Note: I originally wrote this post in November but for some reason never published it. (Unpublished posts probably outnumber published ones on this blog!) I just read through it again and decided it needs to see the light of day. Enjoy!
Darth Vader. What a villain. At least that’s how we usually see him. After all he does murder countless innocents and aid a tyrant in his ascent to unchecked galactic power, not to mention killing his former master and friend and guiding the construction and deployment of not one but two planet-annihilating weapons.
On the other hand, you can also see Darth Vader as being quite a bit like the rest of us.
He comes from the middle of nowhere and takes an opportunity to improve his life. He thinks robots are cool and he loves his mom. He learns and grows, marries, has kids, advances in his career, and then goes through a (slightly early) mid-life crisis where the validity of everything he’s ever stood for is challenged. He’s shown a new worldview, one where good is evil and evil is good, and it’s frighteningly persuasive. And at some point, he has to make a choice. And he chooses darkness.
At its heart, Vader’s conflict seems to be a battle of ideologies—those of the Jedi and the Sith, built on opposite poles of the Force’s power. At some point, the dark voice—strengthened by the power of Anakin’s fears—becomes persuasive, and the Jedi wunderkind succumbs, transforming into the thing he swore to fight, something he never thought he could be.
If this fight over our own direction and identity isn’t universally human then I don’t know what is. Darth Vader—everyman.
Of course, (and I’m giving no spoiler alert here since this all came out 32 years ago) Anakin/Vader eventually finds the good in himself, repents, and turns back to the light. But to get there he goes through over three decades of profound darkness. He oppresses an entire galaxy. He’s horrible.
I certainly can’t recommend that approach to anyone. But I think there’s something to be said for the darkness. The forest must burn down in order to be renewed. Mourning precedes healing, winter comes before spring. Maybe it isn’t the only way of resolving our inner turmoil, but sometimes it is a way.
Sometimes, letting the night come is the only way to get to day.