The Force within

> Prof C.M. Hew D. Gill from Sun­way Uni­ver­sity tells why the Star Wars have en­dured and what psy­cho­log­i­cal fac­tors drive the char­ac­ters

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SUNBIZ - BY AZ­IZUL RAH­MAN IS­MAIL

WHAT makes the se­ries of Star Wars films so revered by mil­lions of peo­ple around the world and en­dured for so long? Ac­cord­ing to Prof C.M. Hew D. Gill, it all be­gan with the hero’s jour­ney, an of­ten-used pat­tern of nar­ra­tive.

Gill, the pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy and head of the Depart­ment of Psy­chol­ogy at Sun­way Uni­ver­sity, ex­plained: “With Star Wars, what [di­rec­tor-pro­ducer] Ge­orge Lu­cas did was retell the same ba­sic story [or myth] that ev­ery sin­gle cul­ture has.

“Or what the Amer­i­can mythol­o­gist Joseph Camp­bell calls ‘The Hero with a Thou­sand Faces’.

“You can sum­marise it very quickly: [The hero lives] an or­di­nary life and [he/she] gets some sort of call. Sud­denly, the hero recog­nises he has a mis­sion.

“He goes through some dan­ger and it looks like ev­ery­thing is an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter. Then he meets a men­tor, and the men­tor tells him what he needs to do.

“He goes off, kills the mon­ster and finds him­self. And we all can re­late [to that].”

For Luke Sky­walker in the orig­i­nal 1977 Star Wars tril­ogy, the ‘mon­ster’ was Darth Vader.

And for Anakin Sky­walker in the Star Wars 1999 pre­quel tril­ogy, the ‘mon­ster’ was his own fear, anger, and hate, which made him fall to the Dark Side and be­come a Sith lord.

“We be­gin as small chil­dren, we do ev­ery­thing we are told and we be­lieve ev­ery­thing we are told,” said Gill.

“As we get older, we be­gin to re­alise that our par­ents don’t know ev­ery­thing. And then, by our teens, we are ac­tively ques­tion­ing and push­ing bound­aries.” He said this is what we see in Luke’s re­la­tion­ship with Darth Vader through­out the orig­i­nal tril­ogy. “[We] still don’t know who we are or who we want to be, and it is re­ally once [peo­ple] are in [their] 20s that they be­gin to break away from their par­ents, just as Luke breaks free from his [fa­ther’s fate].” Gill also touched upon another pow­er­ful fa­ther­son re­la­tion­ship seen in Episode VII – The Force Awak­ens. In the film, re­formed scoundrel Han Solo at­tempted to reach out to his son, Kylo Ren, whom he had tried to raise to be a good per­son.

How­ever, his son re­fused to fol­low the path in­tended for him, and de­cided to fol­low a path of his own choos­ing.

“At a point in your life, you can be a world’s ex­pert in some­thing and your dad can still say: ‘No, you don’t know what you are talk­ing about, you are still my kid’,” ex­plained Gill.

“And that can [pro­voke] anger, and that is ac­tu­ally what you see in [the ear­lier ex­am­ple be­tween] Luke and Vader. It all fits.”

This is most ev­i­dent in Star Wars: Episode VI – Re­turn of the Jedi.

Here, Luke is al­ready the Jedi Master. His train­ing is com­plete. He has ac­cepted his pur­pose in life and is ques­tion­ing his fa­ther’s choices.

Gill ex­plained that with the Sith, it is all about choices – and this is a very pow­er­ful story be­cause we are all tempted by the Dark Side although morally we know that it is wrong.

He said: “In the process, he (Anakin) was ab­so­lutely and hor­ri­bly phys­i­cally man­gled and ended up as essen­tially a [robot].

“In the end, he re­alises that there are ac­tu­ally big­ger things in life and that love, in the end, is much more im­por­tant.

“He also re­alises that in­di­vid­u­als mat­ter too, and that pulled him back [to the Light], at least to the point of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

“At the same time [once his fa­ther dies], Luke recog­nises the im­por­tance of this man to his whole ex­is­tence, and that ac­tu­ally, in many ways, he is his fa­ther.”

While the roles of fa­thers in the Star Wars movies are clearly es­tab­lished, the role of the mother is, at a glance, al­most ab­sent.

How­ever, Gill said that women have al­ways played a ma­jor role in the story of Star Wars, es­pe­cially in the orig­i­nal tril­ogy where Luke was an or­phan with­out a mother.

“In Star Wars, the Force ac­tu­ally dou­bles as the mother,” he added. In Greek, there is a word: ‘storge’. This is a pe­cu­liar type of love, the love of a par­ent. That love is un­con­di­tional but also dis­ci­plinary.

“In the same way that the Force is un­con­di­tional, that it can boost you, it could also in­ter­vene and phys­i­cally knock you over.”

As for the con­flict be­tween the Em­pire and the Rebels, he said that it re­flects what hap­pened in the late 20th cen­tury where there is a shift away from Euro­pean cul­ture which was the global cul­tural cen­tre.

“Just look at who is run­ning the Em­pire [in the orig­i­nal films]?” asked Gill. “A bunch of old white guys!

“And look who is look­ing for a new be­gin­ning? [The Rebels] are about as di­verse as you can get. There’s even a 7ft 6in-tall [furry] guy!”

Gill em­pha­sised that Star Wars also talks about that change, in­clu­sive­ness and di­ver­sity. “And it is an ob­ject les­son that di­ver­sity is more ef­fec­tive.”

He also used the iconic Mil­len­nium Fal­con as an ex­am­ple, point­ing out that the more di­verse the cast of char­ac­ters present on the Mil­len­nium Fal­con, the bet­ter the de­ci­sions they seem to make, and the more ef­fec­tive the ship is.

As Gill noted, draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from fic­tion is healthy, pro­vided that we don’t ob­sess over it.

It could help us cope with dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions by giv­ing us ex­am­ples of how oth­ers deal with their prob­lems, but if we start be­liev­ing that we are the char­ac­ter, that’s a prob­lem.

“If you do it for a bit of fun over the week­end, it’s fine. Any­thing that takes over your life is gen­er­ally not a good thing,” ad­vised Gill.

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