Thursday, July 5, 2012

Anakin No More

As I had promised him, I got around to watching the Star Wars films with my son, Berto. And I cried more than I should probably confess. 

Yes, I'm a dork, but in the Star Wars Saga as in any truly great tale, I see the truths about human experience and about incremental choices made in everyday life to work toward good or evil. This drives my husband crazy sometimes, how I must delve into films, books or songs instead of purely escaping through them, extracting and dissecting their emotional, intellectual and spiritual assets in my examination of their merit. Then, heaven forbid! I must talk about it.

But I did learn a couple superficial things, too. I learned I grew up, because though I may have found him fascinating as a kid, I now find Jabba the Hut to be one of the most universally revolting characters ever created. I could barely bear to look at his vulgar, slimy, slug-like hideousness on the screen. I discovered that men's fantasies about Princess Leia in her bikini are valid, because, boy, that is some bikini. It looks like a beast to wear (what is that top - metal?), but it's an iconic image of female beauty even though it happens in far off fantasy land and with impossibly coiffed hair, fortunately without the ear braids.

I understood while watching these films, however, that this was also a teaching moment. My son had been telling me for some time his perspective on the tale. He sympathized with the unfortunate Anakin who becomes the hyper-cool and vicious Darth Vader, but I'll be damned if I don't take the opportunity to point out everything Anakin forfeited in his restless, self-seeking path of anger, revenge, hate and death.

"Berto, shame on Anakin. Shame on him," I kept saying, shaking my head at each new development in Anakin's journey to the dark side.

"But, but..." Berto kept saying. There's always buts.


The Revenge of the Sith is quite stressful to watch when you have a two-and-a-half-year-old awake from his nap, but you're inexorably sucked into the epic battle between good and evil in one crazy, complex and fascinating character. Your mama judgement is affected.

"Berto, quick! Get up here and help me block out the screen," I said over and over again when disturbing scenes - just guess how many there were - played out on the TV. It didn't work too well; Berto and I had to shuffle around hip to hip as my Danny boy kept trying to see around us.

Plus, Danny just wanted Mama to play. I wasn't in too light a mood, you understand, because my emotions are easily manipulated by what I'm observing around me, and I was observing a whole lot of chaos, fear, and anguish diced up for my...amusement? Several times I just turned the screen off, especially when the Emperor appeared in all his...uh...glory or during moments of the horrific but impressively choreographed battle scene between Obi-Wan and Vader.

I did try. I bounced the ball back and forth with my little son to distract him while trying to twist one eye ever to the hypnotic screen. But when my little guy bounced the ball into the netherworld beneath the couch or entertainment center and couldn't find it, he threw an enormous tantrum; I think all the tension in the room was wiring his emotions, too.

"Bawl! Bawl," he whined.

"I don't know where your ball is!" I shouted back repeatedly. "Find it yourself!"

Yes, that's ugly. I think I'd taken a step or two toward the dark side at that point, but I was sick of all the getting up and sitting down, migration between real life and fantasy, bouncing balls and light saber combat. I was up to my neck in conflicting interests. I should have just turned off the movie, of course.

Finally, the end at last. Anakin and Padme's babies are orphaned, essentially, and separated.

"Oh, Berto..." I began, but then my voice broke. "Anakin lost...everything..."

Initially small, selfish steps easily led the volatile Anakin to take broad strides toward the corruption of his whole being, and he, through his vice, lost not only the one he bartered everything for, but he gave up knowing their children as well. I sobbed because I am a parent, and I understand what was lost. Obi-Wan's grief over the loss of his Jedi brother even as he combats him, his cry, "Anakin! You were supposed to bring balance to the Force, not plunge it into darkness!", overwhelmed me, too.

Yes, I know it's fiction.

"I'm going to make a list of all the movies you've cried at," said my son, but gently as I raised my wet face from my hands.


A blank screen where all that energy had been. With my emotions still unbalanced, I picked up the Sunday paper, discombobulated, and read a terrible story about some woman's boyfriend abusing and allegedly murdering her young child. This mother was selfishly willing to leave her child for her own convenience in the care of someone whom she knew had harmed her child before. She herself had even reported the abuse. How many times have I read just that same story in the paper? Human folly, in all its subtle variations, is without end, but the themes are always there - selfishness, pride, stupidity, lust, greed....power.

I stared into space, watching my thoughts dance around the bonfire of my rage, and perhaps my eyes took on a red tinge, because Berto said in concern, "Mama, what are you thinking about?"

So I told him without giving him the specific details. I told him about my anger against these wicked people in the world who disrupt the natural order. Especially against those who hurt children. How I knew it was wrong to want revenge against others, but how the things that people do to each other distress and infuriate me.

Then I pulled him onto my lap, this tall nine-year-old son of mine who loves Star Wars, and I hugged him tight and buried my face in his chest while I wept for fictional tragedy and real life evil.


  1. Berto sounds like his Dad. And you are more like your mother than I think sometimes.

  2. Yes, Papa, he does sound like his dad. And I see both yours and mom's natures in myself. Though I'm sure you wouldn't have wept over Star Wars.

  3. I think it's wonderful when movies have the power to transport us that far emotionally. I cry hysterically whenever I watch E.T., so don't feel bad. God forbid I put on "Dances with Wolves".

  4. I think it's wonderful when movies have the power to transport us that far emotionally. I cry hysterically whenever I watch E.T., so don't feel bad. God forbid I put on "Dances with Wolves".

  5. Holly, I think you'd definitely understand. And Dances with Wolves! Oh my, that one really is too emotional, because we're aware of how it all ends historically despite the thin hope at the close of the movie.

    Yes, movies are never just movies to me. And if they are, they're too thin to hold my interest. I guess some would laugh at me, so thanks for sympathizing.


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