Star Wars’ real value as a story lies beyond the many alien species, fast-paced lightsaber duels and massive starships. It’s most useful message lies precisely in its ability to tell a human story.
As I write these lines, I’m 31 years old. Having being born in halfway into the twentieth century’s penultimate decade, I never stop thinking how the Star Wars Universe has shaped my worldview. As I mentioned, the Star Wars franchise was beginning to decline by the time I was born. From what I’ve read, by that time the only Star Wars material being actively produced was Westend Games’ role playing module that expanded greatly upon what the Original Trilogy or OT (Episode IV, 1977; Episode V, 1980; Episode VI, 1983). By the early 1990s, author Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire and its subsequent novels is the consensus of the “beginning” of the formerly know as “Expanded Universe” (EU) now dubbed by Disney as “Legends.”
Unfortunately, I was too young and didn’t grow up with a reading culture in my family. Basically, growing up in the 1990s all I knew about Star Wars was the OT with the hope that George Lucas will one day make more films.
In 1997, during the franchise’ 20th anniversary, Lucasfilm release the now widely distributed “Special Edition” OT that polished to some and ruined to others the original three films. Two years later, my wishes came true and The Phantom Menace, Episode I was released…and I loved it. Between 1999 and 2005 I was able to enjoy the Star Wars films in their entirety. Anticipate the theatrical releases as the generation immediately before me.
By the time Revenge of the Sith came out I was exactly 20 years old. The same age Luke was during Episode IV. In any case, I remember and still look back fondly on the days where my brother and I along with our friends would enjoy endless discussions about how Anakin Skywalker will finally turn into Darth Vader. I mean, I knew that something was going to happen to him. The scars seen in Empire and Jedi tell us that much. But I didn’t anticipate the sheer gruesomeness of Anakin’s demise into the darkside.
Maybe it’s because I was only 20–freshly into my junior year of college where I understood most things through a strictly intellectual lense. Or maybe is because of the mood I was in. The point is that for three weeks after May 2005, I couldn’t stop thinking about what Star Wars–or the Anakin Skywalker story–meant for me.
That was a dark time of my life. Dark in the sense that I had come to bitterly accept my lot in life–that I had shitty parents, that my relationships with my brothers and family were broken, that no one was ever going to give me anything and that I had to work harder than a lot of people just made me angry. Still does. But in my early 20s I lacked the emotional maturity to just let it go.
In other words, I let my hate consume me. I was hurt by life, women and my family. By this point I’d been living in my own for two years, working weekends overnight at a fast food joint, no car or money and my only escape were my studies and Star Wars–and alcohol, of course. I became aware that Yoda’s advice to all Jedi padawan was true. “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.”
My own hate towards the world was eating away at me. Still does. And even though I owe my personal and professional success to the adversity I lived in my short three decades, I resent those who’ve had it easier than me. Those who’ve had dedicated parents that guided them through heir high school and college years. That gave them cars for college or set them up for success in life. I had none or very little of that.
I also learned that one hurts the most when hurt by someone or something that one cherishes. And I went through a whole lot of emotional ups and downs with women during these years, too. Some hurt me, I hurt some. It made me bitter.
But, in closing, I’ve learned from Star Wars to be mindful of my feelings–good and bad and how they may influence what I do just as they ultimately did to Anakin. And because of that, I then felt Vader was never as evil as I did at first. Whatever comes my way, and as corny as this may sound, the Force is with me.