Finding Myself in Media: Poe Dameron in The Rise of Skywalker

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Poe Dameron

Major spoilers for ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ after the picture.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has only been in theaters for a few days but it’s already taking the world by storm. With the film being the end of the Skywalker saga, fans were very excited for the conclusion to one of the most monumental stories of all time. I went into a screening on Thursday night with no real expectations since I’ve been let down by the franchise before. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of the Star Wars franchise since the release of Revenge of the Sith and have come to fully appreciate the franchise for what it is. However, I never truly found a character that I could relate to or even see myself as. Well, until I saw Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens.

From his first appearance, I knew that Poe Dameron would eventually hold the title of my favorite character in the entire Star Wars franchise. Not only was he written as a courageous fighter pilot, but he was played by a Latino actor in a major series. However, I wasn’t fully aware of how long it would actually take for me to admit this. While the arcs that his character was given in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were great, they never really stood out to me. I was beginning to think that The Rise of Skywalker would leave me feeling the same. But I wasn’t prepared for the immense character development that Poe Dameron would be getting and how much I would relate to it.

It’s a known fact that Star Wars has never focused on topics such as ethnicity and race amongst humans, so it was hard to relate Poe on that aspect. But it was still incredible to see a Latino given a large role in a franchise that has been mainly centered around white actors. This is compounded by the fact that Latinx characters make up only 4.5% of characters in film despite being the largest ethnic minority in the United States.

Now, in The Rise of Skywalker, once his character is made General after Leia’s death, by the iconic woman herself. I couldn’t help but cheer to see him receiving such a special role. This decision wasn’t made lightly as Poe has proven that he’s more than capable of such a high honor. It gives me hope that more Latinx will be incorporated in future Star Wars projects. It’s the inspiration that I would’ve loved to have seen either of the two other trilogies.

As soon as Poe is given the role of General, he immediately goes to see Leia and breaks down, admitting that he can’t do this on his own. But rather than turning this moment of helplessness, he asks Finn to be his co-general. I suddenly saw myself asking for help for the first time in my life. It wasn’t until I started college that I asked anyone for help, regardless of what the situation was. Part of it was the over-confidence that I had in thinking I could handle things on my own, but the other was the lack of courage to actually ask for help.  Either way, not asking for help got me in quite the predicament during my first semester of college and sent me back into a dark space.

Of course, I’ve learned the value of asking for help as I matured more, but being able to see someone else go through something similar is reassuring mean something. Poe’s confidence and the way he carries himself never got the best of him during this situation. I was left in awe as to how a person in his position wasn’t afraid to depend upon the people closest to him.

Additionally, this scene spoke to me on an even deeper personal level because of Leia’s death. Since he was away with other characters on a mission, Poe wasn’t able to be with Leia during her final moments. His confession that he needed help made a bigger impact because he had just found out about her passing. I wasn’t able to be with my grandfather on the day that he died nor was I able to attend his funeral. He played a major role in my life, even going as far as being a father figure during my childhood.

As I was watching this scene, I was taken back to the day I found out my grandfather died. The emotion on his face brought me back to that day, which is something that I don’t like to remember. But in this particular instance, it reminded me of how much my grandfather meant to me, turning this into a much more bittersweet moment. Needless to say, I was not expecting a moment like this in a Star Wars film.

Rise of Skywalker - Poe Dameron

The other scene that stood out to me is during the final battle, the moment that the backup that the Resistance fighters counted on was seemingly not coming. With the odds stacked against them and seeing his comrades around him dying, Poe’s face was full of regret. He started getting emotional and began to apologize for leading everyone on a mission that was doomed, to begin with.

It’s his second moment of doubt, but this time he wasn’t able to depend on anyone. Even with all the confidence in the galaxy, Poe still felt responsible for everything. He puts the people he cares for above anything else during this entire scene, which shows me how serious he takes his role of General. He’s been the only character whose death would have truly affected me, which is something I can’t say for any of the other characters within this trilogy.

Though the film is set in a fictional world, the fact that I was able to find at least one character to relate to is amazing. While I did dress up as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader on several occasions during Halloween, Poe Dameron is the first character I could relate to on a deep level.

My love for the franchise has increased exponentially after The Rise of Skywalker for finally giving his character an arc and scene that spoke to me on a much more personal level. This gives me hope that other characters in future Star Wars projects will be given similar treatment that I could relate to. Representation within a major franchise like this matters since it lets me know that people like me matter.