Friendship Shows Us Who We Really Are

I find that I’m really liking Star Wars Rebels.  One of the main reasons I think I love it so much is the camaraderie and friendships aboard the Ghost between all the crew members.  I love Kanan and Hera’s relationship, or more precisely: friendship.  Now, I haven’t read A New Dawn yet, but it’s sitting on my night table and is next in line once I’ve finished this epic fantasy series (for those of you who care, it’s The Kingkiller Chronicle).  So if I’m bringing something up that contradicts with the book, then I apologize.

I’ve gone into this a little bit with my “Not As Certain As Being Left Behind…” post from a year and a half ago, but I was re-thinking about friendship in Star Wars over SWCA.  The Star Wars movies are lacking some real, serious, admirable friendships.

Off the top of my head, this is what I can think of for friendships in the movies:

  1. Han and Chewie. Why it’s a bad example – Chewie has a life debt on Han.  Not that I don’t think their
    Tell me you kind of died of happiness inside when this happened. YEAH??

    Tell me you kind of died of happiness inside when this happened. YEAH??

    friendship is real or one of the best in the saga, but I don’t think their friendship stemmed from something organic.

  2. Han and Lando. Why it’s a bad example – Clearly, Lando betrayed Han.  But friendships go through rough patches, just like any relationship.  It just seems like Lando and Han were always uneasy around each other from the start.  Though I believe their friendship progressed further, we don’t really get to see it in the movies.
  3. Threepio and Artoo. Why it’s a bad example – they’re droids.  ’nuff said.
  4. Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan/Anakin, Anakin/Ahsoka. Why it’s a bad example – this is a little harder.  I have no doubt that a relationship with your Padawan breeds a great friendship.  But again, I guess I’m a little hesitant because it’s not that organic of a situation.  You are both placed together in a situation where you don’t have much of a choice.  You become friends in the way that I become friends with my co-workers…there’s no one else around, so might as well be friends with them.  And some of the friendships last a long time and are really sincere, but some are just situational.
  5. Padmé/Obi-Wan. Why it’s a bad example – I actually think this is the closest we have to a real friendship inobi wan padme Star Wars…with one tiny problem: The scenes that really exemplify her friendship with him were cut from Revenge of the Sith.  Unfortunately, a lot of the greatest Padmé scenes were cut from ROTS, but that’s a story for a different time.  I think if Padmé had lived, and if Padmé hadn’t been dealt the whole Anakin-is-her-secret-husband card, then her and Obi-Wan would have been the best example of a friendship within the movies.
  6. Anakin/Palpatine. Why it’s a bad example – Duh.  Well, at first I think it was a friendship of sorts, though Palpatine was clearly using and manipulating Anakin for his own ends.  But as soon as they became the two Sith, everything changed.  It was a relationship now based on fear, not anything sincere, that’s for sure.

the crew of the GhostBut with Star Wars Rebels, I love the crew of the Ghost because they all chose to stick together and become family.  I think it’s a great example of friendship in Star Wars.  They are all there by choice.  Every one of them can leave when they want but they choose to stay because this band of misfits are a solid group of friends that became a family.

More importantly, and I hope this never changes in the series, I love that Kanan and Hera’s friendship is not romantic.  If it was romantic at some point, then all the props to them because what’s even more amazing is that they were able to move past that and stay friends (I never figured that out with my ex’s. Ever. You break up with me and you’re dead to me.  See ya.).

But let’s suppose there was nothing romantic in their past.  It shows children, and all of us, that you can have a male/female friendship without romantic entanglements.  I think that’s missing heavily in our society.  We bombard children with ads, movies, books, and a lot of it is centered on something romantic.  Either male novels will be full of silliness that the male character gets in (ages 6-9ish) and then move toward action packed books where females play small roles (ages 10-15ish).  With female novels, it’s rare that I see a male female friendship.  Either the female is off on her own saving the world (with random love storylines thrown in) or it’s completely centered on a love story. This is not just the case with novels.  Turn on the Disney Channel or Cartoon Network and you’ll see something similar.

hera and kanan star wars rebels

Kanan and Hera show us that each can be a competent, unique person in their own right, with strengths and weaknesses, but also the ability to be best friends without falling for each other.  They are hanging out because they want to hang out, because of a situation that wasn’t forced upon them.  Not only is it so important for children to see, but I also think it’s a good reminder for us.

I really think Kanan and Hera’s friendship make the Star Wars universe a better place.

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Lando: The Old Smoothie

I haven’t written much about Lando Calrissian…mostly because I don’t like him.  I don’t like that he turned Han over to the Empire and even though he redeemed himself pretty fast, I still never had strong feelings for him.  I don’t know – I just got scumbag vibes from Lando and could never relate to him.

But this past weekend’s painting in my 365 day calendar made me rethink some of what I previously thought.

Lando Calrissian getting strangled by Vader

When Vader is revealed to the Rebels at Cloud City, Lando says to Han, “I had no choice.  They arrived right before you did.  I’m sorry.”  I always got so angry at him when he said that because, in my naïve way of thinking, I thought that everyone always has a choice.  Which, essentially, is true but it’s not that simple.

I realize now that sometimes your choice is life or you-better-do-what-they-want-or-you-might-be-killed.  What kind of choice is that?  How hard is it to stand up for what you believe is right?  Would I have the guts to do it?  Would you have the guts to do it?  Look at Malala.  Someone so young stood up for something she believes in, even after the local Taliban Leader (the Empire) said all female education had to cease.  Youth may make you invincible, but I still think that if I was threatened at that age, I would shut the hell up and not say a word.

I admire people like Malala, the Luke Skywalker’s in real life…and it’s probably because I may not have that heroic streak in me.  I’m a very by-the-books person and I’m beginning to relate to Lando.

Looking at this picture, I see that maybe he didn’t have a choice.  Vader wants Luke and Fett wants Han.  Vader agreed that in getting Luke, he would leave Cloud City and the Tibanna operations alone forever.  Is that such a hard deal to agree to?  Even when someone is strangling you?

On top of that, Lando had slowly begun to give up his scoundrel ways and had become a somewhat respected administrator of Cloud City.  He also had to think about his people when making a large decision and keeping the Empire out of their hair was probably the best choice for everyone.

Further, were Han and Lando really that close?  The movies lead us lando and han soloto believe that there is little trust between them to begin with and they know each other from their shady, dishonest pasts.   So there would be little love lost in turning him into the Empire.  Sure, he was a friend once, but a close one?  Maybe not.

Yes, his feelings could have changed a little once he saw he had a girlfriend and Chewie was still with him, but he probably thought Vader would stick to his deal.  And the deal was worth it to him.

The funny thing about all this is that what angers Lando is not so much how they treat Han, even though that is a byproduct, but the fact that the Empire “alters” the deal they had with him. “This deal’s getting worse all the time,” is one of his famous lines.

lando turning on the empireAt what point did Lando crack?  At what point did his anger and frustration with the Empire make him realize that even the original deal had not been worth it?  He contacts Lobot when Luke appears – but was it building up and that was a good time to turn coat?  Or did the appearance of Luke make him question the deal?

If we look closer at Lando’s transition into the Rebellion, we notice he never agreed to join the Rebellion right away.  He agrees to help save Han from Jabba the Hutt.  (By the way, does anyone else think it’s weird how easily Han accepts him in ROTJ?  Dude, last time you saw him, he had betrayed you and frozen you in carbonite!)  Then after saving Han, he transitions into becoming a General in Rebellion.

In the end, Lando plays a crucial role in helping the Rebellion defeat the Empire but I’m much more sympathetic to his character now than I was a week ago.  I still have hesitations and disbeliefs in terms of how quickly the Rebellion accepted him, but I understand why he turned over Han to Boba and the Empire.  And, it almost saddens me to say this, I’m not sure I would have done anything differently.

general lando

“Not As Certain As Being Left Behind…”

I recently read Kelly’s post on not breaking your word a few days ago and now I can’t stop thinking about friendship.  What set me off on my maniacal thinking spree, and you can see from my comments on her post, was the relationship between Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Now, I know I’m a Tolkien Purist and I’ve come to admit it on this site, though I was in denial for a long time.  But overall, I loved what Peter Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings movies.  I think he did a great job.

The one thing that extensively pissed me off (other than the elves coming to save the day at Helm’s Deep, but that’s for another day) is a minor change he made to Sam and Frodo’s relationship.  Sam is the most loyal friend to Frodo and when he made the promise to Gandalf that he wouldn’t leave Frodo’s side, he meant it.

sam and frodo travel

There are tons of scenes in the movies that exemplify this, but there is one scene that strongly contradicts it.  In Return of the King, Gollum frames Sam by making it look like he ate the last of their food and Frodo gets so angry that he tells him to leave.  And Sam leaves.

What?  In the books, Sam never left Frodo’s side.  NEVER. Frodo treated Sam like dirt at times, due to the Ring, but Sam still saw Frodo through to the very end and never once turned around.  I love that perfect model of friendship.

Of course, my thoughts turned to Star Wars and I was curious to know if any of the friendships in Star Wars could pass the Sam/Frodo test.  And I realized that, wait a minute, there are not many friendship relationships throughout the saga that are not impaired by romance.  (N.B. I would love to go into Ahsoka and Anakin’s relationship, but I try to stick generally to the movies in this blog)

The closest relationships that passed the Sam/Frodo test were Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan and Han/Chewie.  Sure, Obi-Wan and Anakin were good friends, but they would not have stood the Sam/Frodo test because Anakin did something like betraying his best bud and murdering a bunch of people.

Out of both remaining friendships, I am leaning more towards Han and Chewie for passing the Sam/Frodo test.  Chewie Chewie hanhad a life debt to Solo, so in a way he was kind of forced upon him.  Sam was required to follow Frodo and stick by him on orders from Gandalf.  Where Han went, Chewie went.  Their quest was to help rid the galaxy of the Empire, whereas Sam and Frodo had to rid Middle Earth of the One Ring.  When Han was put into carbonite, Chewie fought to keep him “alive”, but Han asked him not to start a fight that he knew they would lose, but instead to protect Leia.  This order is different from the one Frodo gave to Sam in the ROTK movie.  Whereas Frodo’s order was said out of hatred because he thought Sam betrayed him, Han was giving Chewie an order to stay behind out of love for both him and Leia.  Different motives, big difference.

Even though Han and Chewie come close and pass the Sam/Frodo test, I’m not sure their relationship has the extra oomph that Sam and Frodo’s has.  A big difference is the fact that throughout 2/3 of LotR, we see Sam and Frodo interact by themselves (okay-Gollum showed up, but I’m not counting him), but other characters constantly surround Han and Chewie, so we don’t exactly know the depth of their friendship.  It’s much too…well, “real” for that extra level.  It’s Sam/Frodo taken down to our everyday lives.  They bicker at times and get frustrated with each other, but they still bounce ideas off of each other and lean on one another to help get through the tough times.

But the more I thought about different kinds of loyal friendships, the more I got to thinking: am I Samwise Gamgee to any of my friends, my ultimate idea of friendship perfection?

I think I was, once.  Similar to how Frodo and Sam lived near each other, I grew up in the house next to a girl who was adopted at age 7 from Brazil.  Our parents basically forced us upon each other: she needed a friend her age that could teach her English.  Our friendship grew exponentially after the first year of language struggles to the point where I could tell her anything.  Her parents moved her to a more “Brazilian friendly” (their words, not mine) community when we were 14 because they thought she was not making enough friends in our hometown.  In her new community, the Brazillians rejected her because she could no longer speak Portuguese and the Americans rejected her because she didn’t fit in with them.  At age 16, she tried to kill herself and was hospitalized.  At 17, she dropped out of high school and left her adoptive parents home swearing never to talk to them again.  At 18, she was a stripper and living with a guy where all they did was smoke a bunch of pot.  By 21, she had cleaned up a little and was no longer a stripper, but nevertheless had trouble holding a job and still was not talking to her adoptive parents.  At 23, she had found a new boyfriend and was moving to Rhode Island to be with him.

I have no idea what happened to her after that.  I stayed close with her all the way up until the end.  She was my Frodo, and I wanted to stick it out with her no matter what.  Because at the end of the day, though we seemed so different, my loyalty to her and our friendship was unparalleled.

But from ages 21-23, I was engaged to my now husband.  I told her I wanted to marry him before we were even engaged.  Somehow, I just knew he was the “one” for me.  Her reaction, however, was not what I expected.  She said, “But there’s still so much we need to do together.  How can you get married so young?”  I told her we could still do stuff together; being married wouldn’t make a difference.  I thought I had pacified her fears and insecurities.

Once I was engaged, I asked her to be my bridesmaid and she accepted graciously.  She was going to be first in line after my sister.  And then 6 months before my wedding, she stopped contacting me.  Last I talked with her, she was moving to Rhode Island.  I called her cell so many times, called her sister (the only person from her family she still kept in touch with), emailed her, called her ex-boyfriend…but all to no avail.  She does not have facebook, so that was no help either.  Eventually she changed her number and the cell number I would call said it was disconnected.  To this day, though, I still have that number in my phone and refuse to delete it.  I keep hoping that maybe she will reach out again and find me.

Did she think I was betraying or leaving her by getting married?  Did she just not have enough money to pay for being my bridesmaid?  Did she think that we were now on two different life paths and felt it better just to cut me off?  Maybe all of these answers, maybe none.

Since then, I have never felt the Samwise loyalty that I felt towards her for any of my other friends.  The closest person wouldfrodo and sam mount doom probably be my husband, and even that’s different since it’s a romantic relationship.  My friendships now reflect a galaxy far, far away, more than those in Middle Earth.  I don’t think it’s sad that my friendships are now closer aligned to those in Star Wars, because I love the real relationship between Chewie and Han.  But I do mourn the strength and bond of my former Middle Earth friendship that I have never experienced since.

“It would be the death of you to come with me, Sam,” said Frodo, “and I could not have borne that.”

“Not as certain as being left behind,” said Sam.

“But I am going to Mordor.”

“I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”

Like Father, Like Son

In honor of Father’s Day this weekend, I thought I would take a look at the most memorable father and son relationship in the trilogy: Anakin and Luke.

People say “like father, like son,” because there are undoubtedly, certain traits and personality quirks that are passed down from genetically from father to son.  I know we could argue nature vs. nurture right now – but I do believe that there are certain innate qualities that don’t come from your environment and only come from your genetics.

For instance, personality-wise, I am very similar to my late grandfather.  He had a clock in every room (sometimes more than one!), always had his watch on, was never late to any engagement, and had a strict schedule around everything in his life.  The thing is, I barely knew my grandfather.  He lived in Australia while I lived here in America.  I have never spent a lot of time with him yet my mother and father tell me that I am so similar to him that it’s eerie.  Now they call me the “Dalai Grandpa”.

The hardest part about looking at Luke and Anakin was trying to find how they are similar.  A quick analysis in my head sees that though they are both strong with the Force, the similarities seemed to end there.  Luke = good/light side and Anakin = bad/dark side.  But on closer thought, I realized that there were some father/son qualities, it was just how they chose to use those qualities that drove them down different paths.

1.  Anakin and Luke both want to serve the greater good and do what is right.

This is especially obvious with Luke as he made all the right choices within the OT.  It was a close call because he originally wanted to enter the Imperial Academy, but you can also look at that choice from the view that he thought heLuke Skywalker-1 was doing the right thing.  A moisture vapor farmer in an outlying territory probably only hears fringes of what is going on politically and all Luke really wanted to do was to become a pilot.  What better way than joining the Imperial Academy and fighting for the good of the government?  Thankfully his views were changed after the Empire brutally murdered his Aunt and Uncle.  Just learning that his father was actually a Jedi, not a “navigator on a spice freighter”, Luke made the quick and right decision that he too would become a Jedi.  There is no greater good than that.  Like father, like son.  On the way, he joined the Rebellion, helped blow up the first Death Star, make valuable friends and take down the entire Empire.  Luke’s view of serving the greater good and doing what was right was focused away from himself and on helping others.

Anakin also wanted to serve the greater good and do what was right, but the difference between the father and the son was that the father’s intentions were more focused inwards.  He believed that he was serving the greater good in the galaxy by being a Jedi, but his actions were often focused more inward by doing what was right by his own terms such as saving Padmé and trying to save his mother.

Which leads me to my second point…

2.  Anakin and Luke both had a strong attachment to their family.

When Anakin was doing right by his own terms, it often revolved around one of his family members.  In the case of both Anakin and motherfather and son, they did not have much of a family life.  Anakin was a boy born of the midi-chlorians and therefore had no father.  His only familial attachment for 9 years of his life was his mother.  Making close friends was not as easy since he was a slave and because of his situation as a slave, his mother was all he had.  After leaving to become a Jedi, thoughts of his mother still plagued him and he never forgot her.  Padmé became his second family and Anakin turned to the dark side in order to keep her alive.  He believed he was doing the right thing by finding a way to keep her alive, and instead his actions tipped the galaxy under Sith rule.

I could argue that Luke had a strong attachment to Beru and Lars and it would make sense given that he grew up with them.  However, the movies show him upset, but not excessively aggrieved over their deaths.  Instead, I believe that Luke has a strong attachment to his father.  First, it is to the idea of him since as soon as he finds out that his father was a Jedi, his father becomes the ultimate hero in his mind.  He builds him up on this pedestal and wants to be just like him, as most young boys look up to their fathers and want to emulate them.  However, when he finds out that Vader is actually his father, Luke still refuses to believe that Anakin is completely won over by the dark side.  In ROTJ we learn that Leia is Luke’s sister, providing another family member that he did not know he had.  The attachment Luke has for her is revealed when Vader senses that Luke has a sister and incites Luke to a rage when he says, “So, you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps she will.”

Which leads me to my third and final observation and ties everything together…

3.  Anakin and Luke both let emotions lead them, not rules.

When Luke heard Vader say that he would attempt to draw Leia to the Dark Side of the Force, Luke just went bananas.  His protective attachment to his sibling made him lose his composure and give in to his anger and attack Vader Luke fights Darth Vadermercilessly.  It was a side of Luke we had never seen before.  Or had we?  Luke’s emotions were always seeping out of him and he did not always follow the rules.  We see it in ANH when Obi-Wan tells Luke to stay in the Command Office of the Death Star with Han, Chewie, and the droids.  As soon as Luke hears that Princess Leia is in a detention block to be terminated, he decides to go rescue her, acting on his emotions of empathy and fearing for her safety.  Twice in ESB he lets his emotions take control.  Once as he tries to lift his X-Wing out of the swamp and he gets frustrated at Yoda and ends up sulking.  “Do.  Or Do not.  There is no try.”  Though a seemingly minor incident when he lets emotions get the best of him, it speaks loudly to his character of cracking under pressure.  The second time was when he saw the vision of Han and Leia in pain.  Yoda specifically told him not to go and help them, but he disobeyed the old Jedi Master, and ran off to Bespin.  He really didn’t do any good out there and just caused more trouble, almost endangering Leia and gang when they had to come back and rescue him.  Luke seems to get a bit of it under control in ROTJ and does a pretty good job until the scene mentioned earlier in ROTJ.  His loose hold on his emotions almost causes him to turn to the Dark Side and make the same mistake Vader does.

As soon as Anakin is taken from his mother because he is the “chosen one”, his hold on his emotions is immediately pointed out by the Jedi Council in TPM.  His fear of losing her, as Yoda says, leads to anger, hate, suffering, and ultimately – the Dark Side.  Whoa, Yoda, a little dramatic!  Oh, wait, it actually ends up happening.  He massacres an entire village of Tusken Raiders when he loses his mother.  His fear of losing her came true and his anger bubbles over.  When he develops feelings for Padmé, his emotions drive him to develop an extreme attachment to her and do what is right by her.  Unfortunately, that too ends up with a massacre – this time of the entire Jedi Order.

Luke and Vader

Thankfully, we can see that though there are similarities between Anakin and Luke, Luke’s actions lead him to the light side of the Force whereas Anakin’s leads to destruction, anger, and loss.  An argument can be made that your family history does not define your destiny and you can choose your fate with your own actions.  But the underlying causes may be what propels the choices you make.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there.  Have a Star Wars fun-filled day full of warmth and children telling you that you’re a better dad than Vader.

Under the Influence

In the second to last Star Wars Insider (issue #136), there was an article where artist Carlos D’Anda says, “I think it’s safe to say that most of us working in comics, games, or movies were majorly influenced by the Star Wars universe.”  Carlos is the penciller currently working on the upcoming comic book series just labeled “Star Wars.”  It is scheduled to be published January 2013 by Dark Horse Comics and takes place between ANH and ESB.  I don’t remember much of the article, other than they were trying to make it a fresh take on Star Wars, and also how hard it is to draw such familiar characters.

It was the quote that stood out to me, though.  If you are reading this blog, I’m sure you’ve been influenced by Star Wars and it does not only apply to people in the industries he was referring to.   It applies to all of us fans, whether you only watch the movies occasionally, or if you go to conventions in a full costume.  I don’t think how much you are “into” Star Wars effects how much you’ve been influenced.  Being influenced by something goes down right to the core of who you are and touches something there that changes your whole life.  You can go to every Star Wars Celebration and dress each day in a different costume, but if your thoughts and soul aren’t touched by it, then I wouldn’t say you are necessarily influenced.

How have I been influenced by my favorite movie?  I mentioned in another  blog entry that when I was younger, I kept a “Jedi Journal” and tracked my days on whether or not I was living like a Jedi should.  That, in turn, led to me being a somewhat (I hope) nicer and more genuine person.  This is, and probably always will be, the main way Star Wars influenced me.

There are always stories running through my head.  Millions and millions of different stories, but generally there is one major story arc that I play out and try to find a tangible plot to it.  It’s part of my obsessive need to feel like I am not part of this world; that there is something grander and larger I could be a part of.  I’ve done this since I was little and even as I get older, I still escape into this world that exists in my head.  Star Wars changed those worlds.  It never occurred to me that human beings could be friends with aliens.  That we all could live in a friendly world, drink at the bar with them, and have them as our co-pilots.  Previously, I had always thought of aliens as our enemies; not realizing that it’s the actions that make someone good or bad, not what they look like.  My stories involved all kinds of aliens as my sidekicks and my adventures expanded to so many different planets with different means of transportation.

Lastly, I believe I’ve become a more open person to different people.  This is slightly different from my Jedi Journal because this happened later in life.  As I began to attend more conventions, meet more fans, and expand my knowledge on Star Wars, I realized that what someone might see as dumb or stupid could speak to another person.  We are all connected by this love of a movie, and that is a powerful cord.  I can now see what someone might love, and say “I don’t understand your love for it at all, but I respect your obsession.”  I’ve been there and I know it hurts when others judge you.  So I try to keep an open mind on what makes people tick and what grabs their interest.  I had a friend tell me that I had the most eclectic group of friends out of anyone she knows.  I was really flattered and take it as a big compliment that I can reach across social boundaries that people have created in their minds to differentiate us all.  These social boundaries can often be torn down with acceptance and a little less judgment.  Just because someone looks or dresses a certain way, doesn’t mean they like the things you pigeonhole them into.

When I now read back on how I have been influenced by Star Wars in the core of myself, I see threads of similarities in all.  Perhaps my Jedi Journal created a nicer person, who realized that it doesn’t matter what aliens look like, which eventually translated into the real world and saw that you shouldn’t judge based on what someone likes.

So when people say to me “It’s only a movie,” I know that, no, it’s not only a movie.  It’s much more.