Do you think that Star Wars is an epic battle between good and evil? Well, let this mom set you straight.
I am not a big Star Wars fan. Which is weird, because I love sci-fi and fantasy. I chalk it up to timing: I was seven years old and out of the country when the first one came out. The second one somehow escaped my notice at age ten, and I was thirteen and into other things when the third one was released. Then it just never seemed like the time to put aside hours of my life to delve into this complicated mythology.
But, still, I allowed myself to get dragged to see the new installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, on Christmas Day. And, as is the case with just about everything, I have thoughts. Be warned: spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want the best reveal of the movie ruined for you, turn back now.
Still here? Okay, cool. Here’s my question as a non-fan and something of a blank slate on this topic: why the heck are men so angry at their fathers? Bad father/son relations abound in the Star Wars universe, which, at first blush would seem to be about the male scriptwriters and movie makers working out their own Oedipal sentiments. But millions of fans also take this stuff way seriously.
And, also, why is crappy parenting the norm in the Star Wars universe?
Anyone who has ever lived anywhere other than in the primordial forest knows that one of the big reveals of the original Star Wars trilogy is that Darth Vader (bad guy) turns out to be Luke Skywalker (hero)’s father. (“Luke, I am your father”). But when we first meet Luke, he’s living in some awful desert planet with no knowledge of his parentage.
So how did those two lose touch?
In this most recent installment, the Darth Vader rip-off character, Kylo, is the child of Princess Leia and Han Solo (and hence Darth Vader’s grandson by way of Leia). There’s lots of sentimental stuff thrown in for the uber-fans, but most of the details of how he went to the “Dark Side” aren’t explored. But here’s my question as a mom: where the heck were the parents? I can say with some confidence that my kids will not have time to go to the Dark Side because they’ll be too busy fielding calls and texts from me. I just won’t give them enough uninterrupted time to get there.
There seems to be a theme of broken families in the whole film. The main character, a young woman named Rey, scavenges for parts on a desolate (also desert) planet. Her family is gone and she’s waiting for them. The original mythology was developed in a time before email and the Internet, but this film was not. It seems a bit strange to not at least address the ubiquity of communication today. Can’t her family send a text every once in a while? I understand the filmmakers are saving her parentage for some later big reveal, but what the heck? And, yes, I know, it’s a “long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” But if they’ve developed light speed travel, it’s probable they’ve also mastered email. Some characters are seen communicating by what would seem to be the equivalent of cell phones. (When they spot a robot that they know the First Order is searching for, they speak into communicators to report that they’ve spotted it). But Rey’s mom and dad can’t FaceTime?
And, also, why can’t Leia grab her iPhone and be like, “Kylo, honey, it’s Mom. I know you’re on the Dark Side now but it would really make Dad happy if you stopped by his birthday. And, please, sweetie, if you could just not bring up the First Order at dinner, just this one time, okay? For me?”
Sure, he might have let her go to voicemail, but it’s her bad as a mother for not at least giving it a shot.
And, of course, there’s the ultimate in Daddy issues (and here comes the big spoiler): when Kylo kills his dad, Han Solo, in perhaps the most satisfying scene in the movie. Kylo pretends to be vulnerable (a classic teenage move, although he’s a grown man) and then puts a light saber through Solo, serving as a proxy for an entire movie-going public who thinks it’s time for Harrison Ford to step aside and let the next generation of movie stars take over. Yes, perhaps we all secretly long to kill our heroes so we can become the heroes in their place. But it’s the sheer disconnect between generations in Star Wars that flummoxes me. Children don’t know where they come from and, if they do, harbor these murderous resentments. Can’t people just sit down over a well-roasted turkey and agree not to talk about politics? I mean, we all just survived an entire holiday season of the Trump presidential candidacy. Surely these people can put aside the topic of Supreme Leader Snoke for a short get-together.
Anyway, besides these objections to some of the plot devices from a mother’s point of view, I have to say the movie was kind of a good time. At times it played things a bit safe (“There’s a mega weapon. It’s an orb like the Death Star… but bigger!”). Still, it introduced some interesting characters and gave a nod to modern sensibilities by making the new hero a scrappy woman and one of her sidekicks a black man. The special effects were fun and the pacing was pretty even.
So go see Star Wars. Then call your mom or your kids. Don’t let too much time pass between visits, lest somebody go to the Dark Side.