Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!
I recently saw the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie and it was pretty cool. This is not a review, but more of an observation on the theme of fatherhood that is deeply rooted in this movie. As stated above, I am going to share some info that will spoil the movie for you if you have not watched it.
You have been warned.
We are introduced to Kylo Ren, the new Sith character, who is the son of Hans Solo and Leia, and the grandson of Darth Vader. Right away, you see that Kylo has daddy issues. These issues seem to stem from Solo not being present in Kylo’s life and it is clear that Kylo’s daddy issues have encouraged his joining of the dark side. I wasn’t surprised to see this plot in the movie. There are so many young people I interact with that fall into a, sort of, “dark side” due to a broken or absent relationship with their father. What was interesting to see is how Hollywood portrayed the devastating consequences of a young man not having a positive relationship with his father. Not only did the consequences affect the individual, but the surrounding community as well.
Kylo has a moment in the movie where he interacts with Rey, the female protagonist, and Kylo senses that she has some kind of attachment to Solo. Kylo cynically says, “He’ll disappoint you.” In this interaction you see that Kylo is very emotional when he talks about his father. At one point, Kylo is conflicted between the light and dark side of the force. He even asks for guidance from his dead grandfather as he speaks to Darth Vader’s beaten helmet in a room. I believe this struggle is driven by Kylo’s desire to know his father, yet he is angry about being deserted.
Kylo’s anger has distorted his understanding of living a good moral life. This anger has also poured into Kylo’s interactions with the world in general. Kylo murders, orders people to be murdered, and eventually murders his father. The monstrous weapon— the Death Star on crack—destroys several planets all because of this deep anger and rage.
Kylo is a wounded young man. Maybe this is a stretch, but I believe this story can be seen as a metaphor for what can happen to young men when fathers are absent. Solo may be a stand up guy in the galaxy’s eyes, but not being present in Kylo’s life seems to have done some major damage. Maybe Kylo showed great promise to be a Jedi and he was sent away to train and that’s why Solo wasn’t around. Maybe, but clearly Kylo has daddy issues.
In my line of work, young men who don’t have fathers are more likely to be angry and have emotional issues that don’t always remain in their own hearts. Usually this anger pours into all they do and say, and onto those they interact with. I unfortunately have too many stories that constantly remind me of this reality. I’m not saying these young men will grow up to be like Kylo, but it definitely wounds them. There are many reasons why fathers can be absent in a young persons life. Therefore, I cannot make any judgments. Neither can I say that a fatherless child will automatically become a bad person. Individuals with very good, holy and present fathers make bad choices too.
As my wonderful wife pointed out a distinction needs to be made between a father that leaves their child out of selfishness, versus a father that needs to leave due to a deployment, or job that demands a prolonged physical absence. The latter are still present to their children, maybe not in a physical-corporal-right-in-front-of-you sort of way, but the relationship with their child is established. Relationships between fathers and children that have prolonged absences can still communicate via phone, Internet, mail, etc. and continue to nurture those relationships. I know of many young men and women whose fathers are away on business or deployments that have solid relationships with their fathers.
Maybe J.J. Abrams is using this movie to communicate the importance of a good relationship between a son and his father. Maybe he isn’t. Whatever the case may be, the need for fathers to be present, engaged, and attentive to their sons is very important and something that, not only affects the individual, but everyone they come into contact with.
There are many young men who grow up without fathers and turn out to be great people. However, studies (this is just one site out of dozens) show how difficult it is for children—especially boys—to grow up without fathers.
As we close this year and begin a new one, let all fathers be more attentive to our relationships with our sons and our daughters. There is no greater force than the impact you will have on them.