By Elliott Serrano, @ElliottSerrano
3:45 PM CST, November 26, 2013
And here is the biggest problem I have with Star Wars in a nutshell:
Luke Skywalker sees Princess Leia for the first time, falls in love and crosses a galaxy to save her.
He hires Han Solo, a mercenary who has to be convinced to help rescue Leia from being executed.
Of course, since Han is the "bad boy" Leia falls in love with him.
Luke is revealed to be her brother.
Han gets the girl while Luke gets to stare at the ghost of his dead father who has somehow gotten younger and has a creepy stalker-stare.
Talk about unfair.
Now, I was talking about Star Wars in narrative terms, thinking out loud with my “writer-brain” and taking issue with how George Lucas kind of left Luke hanging at the end of Return of the Jedi without ever “getting the girl.”
This set off some discussion about women being treated as “trophies” and Ms. Rapciak calling me out to debate the issue on our respective blogs. Rapciak wrote her column and insinuated some things that I take issue with and would like to address in my rebuttal.
(Click HERE to read her post.)
I’ll address each of her points in order:
1. Luke's attraction to a pretty hologram is NOT love.
Well, of course it isn’t.
If we’re going to take Star Wars and frame it in “real world” terms, Luke Skywalker would be a prime candidate to get “catfished.”
The kid grows up on a backwater planet, leading a sheltered life with minimal contact with the outside world, and sees the hologram of an exotic princess needing help? He’s gonna get suckered in faster than you can say Manti T’eo.
But we’re not talking about the real world, here. Star Wars is a fable, a fairy tale, a romantic fantasy even. And how many of these stories are based on the idea of “love at first sight”? Or the romantic notion that the hero sets off to slay the dragon, save the princess and they live together happily ever after?
If you insist on applying real world standards to fairy tales, you spoil a great many of them. One would have to question why Ariel (of “The Little Mermaid”) would decide to leave her family and life under the ocean for a guy she hardly knew. Or shake your head when Snow White decides to leave all the dwarves behind and go live with a guy she just met after a long nap.
When you take romantic ideals as presented in fairy tales and expose them to the harsh light of reality, they all seem like bad judgment calls.
Quite honestly, what bothers me more than the whole Luke-falls-in-love-with-Leia’s-hologram deal is that just minutes before Ben Kenobi reveals to Luke that his family has been lying to him HIS ENTIRE LIFE. And he JUST ACCEPTS IT. No anger. No sense of betrayal. Luke just shrugs and moves on.
Talk about a rube.
Then again, this is a fairy tale and leaving home is part of the hero’s call to adventure. And sometimes that call also involves falling in love with a beautiful princess.
There’s no lust involved.
2. Women aren't trophies.
Nope, they are not. I never said they were. And to insinuate that I think that is kind of...annoying.
When you talk about “getting the girl/boy” in a story narrative it’s not to imply that they are an object to be attained. Even in fairy tales the protagonist isn’t trying to “win” someone but seek out an ideal of someone; it’s the relationship the characters long for.
Snow White sings that ‘one day her prince will come’ even though she has no idea who that prince is. It’s the notion of being in love she’s singing about. Of having someone who loves her and that their love is so strong it will whisk her away from her current circumstances.
Is it realistic? Absolutely not. Again, it’s a fairy tale.
It’s not meant to demean or objectify anyone unless you insist on interpreting it that way.
When Prince Charming kisses Snow White at the end of the story and wakes her from her deathly sleep, does he view her as a trophy that he’s won? I don’t think so. Again, it’s an ideal of what love is in the world of fantasy.
Framed in terms of another fairy tale, how would people react if Prince Charming put the slipper on Cinderella, saw that it fit, but then decided he liked one of the Ugly Stepsisters instead?
In the real world, the idea that she wouldn’t end up marrying some guy she only knew for an evening isn’t all that traumatic. In fact, she’s probably better off. But does that make the original ending of the story irredeemable?
Some would say that Cinderella is just a statement about marriage and woman’s role in society. That she shouldn’t be waiting for a man to rescue her and take her away.
I call those people killjoys.
And it's not like the prince was all that bright to begin with. I mean, he goes all over the kingdom to find a mystery woman based on the idea that a shoe will fit them? What if the shoe fit more than one person? What if Cinderella’s feet were all swollen from standing on her feet all day and the slipper didn’t fit?
See what happens when you insert too great a dose of reality into a fairy tale? It destroys the illusion and makes for a bummer ending.
3. Leia and Han are actually compatible.
Yeah, they work BECAUSE THEY WERE WRITTEN THAT WAY. That’s especially a reality for stories and the relationships in them that are influenced by the fans.
It’s like when the writers of the X-Men comics decided that Wolverine would be a better match for Jean Grey than Scott Summers. Suddenly, the guy who was a “loner” with a homicidal streak became this sensitive “Ronin” warrior who inexplicably grew 4-6 inches so he could kiss Jean without having to stand on a milk crate.
Characters that were incompatible at one point can be made compatible by the writer to serve the needs of the story.
As far as Star Wars goes, the relationship between Han and Leia could have gone in any direction that Lucas and the writers wanted. It starts off as adversarial in “A New Hope”, and in "Empire" it could have been turned into a clash of ideologies – fighting for the good of the galaxy versus looking out for your own interests – just as easily as it was turned flirtatious.
But that’s not what the writers wanted. Somewhere between “she’s beautiful” and “there is another” a major narrative shift took place, and it was decided to go with Han over Luke.
And lots of fans will insist that’s the way it should be. That it was the way it was always meant to be. Well, as someone who’s read plenty about how the films were made, I call B.S. on that. Stories changed. Plots were altered and with that so were character motivations. And that gave us Han and Leia falling in love.
It could easily have been Luke.
4. Luke isn't the perfect nice guy, either. I don't have a lot of sympathy for Luke when it comes to the ladies. I forgive the kid for being an immature whiner. Ep. IV Luke had a lot to learn. However, he was NOT a supportive bro.
One: He doesn’t know he’s Leia’s brother.
Two: Han was using that “ya’ think a princess like her and a guy like me…” line to needle him, NOT express interest.
Three: Let’s say Luke does know he’s Leia’s sister, and Han IS expressing his interest in her, what has Han done up to that point to show that he even merits Luke’s approval?
Show me a guy who will let his sister hook up with a guy who was more than willing to let her get killed just a half hour earlier and I’ll show you a crappy brother.
Seriously, as if I’d let my own sister hook up with the first smuggler she’d met. Sheesh.
5. Coming-of-age protagonists don't find romantic love.
Again, I point to “The Little Mermaid”. Then again, she never really did “come of age” did she?
How old was Ariel again? Was she an ocean-weary person who had enough of life under the sea and needed to seek out new adventures in the world above? No, SHE WAS SIXTEEN!
Did her story end with her walking on dry land and being more self-aware yet not with the man she fell in love with?
No, she ended up getting MARRIED AT SIXTEEN. And she left behind her family, friends and the ability to survive the eventual floods brought on by Global Warming.
And look at all the other “Disney Princesses” who have their stories conclude with finding their “true love” as well.
Oh yeah, and speaking for the guys, how about “Aladdin”? The whole story is about finding his true self and…what? Oh yeah, FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE PRINCESS.
As for Luke, he is a bit older than Ariel at the beginning of “A New Hope” and ages both physically and spiritually as the trilogy continues. He goes from being a farmboy, to a battle-weary war veteran, to a Jedi Knight in the span of three films.
And yes, he redeems his father; finds a sister he never knew he had; gains a surrogate brother in the form of the man she loves; and helps bring peace to the galaxy. So, in the end, Luke does okay for himself.
It just bothered me that Luke never got to fall in love, like the knight and the princess usually do in fairy tales.
Sure, he does end up with Mara Jade in the Expanded Universe books. But sorry, they’re not canon so they don’t count.
I will conclude with these last two thoughts:
First, “nice guys” who are “nice” just to get a girl aren’t nice guys at all. So please stop calling them that because it makes the real “nice guys” look bad.
Second, with this whole Luke versus Han debate, I’m willing to bet money that this isn’t even an issue if Christopher Walken had played Han Solo instead of Harrison Ford.
You know that’s a fact.
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