Daddy issues. What would Star Wars be without them? And how many Star Wars movies center around this one big Oedipal question?
I have to wonder about George Lucas’ extreme father fixation. Darth Vader even means ‘dark father’, which is a seriously big clue right off the bat. Daddy Issues are a huge thing in Star Wars, kind of like how Disney Animation singularly focuses on mommy problems (like dead moms and evil step-mothers). I’m amazed at how many films in the Star Wars saga center around male parental authorities and how they figure into the hero’s journey, especially after 42 years of storytelling! In fact, only two films in the series aren’t ultimately about dads and dad-stand-ins. Let’s take a quick look.
In production order, here are the Star Wars movies where it’s all about the Daddy Issues. (SPOILERS AHEAD through Rise of Skywalker.)
- A New Hope – Luke asks everyone from Uncle Owen to Obi-Wan about his father. No one gives him a straight answer.
- Empire Strikes Back – Well, we find out why no one tells Luke about his father. It’s because the truth is awful. Awful for Luke, that is. It was pretty amazing to find this out, back in the day. Whoa. We didn’t realize how difficult this would make the prequels until much, much later.
- Return of the Jedi – Luke refuses to kill his dad. I saw that coming right after Empire. But I wasn’t actually sure Luke would turn Vader to the light after positing Anakin’s past as a genocidal maniac. This turned out to be good storytelling in the end, in spite of the stupid Ewoks.
- The Phantom Menace – Qui-Gon Jinn is a great role model and father-figure for young Anakin, who has no actual father. Too bad Qui-Gon bites it so early in the prequel trilogy. In the final TMP scene, you see young Padawan Anakin looking very unhappy during the Naboo celebration (foreshadowing!). While Anakin has deeply-rooted mommy issues in his trilogy, the lack of any kind of father makes him easy prey for Senator Palpatine, a manipulative and scary child predator. Eeeew.
- Revenge of the Sith – After a bit of a daddy break in Attack of the Clones (besides the Jango and Boba Fett subplot), we get back to full-on father-figure issues between Anakin and Chancellor Palpatine. Then Anakin himself becomes an absentee father (granted: I’m not sure he knew he had surviving children. He seemed to find out about Luke off-screen between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. This is a problem, narrative-wise, but we never discuss the issue because, well…nostalgia).
- The Force Awakens – Who are Rey’s parents? Why did they abandon her on Jakku, and are they coming back? We don’t find out for a few years. Also, Han Solo gets to double dip as a tragic father(figure) to both Ben Solo and Rey. I’d count patricide as having big daddy issues, by the way.
- Rogue One – This prelude to A New Hope has Jyn Erso entirely focused on her father/father-figure issues (in Galen Erso and Saw Guerrera, respectively). Her mother has a tiny role in the story and makes a really stupid decision that gets her killed early on. It doesn’t seem to matter, since Jyn is too fixated on her father to seemingly care about her lost mom.
- The Last Jedi – Rey still wants to know who her parents are. Luke gets to be the “bad parent” with nephew Ben Solo. Luke also mostly ignores Rey, who still seeks some kind of father figure, because she just can’t let go of it. She did spend decades growing up alone on a rough planet with no one to care about her, so I don’t have an issue with her obsession.
- Rise of Skywalker – Besides Palpatine’s reveal concluding the ‘who’s your daddy’ solution for Rey, Ben sort-of reconciles with his father. And finally, Rey gets to choose her parents-in-lieu, taking on the Skywalker name and legacy.
The ultimate Star Wars daddy message?
What are we left with, in the end? That it doesn’t matter who your parents are. And family are the people you care about, regardless of blood lineage. It’s an okay premise…but one hopes the next Star Wars movies can move on, creatively. It’s a big galaxy, after all.
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