How “Star Wars” is Like Jesus
“My English Teacher is ruining Star Wars,” Jack moaned the other morning.
“What? How is that possible?” I was twirling my hair into Princess Leia rolls on either side of my head in the bathroom mirror.
“Archetypes. Only she says ‘arc-types.’ I think English class is nothing more than a conspiracy to ruin every good book ever written, and now it’s being extended to movies, too.” My 10th grade progeny was glum, very glum.
“Give me some examples of how Star Wars can be ruined just by talking about it,” I said reasonably. “I mean, we talk about Star Wars all the time and it’s never ruined it at all.”
“Yeah, but when we talk about it we don’t get the story wrong, and we don’t compare every character to Jesus.”
“Compare every character to Jesus!” I echoed. “I can see the similarity in Obi Wan…”
“No, Mom. According to a substitute teacher we had the other day, every character in Star Wars is like Jesus.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Really. She pointed out the ‘arc-type’ then she talked about it for awhile then she compared it to Jesus. I swear.”
“Fine. How is Han Solo like Jesus?” I demanded, imagining that roguish grin. I have always loved pirates. I have known pirates, and Jesus was no pirate.
“You know how when Luke is making the Death Star trench run? Han swoops in and saves him from evil, just like Jesus would do.”
“Darth Vader. Evil. The evil archetype. Han saves him, just like Jesus…”
“Oh. Ok. So, how is Darth Vader like Jesus?” I’m sending my kid to an Episcopal school so he can learn THIS? I thought. Mentally I shook myself.
“He dies to save Luke from the Emperor and from the Dark Side, just like Jesus died to save us from all of our sins.” Jack said the last part of that sentence in his best televangelist voice.
“Well, then, the Emperor. How is Palpatine like Jesus?”
“We’re just talking about Episode IV, A New Hope. Palpatine isn’t in that one. It’s Vader all the way.”
“He’s not?” I was surprised, and thought on it. “Who else is like Jesus?”
“Don’t even get me started on friggin’ Skywalker. Whiny bi…”
“Jack,” I cautioned him. “Don’t swear all the damn time.”
“Sorry.” Somehow he didn’t convince me.
“What archetype is Luke?” Aha, I thought to myself. Let’s see how much attention he’s paying in class.
“Luke is several archetypes. First, he’s the Hero. He’s The Young Man From the Provinces. The pupil in The Pupil-Mentor Relationship, the son in The Father-Son relationship”
“Wait a minute. Back up. The Young Man From the Provinces is an archetype?”
“I kid you not.”
“Why can’t you just say he’s the naive young person, or the initiate?”
“Oh, he’s also The Initiate.”
“What’s the difference?”
“The Young Man From the Provinces is the character who is taken away from home and raised by strangers, but returns triumphant to wrest the throne from the usurper. The Initiate is a young hero or heroine who has to go through training and ceremony, and usually wears white.”
“Hmmm. Both Luke and Leia wear white, although I think Leia is already initiated, seeing as how she’s already a Senator and all.”
“Yeah, but she’s also an Initiate, and she’s also in The Platonic Ideal, with, well, Guess Who.”
“Luke. Her brother.”
“But we don’t yet know they’re twins. It’s Mrs. Tyler jumping ahead again. We don’t know of any family relationship. And oddly enough, we’re reading Oedipus Rex in History.”
I laughed. “Jack, I am your mother.”
“Uh huh. And there’s an archetype relationship of Mentor and Pupil.”
“Luke and Obi Wan, as well as Vader and Obi Wan.”
“There’s The Devil Figure, or Jesus, if you will.”
“What? Jesus is the Devil? What is this?”
“Vader is the Devil figure, and as I explained earlier, Vader is also Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is the Devil.”
“I can see how Vader is maybe a Jesus figure once he appears after his death there at the end of Return of the Jedi, but how is he Jesus in A New Hope?”
“Oh, we’re talking at the end of Return of the Jedi. She totally ruined the movies for anyone who hasn’t seen it.”
“Someone hasn’t seen Star Wars? Inconceivable.”
“You’d be surprised. More than half my class has never seen the original trilogy.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. What other archetypes is Vader?”
“Well, in The Father-Son relationship archetype…”
“No! We had no idea about that relationship until the second movie! She really did ruin it.”
“She sure did. She said that Like Han, he’s The Apparently Evil Figure with an Ultimately Good Heart. Oh, and he’s also the wayward son in The Father-Son Relationship with Obi Wan Kenobi. And in a way, he’s The Scapegoat, because Emperor Palpatine is really the Evil One and Vader is just trying to please, or to save his love, or is hopeless until he finds hope in Luke, although Obi Wan is kind of a Scapegoat in that he lets Vader kill him so the others can get away.” Jack peered at me. “You do see the Jesus parallel there, don’t you?”
“Yes, I see.” I was taking it all in. My mind was racing.
“And Han is also the archetype of The Outcast, and he has the archetype of The Friendly Beast, Chewbacca, as his sidekick.”
“How is Chewie like Jesus?”
“He’s always willing to put himself in harm’s way for someone else he believes to be more important than he is.”
“That person being The Lovable Outcast.”
“Exactly. Which makes Han and Chewie the archetypal Hunting Group of Companions.”
“What, Like Beowulf and his men or something?”
“Yes. There are other Hunting Groups of Companions in Star Wars, too.”
“The Jawas. The Tusken Raiders.”
“Not the Tusken Raiders. They’re just the Evil Beasts. Grendels, if you want to use the Beowulf analogy. Luke, Leia, Han, the Droids, Chewie, and Obi Wan make a Hunting Group of Companions, too.”
“That makes sense. But how are they like Jesus?”
“Duh! The disciples!”
I grimaced. Dopey me.
“And then there are the Loyal Retainers.”
“Sort of. Really, though, R2-D2 and C3PO are the Loyal Retainers, especially R2. He’s the one who summons help, and who always comes to the rescue.”
“And he’s like Jesus because…?”
“He summons help and ultimately comes to the rescue. Like Jesus summoned help and ultimately came to the rescue in the sense that he provided a path to everlasting life. Do I have to spell this out for you, Mom?”
“No, no. Pray, continue.”
Then there is the Archetype of the Creatures of Nightmare. The Evil Beasts. Those are the patrons at the Mos Eisley Cantina, or the Tusken Raiders.”
“Creatures of Nightmare? At the cantina?”
“Yeah. Because they’re so bizarre, surreal. And then there is the archetype of The Star-Crossed Lovers. Han and Leia, obviously, Like Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And Greedo did too shoot first.”
“Not in the original movie, he didn’t. In the remake, sure, but not in the first version of the movie.”
“Whatever. Leia is the archetype of The Damsel in Distress. She even wears the flowing robes and has the long, virginal hair, like the Virgin Mary.”
“Not like Jesus?”
He rolled his eyes. “She’s a girl, Mom.”
I cleared my throat. “Right. How silly of me.”
“And there’s the archetype of the soft-spoken, sensible Earth Mother.”
“Princess Leia Organa is no Earth Mother! Well, maybe with the long flowing hair in the third movie, in the scene in the Ewok village.”
“Not Leia. Beru.”
“Yes. And no, she’s not like Jesus.” His eyes and his tone warned me not to go there, despite my temptation to do so.
“There are symbolic archetypes, too,” he informed me.
I waited. Jack was on a roll. I knew he’d go on without my prodding.
“Light versus Dark, Heaven versus Hell, Life Versus Death. You see these in the struggle between Jedi and Sith, the Empire and the Rebellion, the serene light blue of Obi Wan’s lightsaber against the angry dark red of Darth Vader’s lightsaber, the lush natural form of Yavin 4 against the mechanized construct of the Death Star.”
“Then there’s the symbolic archetype of Innate Wisdom that doesn’t speak much contrasted with the Educated Stupidity of constant chatter: again, in R2-D2 and C3PO.”
“I can see that one.”
“And there is Supernatural Intervention. That’s another archetype.”
“The Force, you mean?”
No, The Force is the archetype of The Magic Weapon. Supernatural Intervention is when Luke is in the channel on the Death Star and he hears Obi wan tell him to use The Force, and he hits the target using the Magic Weapon rather than more conventional means.”
“So how is Luke like Jesus?”
“He saves the galaxy. I really do have to spell it all out for you, don’t I?”
“I mean, Luke’s probably bigger than Jesus, who just saved one species on one planet.”
“Stop right there, kid. You have no idea of the flap John Lennon started with a similar statement.”