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Parental Roles In Star Wars

In a class discussion last week about familial roles, the point was brought up that the ultimate thing a parent can do is to sacrifice for their children. The class mentioned that the expectation for a perfect mother was that she was willing to put her children in front of herself at any cost; after having just watched the entire Star Wars movie saga I began to consider how parents both male and female were depicted in these movies as the plot of the six movies revolves around the Skywalker family. What first struck me was that despite being the story of a family, there were very few depictions of “traditional” families consisting of a father, mother, and children. Anakin Skywalker is briefly raised by his mother Shmi until he is adopted into the Jedi order by Obi-Wan, Luke Skywalker is raised by his step-uncle Owen and step-aunt Beru, and similarly Leia is raised by the Organa family which adopts and raises her. Anakin is raised by Obi-Wan who is initially somewhat of a father figure to him, but later becomes more of a brother. Anakin is later mentored by Chancellor Palpatine in a sort of paternal sense as Palpatine suggest that he may have had something to do with Anakin’s creation. Similarly Luke is briefly mentored by Obi-Wan and then by Yoda; once Luke learns that Darth Vader is his father, the two have very few interactions before Vader’s death and redemption. Out of all of the parental relationships, one of the common themes is that of sacrifice as nearly uniformly the positive parental figures sacrificing themselves for their children. It is through this sacrifice that Darth Vader redeems himself by making the ultimate sacrifice to save his son Luke, similarly Obi-Wan sacrifices himself to save Luke as well. Aside from Shmi’s brief appearances in episodes one and two there are very few examples of mother figures depicted in the movies and they overwhelmingly focus father-son relationships. I questioned myself as to why this is and I think I may have found a partial answer; the Star Wars saga is heavily influenced by Greek heroes and more broadly the journey of the hero as highlighted by Joseph Campbell. In reviewing several of these myths the involvement of the hero’s mother aside from his early childhood is extremely marginal and almost non-existent. As to why this is I can guess that since the majority of the hero myths arose from very paternalistic warrior cultures, they depicted women in marginalized role similar to their role in society. Since these societies saw producing children as one of their, if not their most important, goals this image was reflected into their mythology to reinforce such notions.

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