There is a wide variety among Star Wars fans. There is a wide variety in the characters in its media. But ultimately Star Wars itself (under Lucas) had one very important theme set: love, hope, and redemption. Anakin Skywalker is the central character of the six movies he made and the entire arc goes through his fall to his redemption. I question how many realize this, for they seem unwilling to realize it translates to reality and how we can treat other fans.
Anakin’s redemption can guide us in fandom. In terms of chronological release, Return of the Jedi we get our first real look at Anakin Skywalker. A fallen, broken man who had once loved someone enough to father a son. A former Jedi who had once been a great hero and friend of Obi-Wan. It wasn’t until the prequels though that we found out more. We found out he was gifted from childhood but was still an ordinary child who dearly loved his mother. He was an anxious teen, who was forbidden to get attached yet had a secret crush and then a real romance for a Senator.
Contrary to some beliefs Anakin didn’t become Vader on killing the sandpeople. He broke, yes. Justifiably angry and horrified he snapped, in a way some real world people have. That didn’t make them Vader either. In fact, Yoda certainly knew something had happened. The Jedi already sensed he had shadows, but were he Vader they would have already known and acted. Anakin was not Palpatine. He wore his emotions on his sleeve. Palpatine was a politician with decades of training to hide or fake them! No, Anakin became Vader when his ideal of the Jedi failed.
Anakin believed as the Jedi taught him that is wrong to kill an unarmed prisoner. At the least the sandpeople were armed. But he did regret it. ‘I know I’m better than this’ he said. When he killed Dooku (at Palpatine’s urging) he said the same. ‘I shouldn’t have done that.” So while he had an ulterior motive on saving Padme in rushing to Palpatine’s arrest, it was Mace Windu that finally struck the last blow to Anakin’s faith in the Jedi. As far as Anakin knew, Palpatine was down and unarmed. Mace was clearly going to kill him. And so the fall. He knew the Sith were evil, but he also no longer believed the Jedi were good.
Skip ahead two decades and Luke Skywalker, his son confronts him in a replay of his own fight with Dooku. Only this time he is the Sith, and Luke the one told to cut him down. Luke displays all the characteristics of the Jedi that Anakin had once believed in. He refuses. Anakin in this moment is reborn. After decades in darkness, the light has shown forth.
Being reunited with Yoda and Obi-Wan was the indication that he was redeemed and forgiven. Not due to earning it so much as his act of selfless sacrifice in stopping the Emperor.
Lucas considered this scene, particularly the death scene, so important that he directed it himself. What’s more he did it when being hurt by a divorce.
Lucasfilm in turn recognized that and it crossed multimedia lines. Here are a few examples:
- Jedi Uliq Qel-Droma’s fall and redemption are featured in Tales of the Jedi Comics.
- Cade Skywalker, due to a tragedy that killed his father ends up raised by pirates, becoming a bounty hunter and turning people in, even to the Sith. His path to redemption is told in Star Wars: Legacy
- Revan is famous or infamous (depending on your POV) in the video games Knights of the Old Republic and even Star Wars: The Old Republic through a twist of fate. The canonical story has Revan’s redemption after his fall to the dark, losing his memory and getting it back.
- Kyp Durron is introduced in the Jedi Academy novels. He is led to the dark side by a Sith spirit when Luke Skywalker tries to train him as a Jedi. He performs terrible acts, but is brought back into the fold.
That is every medium and every era of Star Wars! While not the only theme, redemption and forgiveness certainly is one of the most important. Even in real life terrible people have been redeemed. It’s rare, but it does happen.
Yet here we are, claiming to be Star Wars fans, and ignoring this incredibly important message. Assuming that this fan or that fan can not be redeemed, can never be swayed to our side. Slurs are cast like ‘misogynist’ or ‘racist’ or even ‘Nazi’. Some are true accusations but others are cast simply because someone doesn’t agree with a certain point of view. Often they seem to be cast out by people who don’t even want to listen to see if maybe the perceived insult isn’t what it seems. But even the ones that may be true ignore the fact that forgiveness and reconciliation are possible. Most people aren’t Palpatine. There aren’t many who can say they wiped out a whole planet, plotted and pulled off the destruction of an entire established government, tortured people floating around the internet. In fact I suspect there are none among the fan base. For one thing, they would not root for our heroes. For another they are too busy doing more of the same.
So let’s remember that three of the core things of Star Wars have always been faith, hope, love which in turn to forgiveness of many flaws. If we truly are Star Wars fans, we should offer each other the same grace.