Star Wars Father's Dayby Todd King, contributing writer
Father's day in a galaxy far, far away!
Fathers play a big role in the movies of George Lucas. Just look at The Empire Strikes Back or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Father figures always were integral to ancient myths and old fairy tales--the kind of stuff sewn into the fabric of Star Wars. With Father's Day approaching here on Earth, I'd like to take a light-hearted exploration of the dads and father figures throughout the saga and bring their qualities to light.
Who wouldn't want a chip off the ol' block? A spitting image of yourself, where the apple doesn't fall far from the tree... or doesn't fall from the tree at all? Jango, in a way, had many offspring, so to speak. The entire clone army of the Republic is made up of his DNA. Those clone troopers are also filled with growth acceleration stuff like some space GMO (that is, not organic). He was obviously far too busy to find a woman… well, except for Zam the changeling. I mean—wait—that could have made for the best bounty hunter ever if Boba was a shape-shifting son of a Mandalorian! Instead, little Boba was just an exact and pure clone of his father--no mother needed here I guess.
Jango took his son, Boba, just about everywhere with him and taught him lessons in bounty hunting and aerial combat—especially against those troublesome Jedi. Jango would die in an unceremonious decapitation at the purple blade of Mace Windu right before the eyes of pre-teen Boba. This sure started an angsty journey for the kid with more than one nefarious character after another trying to take him under their wings (see The Clone Wars). Boba eventually inherited his father's armor and ship and got into the family business earning a pretty good living proving that there was more to the Fett name than just bounties and payments.
Darth Vader didn't really have a father and he didn't meet his son until later on in life. Family was always a fleeting thing for Anakin Skywalker. His mother, Shmi, raised him herself but they were both slaves on a desert planet. One such father figure arrived in the form of Qui-Gon Jinn, who truly wanted to care for the boy and lead him down the right path. As fate would have it, Qui-Gon died and Anakin would be taught by Obi-Wan, who had only just become a knight. Over time, those two were more like brothers and so Anakin's new father figure, well, would become the most "successful" politician in the galaxy.
As for Vader's credentials as a father... Like Jango, he wanted his son, Luke, to get into the family business: kill his master, run the Empire, have a blast. His son, however, refused the offer owing to it being evil and with questionable medical benefits (lots of artificial limbs and all). Vader wanted to give the same opportunity for his daughter once he learned he had a daughter. Fair is fair and he wanted to treat them equally. Once again, his son thwarted that idea but it showed Vader that there must be some other way. He ended up saving his son and pretty much the entire galaxy because his son showed him the true nature of love. As it happens, he's like Ebeneezer Scrooge and only remembered for his bad side while both of them turned good in the end.
Uncle Owen is protective of Luke and always was. Like other father figures, he believes he knows what's best for the boy. Besides, moisture farming built character! Owen tried his best to protect him from that crazy old wizard Kenobi, a man Owen himself protected anyway when the Inquisitors came hunting. For Luke, he kept him hidden away not just from the Empire, but from anything to do with idealistic crusades like old Ben Kenobi and his crazy Jedi ways lead him.
In spite of all Owen tried, Luke was always dreaming of bigger things so he kept him focused on his farmwork. Owen was going to "make it up to him" by letting him leaving the farm and enter an Academy, but not until work was finished. He tried to instill a work ethic in Luke and what better way than to make him gather moisture and clean droids? I know we all hated those chores our dads used to give us but now that we're older, don't they seem a bit easier to deal with while looking back? Maybe? I mean farming water, yeah?
Din, the Mandalorian, was a foundling himself and didn't want to be a father, at first; he didn't know how. Like Jango and Boba before him, Din was great at bounty hunting but he always had family in mind. The Mandalorians were his family; they saved his life and raised him. The covert was the closest thing he had to a familiar unit. Everyone wore masks, hid in underground tunnels, and were kept in line by beefy gunners and a kick-ass armorer. That's a Thanksgiving table I would love to sit at! Star Wars themes repeat themselves (they're like poetry) and parenthood kinda sneaks up on people. Din Djarin suddenly finds himself the custodian of a small life form that was meant to just be another paying job. Din's true colors didn't take long to show when his immediate instinct was to protect the little green creature.
Grogu grew on him and Din risked everything to save him. Like all parents, there came a time when he'd have to let his child go and give him up for a chance at a better life. That time came quickly, as it does for us all. He made sure to have a seat for him in the new family car, even a downsized version of the previous Suburban. Some would say he became a good father in spite of himself while I'd say what a push-over he became! He let's Baby Yoda push buttons in the driver's seat, dismantle the gear shift, eat too many cookies to the point of barfing, drives wrecklessly fast whenever the little guy whines (all while avoiding the police in X-Wings!), even let him quit Jedi summer camp early because he missed him. I can relate, Mando.
Galen Erso was a bit of a workaholic in his days as an Imperial science officer but he made time for his child and only daughter, Jyn, even allowing her around when Director Krennic came over for drinks. It makes you wonder if other ranked officials in the Empire had kids. Did some of those who were stationed on that Death Star have family somewhere? Best not to think about it when Luke managed to destroy the station thanks in large part to the trap set by Galen Erso himself!
When Galen's business became all corrupted he fled for a better life (farming... again) and still he put Jyn high on his priorities even giving her the nickname, "Stardust," which he used for all his computer passwords and important file names. My own father worked for a private company that eventually got bought out by a corrupt conglomerate. He decided to retire before the inevitable: the business was cut in the budget and finally outsourced. Galen, however, wins Father of the Galaxy because his love for his daughter spurred him to become a secret agent of goodness. Even the Rebels didn't know his good intentions and wanted him dead. He sacrificed his own happiness to save his daughter from having to live under tyranny. He only forgot one thing: his daughter propensity to drop things. As a child she left behind her stormtrooper toy which almost gave her away, and as an adult, she left behind her father's hologram message making it quite difficult to convince anyone she was telling the truth about him. And no, email would not have helped, it never helps.
Not much to say about Han Solo's parenting skills. We don't really get to see what all went wrong between him, Leia, and their son, Ben. I'm just not sure what he did that was so terrible for Ben Solo to turn away. Maybe Han didn't put pressure on his son to be the best Jedi, maybe he just wanted to fly in the Falcon. He probably taught Ben to fly and shoot but Leia wanted him trained as a Jedi and thought his uncle Luke should do it. This sent Ben away from home and Luke became another father figure in this saga.
Again, the fate of a young person was debated and decided by those supposed to be wiser. The message in these movies seems to be that parenthood his really hard and that kids need to be allowed to find their own way while at the same time needing the right guidance. In other words, parenting is the hardest thing, the most rewarding thing, but also the most important thing in the galaxy. For Han, everything he didn't like and everything he didn't believe in are the things that kept entering his life and messing up his fine business of smuggling--at which is wasn't very good in the first place. Han was always a bit of a mess, but he had a good heart and in the end that is what mattered the most.
Rey's father, Dathan, tried to save her, but he was part Palpatine, a "failed clone" and failed meant oops he had some good in him, married, had a daughter and oops she's super powerful in the Force because of weird blood and midichlorians and Han was almost a father figure to Rey but oops he died then Luke was almost a father figure oops he died then Leia was like a mother oops she died and then Emperor Palpatine is her grandfather which she totally rejected and killed him and so she claimed herself a Skywalker while looking Luke and Leia like her proud parents but oops they're not mother and father but brother and sister and oops I digress.
Seriously though, Rey was more like her father than we realized. Dathan was only onscreen for a few seconds but we got the idea. His story could sure be an entire movie! But as we've seen with the fathers described above, the rhyming theme of the saga continues here. He rejected the evil in him to do good and try to save Rey from a terrible fate. Rey, too, rejected that part of her DNA and chose love over all. This theme keeps showing us that no matter our past or our skills, if we act on love, then we save each other. The Force is still that energy field that binds the galaxy together but without love it is nothing. Love builds us up, brings us together, holds back evil and destruction, and brings new and better life forward. Because of Dathan's only action we see on screen, a difficult act of love, it is enough to set things in motion to save the galaxy.
As a father myself I realize, like these men here, how much I screw up. I hope that I do enough to help my children succeed in life and drive back the evil they encounter along their journeys. They know to call their mother for help! I at least found her to help us all! Like other fathers and father figures out there, I've at least shared my passion for these stories with my kids and passed on the joy of watching these movies and the lessons they bring into our lives.
Happy Father's Day and may the Force be with you always.