Back in ’77, watching Obi-Wan fall to Darth Vadar horrified me. At fourteen years old, I saw in Obi-Wan my grandfather, my father, Msgr. Garcia. I saw all of the father figures in my life being pulled down by the faceless forces of evil surrounding me.
Lucas cannot select actors. His plots struggle. He undermines his own genius. (The list continues.) But he knows his archetypes. And he taps into them, mining us for the symbols lurking deep in the recesses of our shared unconscious. I was shaken because the film captured the struggle of my world.
Years later, after having seen the prequels, after having studied literary theory, after having endured countless battles as a padawan, a Sith Lord, a Jedi Master, and a Greedo, I see the other side of the archetype.
Now, I see the Jedi master who has tried every approach to guide his padawan. He has chided, begged, reprimanded, explained, reasoned, and modeled. And the dude still makes the wrong decision; he still goes with the dark side–leaving the master heartbroken and simpering on the side of a river of lava (Again with the archetypes, Lucas. Where else would a Jedi master face such all encompassing defeat than on the edge of a of molten river of death?)
But I am focusing on that original scene. A scene I see completely differently–with or without the backstory.
Obi-Wan has to let the padawan swing. Sith Lord or not, dark or light, the decision is the kid’s–always has been. Obi is destroyed by Anakin’s failure. It sucks. But that is what Obo-Wan signed up for when he agreed to take the sniveling brat on as a padawan. He agreed to sacrifice himself. To put himself second.
And now, the only thing he can do is trust to the training. He won’t get to see the pay off of his devotion and commitment–the love he poured into the dark-robed, smug ingrate. That, though, is not his bailiwick. It is not why he did it.
He did it, he does it, because it is who and what he is.
Unlike Grandpa handing the business over to Dad or Father Marcus taking the dean’s position at the seminary, I have not been able to step back. Obi-Wan still sees his pupil behind the mask. I only see the mask, the battle, and my failures.