship is more important than the other.  He loves Rey and Poe equally, and he wouldn’t want to be without either of them.  Flanked by his sister in the Force and his brother in the Rebellion, he finds himself whole, at peace, home.

Of course, what The Rise of Skywalker gives us in practice isn’t nearly as coherent, but characters like this have a way of showing up in stories about superheroes.  The word “Muggle” comes from the Harry Potter books, and while there are no Muggle heroes in the novels, Fantastic Beasts centres on the friendship between wizard Newt Scamander and Muggle Jacob Kowalski.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s two best friends are the witchcraft-practising Willow and the utterly ordinary Xander.  The first season of Heroes (still the only one I’ve seen), includes three important non-super characters: Hiro’s best friend Ando, Claire’s father Mr Bennet, and general would-be ally Mohinder.  Zélie Adebola only succeeds in bringing magic back to Orïsha with the help of her brother Tzain.  Ian Lightfoot only comes into his magical abilities with the love and support of his brother Barley.  Mirabel plays an important role in the Madrigal family despite being the only child without a magical gift.  Even the MCU combines characters with inherent superpowers (Thor, Steve, Peter Parker), characters with learned skills or gadgets (Tony, Natasha, Clint), and characters with no special powers at all (Nick Fury, Agent Hill).  In all these stories, the magical and non-magical characters come together as friends and allies because each has something to contribute to the others.

Being an outsider isn’t easy.  Realising that other people experience the world differently from you can be disconcerting.  But if we respect other people’s experiences and support them, then we can still enjoy community with those people and be enriched by our relationships with them.  And that’s why it’s important to open ourselves to different kinds of people and to allow ourselves to be “Muggles” sometimes, whether that means being the lone man surrounded by women, the lone heterosexual surrounded by queer people, the lone white person surrounded by people of colour, the lone senior citizen surrounded by youth… or vice versa.

2 thoughts on “Poe Dameron and Other Important Muggles

  1. sildarmillion says:

    Poe is, for lack of a better word, a Muggle, which in this case I use to mean a person who isn’t Force-sensitive. He knows that the Force exists, but he can’t use it himself or even really understand it.

    … Or maybe he’s a Squib? 😛 Because Muggles are usually not aware of the existence of wizards and Squibs are the ones who live among wizards even thought they have no magic? But Muggle sounds better though. Muggle sounds better in general. Like, Nomaj never caught on, although apparently that’s what we would be calling it in North America… And I think Muggle is a good word to adopt from the HP lexicon to apply to real world concepts.

    Also, this was such a cool piece about allyship. When I started reading, I had no way of guessing this is where it was going to go, so that made it a particularly fun read.

    Also, I’ve also only watched the first season of Heroes. Based on reviews, I decided not to continue watching because it felt sufficiently self-contained and I like satisfying endings and didn’t want to ruin it with a plot that supposedly gets frustratingly convoluted.


    • Blue Ice-Tea says:

      Glad you enjoyed reading it! 🙂

      “… Or maybe he’s a Squib? 😛”

      Maybe. But, as you say, “Muggle” sounds better. 😉

      But, also, a Squib is a non-magical person born to a magical family. That sounds more like if a Force-sensitive person (like Luke or Leia) had a child with no Force abilities. Which would be an interesting situation to explore, but never comes up in the Star Wars movies.

      Guess that’s what Encanto’s for!

      Liked by 1 person

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