Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination. It promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies always with sameness, then difference, of any kind, will appear as a threat. When we choose to love we choose to move against fear–against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect–to find ourselves in the other.
Lilacs on a bush are better than orchids. And dandelions and devil grass are better! Why? Because they bend you over and turn you away from all the people and the town for a little while and sweat you and get you down where you remember you got a nose again. And when you’re all to yourself that way, you’re really yourself for a little while; you get to thinking things through, alone. Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his own hemlock.
Darth Vader has been the personification of evil for several generations. Is the archetype he represents aging gracefully or not?
My first movie theater experience was The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. My mother and her best friend had to stuff their purses into the seat so it wouldn’t close up while I sat on it. I was blown away by all the explosions in space; fascinated by the snarky relationships between Luke, Leia, and Han; bemused by Yoda; and completely floored by this guy in a black suit and helmet with a deep voice. I loved Darth Vader so much that I had two action figures of him, purchasing the second after the first lost his cape and lightsaber in a particularly rough raid on a group of unsuspecting stuffed animals. I think he ended up in a mud pit after that one. Note that I never ever had a Han or Luke, although I had a Princess Leia, a C-3PO and two R2D2s. To be honest, I can’t imagine a world without Darth Vader because I’ve never had to live in one.
Darth Vader memorialized in a grotesque on the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C., USA Public Domain Image via wikipedia
Lord Vader has endured, despite Hayden Christiansen’s ham-fisted portrayal of Anakin and the questionable scripts of the prequels. I never cared to see him humanized and I’m sure I’m not the only one that preferred him either evil, dying, or dead. I still get irritated when the ghost of Christiansen’s Anakin shows up in the reissued versions of the original movies. This isn’t really Christiansen’s fault, at least not entirely.
The most attractive and, at the same time, the most repulsive elements of Vader were his anonymity and his inhumanity, which turned out to be lies. These lies are what kept him alive even as they poisoned him and the entire galaxy around him. His helmet is perhaps the best symbol of all of this. It’s a mechanized, futuristic piece of work with just enough Mongol warrior and Samurai to root it in fearsome mythology and stir up archetypal references in the collective unconscious. Like the Nazi SS uniform, the Darth Vader suit and helmet have evil connotations. Maybe it is best that time erode and crack open that image even further than his heroic final act did. At any rate, nothing can stop that now.
Angsty teen Anakin may or may not have been a serious blow to the Vader image, but recent years have seen a far more interesting attack on the Vader helmet itself. Project Vader, put together by Dov Kelemer and Sarah Jo Marks of DKE Toys, reinterpreted the iconic image by sending helmet replicas to artists asking that them to create their own take on Darth Vader. In 2010, after being exhibited in the USA, Japan and England, one hundred helmets were auctioned off, each going for thousands of dollars. You will want to see all one hundred of them in this post from TotalFilm. Many are silly, some still verge on terrifying, but all represent cracks in the anonymity that initially made Vader scary.
Once a villain is deconstructed and recognized as human, he loses some of his iconic power, even as he gains our empathy. That doesn’t mean he, or she, is ultimately less frightening; it redirects fear from his image back into our own subconscious. We are afraid because we see ourselves reflected in him and we have to deal with the emotions that result. Project Vader does that beautifully.
Darth Vader was perhaps the first pop culture villain to allow himself to be dissected before our eyes, bravely paving the way for bad guys and girls like Gus Fring and Walter White or Francis and Claire Underwood, who are so much more than monsters. Thank you, Lord Vader.
British researchers recently found that girls between the ages of seven and eleven harbor surprisingly strong feelings of dislike for their Barbie dolls, with no other toy or brand name inspiring such a negative response from the children. The dolls “provoked rejection, hatred, and violence” and many girls preferred Barbie torture — by cutting, burning, decapitating, or microwaving — over other ways of playing with the doll. Reasons that the girls hated their Barbies included, somewhat poetically, the fact that they were ‘plastic.’ The researchers also noted that the girls never spoke of one single, special Barbie, but tended to talk about having a box full of anonymous Barbies.
Poor Barbie! Healthy or not, there is certainly plenty of hate out there for this icon, the world’s most famous doll. Have you heard about the recent uproar over her appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated? You can read about it here.
Here’s an oldie from Aqua that seems to fit. Keep in mind that humor is often a way to deal with issues that are too deep and dark to be approached with seriousness.