5 Subversive Lessons For Men Embedded in Star Wars
Every story has a moral or lesson, either explicit or implicit. But there are also super-implicit lessons communicated directly to the subconscious, so subtle it takes a keen, non-jaundiced eye to discern them. Star Wars (the original trilogy—we’ll pretend the prequels never existed) is ostensibly about how good always triumphs over evil and that intuition is more powerful than rationality—but here are the five secret, subversive lessons the movies teach us in addition.
- Families Are a Burden
The family unit in Star Wars is more a source of angst than a thing of comfort. Luke Skywalker, a seeming orphan, feels trapped by the conventional outlook of his uncle Owen—and poor Owen and the more-understanding Aunt Beru must die in order for Luke to gain his freedom and truly experience life. Luke’s mourning period for the two, let it be said, is surprisingly short.
When Luke finally discovers the identity of his father, the feelings evoked are disgust and despair. The sins of the father weigh heavily on the son—and when Anakin and Luke are finally reconciled at the end of Return of the Jedi, they exchange some brief words and then dad promptly gives up the ghost. The tiresome, awkward heavy lifting inherent in all father-son relationships is conveniently dispensed with.
The only other main male character in the films, Han Solo, seems to have no family to speak of—and even if he does have living kin, I highly doubt he makes regular phones calls home.
Any man who isn’t at least a little out of step with his times is a man to be pitied.
- The Archaic Is to Be Embraced
In the original trilogy, the Jedi are depicted as a mythical group of mystics who adhere to an ancient way of life that seems quaint and ridiculous to the more modern amongst the inhabitants of the galaxy, including Han Solo and that Imperial officer who gets strangled via telekinesis in the first film.
Han, in fact, is a surrogate for the skeptics among us, and we, like Han, are eventually persuaded that the old-fashioned and archaic tap into some all-powerful source that the newfangled just can’t compete with.
Whether it’s returning to your ancestral roots in the old country, or, as in my case, submerging one’s self in ancient Greek literature, this journey into the past is one well worth the taking. Any man who isn’t at least a little out of step with his times is a man to be pitied.
- The Line Between Good and Evil Is Very Thin Indeed
Luke Skywalker is one of those characters who is wholly good: sickeningly sincere at times and a tad naive. He never seems to have an impure thought and he’s earnest as all get out.
But in Return of the Jedi (a film that looks better and better in light of the prequels) we realize how this same earnestness and goodness can be easily converted into pure evil. Luke’s anger about the betrayal of his comrades, his hatred of his father and everything he represents, is masterfully manipulated by the Emperor in the climax of the film. When Luke hammers away at his father with his lightsaber, his eyes are afire with sadistic pleasure. Sadly, this same conversion of righteous rage into cruelty is all too common in real life.
- Mainstream Religion Is Bunk
The whole philosophy of the Force presents a huge dilemma for those of us raised in conventionally religious households. First of all, it has no dogma or set of tenets to adhere to, yet it strikes one as being wholly good and right. In fact, it appears to be something at the same time more rational and more mysterious than whatever mainstream religion we were reared in.
There is nothing more subversive than framing an extremely compelling story in another time and place and willfully excluding the reference points most people have for morality. Fictional as they are, the Force and the Jedi have perhaps led more people away from Mother Church and Mohammed than Satan himself.
- Limitations Are Beneficial
We all know the classic scene in which Obi-Wan mandates that Luke use the Force instead of that thingy that drops down in front of his eyes just as he’s about to take one last shot at the glory hole of the Death Star. It’s not simply a statement about the supremacy of intuition over rationality—it’s also an ode to how limitations and a more direct, visceral way of life bring out the best in us.
This is a lesson George Lucas himself either forgot or never fully digested in the first place (i.e. too much CGI in the prequels). It’s also a lesson that the majority of us—with our smart phones and constant connectivity and desire for ever-increasing convenience—would be wise to reconnect with.