Star Wars: Tempted by Darkness… or Light?

Don’t read on unless you’ve seen the film, or don’t care about spoilers. I can’t discuss these themes without revealing the major “shock” moment.

One theme often repeated in art has Rebellion by the Son against the Father, with the Son inevitably murdering the Father. Because the Son would not exist without a Father, this places the Father in the shoes of the Creator. Pagan mythology is full of demigods rebelling against their creator/father, often who abandoned them on earth with no awareness of their true purpose. Christianity explores this symbolism in the myth of the Archangel Lucifer’s rebellion against his Creator.

It is a story told in different ways, in different mythologies, in different cultures throughout the world. Smallville, Harry Potter, and many other modern arts have a child murder a parent to mark a crossover into the Dark Side. It is easy to understand why this particular act is irredeemable; to destroy your Creator marks how much revulsion you have for your own existence. The origins of this particular mythology reveal not only the culture’s moral standards but its deep inner feelings toward the Creator. It explores the expectations for parental roles (Fathers should love us and care, not abandon us) and ethics (it is morally wrong to murder your father/Creator). It taps into humanity’s perception of its Creator, and of God/gods themselves, as figures that “birth” Man, then either abandon or torment them.

hanleia

In the eyes of the rebellious Son, the Father is inadequate and must die, so the Son is no longer under the shadow of the Creator. Yet, severing these ties through murder does not prevent the Son from being the creation of their Father. Lex Luthor is still a Luthor. Tom Riddle is still a Riddle. And Ben Solo is still a Solo. He can change his name and chase after the dream of becoming his grandfather, but he is still Han’s son… and as such, he is not beyond redemption. This act that marks others in mythology as truly lost is not true in his case; the Light is still “seducing him.” He has to turn to the Sith Lord for darkness, because he does not possess enough of his own to be entirely evil. Instead of a “good guy” falling into evil, we have a villain who wants to be evil and has to destroy the good in himself first. Ben is not fighting his own demons but fighting the angels.

Something that struck me, profoundly, while watching the film and realizing the struggle was not against evil but in resistance to the Light, was the realization that Christians often put too much emphasis on the Dark Side in their own lives and our culture. Some Churches cultivate a culture of fear within the Body—of hell, of being lost, of angering God, of wandering into sin, of being seduced away from the Light. It is spreading salvation and reinforcing goodness through fear of punishment, not devotion to a higher calling. The emphasis becomes not the Light itself, but the Dark Side. Instead, our focus should be on the Light… on hearing its call, on giving oneself over to it, in asking ourselves in what areas are we, like Ben, trying to fight it?

kylo

Modern culture is, in a sense, immersed in the Force; but the Dark Side is not as great of a threat as the Light Side is effective in whispering to us all, constantly, believers or non. All goodness and mercy comes from God. It’s like C.S. Lewis writes in the final Narnia book, when Aslan informs a young man, “Whatever good you did in [the false god] Tash’s name, you did for me.”

It is the Light Side of the Force that stopped Ben from killing Finn on the battlefield after sensing his heart was not aligned with the Storm Troopers (he stopped, he sensed, he walked on). It is the Light that makes Ben struggle so much with effortless evil. Light that causes him to destroy consoles in his tantrums rather than kill people. Light that made him try to scare Rey into revealing information before mind-raping her. Light that tried to stay his hand in killing his father (that he only did it when the light of the sun faded is significant). Light that made him ask Rey to join him, to become his apprentice, rather than killing her outright before she used the Force to gain the upper hand in their duel. Ben’s story is not done yet. He is not beyond redemption. He is not wholly with the Dark Side. There is still hope.

Look not for the Dark Side, nor to fear, which leads to an erroneous view of God; look for the Light.

15 Replies to “Star Wars: Tempted by Darkness… or Light?”

  1. Darn it, I had a thought. Now where did it go. This is what happens when I’ve been sick for days.

    Ahhh, there it is.

    Did it strike you as tragic how much Ben did not want to be Han’s son? Because, come on, being the son of Han and Leia sounds pretty awesome to me, especially if you’ve got all the force juju flowing. Today I’m viewing Ben as almost . . . ungrateful (which you covered pretty well) towards his parents. I bet they gave him everything and this is how he repays them and they still love him! That’s pretty awesome and terrible all at the same time. Exactly like God sacrificing Christ for all of us wayward and rebellious kids who still spit in His eye and bite His hand.

    Love your thoughts on the light seducing us. That’s really how we need to view it because, just like Yoda said, the dark side isn’t stronger. The light has its own type of seduction, the focus, the calm, the peace, and then with it comes the power of surety.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been sick. No fun!

      Yes, it is tragic how much he wanted to divorce himself from his parents, particularly his father. You draw an excellent parallel between his refusal to accept his father and our struggle against our heavenly father. The fact that Han forgave him even as he died was very touching… and probably did not help Ben with his guilt one little bit.

      Though I will say, I doubt his childhood was perfect. Living with an ENTJ general mother and an ESTP father inclined to leave for months on end after arguments so that his wife will “miss me by the time I get back,” how could it have been? I don’t blame his actions on bad parenting, since all of them are his own choices, but I doubt he emerged from a solid, stable family dynamic. Hopefully future films will reveal more of his back story…

      Our tendency can often be to focus on the darkness instead of the light, but the light always chases out the darkness.

  2. Ugh, so good, Charity! But also terrible, because you’re invoking feelings in me that I can’t deal with. CANNOT. DEAL WITH. Ben Solo will be the death of me. I’m so glad that you’re here for the journey. Keep the Star Wars analyses coming!

    Elise

    P.S. We haven’t er, touched base for a while, but I’ve been quietly appreciating all the Tumblring and reviews and MBTI stuff over the last couple of years (in a totally non-creepy, yet quietly intense INFJ way :P). I used to blog at Ribbons of Light.

    1. Keeping my fingers crossed he gets a redemption arc. I can’t see this trilogy feeling right otherwise. Han needs to have died for a reason… and that reason needs to be so that his son can find his way back from the Dark Side.

      I remember who you are. Glad you’re still around. 🙂

      1. Yes, exactly—Han Solo will be a “Christ figure” of sorts. Han’s unconditional love for his son, even as he died, was beautiful.

        “I remember who you are,” answers the ISFJ in an equally non-creepy way. 😉 In all serious, your MBTI writings have been helpful. I took the test again the other day, and for the first time ever I got INFP instead of INFJ. This led to an absurd miniature-personal-identity-crisis. Your INFP vs. INFJ analysis helped to set things right (I’m definitely INFJ!).

        1. That was wonderful.

          Did you read the novelization? I don’t recommend it overall (it felt … dry and clunky to me) but the passage where Han died was beautiful, in the sense that it described how Kylo felt that sacrificing his father would eradicate the last bit of Light in his soul. But all he felt after killing him was stunned… horrified at what he had done. The world fell away into grief and only Chewie’s scream / hitting him with the crossbow brought him out of it.

          I feel like Ben will get a redemption arc; that in the end, it’ll be either Luke who brings him back from the Dark Side, or Rey somehow. It would be the perfect parallel to Vader.

          Online tests are rubbish. Learning cognition is the way to go. Glad my stuff helped. 🙂

          1. I’m getting the novelisation from the library, and will definitely give it a read. Apparently the screenplay has also been leaked…

            Heck yes, redemption arc. Many TFA viewers have complained that the film borrows too heavily from the original trilogy. I agree with this in some respects (*another* death star?), but insofar as these echoes/parallels relate to the characters… I love it. I relished the motifs and plot lines that echoed the older films. Recapitulation… typology… figures and events that recall and foreshadow… The Bible is rife with typology, and I suspect most of the great epics are, too. As you say, Kylo Ren’s story is shaping up to be a wonderful Vader parallel, and I can’t wait to see the rest of it.

          2. I watched it a second time; loved it even more. Such a good screenplay. So many interesting characters. Humor. Action. Drama. Little bit of crush-based romance. I look forward to seeing where it goes.

          3. It just struck me that “rife” is too negative a term to use in relation to the Bible. Just to clarify, I mean “rife” in a really positive sense. 🙂

  3. Very nice! I just saw the film for the first time yesterday, so I’m still processing it, but by and large, I agree. I’ll keep this in mind when I have my second viewing, possibly this coming weekend.

    1. I have a lot more than that cooking in my brain, but thus far I have spared the internet. Mostly. 😉

      I need to see it again too. Hopefully next week! The first viewing is always so overwhelming!

  4. Wow. This is such a beautiful concept and needs to be told more. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” No matter how dark it gets, we know the Light has already won.

    Yes, we need to have a deep respect and even healthy fear of God, but first and foremost He is love. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but one of my favorite poetry pieces is called “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson. It’s about a man who flees from God, only to finally surrender in defeat and realize how much He loves him.

    As a (nearly) lifelong Star Wars fan, I was too caught up in the hype (and being excited that some of my favorite Expanded Universe characters are getting recycled into the new trilogy under different names) to get into the nitty gritty of morals quite yet. I’m interested to see how much of Jacen Solo’s fall to the Dark Side they’ll use in Kylo Ren, or how close Rey will be to Jaina Solo (my personal favorite EU character). However, I’ll try to remember that these new characters are their own people, and not geek out too much. 🙂

    1. Yes, exactly. Darkness lasts for a while, but is always dominated by the Light.

      I haven’t read the books or played the video games, but I am aware of the mythology and also will be interested to see where the story goes in terms of reinventing the unofficial canon.

      There is more truth in this film than I caught in this post; but a lot of it isn’t yet clear to me. I have only seen the film once, so those heavy thoughts are lingering on the outskirts of my mind… competing with my emotional responses. I think it was very well done, and deeper than I expected it to be.

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