So next year Star Wars turns 40. That both, makes me feel old and amazed that I’m still in love with this universe. It got me to thinking what a multi-generational cultural icon that it’s become. It has been a constant in my life and not a day goes by that I don’t reference it or use some vernacular from it. My kids have also latched onto it, partly I suppose because they know Dad loves it, but they also gravitated to other aspects of it. They’ve seen the prequels and they’ve watched the animated Clone Wars and they both saw The Force Awakens multiple times. I’m sure they like it for some of the same reasons I initially did (flying spaceships and lightsabers), but is there more to it than that? I know my reasons for enjoying Star Wars have changed over the decades, which makes me wonder if they too have had an evolution in their reasoning for maintaining an interest in it.
Obviously, through age and wisdom, the deeper context can be read into through both trilogies. I’m hardly the first person to point out the conflict, betrayal, and bonds that are explored in the films. I can relate to many of those personal emotions. The rise and fall of Darth Vader are compelling and sad, but yet I can grasp the lure of the ‘quick and easy path’, who can’t? I know that I am in a small minority, but I still think Revenge of the Sith stands on par with the original films. The final showdown between Anakin and Obi Wan was emotionally charged for a multitude of reasons. Ewan McGregor’s performance throughout that sequence was outstanding because he sold the despair and hurt he felt in Anakin choosing the dark side. Anakin harbored a seething hatred for the Jedi Order; an anguish he wished he could just wish away, but the order was holding him back and stifling his progression. That hit home for me on so many personal levels because it reminded me of myself from late teens and into my early twenties. In all honesty, I suppose, I would be a sith since I have always struggled with anger, patience, and don’t always make rational decisions but rather follow my gut.
For all the fans who despise the prequels, they are really the story of THE most troubled only child ever. Like Anakin, I too am an only child, and there’s a certain independence that comes with it, but there’s also this constant need for attention. My parents also divorced when I was young and Anakin, much like me, sought out attention from different sources. He of course was torn between Obi-Wan and the Jedi Order and the cooing, malice attention of Palpantine. The similarities aren’t lost on me and now as I grow older, I can see how Anakin softened in his later years, and ultimately turned on his ‘master’.
But, as for my kids, I think my son initially enjoyed the bravado and whiz-bang of the Clone Wars animated series and the gruff, but occasionally funny Rex. With the introduction of Rebels, I have seen him gravitate obviously towards Ezra, but he does grasp the struggles of Kanan too. My son has and likely, always will live in the shadow of his older sister and sometimes that ticks him off. He wants desperately to set himself apart, but knows that acting irrationally usually leads to one of his parents being annoyed. I think he relates to Ezra in that regard because they’re both going through the same sort of personal growth and aren’t yet completely understood, taken seriously, nor have a full idea of who they want to be.
My daughter, on the other hand, loves Star Wars for different reasons. As a dancer since she was in kindergarten, I think she loves the choreography of the lightsaber duels. She, too, watched the animated Clone Wars and has also enjoyed Rebels. She loves Sabine and Hera because she, herself, is a strong willed and independent young girl. My daughter has her faults, but there is one thing I’m certain of, no man is ever going to control her destiny. The fire that burns in her is fierce and when she gets that determination in her eyes, I notice it. I think that’s why she so thoroughly fell in love with Rey in The Force Awakens. I often see much of myself in my daughter (much to my wife’s chagrin) and she, in a way, has always acted like a loner. She wants to make her own way, do her own thing, and on her terms. Like Rey. I couldn’t help but see the gleam in her eye this week when we watched the trailer for Rogue One because I could see her lighting up like a Christmas tree over Jyn Erso.
While the Star Wars Universe has seen a steady progression of the type of female leads starting with Leia, to Padme then Rey, and now Jyn. I think each actress has brought a certain quality to each character, but I also think the writing reflects how much times have changed. I’ve got a strong feeling that once Rogue One comes out, her room is going to be adorned with whatever Jyn merchandise she can find. Rightly so, in my book because I want her to enjoy Star Wars. Obviously for the entertainment, but if she can gain a deeper context from it and model herself into a stronger woman as well, then even better!
I’m sure that in a few years I may be revisiting this topic again. By the time the Han Solo film is released, my son who will be a tween by then and likely more awkward, will most likely latch onto that smuggler and his snark, wit, and bad decisions. I guess deep down, Star Wars works best on the misguided and unsure. Much like a young Luke Skywalker was almost forty years ago….
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!
*I’m a jack of many trades, but master of none; though I excel at drawing, writing and love photography. Aside from this blog I also review movies weekly in my column ‘Film Unfiltered’ for the Valley Breeze in Northern RI. You can find me on Facebook at teburke3, Twitter & Instagram: thomasburke3rd. MTFBWY, Tom