Whether or not Luke will return as a ghost in the next big Star Wars movie remains to be seen, but Mark Hamill will haunt Twitter with his insightful commentary forever. Most recently, the beloved actor has weighed-in on why Luke really faded away into the Force at the end of The Last Jedi. No, he wasn’t just pooped-out from his long-distance lightsaber duel, it turns out the Force itself actually killed Luke. And, that’s because Luke overdosed on the Force. Like a drug.
On Monday, Mark Hamill tweeted panels from the Marvel comic book adaptation of The Last Jedi and likened Luke’s death to that of a junkie overdosing on hard drugs. “Almost like an addict that kicked his habit cold-turkey, remained clean for decades, only to re-use just once & then, tragically, overdoses,” Hamill wrote. It’s an interesting analogy, and other than fueling the neverending fire of geeky Star Wars fan speculation on the internet, Hamill’s comment makes the metaphor of the Force a little more interesting than perhaps it’s ever been.
For decades, the Force has been a stand-in for a variety of mysticism and religious beliefs. In fact, George Lucas specifically was interested in Zen Buddhism when he created Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. But, belief in the Force, and using the Force are two separate things in Star Wars. In The Phantom Menace, Lucas attempted to define the use of the Force chemically, by claiming a certain amount of “midichlorians” in a person’s bloodstream can predispose them to be more in touch with the Force. This is all fairly innocent in terms of a silly sci-fi concept, but it gets a little darker with Hamill’s drug addiction metaphor.
In real life, there are certain schools of thought that believe drug addiction (or addiction in general) can be a genetic predisposition. If we start to view “using the Force” as a kind of substance abuse, then Star Wars suddenly becomes a very different story. Instead of a saga about a family of tragic heroes and villains, this new lens means Star Wars could be seen as a story about a family with a history of substance abuse and addiction issues. And in the case of the Skywalker family, it’s not booze or smack that’s the problem, it’s the Force itself.
A Star Wars purist (does that even exist anymore?) might argue that the only addiction metaphor in Star Wars is the idea of “the dark side,” and if the Skywalkers are addicted to anything it’s that raw power the dark side offers. Anakin got hooked on the dark side, and his only form of rehab was being thrown into a black suit with a crazy helmet. Kylo Ren might still be able to sober-up from dark side-ism, but that sort of remains to be seen, depending on whether Rey can convince him to go to rehab in Episode IX.
The interesting thing about thinking about Luke as a Force junkie is that his brushes with the dark side of the Force were much briefer than say, his father or his nephew. To mix metaphors a bit, if Anakin and Ben Solo were the kind of guys who were unable to stop drinking after the first drink, then we’d think of Luke as a more functional addict, someone who used the stuff but was able to exist in society, somewhat functionally. Except, of course, that ends up not being true by the time of The Last Jedi. After all, what is Luke’s island sanctuary other than a giant rehab retreat clinic, a place where he has to disconnect from all the temptations that made him want to use in the first place? Are there some Raymond Carver books mixed in with Luke’s Jedi texts in that little library he tries to burn?
Star Wars is interesting to countless millions because of its surface-level fairytale thrills, but, as many have pointed out before (and will do so until the end of time) its endurance is connected with the psychological and philosophical themes pervading its colorful plotlines. Because Star Wars is pop art, it tends to have its cake and eat it, too. The Force can be a religion and pseudo-science at the same time. Han Solo can be deadbeat criminal and a tragic father, in the blink of an eye (and even in the same movie.) But, perhaps the edgiest subliminal message has been one hiding in plain sight.
Because if Mark Hamill is right (and he usually is) then thinking of Luke’s plight as the struggle of an addict suddenly does the impossible: infuse the stories of a galaxy far, far away with social commentary about struggles people actually face. Most people will never wield a sword or fly in space. But we all struggle with the temptation of easy ways to solve our problems. Using the Force could be a beautiful spiritual metaphor, but in many ways, it also sounds a lot like getting high in order to not deal with the real world.
Or maybe some Jedi can hold their Force and others can’t. And, from a certain point of view, Luke is a Jedi who can’t.
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