Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Anakin's Void

In relation to the previous post Were No Mothers on the subject of the absent or eliminated mothers of the Star Wars universe, it is telling that the less successful, ofttimes loathed, prequels tried to center on the character of Anakin Skywalker who not only was written as having no father, but ultimately seemed practically and utterly unconcerned with this void in his past and lineage (or lack thereof). Yes, it is true that he mentions to Obi Wan at some point, and Padme too if my memory serves me, that Kenobi was the closest thing to a father that he ever had, but it seemed only a half-hearted sentiment, as if said only because he thought it was something that Obi Wan would like to hear. It was never a sentiment that ever really came into play in any of his decisions or motives over the entire span of his prequel life. By not having a real father, even an unknown father, it was as if Anakin had no "past", no connection to the stream of life and chance that makes us who we are and makes us interesting. By refusing to even put in place a mysterious wall that blocked Anakin from knowing his past (i.e. he had a father but no one, not even his mother, knew who he really was, but had still actually existed and therefore did connect him to a mystery that was solvable, even if only remotely so) and instead creating a void, a nothingness, that no matter how hard it was probed would always yield zero answers, Lucas effectively created a character that no one could identify with. The virgin-birth scenario of Anakin's coming into existence is something only Jesus himself could possibly have understood and since none of us actual mortals have had that experience, we were left feeling a little bit outside of the realm of whatever Anakin might have felt about his life. (Side note: Even Jesus ultimately has a father, sure he's a god, the God in his world, but in many ways his divine father still fully fulfills the function of a father-figure and presents a challenge and measuring stick for Jesus to live up to). Anakin became colourless, unmotivated, disconnected, unsympathetic and ultimately, little better than the life-size cardboard cut-outs that adorn the offices and homes of devote Star Wars fans. If, at the very least, this absence of a father, this void and emptiness, would have tormented and haunted Anakin as an overriding concern in the films, eventually driving him into despair, cynicism, rage at the universe, then, at least, we might have felt something, been able to say, yes, if that were my past I too would feel less than human and probably fall to pieces. But since he basically shrugged his shoulders, chalked it up to the will of the Force, and went on to kill his own wife and their unborn offspring (or so he thought....), he is far from tragic and just plain badly written.
In a better world, Anakin would have had a biological father, perhaps killed off in some older war, perhaps even at the hands of Jedi or something...just off the top of my head....he would have yearned to have known him, it would have driven him on a quest that ultimately would have helped push him to the dark side. His search for and desire to have a father, only to have whatever he discovered (or whatever happens to him on the journey to help him discover it) drive him to evil, would then have been truly tragic, turning him into the very thing, or at least symbolic thing he wished never to be: the overly authoritarian-father, heartless Law made flesh, the absent father, the lost father that the original Vader was to Luke, and as an afterthought, Leia. Perhaps his Tatooine origins were supposed to compensate somehow, but they didn't; they just made the lack of any real past and humanity all the more painfully obvious for being so weakly established and poorly sutured to the original trilogy landscapes we all knew and loved. The only way the story could have been tweaked "as-is" might have been, again, to have Anakin actively concerned with his secret origins, his void, and to ultimately find out he was something of an experiment/test tube baby that Palpatine, perhaps even with the help of Darth Plagueis the Wise, had something to do with. A horrific discovery to say the least, but a discovery nonetheless!