Darth Vader is cool. Palpatine is cool. They are intriguing characters whom we love to watch. The Empire is cool. The First Order is cool. They are evil organizations that have all the “fun” toys. It’s OK to enjoy watching them and reading about them. It’s OK to prefer the Empire over the Rebellion, or Vader over Yoda. They are all fictional things that are supposed to make an impression on the audience. But when you look at Vader or Palpatine and ignore the “fun” things that make them “cool” you will not find a single person who wholeheartedly agrees with the terrible things they do. The Empire and First Order are “fun” to root for in jest, but not a single (right-minded) fan of the fictional organizations ACTUALLY believes in what they stand for.
Because they are evil. They are wrong. They are not what Star Wars stands for.
Star Wars is simple. George Lucas has stated that is was created for 12-year-olds to enjoy. Now, don’t think that means people of all ages cannot enjoy, appreciate and love the saga. Don’t think that means it is not a smart story. Don’t think that means there are not valuable life lessons to learn from Star Wars. The Star Wars story exposes people of ALL ages and backgrounds to some of the most important concepts for living a good life.
For the purpose of this article I’m going to strip Star Wars down to its most basic lesson:
Good triumphs over evil.
There are obvious examples such as the Rebellion defeating the Empire, or the Resistance blowing up Starkiller Base, but that’s the result of the actions of good people. Not just Luke who confronted Palpatine and was willing to sacrifice himself, but also the Fardis who helped protect Ahsoka after Order 66. Big actions or small actions, they all add a drop to the bucket of good deeds. Unfortunately, whatever is in the bucket evaporates. There is no finish line when it come to doing the right thing. Through the good times and the dark times it is the kind, selfless, loving acts that make the galaxy (doesn’t matter which one) a better place.
Need a few examples of how this works in the Star Wars universe? No problem–I’ve got examples for you:
Finn: I’m not who you think I am.
Rey: Finn, what are you talking about?
Finn: I’m not Resistance. I’m not a hero. I’m a stormtrooper. Like all of them, I was taken from a family I’ll never know. And raised to do one thing. But my first battle, I made a choice. I wasn’t gonna kill for them. So I ran. Right into you. And you looked at me like no one ever had. I was ashamed of what I was. But I’m done with the First Order. I’m never going back. Rey, come with me.
Finn, a man raised to hate, to kill, to obey, realized that what he had believed his entire life was actually wrong. So wrong. Not just in a “I stole a candy bar” type of way, but rotten-to-the-core type of wrong. When he left the First Order he took a terrifying first step to being a better man. Soon after he leaves the First Order he sees a woman whom he believes is in trouble and runs to her aid. Of course Rey didn’t need any help, but that doesn’t negate the fact the Finn was willing to help a stranger. We see Finn grow as a man who is thinking on his own for the first time in his life, choosing to do the right thing no matter how hard it is. He is positive role model material for someone looking to break away from a hateful identity or surroundings.
Want another role model? No problemo. Star Wars has tons of them. How about these four: Owen Lars, Beru Lars, Breha Organa, and Bail Organa. Luke and Leia were considered the last hope for the galaxy and Owen, Beru, Bail, and Breha all made major sacrifices (including sacrificing their lives) for these two children. Not just to protect them, but to raise them right in a time of turmoil and unrest. Hard work, piloting skills, leadership skills, selflessness in the face of duty and so many other lessons were taught by their adoptive parents. Leia and Luke realize that who they are now is because of the people who raised them. Children need good role models to become good people. Children can’t become good adults if they are raised to hate, to oppress, to discriminate.
Want another example of a fantastic role model in the saga? Of course you do! Now it’s Rey’s turn. Rey has EVERY excuse to be a horrible person. Abandoned by her family, abused by people like Unkar, no friends, and no real hope. How easy would it have been for her to embrace misery and become a bad person? Well, we know she didn’t. We know that she remained kind. She helped BB-8 when she had no reason to. She was understanding of Finn when she first met him even though strangers are dangerous on Jakku. She helped the Resistance on Takodana after her first reaction was to run away. Rey, with all the possible reasons to NOT do the right thing, made the choices to help those around her.
Who’s next? A roll of the chance cube and we land on… red… and that means we go to Ahsoka! The day of Order 66 Ahsoka is still fighting the good fight even though she is no longer a Jedi. She disagrees with what the Jedi order had become, but she is still doing what she can to make the galaxy safer. Then Order 66 happens. With Rex’s help she is able to fake her death. Ahsoka can leave and go be anyone. She can become a professional gambler, she can have a family, she can literally do almost anything she wants. But what does she do? She gets involved in fighting injustice. She sees what the Empire is doing to common people. She sees that those with little or no voice are being cast aside. So Ahsoka acts. Ahsoka doesn’t sit by ideally while the world around her falls apart. Ahsoka stands up for those in need because she can.
There is a good chance I could pick just about any character in the Star Wars story and explain to you in detail what makes them so special, but I don’t want to take up too much more of your time so I’ll switch to a quick-hitter list:
- Luke: Overcomes multiple personal tragedies and continues to fight for a cause greater than himself while still trying to find the good in people.
- Leia: Dedicates her entire life to make sure all beings in the galaxy can live free without concern of a dictatorship.
- Han: A selfish man who decides to help blow up a superweapon and in the process do away with the anonymity he needed to have as a smuggler.
- Chewbacca: Family and friends first, but always willing to help strangers in need.
- R2: Cares only for others and puts himself in harm’s way to assist them.
- Obi-Wan: Spends nearly 20 years secluding himself so he can watch over a young boy who will save the galaxy.
- Poe: Instantly befriends a man in need as well as shows respect to his droid even though it is a robot and not a human.
- Jyn: From what we can see she may be pulled into the events of Rogue One because of her father but we know she becomes a leader when others need her help.
The list could go on and on. The ones above are just the good guys. You have a character like Asajj Ventress who went from dark side servant to embracing the light side. You have a character like Agent Kallus who seems to be realizing that the Empire is not a good place with good people. You have a character like Lando who does a bad thing because he feels like he has no other choice, but chooses does the right thing in the end.
People can change.
Good triumphing over evil. That’s what Star Wars is about. It is the same way characters like Captain America, Samwise Gamgee, Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, and even Batman resonate with so many people. Normal people, in terrible situations, doing the right thing. Some of these characters may have certain advantages (like super strength or the Force) but they still choose to fight for what is right. No one forces them to, but they choose to act for those in need.
So why can’t we do the same thing?
Yes, I know Star Wars is a story. I know it is make believe, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn and grow from what we see in the Star Wars universe. If you see someone getting harassed in public why would you not act like Ahsoka and come to his/her aid? If you notice the people around you are bad influences why would you not act like Finn and remove yourself from that environment? If you have children do you want to raise hateful little monsters or do you want to prepare them to be a beacon of hope in the world at large like the Organa and Lars families?
Luke Skywalker didn’t save the galaxy alone. Ahsoka didn’t start the Rebellion by herself. Neither of them walked an easy path. None of the characters in Star Wars do. But what they all have in common is the desire to do good. To treat others with respect. To stand up against hatred. To love unconditionally. THESE are the lessons we can learn from Star Wars. These are things we can do RIGHT NOW. We may never get working lightsabers, but we can all act like Jedi. We may never get to fly an X-wing, but we can all act like Rebels.
And how do we act like Jedi and Rebels? By doing all the good we can, for as many people as we can, as often as we can.
Do good things and bring hope to those who need it. Make sure the scared and oppressed know they do not stand alone! Keep fighting for them and with them. Follow the example set by these characters we hold so close to our hearts. These character never stop fighting the good fight.
“We’ll take the next chance… and the next… until we win… or the chances are spent.”