To celebrate Intergalactic Star Wars Day and the 35th Anniversary of the release of the greatest Science Fiction film of all time, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss the biggest flaw of the entire Star Wars franchise that we’ve all bought like idiots for pushing nearly four decades, now; the redemption of Darth Vader after he kills Emperor Palpatine at the end of Return of the Jedi. Because, after all, that is what the film saga is all about; the rise and fall and ultimate final redemption of Vader. Seriously, I’ve not only not understood this premise since I’ve been a rational thinking adult, but I really find it a bit disturbing that the general public and the universe of Star Wars geekdom has accepted it for as long they have without batting an eye.
First let me start by saying that unlike other characters in classic literature and mythology or popular film and television, Vader didn’t have a “come to Jesus” moment and see the error of his ways like, for example, Legate Damar did when he turned on The Dominion in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and began to see how truly evil they were (By the way, like Vader, the Dominion got off way too easy, as well, and Section 31 was right to create the disease that would have killed them all, but I digress…) and actually evolved his thinking. No, in typical Anakin Skywalker-fashion, he was motivated by narcissistic self-interest.
In Attack of the Clones he killed the Tusken Raiders, also known by their dehumanizing and slightly racist other name the “Sandpeople” (women and children, too) out of a need for personal revenge, he joined Palpatine and the Dark Side to save Padmé, he decapitated Dooku because it was less of a hassle than taking him prisoner and he ultimately killed Palpatine to protect his son. Hell, in The Empire Strikes Back, he didn’t try to recruit Luke by saying, “Luke, join me so we can stop this madness and I can make amends for all of the pain I’ve caused,” no, he says, “Join me and we can rule the Galaxy as father and son.” What the sh*t? Hey, Darth… it’s not always about what works for you… dick.
This guy’s track-record as far as we know from the six films is that he has personally murdered women and children, baby Padawans, and was instrumental in committing genocide throughout the galaxy. Oh, and yeah… he destroyed an entire planet with no defensive capabilities thereby killing billions of innocent people in one shot… as a product demonstration! This guy made Hitler look like Walt Disney, yet he’s revered at the end of Jedi like he’s some kind of tragic hero. “I can still feel the good in you, father.” Eff that, Vader never expressed even one ounce of regret over the evil things that he had done, even at the end. Nope, the only thing that he regrets is the fact that he disappointed his kid!
And, by the way, yes, nerds, I am completely aware that Luke never uttered the exact words, “I can still feel the good in you, father,” but that, of course, was the big theme. Besides, if Lucas can change the entire make-up of characters than I sure as heck can tweak a little dialogue for the purpose of driving a point home.
So, when Luke is dragging him up on that ramp on the shuttle saying, “You’re coming with me. I can’t leave you here. I’ve got to save you,” what was he thinking… that the rest of the Rebel Alliance and trillions of oppressed citizens of the Empire would just let him off the hook because he did one good thing and helped his kid? I hate to be the one to break this to people but Vader killing Palpatine was a meaningless gesture thanks to the badass of all badasses, Lando Calrissian taking care of business with the Millenium Falcon, a forty of Colt 45 and that little frog-looking dude in the copilot’s seat. Again, all Vader did was save his own kid which is something I do every day when they climb on top of the fridge and they aren’t pinning any medals on my chest and I’ve certainly never killed a bunch of five year-olds. Luke or no Luke, Vader or no Vader, that Death Star gets blown up and the Emperor gets vaporized along with everyone else on that thing.
And another thing…. why was Luke crying? He’s had contact with his old man a grand total of three times in his life. Let’s examine the outcomes of those events, shall we? The first time, he watched Vader murder his mentor Obi Wan (mind you, he did just meet that guy a few hours earlier, but losing the leader of cult can be very destructive for an impressionable young man like Luke who became a religious zealot within only a couple of hours of actually hearing about the religion) and of course it turns out that he was directly responsible for the murders of his aunt and uncle. The second time, Dad freezes his best friend in a block of carbonite and cuts off his hand while letting him fall presumably to his death without even checking to see if he’s OK and the third time, he tries to kill him, considers letting his boss the finish the job and then changes his mind. Yeah, those are real Kodak moments to get all misty-eyed over, Luke.
Redemption, my ass. What most likely would have happened if Vader would have survived like Luke tried to make happen is that Vader would have bit it like Mussolini albeit with representatives from the 50,000 Old Republic planets all throwing stones at him and the Wookiees and Ewoks taking turns, respectively, taking a dump in his open mouth, and chances are, Luke would have gotten whacked just for being associated with his ass (which Luke probably knew which is why he didn’t make a big issue out of Vader’s protests).
But no, what does Lucas give us? He gives a happy little scene where Vader is honored with a funeral pyre and we see the spirits of Kenobi, Yoda and the genocidal, narcissistic, child-killing, mass-murderer smiling on in Jedi Heaven like nothing happened. Eff that. There’s a special place in Hell for Darth Vader and for George Lucas for trying to make us believe that empty gestures can wash away a history of pure, unadulterated evil.
And why not, I guess? After all this is the same guy that has changed the history of his own work to make an obvious scoundrel and cold-blooded killer seem like a hero, even going so far as to definitively say that Han Solo was always meant to shoot first. I’ve heard people say that Lucas has raped their childhood, no, Lucas has been raping our intelligence since we were toddlers and continues to do so as we march toward middle-age… and, of course, we gladly accept it and ask for more (and I freely admit that I am just as bad).
Seriously… What the Hell is wrong with us?
So now that the rant is officially over, please enjoy Red Letter Media’s review of Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace, by Harry S. Plinkett. It’s an hour and eight minutes long so I had to split it into two parts but it’s well worth it.