Psychoanalysis and the Jedi: The Oedipal Menace

Give me a life wherever there is an opportunity to live, and better life than was my father’s.― Sophocles, Oedipus Rex


“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering”. A quote from Yoda as he teaches the young Luke Skywalker the ways of the Jedi. The entire Star Wars franchise struggles with the feeling of unconscious anger and rage against the missing father. The Empire stands in (seemingly armed by only men and even in some cases as motherless clones) as the authoritarian oppressive father who wants to dominate and enslave the weaker parent-less rebellion.

Luke (our young Oedipus) takes us on a long quest to find and overthrow his father. He struggles with his anger and rage and studies the ways of the force and the Jedi in hopes of finding some “balance” with his own feelings. The movie writers solve the dilemma of Luke’s parallel journey with Oedipus and claiming his mother as his wife and queen by having his mother die giving him birth. We can all breath a collective sigh of relief now. Maybe George Lucas removes half of the Oedipus story with the death of Luke’s mother as a way of focusing all attention on the struggle of the son and the father. The mother falls into the deeper unconscious.  She is represented only in displaced symbols and very few actual female characters. Years after overthrowing his father, we find Luke in a self imposed exile. Why? Why do we find Luke still in such a state? I believe the answer to the question lies in the deeper feelings Luke has had about his mother which have never been faced by him or by us.

The movie saga ignores the mother, and we, like the characters in the movie, never face our desire for “mother”. Luke, never having allowed himself to feel his desire to have his mother, removes himself from sensitivity to the force as a way of ignoring this draw and feeling. By doing so, Luke cuts away a large part of himself. Only when he allows himself to regain his love for his mother through training Rey, and reconnecting to his sister and facing his shame of abandoning her is he able to finally return to his fullness as a Jedi and experience his full self. Perhaps the lesson of the Star Wars franchise about balancing love and hate, peace and anger, is more about balancing the desire for both the mother and the father.

The story of Oedipus Rex confronts both the desire to have the mother and the wish to destroy the father. Star Wars fails to give us a balance in the story by focusing only on the father. Luke’s conflict doesn’t resolve until the very end. Only in confronting both aspects of the Oedipal conflict can a true balance in the force be achieved. In some ways he has to see that his love comes from his mother and competition from his father. Having only competition gives way to anger, rage and hate. Anger, rage and hate represent the dark side of the force. He is incomplete without both and can only resist the impulse to give in to the dark side of the force by having and holding love. His earliest lesson in love would have been the desire for his mother.

Luke tells us he has no memory of his mother. He needs Leia to remind him of his deep unconscious memory of his mother. His sexual desire for Leia in the earlier movies, and his wish for her forgiveness of his shame and guilt in the later stories bring him back in touch with the feelings he never consciously felt for his mother. When he is able to have and hold those feelings, and only then, is he able to fully become one with the force and find true balance.

Stephen M Taylor, M. D.

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