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The Force Awakens | Bigger on the Inside

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Are you ready for ‘The Force Awakens’? Here’s what to expect—and how it can help kids think about their faith.

by Jen Schlameuss-Perry

Warning: May contain spoilers!!!

At the end of Return of the Jedi, it seemed as though all would be well across the galaxy—the Emperor was defeated, the Death Star destroyed and Darth Vader was redeemed. The Rebel Alliance was ready to usher in a new era of peace as hope spread across the planets. They conquered some pretty hefty bad guys, but the reality of evil remained—and it was bent on spreading.

This image shows the intricate structure of part of the Seagull Nebula, known more formally as IC 2177. These wisps of gas and dust are known as Sharpless 2-296 (officially Sh 2-296) and form part of the “wings” of the celestial bird. This region of the sky is a fascinating muddle of intriguing astronomical objects — a mix of dark and glowing red clouds, weaving amongst bright stars. This new view was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Jen Schlameuss-Perry writes on the intersection of faith and science fiction, comics, and other geek media.

The Force Awakens picks up about thirty years after the battle on Endor. The Rebels had, since the battle, established the New Republic, calling the citizens of all planets throughout the galaxy to participate in this new democracy after the Old Republic had been corrupted by Emperor Palpatine and his allies.

There’s been some speculation as to what about The Force is being awakened—is it awakened in an individual or individuals, or had it been inactive and is now back in play? That hasn’t been revealed yet. But, however it shakes out, the title suggests that The Force is going to be a main character in this movie. The battle between the deliberate use of The Force for good and for evil will take main stage.

A few of the trailers gave us glimpses of a main antagonist in The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren. We know that he is a member of the First Order which is an outgrowth of the defeated Empire, that he is a force-sensitive (that’s people who are able to use the force) and a member of the Knights of Ren, but is not a Sith. Nobody’s using Siths these days… We know, too, that Kylo is an admirer of Darth Vader and appears to see him as a sort of martyr. His goal is to complete what he felt Vader would have accomplished if he had lived.

It happens on both sides—heroes are made of the fallen and their lives are inspiration for future generations. However, Kylo Ren never met Vader and he clearly doesn’t understand the path that he had taken—as Anakin, he meant to do good but got off track.  What Kylo holds up as an ideal, Anakin would be ashamed of. His conversion, the fulfillment of his destiny has no meaning for Kylo. He retains the values he agrees with and disregards the rest.


The Dark Side: Incomplete and Corrupted

This is the fatal flaw of the Dark Side—in order for it to continue on its path it has to remain unenlightened; it has to remain shrouded in lies and deceit. It has to remain incomplete and, in fact, un-awakened. The good side of The Force doesn’t have another name like the Dark Side does—it’s not the Light Side—it’s simply The Force. The Dark Side is a corruption and a divergence from the whole. By definition it is “other” than what it is meant to be—those who delve into it are other than they ought to be. And, as a result, it is no match for those who use it for good. The subscribers to the Dark Side are ruled by fear and hate.  They have a common goal, but ultimately it is a selfish one; their own personal gain or self-preservation trumps everything else. Those who use The Force for good are ruled by peace and the good of others.  They are willing to offer themselves sacrificially to save others. That selfless love, that service of others makes them stronger than anything the Dark Side can throw at them.

That struggle—that tension between good and evil is the real crux of the Star Wars series. It has application for our daily struggles, personal and communal. Darth Vader is one of my all-time favorite characters because of the redemption he represents (and he has the best theme song of anyone besides Superman).

Bringing It Home

The Star Wars franchise offers so many themes that we can apply to our lives, and I believe this movie will follow suit. I’ve heard that this movie will be rated PG-13, so parents will have to choose how and when to introduce it to their children. When that time comes, it can be an opportunity for conversations about the battle between good versus evil, the importance of the choices we make, our particular and common destinies, redemption, the fact that every single person has the potential for good and evil and how our actions can affect others.

Consider sharing questions like:

  • Who was your favorite character?  Why?
  • Why do you think  (discuss a few characters) did what he/she did?
  • How did that affect the others?
  • What do you think you would have done in that situation?
  • What does The Force remind you of?
  • Maybe some aspects of it remind you of Bible stories or things Jesus said—compare them.

I am so looking forward to seeing what JJ Abrams does with this movie. I can’t wait to see the characters that I have loved since I was a kid, to hear the continuation of the story that has meant so much for so many people. I can’t wait to see what will The Force will awaken.

Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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