Spoilers Ahead! Spoilers Ahead! Spoilers Ahead!
If you have not seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens,
DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE!!!!!!
You have been warned.
So what do Star Wars and strippers have in common? I’m NOT talking about scantily clad women. I’m talking about daddy issues.
It is peculiar how many characters in the entire saga suffer from daddy issues, yet fathers are notoriously negligent or absent throughout the whole series. Of the few fathers who do stick around, they’re either narcissistic beyond belief, (Jango Fett), or they distance themselves due to their own issues (Han Solo).
The psychosis of daddy issues is more than just a common trait in the Star Wars galaxy. In fact, this psychological character aspect continually perpetuates the plot. To demonstrate this point, allow me to provide a character breakdown as follows:
Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
Father Status: Absent/nonexistent (thanks for the midi-chlorians/virgin-birth BS, Lucas!)
Resulting Daddy Issues: Although he was a slave, Anakin seems like a fairly well-rounded child. After he discovers the truth about his powers, and once adult males show an interest in him, everything starts to push Anakin toward the path of Vader.
During his Jedi training, Anakin finally has male/father figures in his life. To impress them, he gives in to his competitive/cocky nature, A.K.A., his passion/Dark Side tendencies. When Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes his master, though, their relationship is more akin to siblings rather than parent/child. After all, Kenobi himself had so newly become a master, and both he and Anakin saw Qui Gon Jinn, their shared master, as a father, thus making them brothers. Nonetheless, Anakin still has to make his big brother proud.
Unfortunately, while Anakin treats the other Jedi masters like father figures, none of them are his actual father, and therefore they do not give him the kind of individual care and acknowledgment every child craves. Hence, it is not surprising that even after Anakin becomes a full Jedi master that he still acts as if he has something to prove, which might explain why he latches on to Senator Palpatine/The Emperor Darth Sidious. After all, Palpatine dotes on him like a father and encourages Anakin’s passions. In reality, Palpatine recognizes Anakin’s power and weaknesses, so he exploits the daddy issues as a way to push Anakin into becoming Darth Vader.
Father Status: Father believed dead, raised by relatives.
Resulting Daddy Issues: Despite not being raised by his biological father, Luke’s Uncle Owen did provide a father figure and male presence in his early life. Regardless, he never knew his real father, and being raised on a backwater planet where there was little for him to do gave Luke plenty of time to fantasize about who his father may have been. Since his father was only ever talked about in stories, Luke creates an idealized version.
Obi-Wan recognizes Luke’s power right away, because he knows the truth about Luke’s heritage. As a result, Obi-Wan chooses to exploit Luke’s hero-worshiping of his father by relaying the equivocation that Darth Vader killed Luke’s father. The very idea that someone would kill his father pushes Luke to embrace his force powers and become the Jedi that Obi-Wan wants him to be to carry on with the Jedi cause.
Of course, after Luke finds out the truth about his father, and after Luke tries to save his father, he develops some sort of survivor’s guilt. Luke loves and respects his father’s choice of self-sacrifice, but the emotions and unresolved issues between Luke and his father remain.
Those unresolved daddy issues make Luke feel as if he owes something to his father, which might explain why he agrees to Leia’s request to train her son, Ben, to be a Jedi. However, because of Luke’s guilt, his skills as a teacher might be questionable. Especially since Luke’s nephew, Ben, has major daddy issues of his own.
Princess Leia/General Organa
Father Status: Raised by adopted parents, but discovers later in life the truth about her real father.
Resulting Daddy Issues: Initially, her daddy issues are minimal or non-existent, because she was raised by presumably loving parents. When Alderaan gets blown up, Leia has no real time to grieve, as the shock of an entire planet being annihilated takes time to process. Not to mention the fact that she has to endure torture and imprisonment until she is finally rescued by a ragamuffin team made up of a Wookie, an old man, a smuggler, and a short kid.
Her major daddy issues develop on the sidelines, and sadly we aren’t privy to them due to the predominant focus on male characters. Nevertheless, we can speculate a great deal.
She discovers that Luke is her brother, which, after having all of her adopted family disintegrated, it must be a relief to know that she still has some family alive in the universe. In the discovery of her brother, though, she also learns that Darth Vader is their father. Now she has to deal with the fact that she was tortured by her own father. Furthermore, she has to process the realization that her biological father murdered her adopted family. Not to mention the fact that her father doesn’t even seem to care about her, since she does not display active force powers like Luke. Darth Vader only mentions her relationship to him and Luke when he knows it will trigger Luke into an emotional response.
Leia was raised by politicians and nobility, so she puts her people and the cause first and chooses to suffer in silence. Even in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when she and Han talk about their son, the conversation happens in a place separated from everyone else, and it almost seems as if they are keeping their voices down when they discuss how they feel. Her choice to hide her emotional side gets highlighted further when all of her troops are celebrating the success of the battle, yet she and Rey, (the only other major female character), hug in somber silence as they deliberately distance themselves from the festivities in order to grieve their shared loss.
Father status: Genetically cloned from Jango Fett.
Resulting Daddy Issues: His father raised him and trained him, but his father raised him to be literally an exact duplicate. In some ways, Jango’s action to clone himself almost take away Boba’s free will. His father expects him to be a perfect copy in every way. Had Jango not been killed by Mace Windu, perhaps Boba would have grown-up and gone through a rebellious stage where he chose to become his own person. Unfortunately, the death of his father led him down a path of vengeance, which made him into the perfect bounty hunter tool that would later be used as a plot device to trap Han Solo.
Ben Organa-Solo/ Kylo Ren
Father Status: Son of Han Solo.
Resulting Daddy Issues: Well, as if being the son of the most renowned smuggler in the galaxy weren’t enough, Ben is also the son of Princess Leia. From the moment he left the womb, he had to live in the shadow of his heroic parents. Talk about pressure to be as good or better!
Concerning daddy issues, we are not shown the exact details of his upbringing, but from the conversations between Han and Leia, we can extrapolate that Han purposefully distanced himself from his son. He uses the excuse that there was too much Vader in Ben, but one has to wonder if the issue was more that Han wasn’t exactly the sticking-around-father-type.
With a distant father, Leia has to manage her political responsibilities and take-up double parental duty, which might be why she sent Ben to Luke. No doubt she recognized her son’s affinity with the force, which is why she hoped that Luke could provide Jedi guidance, but she may have also wanted Ben to be around Luke, so that he could provide the male presence/father figure that Han could never be.
Ben no doubt felt abandoned by his biological father, and in that abandonment he may have tried to find a reason for his father’s distance. Perhaps he heard his parents arguing, and that’s how he got the idea that he had too much of his grandfather in him, which might explain Ben’s fixation on becoming like his grandfather, including going down the path of the Dark Side and wearing a face mask.
In many ways, Ben’s character is a mirror reflection of Anakin’s character. Both have immense power, and both share a similar vulnerability. Supreme Leader Snoke, just like Senator Palpatine/The Emperor, capitalizes on Ben’s daddy issues in order to forge Ben into his own Sith lapdog.
Father Status: Parents unknown, but she was separated from them.
Resulting Daddy Issues: For reasons not fully explained, we as the audience know that Rey has been left behind by her family, or she was forcibly separated from them. She stays on the dust ball planet Jakku, because she believes her family will come back. From the sage-like wisdom of Maz Kanata, it is implied that Rey’s family will never come back, and that her only hope of gaining a new family is in her future. While this is not definitive, it is safe to say that Rey must accept that her biological family is dead.
She’s been an orphan for a large part of her life, which explains why she and Finn bond so well, as he is a genetically created soldier who has never known true family connections. Her desire to look out for BB-8 also shows a classic trope of the older orphan becoming a pseudo-parent/caregiver to the other orphans.
Rey’s instant link to Han Solo makes us believe that despite her independent nature, she still longs for a family, especially a father. As we are not yet privy to her full past, we don’t know if she was closer to her father than to her mother, though if she were it might explain why she bonds so quickly with Han.
From a story perspective, it might also be an easy way to put Rey and Ben/Kylo Ren against each other. After all, Rey is just as powerful as him, if not more, yet Han can accept Rey whereas he cannot accept his own son. Rey’s loyalty and devotion to Han as a pseudo-father figure pushes her to fight Ben/Kylo Ren, especially after he kills Han. Granted, Ben/Kylo Ren’s earlier interrogation tactics of pretty much mind-raping Rey no doubt added to Rey’s hostility against him, so him killing her father-figure may have been akin to adding fuel to the fire.
Orphaned again, Rey must find a way to move forward. She develops a connection to Leia and Chewbacca, as they all share in their loss of Han. She also bonds with Finn, her friend, fellow orphan, and potential love interest. While these individuals may become her family over time, she still seeks answers, because she has to know what she must do against Ben/Kylo Ren and the First Order. While Rey’s desires for vengeance may be mixed up in her emotional state of grieving Han Solo, Rey’s actions seem bigger than that, as her connection to the energy of the Force shows her that Ben/Kylo Ren and the First Order represent mere symptoms of the disease. It is unclear at the end of the film whether she will turn Luke Skywalker into a new father-figure, especially after having lost Han so shortly after their relationship began.