I was Luke Skywalker. Why Star Wars is so important to your parents.

On Monday when I asked how many of my freshmen students had seen the new Star Wars movie I was surprised to find only a few hands go up. From the box office receipts, I assumed everyone on the planet had gone…twice.

When I shared this observation with my wife she said, “They are too young. You have to be a child of the ‘80s.”

benson-skywalker
My son, Benson “Skywalker” Zurn prepares to board his snowspeeder to repel the Empire’s invasion force.

Do you know what? She was right.

Star Wars does not resonate with the same cultural intensity for most of my students as it does me and many of their parents. For that reason, I want to share the impact Star Wars has had on my own life. For my students this might help shed some light on why your parents have been so crazy over the new film.

First, seeing Star Wars (specifically The Empire Strikes Back) is of significant importance to me. It was the first movie I ever saw. In addition, seeing that film with my father is one of the few memories I have of him as he died when I was young.

montrose_theater_montrose_historic_district_aug_09
The tiny theater in Montrose, PA where I saw my first movie, The Empire Strikes Back with my own father before he died. Not much has changed there in the 30 plus years since my first visit there.

Taking my son, Benson, last Friday became important. He’s almost the same age I was when my father died and in a way it connected him to me and by extension to my own father, his grandfather.

Like many my age, I identified with Luke Skywalker and in a way shared in his hero’s journey. I wanted to leave my rural community for greater adventure as Luke did in A New Hope.

When Yoda said, “No, there is another.” He was talking to me (and every other boy in the theater for that matter). We all want to be destined for something greater.

no-there-is-another-random-34463500-245-170
No, there is another.

My connection to the films deepened as a strained relationship with my step-father developed during my teens (as is the case for many boys) mirroring the conflict I saw on screen between Luke and Vader.

Over time my connection to the films evolved. Now that I am a father, it is not Luke turning his father good but Darth Vader’s sacrifice to save Luke that moves me. Because in the end, it was a father’s love for his son that redeems Anakin. This is now my favorite scene in the entire saga because I too would sacrifice everything for my son.

The Force Awakens is a new chapter that echoes the fears of every parent. [Spoiler Alert. Skip the next two paragraphs]. Every parent wants a good life for their child. You want them to be a good and loving person, a productive member of society. But there is always a fear–a fear that your child will choose a darker path.

I shared Han Solo’s pain when it is revealed that the movie’s villain, Kylo Ren, is in fact, his son. Ren killing Solo was devastating. It made me wonder is it possible to fail my son? Could a wedge be driven so deeply between us that would make him hate me? These are real fears every parent has.

In my youth, I connected to Luke’s journey as many of my generation did. Now as an adult and father, I understand Anakin. The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. You have that power, too.

So to all my students, indulge your parents when they want to take you to see Star Wars. It’s more than just a movie for them. For me and many of them, Star Wars is our Earth 2 life just set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

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