Who are the important characters in Star Wars?

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

star wars guide

From reddit.

Here’s the original:

lucas star wars


1. Kids who have seen all of the movies, I-VI, do not identify with Han Solo nearly as much as they do with young Anakin. For them (and Lucas), Anakin is the main character who “becomes bad,” and then finds redemption at the end of VI.   Starting from I, the movie is about Vader not Luke.

Which means that kids today are seeing a different theme.  They see a story about a good person who grows up, becomes bad, and finds redemption;  adults saw a movie about good guys vs. bad guys, that there are good guys and bad guys.  Whatever the other relative merits of the movies, the full arc is more human and complete than IV-VI.

2. (Some) of the pictures are to scale, i.e. the relative heights do indeed parallel their relative importance.  Why is R2D2 so big?

Lucas said that the movies are driven by the character R2D2; not that he is the most important, and not because he saves everyone at various points, but because he provides the impetus for everyone’s actions. This makes R2D2 the perfect Macguffin; inexplicable but desirable, pushing and pulling all the characters. He “is” the secret plans; he drags C3PO into a pod and across a desert; brings Ben and Luke together; etc, until ultimately getting shot in an X-Wing forcing Luke to finally give himself up to the Force.

"Reel Two, Dialog Two" of American Graffiti

Most stories have a Macguffin (or two) but you want to make sure your life doesn’t use them: something you pursue, or which motivates you,  drives you, that, after all, turns out to be pretty meaningless.  Sex, Lies, And Videotape’s (the last Soderbergh movie worth seeing twice)  main Macguffin is Annie McDowell.

3. Most of the characters appeared in more than one movie, but only some (e.g. Anakin/Vader, Obi-Wan/Ben, Palpatine/The Emperor) appear more than once in the picture.  Why?  The obvious answer is that they were played by different actors.  But taken literally, they are indeed different characters; there’s almost no overlap between Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan and Ben.

Technically (as it applies to a story) that is a failing in character development; even radically changed characters need retain a commonality of identity, because that’s how it happens in real life:  individuals may feel there’s a clear break from their past such that the current self is indistinguishable from the old self, but in most cases that simply isn’t true.  “Wow,” they say at you 20 year reunion much to your amazement, “you haven’t changed at all.”  And your immediate thought is, “well, they just don’t know me.”

4. The most important question is asked by the guy above: “I thought these guys were important?” He thought that because he was, in essence, told to think it. These are the main characters, he was told, reinforced by all of the extra marketing. One can imagine how angry a person might be to discover that the main character isn’t the main character; that, after all, they were merely two dimensional supporting cast in someone else’s movie. 

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14 Responses to Who are the important characters in Star Wars?

  1. ButterflyMcDoom says:

    See also: http://partialobjects.com/2011/03/sucker-punch/

    Most stories have a Macguffin (or two) but you want to make sure your life doesn’t use them: something you pursue, or which motivates you, drives you, that, after all, turns out to be pretty meaningless.

    Yes. But what do you do when you lack the perspective to see the pursuit of ANY activity as meaningful? Everything ends, fades, is lost, etc. What’s the damn point? Does “drinking rum” constitute an end in its own right under those circumstances?

    • qubitman says:

      No point really. All things are done for the their own sake, but that was true before(and will be true after) you started thinking about it like that, so don’t fret too much on it either way.

  2. Torgest says:

    I have an alternative hypothesis: Neither the characters, their arcs, nor that poster were at all carefully, or well, thought out. You sure those are patterns you’re seeing?

    • SunnyBunny says:


    • thestage says:

      It’s the last psychologist, not the last logician. you really think everything is conscious?

    • Or says:

      There’s George Lucas, but no Wedge Antilles. You might be on to something.

    • operator says:

      Supporting evidence:

      a) 3/4’s top-down is one of the more difficult head configurations to draw, but – for a commercial product – that’s no excuse for Leia’s face.

      b) Jar-Jar Binks.

      c) Luke Skykiller’s cameo at the drive-in from The Explorers (yes, that was the Star Wars you were supposed to see – before all those silly re-cuts).

      Conclusion: alternative hypothesis wins the internet.

  3. arth33 says:

    Small point. The actresses name in Sex Lies and Videotape is Andie MacDowell, not Annie McDowell.

  4. economizt says:

    Does anybody really cares about Star Wars besides middle-class-and-above guys aged 30-40?
    Young people who have seen the series in order I-to-VI might have a different interpretation, but it seems to me that it’s far less important to them.

  5. Goldfinch says:

    “One can imagine how angry a person might be to discover that the main character isn’t the main character; that, after all, they were merely two dimensional supporting cast in someone else’s movie. ”

    A point supporting this: there’s a popular videogame series – Metal Gear Solid – that introduced a new main character in its second game, but kept that a secret until the game actually came out. All the marketing material suggested that the protagonist of the first game would be back, and he was – for about the first third of the game, and then it was over to this total unknown. (With the old protagonist acting as a supporting character.)

    The fans of the series were not best pleased.

    (Of course, there’s also the fact that the protagonist of the first game – Snake – looks like this – that’s a bad screenshot, but basically: chiselled jaw, mullet, bandana – he looks kind of like an 80s action hero.* (i.e. an awesome badass.)

    The replacement protagonist, on the other hand – Raiden – looks like this, i.e. a long-haired pretty boy – a type of character effective at winding up the type of fan most obsessed with the cool and masculine. He also gets groped by the President of the US and runs around naked for part of the game, so, you know, this game was basically calculate to piss people off. Possibly deliberately.)

    * He looks like Snake Plissken, actually – it’s referenced at one point. He even loses an eye to match later in the series.

    • Sfon says:

      As you yourself pointed out, there are enough other reasons that it is not a good example.

      This with Star Wars reminds me of old people upset at change. Those characters were important decades ago, less so now. Future people will not see Star Wars the same way, nor music et cetera. They won’t consider the same things special. This bugs people, they like to insist others appreciate their special things the same way. Related to “You are wrong! THIS movie is the best, you evil fiend!” People want others to be copies of themselves.

  6. statelymulligan says:

    Analyzing Star Wars has become sort of tired, especially since the newest three films offered so little of philosophical interest. I don’t need to go into why the prequels are horrible, it’s been well critiqued already, but I do think that the quality of the movies themselves is clouding this. Yes, plot-wise the movie is about Vader. However the characters in the prequels were so shallow and annoying that it was nearly impossible to connect with them. Only the characters in the original trilogy offered that kind of empathy.

    In the original films, Vader is someone deeply hurt, broken, intelligent, conflicted, even afraid. He is a character that is worth our sympathy. In the prequels, Anakin is all angst and rage. In the original films, it is implied that the Emperor had twisted Vader’s psyche, broken his will. In the prequels, Palpatine succeeds with only a few rather obvious deceits. Anakin barely needs convincing, he pretty much blunders into the Dark Side without psychological conflict or battle of will. There’s nothing really good in him to begin with- as a boy he’s dull, morally ambiguous, ethically unconcerned, and his only real connection with Padme seemed to be his need to bone her. Palpatine didn’t turn him, he just recruited him.

    This changes the whole tone of the series, and makes it difficult to identify Anakin as the main character. In the prequels he’s more of a Macguffin than R2D2, really.