Force is with search for father

Published in the Courier Mail 27 May 05

IT’S midnight and I’m surrounded by strange looking creatures. Fortunately it’s nothing sinister — I was at the midnight screening of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

I was there by choice, having been a big Stars Wars fan from childhood. However, even I was surprised at the level of devotion that these movies have inspired, and I wondered why.

For a work of science fiction, these movies are also deeply human. One of the things that resonates with us is the cosmic battle between good and evil.

In Star Wars we see a reflection of our own ethical or moral dilemmas, illuminated on the big screen. We see, in the story of Anakin, how this struggle influences a person’s choices and subsequent behaviour.

Another profound and emotionally charged factor in the movie’s appeal is the feeling of fatherlessness we are confronted with. In both Anakin and Luke, we see fatherless young men. Fatherlessness has been labelled the “most harmful demographic trend of this generation” — making it easy to see why many people identify so powerfully with this story.

For those who have been abandoned by their fathers — physically or emotionally — they well understand the feeling of loss. The characters may be figments of someone’s imagination — the emotions they convey are not. Over the past few decades, fathers often have been seen as an unnecessary part of a child’s upbringing.

THE children of our “liberated” society were left alone to deal with the fall-out of this philosophical shift. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until later that we discovered there were many consequences and that they had widespread ramifications.

As sociologists began to rethink their theories, they began to recognise a father hunger in many people. However, it seems academic discovery was pre-empted by a young filmmaker who had already identified that feeling of loss, and vividly communicated it.

It’s little wonder, then, that the collective imagination of a generation was captivated by the ultimate reconciliation, albeit a brief one, between father and son in Episode Six.

It was not quite a fairytale ending but it was an ending. There was closure in the relationship between a child and his father, and that had eluded many in our society. To see father and son united, even for a small moment, provided a satisfaction that couldn’t be easily put into words.

To understand its attraction, one must realise that Star Wars is an epic that has spanned a generation. Although it’s a great story, it’s more than pure fantasy. Its enduring themes, that express the human experience, lift it above a work of science fiction into the realm of cultural narrative.

While Star Wars may have been set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we see ourselves reflected in it today — and there is nothing more irresistible than the telling of our own story.