Cross-posted from Tumblr.
Alternative title the first: All the reasons Jama is so easily excited when it comes to talking about Anakin Skywalker’s prequel arc.
Alternative title the second: Jama needs to stop overidentifying with fictional characters that do terrible things; it may be an issue.
Alternative title the third: Yes I am well aware this is nigh incoherent it’s a formless rant that’s evolved over the years just take it for what it is.
So. Anakin Skywalker. We were first introduced to him as the black-suited guy in a mask by the name Darth Vader. The great villain of the Star Wars original trilogy; Sheev Palpatine may have been the man behind the curtain, but it’s the wheezy breathing and robotic voice that really got people scared.
Also, he’s the father of our hero Luke Skywalker, and genius princess senator general Leia Organa. (As an aside, the first time I watched The Empire Strikes Back, I almost refused to believe Vader when he said ‘No. I am your father’. Then my mother told me that yes, he was Luke’s father, and I shut up.)
Then we got the prequel trilogy. I don’t have to extend that sentence any further. Despite earning much more at the box office, they’re commonly reviled and looked down on by casual and… vocally not casual fans alike. The issues of male-dominated nerd culture aside, the prequels get a lot of stick, as does their portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, the poor desert child who got dragged into the Jedi Order and a code he didn’t believe in, to be manipulated by a man of superhuman cunning towards creating an Empire out of a failing democracy. Oh, and Anakin went along with it because he thought he’d have a chance to save someone he loved that way.
Where do we start?
Lil’ kid Anakin is a reckless little guy (podracing, anyone?), but sensitive and kind. He wants to help the Jedi who comes into the shop where he works, but he also wants them to be there to help people. It bears pointing out (and repeating) that at this point in his life, Anakin is a slave. His compliance is guaranteed by a bomb inside his body.
Why the hell should that little kid already sound like Darth Vader? He’s nine years old, for heaven’s sake. A kid who was acting like Darth Vader at that age, even Qui-Gon the Reckless should have had second thoughts. That’s not how Anakin works.
And again, this is a kid who’s lived in fear his entire life. Even freed, he’s dealing with the Jedi Order, who already don’t trust him because he has a high number of midi-chlorians (say what you like about them as a plot device, but lil’ Ani probably doesn’t have much context for them, so he probably doesn’t see the big deal), and, also again, he’s nine years old. Kids who’re given the impression that they’re inherently untrustworthy at that age can struggle to work past it, especially if the message comes from someone with authority.
(No, I’m not speaking from personal experience there at all, why do you ask?)
So then we get to AOTC Anakin and his ‘unnecessary’ whininess. To that complaint I say: weren’t you complaining about his not being Vader-y enough last film? We all knew he was going to become Darth Vader; he was never going to be a well-adjusted and content member of society or the Jedi Order. He needs to whine and complain and get angry for dubious reasons just to have the groundwork for Darth Vader.
‘But if he’s going to be Darth Vader, why does he need to be sensitive and fall in love with Padme and make such a big deal out of his mother’s death?’
You know that thing he did back in Return of the Jedi (which is ORIGINAL TRILOGY) where he renounced the Dark Side and got to come back as his old self?
He can’t be evil by virtue of, you know, generally being an evil person. If Darth Vader is through and through awful, the redemption scene makes no sense at all. Sure, those dark aspects of his character have got to push him far enough to kneel to Palpatine (another fun fact about my watching experience: I could not watch that scene where Anakin kneels straight through. I had to pause it and go eat and then try not to crumble watching it. Good thing I was home alone), but it’s bad decisions and faulty information that led him there. That is important, and if you want to argue with me about that I’ll want an excellent essay on how precisely you would go about setting up his redemption without assuming that Padme was right and there was still good in him. (I typo’ed that last sentence as ‘there was still god in him’ first time through, just so you know.)
And that makes his relationships important. He’s got to care about people, because helping people is what gets him stuck. It’s loyalty taken too far. And also loyalty to the wrong people.
(I hate Palpatine for a lot of reasons. Perhaps the least sensible one is the fact that he’s the token INTJ of the Star Wars franchise. We’re always the damn villain.)
To mop up the glaring loose end: Anakin’s wooden behaviour in AOTC and ROTS. To explain this, may I direct you to the Jedi Code and their disregard for the expression of strong emotion? Of course that doesn’t sit well with Anakin. He’s an emotional person, that’s how he works, and now he’s got to pretend not to be just to measure up to Obi-Wan the Meticulous. Emotional repression, it’s not a reach to figure that out. That’s what people do when they’ve learnt that expressing emotion will get them into trouble.
(No personal experience to speak of here either, no siree.)
TL;DR: Anakin needed to be maladjusted and awkward to become the Vader people were waiting for, and he needed to be sensitive and caring to set up the climactic moment of the original trilogy.