So basically I could have written a large think piece on how significant that defining moment was but then I thought, why not try to give you a sense of how that moment felt when I first experienced it and heard those five fateful words. So here is my discussion with a completely accurate and not in any way fabricated using some guess work and selective memories combined with the reaction I would probably still have today, seven year old version of myself.
Seven year old me
Modern day me (only slightly more sensible than 7 year old me).
My world has just been torn down, Luke Skywalker, the epitome of all that is right and just, is the son of Darth Vader, who represents all that is evil and ruthless. It must be a lie. It’s true though, and we all know it. As Darth Vader himself said ‘search your feelings, you know it to be true. But it just came out of nowhere, there was nothing to suggest that was the truth in any way, was there?
Well for a start let’s examine the build up to this moment. Luke’s dream in the cave may be the first real attempt to draw a parallel between our hero and villain from the franchise, but there are even moments that build up to that vision of a foreshadowing interpretation to a statement that reveals an admission, you heard me. The first piece of information we receive about Darth Vader is from Obi-Wan Kenobi. We learn he was a pupil of Kenobi, but then ‘turned to evil’, that in itself was a surprise in many ways and it raised a lot of questions about their pasts and origins very early on in the series. You can change sides, you’re not born a villain, and how can such a horrible figure who strangled Captain Antilles be associated with a wise badass like Obi-Wan?
Regardless, we know people can change sides then, more specifically we know they can go from the good side of the Jedi, to the dark side. You have to start wondering, would Luke ever do that’? Obi Wan told him that Vader ‘betrayed and murdered’ his father, if anything Luke just wants revenge. Then when Vader kills Obi-Wan (another traumatic moment) it adds to the number of people whom Luke cares about that have been taken away from him by Vader. It just makes him more devoted to become a Jedi and defeat the dark side.
This leads you to the cave scene, in which Luke envisions a duel with Vader, where he decapitates his adversary only to find his own face beneath that evil mask. Now, speaking as a child, once you have been reassured by a wiser adult that it is in fact not the real Vader but merely a vision, you start to ask, what was the point of that what did it mean? It is an unmistakable statement that beneath their exteriors, Luke and Vader are the same person, or at the very least they are incredibly similar. But how could that be. They are totally different people, Luke is good and Vader is bad. But then again they were both taught by Obi-Wan, and Vader turned to the dark side. So is that where Luke is heading? No it couldn’t be, remember Vader killed Luke’s father and his mentor.
True, but now we have to confront the problem that led to this discussion, because it seems as if though it was unexpected there are many narrative suggestions that link Vader and Luke’s father, not to emotion the notion of them being similar. After all if Luke being seduced by the dark side is impossible then why was Yoda so concerned by the idea? Is it because it is a genuine risk, because Luke and Vader have so much in common, like family? Obi-Wan also seemed pretty concerned about young Skywalker confronting Vader in Bespin, was it because he too was fearful due to their concrete similarity? Wait a minute, speaking of Obi-Wan, if he knew about this why didn’t he tell Luke about this from the start, why bother to make up this sort of metaphorical (I was well spoken at seven wasn’t I?) alternative backstory?
That is one question that will be answered in the next film, but until then what else are you curious about? How can Luke fight Vader now, could he kill his own father, what happens when they meet again, will Vader use this against him, does he still care about his son, will Luke forgive Obi-Wan for lying to him, can he move on from this, will he turn to the dark side? To be fair though, they still don’t have that much in common, not enough for Luke to turn. They both feel anger towards the Jedi, both are powerful in the force and both have lost a limb.
There’s a reason why this moment meant so much to so many people. It blurred the lines between good and bad, transformed what was simple into complex and raised literally countless questions over the potential implications. Imagine living in 1980 and seeing that, then having to wait three years to have those questions answered. I think if I was seven years old I would have devoted those three years to uncovering the truth, I can say that with confidence as even the thirty second wait between removing one video and inserting another one titled ‘Return of the Jedi’ felt like an eternity.