Happy New Year and 2020!
With all of the buzz this holiday season due to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the concluding episode in the nine-episode Skywalker saga, I want to start the new year off with a post offering teaching ideas and lessons for this epic story.
Now, if you didn’t see the movie, note there are some spoilers throughout this post.
Let’s talk theme first. This is a story about family, good versus evil, finding your inner strength, and friendships. In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, co-writer of Episode IX Chris Terrio states, “When Luke says, “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect” in Episode IX, that’s Luke speaking. That’s his own character. He’s making fun of himself. He’s saying to Rey, “Please don’t make the same mistake that I did.” That’s another theme of the film. How do we learn from our ancestors? How do we learn from our parents? How do we learn from the previous generation? How do we learn from all the good things that they did but not repeat their mistakes? In that moment, it truly is a character moment because we quite deliberately set up the same situation of tossing a saber, but this time, Luke is there to save Rey from making a bad choice” (2019).
Each episode tackles its own themes about coming of age, courage, and a grand theme about family.
Star Wars is based on Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth or Hero’s Journey.
Throughout the entire saga viewers follow Luke, Anakin, Rey, and even Kylo Ren along their own Hero’s Journey described by Joseph Campbell. As Jedi’s Luke Skywalker and Rey have similar journeys, Anakin and his grandson, Kylo Ren follow their own journeys into – and for Kylo Ren, out of the dark side.
Check out this lesson plan from Prestwick House on Star Wars and the Hero’s Journey.
Particularly in Episode IX, there is a major scene between Kylo/Ben Solo and his father’s memory, Han Solo. In Hollywood Reporter article, Terrio states, “Atonement with the father is a very Joseph Campbell idea. In a way, the great family sin of Kylo Ren was parricide — he killed his father. He committed any of number of sins throughout the galaxy; he’s not an angel. He’s done many truly horrible things, but on a level of the family saga, as in any Greek myth, it was the killing of a parent that is the central sin that needs to be atoned for.”
Following the idea of mythology and Star Wars, in the Hollywood Reporter article, “Why ‘Star Ways: The Rise of Skywalker’ is Dividing Fans, author Richard Newby states, “The Rise of Skywalker relies on the idea that people can create their own myths, regardless of the circumstances they were born into. Rey’s arc is echoed through Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren, a former stormtrooper, drug smuggler and heir to the dark side. Each of these three characters seemed destined for villainy, but The Rise of Skywalker instead acknowledges the fact that, yes, everyone has a past, but not everyone is destined to be who they are because of bloodlines or past mistakes. Rey’s parents chose to be nobody, and she chooses to be somebody, rectifying the failures of two lineages, Palpatine and Skywalker, and choosing who she is, adopting the namesake that means something to her — not because she was chosen for it, but because she chose it. She is the story she tells to herself, rather than the story others have told about her.” Thus, this story helps our students learn that they are in charge of the story of themselves, no matter who their parents are or the situations they are born into. This element of the story provides hope and encouragement for viewers.
Back in 2016, the New York Times Learn Network provided readers with different lesson plan ideas connecting to history, science, and English Language Arts. Additional lessons bring Star Wars literacy across the content areas with math, economics, and even art and design.
The Literary Analysis of Star Wars is another aspect to examine. Obi-Wan says to Luke Skywalker during Return of the Jedi (1983), “What I told you was true, from a certain point of view,” “A certain point of view?” Luke replies incredulously. Obi-Wan responds in turn, “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”
Point of view is key throughout the Star Wars movies. You might have students write their own short story or monologue from another character’s point of view. In fact, Penguin Random House published a collection of short stories written by contemporary young adult authors titled Star Wars): From a Certain Point of View by Renee Ahdieh, Meg Cabot, Pierce Brown, Nnedi Okorafor, Sabaa Tahir. This collections offers 40 stories celebrating 40 years of Star Wars.
So, what is your favorite Star Wars quote? And how do you use Star Wars in your classroom? Let’s start a dialogue in the new year.