In a lengthy discussion, five StarWars.com writers discuss the importance of family -- in all its variations -- in a galaxy far, far away.
On the Comlink is a feature in which StarWars.com writers hop on a call (virtual or old fashioned) and discuss a specific Star Wars topic. In this installment, Kristen Bates, Dan Brooks, Dustin Diehl, Kelly Knox, and Carlos Miranda talk about the families within Star Wars, from how they impact us to their thematic meaning.
Dan Brooks: Since it’s Thanksgiving season, a time when friends and families come together, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about the idea of Star Wars families, both in a thematic sense and in a literal sense. I wanted to open it up with that -- what do Star Wars families mean to you in each of those ways?
Whoever wants to go first, feel free to jump in, or else I’m going to call on someone.
Kelly Knox: Uh oh.
Dan Brooks: Kelly Knox! You made a sound!
Kelly Knox: Dang it! [Laughs] Obviously, found families is one of the main themes of Star Wars. You’ve got hope, selflessness, doing the right thing, and, right in there, is found families. I think that’s what we see in every trilogy.
Dan Brooks: Even when your found family includes your actual sister!
Kelly Knox: Surprise! [Laughs] It’s more than just Luke and Leia being literally “I found my family,” but even -- when I think of found family in Star Wars, I think of the Ghost’s crew [in Star Wars Rebels]. That’s a prime example of a big family that had no intention of ever coming together. Even Obi-Wan and Anakin, who technically aren’t supposed to have attachments or family, I think they find in each other a little found family themselves. There’s lots of different variations of it, but it’s one of the most important parts of Star Wars.
Dan Brooks: When you first got into Star Wars, was that something you were conscious of on any level? Was it something that resonated with you?
Kelly Knox: Ah, not so much, because I’m pretty old, so I was just a kid. It was just the original trilogy. I think what mainly resonated was just the more literal sense of Luke finding his family, finding a new place, and losing Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. I think that was more what made an impression on me when I was first getting into Star Wars. But as I’ve gotten older and the story has evolved, I can see that theme a lot more clearly.
Carlos Miranda: Something Kelly said that really resonated with me -- I’m also kind of old, I guess? I was born in 1982 so I was too young to really experience that first wave of Star Wars. I really came into Star Wars because, in 1988, my grandmother gave me a set of the original trilogy. It was that -- I actually still have it -- set of three VHS tapes and From Star Wars to Jedi. I became hooked and obsessed immediately.
I grew up at a time when there was that desert of Star Wars. There wasn’t anything. Yes, they had the VHS tapes; if you ever came across [Caravan of Courage] or Battle for Endor on VHS that was amazing. It was that kind of time --
Dan Brooks: The dark times.
Carlos Miranda: The dark times! I forgot who I was speaking to -- I can throw in these things, and no one will judge me and more than two people will know what I’m talking about.
So, finding anyone who shared your love for Star Wars at that time, really in the early to mid-‘90s, before the toys came back and before the Special Editions, where all we had were three VHS tapes and a Timothy Zahn book.
That, to me, to what you were saying, Kelly, Star Wars is so much about found family. Grogu, like I can see behind Dustin, you have Grogu and Mando, it is so much about found family. I grew up moving around a lot, and Star Wars was a constant in my life. Always a constant in my life. It was such a beacon to draw in other people that were like that. The moment I found anybody who was into Star Wars, it was like, yes, you have found your tribe. You’ve found your found family. The friends that I found during that time are some of my closest friends to this day, 30 years later.
Dan Brooks: There’s an idea of, “You get this thing that I get! It’s reaching both of us.” So you have that connection.
Dustin Diehl: Similarly, I was introduced to Star Wars through actual family. My dad was the one that recorded the Star Wars movies. A TNT movie marathon, probably, and it was fast-forwarding through the commercials on your VHS tape. So I’ve always an association with the introduction of Star Wars in my life to my actual family.
In a similar vein, growing up in that era, I think the big thing for me was reading the Young Jedi Knight series. That’s all about found family as a teenager, and going to an academy, which is like going to school. For me, finding friends that similarly liked Star Wars was that same kind of story of, “Wow, we have a connection here.” I can see myself represented in these books with these young people.
Obviously, that’s translated into other things. The concept of found family, for me, resonates around people I’ve met through [Star Wars] Celebration. Going to Celebration, there’s people that I don’t ever see outside of it, yet I still feel really connected to them and stay in touch. When I do see them every couple years, you pick up where you left off. There’s something special about that. I think Star Wars in general lends itself to that kind of connection, which is really cool.
Kristen Bates: It is interesting that we are talking about the concept of found family, because that’s basically Star Wars. I think we all have a similar background in terms of how we were introduced to Star Wars. My dad introduced me to Star Wars. We went and saw the Special Editions of the original trilogy. [Pumps fist] Heck yeah, I love them.
What always stood out to me as a kid, the found family concept kind of came later, but I was so interested in Luke’s journey and his desire for something more. Just watching the twin sunsets and just wanting something more. He had this persona that, you don’t have to [make] the choices of your blood family. You don’t have to follow that same path.
One of my favorite quotes, I will share this until my dying breath, is from Star Wars Battlefront II. When Luke Skywalker is in that cave and he gives the quote, “You have a choice to be better.”
I think that can speak a lot in terms of the families that Star Wars characters have come from, in the prequel era to the original trilogy and into sequel trilogy. The idea that, just because it’s blood, doesn’t mean that you have to abide by it. That’s something that always stood out to me, and then of course that transitions into this found family conversation. The found family, nine times out of 10, is more important than your real family. That was really cool to see.
Dan Brooks: That’s interesting. On that note, that’s something the movies are saying, that you don’t have to follow in the footsteps of your family that came before you. But I think it says a lot of different things about family. Is there a message or a theme in Star Wars around family that specifically resonates with any of you?
Kristen Bates: Sacrifice. Shmi [Skywalker] sacrificing her wants and her needs in the prequel trilogy. I’ll always be a Shmi stan. She was willing to live out her life and make sure that Anakin had, to the best of his ability, a childhood. When he up and left, it was her telling him, “You need to go. Don’t look back. You need to live this life.”
That’s something that stands out to me. When you love someone enough, you put yourself back and you make sure they’re elevated to the best position possible. Having her do that, that really stood out to me. And Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, when Vader sacrifices himself so he can save Luke, that always stands out to me -- the idea of sacrificing yourself or your needs for the greater good and for the people around you.
Carlos Miranda: I think it hit those story elements. Obviously, Obi-Wan sacrificed himself so everyone could escape the Death Star [in Episode IV]. I don’t know how many of you guys are parents, but I view Star Wars slightly differently now that I’m a father… My kids aren’t into Star Wars at all, I think it’s that kind of a reaction. They got into The Bad Batch, which is awesome. Every week we watched it. Other than that, nothing. [Makes a zero sign] I’ve literally failed.
Dan Brooks: [Laughs]
Carlos Miranda: It’s really a reaction to me. They’re like, “We don’t want anything you’re into.” But I do think that theme of sacrifice hits a lot harder. You can imagine what Shmi did, what Obi-Wan did, really hits a lot harder when you’re a parent. You try putting yourself in those situations. That’s real love. There’s an undercurrent of, Star Wars really is about -- obviously it’s about family, it’s about relationships, but it’s also really about love and the things we do for those we love. The things that we’re willing to do, whether it’s literally sacrifice yourself.
I think, Kristen, your quote from Battlefront II… That kind of stuff hits home, in particular when you’re sitting around a Thanksgiving table and not all of your relatives necessarily share your same views around something.
Dustin Diehl: I think that’s a good point, too. While yes, there’s a lot of conversation about being a part of a group, a part of a family, or a part of a whole, I think one thing that sticks out to me too is, there’s still value in being true to yourself. The [character] that jumps out to me most in that regard is Padmé. Padmé had her family in Anakin, and he went to a place where she couldn’t follow. She wasn’t beholden to family to the point of losing herself. She still had to stay true to herself, and ultimately lost him.
On the flip side, with Jyn [Erso], she pushed against what her family had stood for originally. Ultimately, she kind of came back to it, but it was her own journey. She made that choice for herself and in a way that was different. I think that makes that reunion with her father so impactful and emotional. Despite those years of building up walls, in that moment she was that little kid again.
I think those two characters in particular are a good example of, family is critical, but not at the expense of yourself.
Dan Brooks: Right. I think Ahsoka Tano is a great example of that, in leaving everything that she knew because it didn’t feel right to her anymore. It’s interesting because, the idea of family is at the heart of Star Wars, in all the storytelling that has followed since the original trilogy, as well. To the point I was making earlier, it’s saying a lot of different things about that. There’s good in it, and then there are complexities within it, as well. Star Wars, as it’s developed over the years, really explored that theme. It’s only made the galaxy richer.
I did want to ask, if story-wise, if everyone kind of has a favorite Star Wars family?
Kelly Knox: I’ve had Obi-Wan Kenobi on my mind a lot lately, and I think his relationship with Anakin is probably my favorite right now. Along the same lines of a theme or message that Star Wars does well is in their final confrontation. Anakin yells, “I hate you!” At that moment, Obi-Wan doesn’t respond with, “I hate you, too.” He takes a moment to say, “You were my brother, I loved you,” and he chooses to respond to that hate with love.
It’s something that’s really stuck with me lately as general attitude about not just family, but how we all interact with each other. So right now, I think I would say Anakin and Obi-Wan are my favorite found family in Star Wars.
Carlos Miranda: I’d say Han and Chewie. As a kid, Han Solo to me was everything. Everything. That’s a relationship that -- not that it’s overlooked, necessarily, but because there are so many more complex relationships in Star Wars, whether it’s Obi-Wan and Anakin, which is amazing, or Luke and Leia.
I think that love, it’s so tangible, particularly in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, but talking about the original trilogy, I think that that love they have for each other, they’re brothers in a way. We can get into the backstory of who owes who a debt, but I think the reality of it is they love each other. They care for each other.
Han Solo is still my favorite Star Wars character ever, so I immediately jump to that. That, to me, is a beautiful Star Wars found family.