“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …” begins the space adventure that captured the hearts, minds, and imaginations of millions. An entire section of Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios is designed with the Star Wars Jedi, Clones, Sith, and every fantastical space creature in between. R2D2, BB8, C3PO, D-O, Wookies, porgs, Ewoks, “baby Yoda” (aka Grogu), and more continue to impress people who have no interest in the “nerdy” side of the galaxy. Luke, Leia, Poe, Rey, Ben, Fin, Anakin, Palpatine, Obi-Wan, and the rest of the humongous cast of space adventurers, heroes, and villains have staying power like few others. From my oldest to my youngest, the joy of lightsaber battles, dangerous battles, and epic missions play out in a never-ending rotation week to week. I know we are not alone in this phenomenon. Still, what does it have to do with adoption?
Star Wars brings families together as parents gather their kids for the first, all-important watch-through with bated breath, hoping their kids will enjoy it, so they have an excuse to watch every single one again. It is the topic of heated debate, of long enjoyed banter, of immense suspension of reality for the sake of enjoyment. But what, if anything, does Star Wars have to do with adoption? Well, as it turns out, a great deal. Please forgive me for the forthcoming spoilers, as I nerd out on two of my favorite topics. To be fair, the most recent movies have been out for a few years now (and some die-hard Star Wars fans will inform you none but the first three count anyway. I firmly disagree. Regardless, if you have ever wanted to watch without spoilers, you need to turn back now. Otherwise, please continue).
Let’s start with the first episode that audiences saw back May 25, 1977. It was unlike anything that had been seen before. Audiences were at once captivated by a young, restless farm boy named Luke, languishing on the distant planet of Tatooine. He lives with his aunt and uncle in the middle of an apparent desert land. His dearest wish is to leave. His aunt and uncle insisted that he needs to stay and help and that they cannot do what they do without his help. Luke whines in the way only a teen can. He longs for adventure. Of course, this is foreshadowing for what is to come. When his uncle buys a few droids, R2D2 and C3PO, from Jawa-parts scavengers, Luke is tasked to clean them up and get them in working order. While he is trying to clean R2 (the little droid reminiscent of a trash can with a domed lid), a holographic video message from a young woman is accidentally discovered. Not knowing what to do, as the young woman seems in great danger, Luke takes the droid to an eccentric old man called Old Ben. We will soon learn he is some kind of mysterious wizard. He agrees to help Luke. The real adventure begins.
During the first several scenes, the audience is thrust into another world full of hovercrafts and droids that interact like humans. Eventually, the audience is left with several questions. Who is this boy? Why does he live with his aunt and uncle? Where are his mom and dad? Well, this is where adoption begins to make its appearance. His aunt and uncle took him in a long time ago as a baby. Why? Well, that won’t be learned for a while. Not for several more movies, in fact. Who is the mysterious Leia? As the story unfolds, the audience is given more breadcrumbs to follow. They will need to wait a few more years to get a few more answers. It wouldn’t be until 1980, in fact, before more would be revealed about our characters. At the end of the second installment, it is revealed that Vader is Luke’s father. It’s the line everyone likes to quote, especially dads. How is that scary-sounding man related to Luke? Why was he trying to kill him? Adoption continues to be a theme as Luke and his companions form their own kind of family of rebels trying to help the galaxy from the evil Empire. We see the theme of family is who you make them. Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and Han Solo forge a friendship throughout the first two movies. It isn’t until the third movie, however, that it is revealed that Luke and Leia are brother and sister. Leia was raised by a king on Alderaan (a planet blown up by the death star, leaving Leia homeless).
For the sake of brevity, I’ll explain that the middle three movies explain how Darth Vader became Darth Vader, how he went from a little boy named Anakin who was strong in “the force” to a man who was more machine than human. Throughout three movies representing about 20 years, he fell in love with and eventually married Queen Padme Amidala. It was forbidden for Jedi to marry, so they kept it secret. Anakin loved his wife but was becoming torn between the dark side of the force and the light. He had seen a vision of his wife dying, and the evil emperor Palpatine convinced him that by joining the dark side, he would have the power to save her life. Unfortunately, that was a lie, and Padme died mostly of heartbreak after giving birth to twins. A boy and girl. Luke and Leia. For the children’s safety from a now evil Anakin turned Vadar, they were separated. Luke was sent to his aunt and uncle. Leia was adopted by royalty and raised as a princess on Alderan. Neither would see their father until he was trying to kill them in their late teens. In the meantime, they were adopted by people who would love them and raise them as their own.
The whole series, even later on with Rey and the rest, is an ode to making your family out of the people around you. That’s what adoption is all about too. Rey “adopts” a droid BB8 and becomes fiercely protective of him. Fin, Poe, and Rey become best friends and need to depend on each other to survive. The epic saga wouldn’t exist if there were no adoption of Luke and Leia.
There is also a series in the Star Wars universe that is an amazing picture of foster care in the most untraditional sense. The Mandalorian explores the question of “who is family” when the main character is charged with capturing and eventually protecting a young creature who bears a strong resemblance to Yoda. He is strong in the force, but the Mandalorian is set in a time when being a Jedi is outlawed, and Jedis are killed without impunity. The Mandalorian becomes a makeshift foster father to the little guy who finds all kinds of ways to get into trouble and create drama. The war-hardened Mandalorian grows to love the little guy and does everything in his power to keep him safe and to get him back to “his people.” At the end of the first season, we see Grogu go off with Luke to learn about the ways of the force, but it probably isn’t the last time we’ll see the little guy.
Maybe it is just because adoption and foster care are such a huge part of my life that the themes of adoption, found family, and foster care stand out so starkly, but I don’t think so. The entire series falls apart without twins separated at birth. It doesn’t work without friends who didn’t know each other becoming the best allies for one another. The connection they feel is what ties all of the stories together. One of my favorite parts of the movies is that Jedi “become one with the force” when they die. When someone is “one with the force,” they turn invisible but can still interact with the living Jedi. They can still root their family on from beyond the grave. Even though our family is gone, they are still with us. Everything is connected by “the force.” What a great allegory for the love believers are supposed to share.
I’m gushing a little bit. I love this series. I love the Clone Wars cartoon, I love the mini-series, and I love all nine of the movies, even if “real fans” say they shouldn’t be “counted” (whatever, Rey is amazing). I love that all of the characters appear to have nothing to do with each other at the beginning and end up meaning everything to each other in the end. Also, guys, laser swords. How amazing are laser swords? Even if you know nothing about Star Wars, you know about the swords. Almost everyone has swung a plastic, colorful sword and made the noises “swoosh, whoosh, bzzzz” as they “fought.” My adopted kids think it is the best ever. They love that Luke, Leia, and Rey are adopted, even if the adoptions are unconventional. They love the action, the adventure, and the opportunity for imaginative games involving space ships, star cruisers, space magic, and princesses who can save themselves.
Star Wars and adoption are like popcorn and coke. You don’t need to make the association. However, if you have the popcorn anyway, the coke makes it so. Much. Better. I may or may not be writing when I’m hungry. Heh. Honestly, though, we couldn’t do this adoption thing without mentors and help from the people around us. Star Wars wouldn’t work if Luke and Rey hadn’t had mentors to coach them along and the friends to cheer them on by their side. They had big feelings about their past. They felt betrayed by their parents until they knew the truth. At the end of the last movie, Rey is asked what her name is. She has discovered she is the product of a cloning experiment involving an evil sorcerer who has been kept alive through dark magic. She could feel ashamed, depressed, angry, enraged. Instead, she stops to think about the people who loved her. The people who helped shape her into the person she was, the people who cared for her when she didn’t know what to do. And she found her name. She called herself Rey Skywalker. She had no “legal” claim to that name. She hadn’t officially been adopted by Luke or Leia, though Leia ended up being her greatest mentor. She chose to associate herself with the people who loved her when she was struggling and when she triumphed.
I’m not sure if there is a better picture of what adoption can be. We mentor our kids through all of the stuff, not knowing if they will even want to acknowledge us when they are grown. We wait with bated breath, hoping they will want to be ours but unsure if they will claim us. I spent the weekend visiting with my oldest son. He is in residential treatment, so he can get some much-needed help. We miss him desperately, but we are thankful for where he is. He was raised by someone else for the first nine years of his life. He has every reason to resent us for sending him away to get help. I watched in awe as he introduced us to every adult he could find, “This is my mom and dad. He’s my coach. She’s my art teacher. They’re where I get my art skills and my hockey skills from.” When a teacher said, “Oh, it’s genetic then?” He laughed and said, “Well, something like that. I’m adopted, but yeah, I get it from them.” He also proudly announced to that same teacher, “They chose me.” That kid has my heart and always will. I did choose him, and I’d choose him again and again. So, Star Wars has a lot to do with adoption. The themes that run through it are the ones that run through our lives. May the force be with you.Considering adoption? Let us help you on your journey to creating your forever family. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.
Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places” in her church and community.