Ok, big question today. Han vs. Luke, who do you got?
I ask because recently I read this article by Tiffany Reizs who asked the same question in terms of who is the better hero. She reported being team-Luke as a kid, but switched over to team-Han as an adult. I thought that was so interesting because I had the exact opposite response.
As a kid, I was all about Han. He was the classic anti-hero. The scoundrel. The character who improves as he takes on more burdens. He also had the girl, the sweet space-ship, and the furry friend. He was handsome, capable, and smart; a pilot, mechanic, smuggler, soldier, and generally someone who knew how to get stuff done.
In contrast, Luke seemed like such a strange choice for the hero of Star Wars. He was whinny. He was a little too perfect. And in the end, what was his reward for all that good behavior? A dead mentor, a dead father, and a hands-off sister. Just as his world opens up as he studies to become a Jedi, it collapses again when he loses everything and is left with few options besides the life of a monk in the manner of Obi-Wan. Han arguably got the better deal.
But I re-watched Star Wars recently, as I do every few years, and I was surprised by how differently I responded to the two male leads.
Everything Han did seemed a lot less cute and lot more obnoxious. For the first time ever, I wondered what Leia saw in him. I don't know if it's just because I've gotten older and the bad-boy persona is a lot less attractive to me now, but when you have to deal with all the responsibilities and compromises that come with being an independent adult, it's a lot more obvious that Han is an undesirable mate.
Meanwhile, Luke was someone I felt like I was getting to know for the first time. Without the distraction of Han, the story felt new again. Now it was all about Luke's struggle with the light and dark sides of the force, as I think George Lucas originally intended.
Starting with Luke's training with Yoda, we learn that there's something really dark and horrible inside of him that has the potential to take over. That cave scene? As a kid, I never completely understood that it was Luke's face inside Darth Vader's mask and what that meant.
Then, in Return of the Jedi, when Luke force-chokes the guards at Jabba's palace, it shows again that he's not completely good, nor is he all that different from his father. He straddles an edge. Even as he purports to be on the side of good, I think Luke confuses being on the side of the Rebels with being a force of good. In fact, those are two entirely separate things. It's just as possible he could do terrible things in the name of good. Isn't that exactly what his father thought he was doing when he was Luke's age?
Light and darkness, how much more interesting is that struggle than Han choosing to support the rebels and settle down with a princess? Han never has to fight between whether he wants to be good or evil. He hangs out in that grey area, which is interesting, but lower stakes. For Luke, it's winner take all for his soul. That darkness, when you bother to notice it's always been there, helps balance out a lot of what on the surface comes across as too goody-goody.
Anyway, disagree with me all you want, it's purely an opinion. But I wonder how much growing up effects our understanding of stories we thought we knew so well. I mean, word for word well, and yet, here I am, completely changing my appreciation for Luke Skywalker.
Did your opinions of Star Wars change over time? Did you switch teams?
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My Books on Amazon:
Waking Lions by Avelet Gundar-Goshen
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro