[🎵Accessing] Hello! I’m Anika AKA Pixie and you are listening to the Endless Anakin Playlist Podcast, in which I use popular music as a frame to discuss anything and everything Star Wars. And anything and everything I decide is related.
This episode is inspired by the song “The Weight of Us” by Sanders Bohlke.
Last year, before the majority of the 2020 convention season was cancelled due to the global pandemic, I was pitching a panel titled “Saving the World Isn’t Therapy”. My conceit was that all our fictional heroes desperately need therapy. Everyone in the Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Evangelion, the MCU, and certainly Star Wars would benefit from the opportunity to address their trauma in a safe space and uncoupled from the fate of the universe.
In many ways, trauma is foundational to storytelling. Conflict provides the tension that drives the narrative and conflict is traumatic. The bigger the conflict, the bigger the trauma. So, for example, a galactic war creates trauma on a galactic scale. Here is where I wave my hand at the entirety of Star Wars. But also every other giant mainstream fandom. James Bond. Game of Thrones. Doctor Who. Supernatural. Star Trek. And by looking at and discussing how and why these stories address or ignore trauma, we can use them to help us deal with our own emotions, our own conflicts, and our own traumas. To construct our own narratives.
I was really excited about this panel and I’d already pitched it to a handful of cons and had plans for others. Then the pandemic hit. Our collective, global, trauma made my idea even more relevant. Unfortunately, it also required all cons to shutter. I considered and… I’m still considering – some kind of a virtual event, or even switching gears to a full on research project or pitching a book. But the idea was on pause as I worked through how to proceed in what’s become our new normal.
Then in January 2021, WandaVision premiered, and it proved to be a beautiful distillation of my thesis. Wanda uses the fiction she loves to hide from her trauma, and simultaneously to make it visible. She takes ‘magical thinking’ to a whole new extreme! In my next episode I will be joined by my friend Heather to talk about Wanda and WandaVision in more depth. Today, in preparation for that conversation, I want to discuss how each of the Skywalkers internalize trauma or to use a colloquial, how they struggle with their inner Dark Side.
For this brief discussion I’m limiting my scope to Skywalkers by blood. I mean it when I say everyone in Star Wars should get therapy. But mental illness and addiction are more common in people whose blood relatives also have a mental illness or also struggle with addiction. And Wanda being a mutant or having an intrinsic connection to magic, both of which is explained as genetic, makes her both powerful and that power makes her prone to mental disorder. Just like the Skywalkers.
I start with the least discussed and most forgotten. Shmi Skywalker is a supporting character. She mainly exists to further Anakin’s story. We never really talk about how her trauma affects her, only how it affects and motivates her son. Theoretically, in the ten years between Episode 1 and Episode 2 she finds some version of happiness and stability with the Lars family, but we don’t see any of that. What we see and hear about are her life as a slave, her kidnapping and torture by the Tusken Raiders, and the strange story of Anakin’s birth. Either she was used as a vessel by and for the Force, and/or a Sith lord, or she was sexually assaulted. Even her eventual happiness with Cliegg Lars is tainted given he initially purchased her as a slave. But both Anakin’s birth and her marriage to Cliegg are given a positive spin by the films and by Shmi herself. I’m the one calling it controversial. Shmi writes herself a narrative that she can live with. Just like Wanda does.
And so do Anakin and Ben in their own ways. Anakin has a number of identities placed upon him: The Chosen One, The Hero With No Fear, Darth Vader. He doesn’t craft his own character or story, instead he twists himself into a pretzel trying to fit the one that he’s given. And that weighs on him. “I’m not the Jedi I should be,” he tells Padme. “That name no longer has any meaning for me,” he tells Luke. Like Shmi, Anakin is also a vessel of the Force, molded by the Jedi and the Sith.
In contrast, Ben Solo creates his own alternate persona. Kylo Ren is derivative of Darth Vader but really more of a costume, or a character that he’s playing. Kylo’s the person, or the monster, that Ben thinks he wants or needs to be. Someone powerful, someone dangerous, someone in control.
Although they take on their alternate identity for different reasons, once they’ve done so they react in the same way. Anakin and Ben trick themselves into accepting the story that they’re living. Just like Wanda does.
Luke doesn’t hide behind a mask or a title or an alias. He even gets to keep his birth name, he’s never not Luke Skywalker. But he does eventually become a myth, and he does hide himself away for years because he thinks he’s failed to live up to the expectations of the galaxy. Luke, like Obi-Wan and Yoda before him, goes into exile. He disappears into his own world and separates himself from the whole rest of the galaxy. Just like Wanda does.
And then there’s Leia. Leia’s different. Arguably, Leia, carries the most trauma of them all. Her entire adult life is defined by loss. She was born into the war and she dies still fighting it. But she doesn’t fall to the Dark Side. She’s never even tempted to fall to the Dark Side. And she also doesn’t run away. When her identity as Vader’s Daughter is revealed she chooses to flaunt it rather than hide or apologize. Leia never loses sight of herself or her story. She accepts that she can’t fix everything, she can’t save everyone, but she fights with her whole self to do what she can. She allows herself anger and sorrow but they do not define her. Leia defines herself.
Anakin, Luke, Ben, and Shmi get lost in other people’s expectations, in the story that is laid out for them. They exist within their trauma. Leia exists in opposition to her trauma.
All of these reactions to trauma— fight, flight, and freeze —are relatable and especially this past year. Crafting our own narrative is powerful, even without the chaos magic to make it real, or the supervillain reputation it can afford. But to be healthy it needs to be grounded in the real experience of our grief and our loss and our trauma. It’s normal to need therapy even if you aren’t saving the world on the regular.
The refrain of today’s song is “I’m not ready, I’m not ready, for the weight of us, for the weight of all of us.” But it ends with the refrain “The time has come, shake off all of your sins, let us be brave.” Addressing our own trauma… acknowledging our sorrow and our loss… realizing that it’s bigger than us, it has that weight. Feeling it the way Wanda does when she collapses to the ground in both The Age of Ultron and WandaVision. And her power passes that pain onto the world around her. She loses her brother, she loses her husband, and she loses control. She loses herself. Just like Anakin.
Imagine the weight that forces Wanda to her knees. Imagine the weight that Anakin feels as he stares at Mustafar’s angry horizon. Imagine the weight of his tears. Imagine the weight that Luke feels when he sees the ruins of his school or when Rey arrives to drag him back into the fight. Imagine the weight that Leia feels when she watches Alderaan explode, when she feels Han die, when she uses the last of her strength to reach out to her son. Imagine the weight of Ben crawling to Rey’s broken body and finding her empty. Imagine the weight of Shmi watching her Anakin walk out of her life, hoping that he forgets her.
Trauma is heavy and we are not ready. I’m not ready for all that weight. Any more than I was ready for the weight of the global pandemic and how hard it’s made everything we do. This is trauma. And the only way that we can get through it, the only way that we can save ourselves, and therefore the world, is to acknowledge it. And to ask for help when we need it.
Take care of each other. Reach out to each other. Even to people who are hiding on their own island, or behind their own mask, or within their own fantasy. The Skywalkers, each in their own way and for their own reasons, shake off their sins. They feel the weight and they let it go.
Follow my playlists on YouTube and Spotify and after the episode, the song I’ve discussed will immediately play. Links can be found at anakin.me. That’s A-N-A-K-I-N-dot-M-E. Please follow, like, subscribe and tell all of your friends to do the same. [🎵Accessing] See you next time and may the Force be with you. [ 🎵]
My single “Robots Don’t Cry” is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and more. To celebrate the release, I commissioned the artist Dani Balanqa, who you can find at balangawa, b-a-l-a-n-g-a-w-a, on instagram, to create a series of ten artworks featuring droids and their best friends. The first one is Anakin and R2-D2.
Artoo is special. He’s one of the first characters introduced in the original movie. He’s around from the beginning on Naboo all the way to through the end on Exogol. Artoo belonged to Padme, Anakin, Leia, and Luke and he got to fly with Poe and with Rey. He’s a special droid. Enjoy the art, and please, give “Robots Don’t Cry” a listen.
Endless Anakin is a Manic Pixie Dust production. Song: “Robots Don’t Cry”, Anika Dane
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