Friday, June 2, 2017

Dear Anakin: A Star Wars Love Letter

***This post contains some spoilers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars***

Dear Anakin,

We've known each other for a long time, but I can't say I was ever truly...fond of you.

We were so young when we met, that summer of '99 but, let's face it, I only had eyes for Qui Gon Jinn. (He was way cool.) A young pod-racer might have become an idolized hero to me at that age, but now that Star Wars and I had been formally introduced, I skipped straight to the next generation. You drifted out of sight while I fell pretty hard for Luke Skywalker, spending my days in a fake Jedi robe, pretending to use the Force.

As the time drew near for our second meeting, I might have been more curious about your youth, but you were no longer a slightly-naive, adorable child mechanical-genius; you were a moody teenager. And oh, those teenage years were the worst. You were a whiny, cranky, arrogant brat and I couldn't stand you, Anakin.

And our third meeting? I honestly couldn't see how anyone could be devoted to you because your horrible teenage attitude only grew more angry and self-absorbed.
We remained for years in this frustrating rut, when I knew that I should have more respect for you then I ever could, when I had more respect for the vilified Darth Vader persona than I ever did of you, when I knew that you, Anakin, corrupted for me what should have been a profound arc for Darth Vader. In fact, I despised you so much in your younger years, that I actually came to think of your final moments as Darth Vader's redemption arc -not yours.

That's how it's always been for me, like a line divided in the sand. 'Darth Vader' vs 'Anakin'. The two have never truly morphed into one person in my mind. They are two wholly separate individuals. One of them is an epic, heartless, hardcore, take-no-prisoners, terrifying villain -who turns out to have heart. And the other, this ridiculous crybaby who's supposed to have been a renowned war hero. I couldn't take you seriously, much less mourn your downfall.

So while I had eternal respect for Darth Vader, you, Anakin, just weren't the same guy. And there we were; you, trying to be the sympathetic fallen hero and me, trying my hardest to forget you ever existed. We might have been stuck here, indefinitely at odds, as the character who might have been and the girl who could have loved you.

And then came The Clone Wars.
The show showed us the good in you. Despite its starting clunky animation, some juvenile slants, and even some downright terrible episodes, Star Wars: The Clone Wars gave us the Anakin Skywalker we all needed. That I needed.

Through The Clone Wars, I witnessed your iron will and epic heroism. I witnessed, rather than heard, that you were the best star pilot in the galaxy and a cunning warrior, rather than a straight-up reckless hothead who can't listen to common sense. Most of all, it showed me that you were a good friend to Obi-Wan. Rather than a belligerent teenager being told what to do or a jealous man overshadowed by Obi-Wan's strengths, The Clone Wars showed me an Anakin who respects and loves his master -as a friend, a brother, and even a father-figure. You disagreed on many things and you caused Obi-Wan a lot of aggravation, but in the end you usually found a way to reconcile.
I saw, too, your firm and clear stance on justice -and your complete intolerance of injustice. This made you a stronger hero in my eyes, but a tortured one, because you always had difficulty aligning yourself with decisions of the Jedi Council you deemed unfair and unjust, which adds layer and depth to your personality completely unseen before. It is at once a strength -because it made you a hero of heroes- and a weakness -because Palpatine recognized your blindness when it came to such injustices and he used them against you. He used the good in you to corrupt you. And rather than despise you for it, I love you for it.
The Clone Wars showed me your dark side, too (pun intended), but it showed me how so much of that dark side was born of the fundamental differences between lofty Jedi ideals and your own brutal experiences with injustice. While the Jedi became generals out of necessity, in order to maintain peace, you were a warrior and fighter. You always have been. You have always stood against oppression and tyranny, because you lived through it, and The Clone Wars gave me so many instances where these differences between you and the Jedi stood out, for good and for ill. When you were faced with worlds oppressed by Separatists or citizens pressed into slavery, your stance was always firmly in favor of freeing them, no matter the red tape or the consequences for the Republic. And how can I blame you for that? How can any of us? More often then not, when the Jedi would decide to bow out of such heroics for the 'greater good', you weren't the only one burning with anger and contempt, Anakin.

I saw your insanely jealous side, when you let your emotions stray too far, whenever your loved ones were threatened or, because I'm also recognizing your flaws here, whenever your relationship with a loved one was threatened. Like those times Padme's ex-boyfriend came on the scene. I saw, too, your rock solid devotion, not only to Padme, but to Ahsoka, Obi-Wan, the clones under your command, and even Palpatine (though I think everyone in the galaxy but you saw that it was a bad idea).

Maybe I didn't get to see you as a father, Anakin, but you were close enough to that as a Jedi Master to Ahsoka. Like the best of relationships, you pushed, taught, and tested each other, as iron sharpens iron. From you, Ahsoka learned to trust her instincts, to never give up, and to always fight, even when it's hopeless. And from her, you learned patience and trust. You learned, too, that the universe isn't always so black and white as you like to think.

Anakin, when you wanted to throw everyone you knew and cared about under the bus to save Padme from a vision of death in Revenge of the Sith, I wanted to throttle you until you saw sense. But in The Clone Wars, when Ahsoka is kidnapped and missing, and the Jedi tell you it is the way of the Force and you must let her go, you vehemently refused. You were determined to have faith in Ahsoka, no matter what, even if it broke you. I loved you then, too. And even though I still have trouble with your single-minded and bull-headed angst in Revenge of the Sith, this moment that you almost lose Ahsoka -someone you love and vowed to protect- offers more substance to an otherwise rather poorly written catalyst.

In the end, you do lose Ahsoka, and in a way far worse than a death in battle, because the Jedi who you have devoted your life to, who you have spent all of your energy and power defending, turn their back on your padawan and force you to abandon her. And for what? Not justice. For politics. For 'the greater good.' Anakin, you couldn't abandon her for long -which, again, I love you for- but there was a time, however short, that you did. And while the show was unfortunately cancelled before I was able to witness any of the repercussions you suffered for this, I know you would have blamed yourself. I know, too, you would have blamed the Jedi Council even more. This moment, this loss, and this betrayal -all for the 'greater good'- I think is one of the greatest and most significant steps into your downfall. It foreshadows all of your fears and suspicions in Revenge of the Sith, when you are faced with the possibility of losing Padme, when you are forced to decide whether to abandon her to her fate for the 'greater good', or to step up and do whatever you can to save her. And that is powerful.

My one disappointment with The Clone Wars was not being able to see your true Fall come about in this show. But even left with the rather lukewarm Revenge of the Sith, all of your trials, developments, and growth provide greater depth and understanding to your Fall. You come so close to crossing over in so many different situations throughout the run of The Clone Wars, and always in a misguided attempt to save people.

With this background, now I know that when you turned to the Dark Side, it was a much more complicated desire than Power or Strength. It was more complicated than one moment, one trial, one base fear, as seen in the prequels, because The Clone Wars showed us so many more moments when you were tempted by the power of the Dark Side. Some moments you won. Some moments you lost. And each of those moments stayed with you, rooting you deeper and deeper in your goal to save the galaxy, no matter what.

In short, Anakin, The Clone Wars took me far beyond the floundering kid and the broody, infuriating teenager and showed me a you that I could like. More than like. Love.

You're not arrogant. You're cocky. But you're cocky because you have skill and confidence and you're blatantly cocky in the face of the enemy, when the odds are insurmountable. It's endearing. It's also one of your greatest traits.
You're funny. You're sarcastic. You have absolutely no patience for red tape or sensitive politics.

You're loyal. You're courageous and you care about your soldiers. You care about individuals, not just planets and sectors and the pawns in a grand scheme for the 'greater good'.

Anakin, you may very well have been the greatest hero in the whole of the Star Wars universe -and if not for The Clone Wars, I never would have believed it. I see Darth Vader in you, and I see you in Darth Vader. Now, finally, your rise, fall, and redemption has lived up to some of its beautiful and heartbreaking potential.

Now, finally, I can actually mourn your Fall.

Forever yours,
Amanda, Fan Girl


  1. Haven't seen the Clone Wars yet, but I feel you on Darth Vader vs Anakin.

    1. I've always felt it was such a tragedy that Anakin never lived up to everyone's expectations and there was just this huge gap left in the character, so I'm glad they've been building a bridge.

  2. You know it's funny but your thoughts on Darth Vader vs anakin completely sum up my feelings lol. I was never able to reconcile those two versions and I HATED the prequel Anakin. So now I'm thinking maybe I need to watch Clone Wars and see if I am similarly converted. :)

    Your point too about Jedi ideals vs reality makes me think about the next SW movie, since they're hinting that Luke may call for the end of the Jedi, or something different. Wonder if that will hit those themes...

    I think I tried Clone wars once and never got past the first episode, it just seemed kinda hokey. Maybe it was the animation or the fact that the Clone Wars were a mythical past to me from the original movies, and the fleshing out of them during the prequels did NOT impress me. But I'm sure Clone wars gets better, and in fact several bloggers have raved about it. So I should give it another go...

    1. Ack! The deeper I get into Star Wars, the more judgemental I'm becoming about the new trilogy. I don't know how I feel about upcoming VIII and I'm kind of scared with what they might do. =(

      It took me a while to get into Clone Wars, because I felt the same. Netflix said they were going to pull it off a few months back so I crammed, like, five seasons into a four weeks, and it really is worth it. It has so many great stories, and it really develops so many other characters besides Anakin, like the clones, and Obi-Wan, and I love Anakin's apprentice Ahsoka. Totally worth it.

    2. I'm pretty nervous too in a way about where they're going to go in VIII. I like that Luke and Rey are together now, in a remote location, and I can't wait to hopefully learn some Jedi lore, but they're making me nervous with all this Luke stuff. :)

      I'll have to binge some Clone Wars and give it more time. I've heard so much about Ahsoka and if they do a better job with the actual Clone Wars that might actually be kinda cool to see, since I generally ignore all things prequel at this point.

    3. Ack! Right? What are they doing with Luke?! I was being optimistic until I heard an interview asking Mark Hamill what he thought of the script; he said after first reading it he told them he fundamentally disagreed with basically everything they did with his character. >_<

      Hope you enjoy Clone Wars as much as I did!

  3. Amanda... I thought we were friends. I had to stop reading your letter, leave my desk and go to the ladies room to put myself together. MY ANAKIN?? I can't believe you said all this to my beloved Anakin. I just can't sorry. I have to go to the ladies room again. this is too much. ;-P

    1. We are friends! We are, we are! We can disagree and still be friends; besides, I really love Anakin now, thanks to The Clone Wars. I understand him much better than I used to. So I do really love Anakin, I just don't particularly care for the way he's portrayed in the prequels, thanks all.