Thursday, June 30, 2022

Obi-Wan & Personal Responsibility

I have had nothing to say on the live action Star Wars shows they have been making recently. Obi-Wan Kenobi, however, has been different. This show had that Star Wars feel in setting, characters, and theme. Yes, we like familiar characters--but more than that, we like them because we know their backstories and we know their struggles. And it's that inner story that allows us to connect with a story. From here on there will be some amount of spoilers.

So yes, this series was fun because we got to revisit the Organas and the Skywalkers. We see Luke stuck in the desert while Leia is getting dressed up in her royal garb. He is his father's son and she is her mother's daughter. And little Leia is adorable, yes. The bits of flashbacks to Obi-Wan and Anakin training are nostalgic. But the heart of it all is in how the various characters deal with the conflict within themselves and in reaction to others. Essentially this series is about personal responsibility. 

From the beginning, I thought that Reva had such an innocent-looking, almost childlike face that contrasted with her dark side baddie persona. I thought this was just fairest-of-them-all evil queen type casting. But it turns out, of course, that casting (and performance) was even more intentional than that. Reva is in her mind still a child who is hurt by the evil she saw done and how powerless she felt in the face of it all. So she responds to her powerlessness and pain by trying to be the most powerful and by seeking vengeance. But that is never the way to heal either one's self or the world; it only adds more pain. What Reva instead has to do is separate out what other people might choose to do from what she can choose to do. Instead of being like fallen Anakin and killing a child, she chooses to return the child unharmed. 

Likewise, Obi-Wan struggles with the aftermath of failure during the war. Encountering the figure who was once his apprentice, he feels all the guilt for having failed Anakin. This is why he struggles with feeling unable to rescue or protect Leia: he was unable to protect Anakin. But Leia is still a child, and Anakin made his choices as an adult. That moment in which Darth Vader himself releases Obi-Wan from his guilt and responsibility might just be one of the new best Star Wars moments. On its simplest level, it provides an explanation for why Obi-Wan later tells Luke that Darth Vader killed his father. But thematically, it's wonderful.

"I am not your failure, Obi-Wan. You didn't kill Anakin Skywalker. I did." The way in which the mask's vocoder staggers and allows Anakin's voice to falter in and out provides that link between the past and future, between the prequels and the originals, or the originals and the prequels depending on how you look at it. What his words say emphasizes the reality that Obi-Wan and Anakin each chose their own paths. We cannot choose other people's paths for them. We cannot control others' actions. We are not responsible for others' mistakes or failures. We can only control what we do and we are only responsible for what we ourselves do. Similar to Reva, Obi-Wan learns to let go of the pain of the past, of the actions he saw someone he cared about choosing. 

Star Wars is so much about choosing the good path. This series explored how to react when those around us do not choose that same path. It's hard and it's messy, but there is great freedom in being able to separate out our responsibilities from the responsibilities of others. 

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