I have an odd fascination with villains. I fascinate them not because they are evil, eager to seek something at the expense of others, but because they are complex characters. I like complex things, it makes me think of things thoroughly, and I like thinking. I will be the one to admit that I’m a heavily cerebral person, which means my thoughts and actions are extremely motivated by “making sense” of things. My cerebrality has sometimes taken me to the point that I don’t trust my emotions. Actually, I don’t trust my emotions for the most part. Emotions are traitors. What I know about them is that they slowly drag you to your own downfall. Based on my experience of the past, at least that was a recurring theme.
So speaking of villains and being cerebral, there is one villain that comes to my mind:
Darth Vader is, in fact, my all-time favorite character. He is my favorite character because he is, I think, the best villain.
Being a villain is not about being evil—killing people, destroying things. It’s about suppressing the goodness in you.
What makes Darth Vader a very fascinating villain is that he was a very good man. The prequel of Star Wars highlights him as Anakin Skywalker who is driven by goodness—being filled by his immense love for his mother, intense passion for Padme Amedala, and a pure brotherly love for his master Obi Wan. He was just like any other good man: filled with ambition and affection for those around him. In other words he was a passionate man. And being passionate, he let his emotions dictate him.
Anakin Skywalker was a passionate man and that was his greatest trait, for it showcased his immense goodness. Being passionate is one thing. Letting your emotions define your goodness, however, is another. Anakin Skywalker had a lot of moments in episodes I-III when he let his emotions get the best of him.
Emotions tell you many things – good, bad, good, then bad again – which explains why it’s unstable generally speaking. Letting emotions dictate his actions eventually led Anakin Skywalker to the dark side, transforming him to be Darth Vader. Once an optimistic young man, filled with energy and immense love for his closed ones, Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, a dark figure, lifeless, robotic, logical, cold, distant, and angry.
The transformation is essentially like taking life away from the person.
Why? What explains that transformation?
The worst thing that emotions can do to you is convince you that you are not good enough. The emotion of fear and anxiety are the primary triggers of that state of mind. And when there is a tremendous splurge of those emotions, the next step is usually self-destruction. In episode III, Anakin Skywalker compellingly showcased fear and anxiety over the Jedi council, his friendship with Palpatine, his love for Padme, and the conflict that exists among those things. In other words, fear and anxiety dragged him to a state of self-destruction which, I believe, was consuming him as professed his allegiance to the Dark Side.
His emotions betrayed him.
Hayden Christensen did a phenomenal job delivering the emotions of Anakin. More than anything, I think Anakin felt tremendous anger over himself much more than over anyone and anything else. The anger he showed was just a mere projection of his internal pain. Killing innocent children isn’t just motivated by pure evil. Anakin wasn’t purely evil. He was channeling his anger over himself more than anything else.
My favorite scene from among all the Star Wars was from towards the end of episode III when the almost dead and burnt Anakin Skywalker was being transformed into Darth Vader. I think it’s like the cherry on top of the downfall of his character. The most chilling moment of that scene was when he was finally suited as Darth Vader. As a villain, the very first thing he said was a question – where is the love of his life? The inauguration of his villainship, I would say, was the moment when Palpatine told him he killed the love of his life. The only love he has left. The only moment when the emotionless Darth Vader showed emotion. Filled with self-loath, every ounce of goodness was taken out of his very person.
Many people experience what Anakin Skywalker experienced. The actions and behaviors of many of us are motivated by fear and anxiety. We, men, exercise domination, channel in a bully attitude, and impose our will on others, out of fear of being looked upon as weak. Women put a lot of make up on, dress exquisitely, eager to look beautiful to others out of fear of being seen as ugly. People show off their possessions in the social setting out of fear of being treated poorly, for wealth elevates one’s status as they understand it. These are behaviors that show we are enslaved by fear and anxiety.
And I’m not an exception from those people.
I humbly admit that my emotions, like Darth Vader, has gotten the best of me. There were some painful experiences, I feel uncomfortable sharing here, that led me into some self-destructive thought patterns. In other words, I became another Darth Vader as well – closed off, cold, distant, and angry.
I am a recovering Darth Vader, trying to find my way back to become Anakin Skywalker all over again. Sometimes I wonder if the love of a woman is the last thing I need to be fully again. It is usually common that a woman needs a man to save her. I’m embarrassed to say that I do have my own sharing of being saved as well, being saved from my own darkness.
At any rate, perhaps all I need is someone who I’d give up my life for as a way to redeem myself, just like who Luke Skywalker was to Darth Vader. This was the ending of episode VI. That episode is titled “Return of the Jedi”. I have an idea why it’s titled as such: the title refers to Darth Vader who, through his sacrificial act for his son Luke, returned to his own goodness—his Jedi stature as Anakin Skywalker. It reminds me of Someone who gave Himself up to redeem us. In fact, we celebrate that sacrificial act in the next few days:
Jesus Christ on the Cross. He was the best Good man who Died.