Anakin Skywalker: Villian Or Victim?

This weekend, there was a marathon of the Star Wars series. One of the things I noticed during the marathon was the evolution of the main protagonist turned villain Darth Vader. I couldn’t help but wonder where people stood in their feelings towards Darth Vader. A majority of them, felt that he was indeed a true villain, and although he started good, he made the choice to go bad instead of stay good.

But as I continued to watch and research, I couldn’t help but wonder… Darth Vader: Villain or Victim?

So I broke it down into two main categories: (SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD!)

In the begining...

The Reasons He’s a Victim:

~ Anakin was born into slavery in a remote planet far away from the rest of the galaxy. Tatooine was as ruthless as the desert land that it’s people resided in. With every vice from gambling to smuggling, it was happening there.  So add no justice or law to a slave and you have a child who grows up in fear and oppression.

~ From the very first time we meet Anakin Skywalker, he is being used by others to gain whatever it is they need. In the Phantom Menace it was to gain the power  core needed to escape Tatooine. Later on in the series, he is used to learn about Emperor Palatine’s issues. And then even in the end, he is played by the Emperor to give up everything he knows to become a Sith Lord in order to save his only love.

~ Although he had Obi-Wan and Yoda as advisers, Anakin was impulsive and did not always stop to think through things. Furthermore, when he is given the title of “the chosen one”, it somewhat brought a sense of ego and entitlement. That because he is the chosen one, he is exempt from being a part of the Jedi law.

~When you add the last point with a severe insecurity of fearing what he cannot control. You have a very venerable person. Anakin, was swayed by his guilt, ignorance of the world and his fear of losing control. Fear of losing the ones he loved, along with the ignorance that he can save the ones he loves eventually brought forth not only the end of himself, but the ones he loved.

Yah, this moment still hurts my soul inside.

The Reasons He’s a Villian:

~ The number one reason everyone gave me as to why Anakin Skywalker was a total villian was because he allowed Mace Windu to be killed. For those of you who do not already know, Mace Windu was played by the Bada** Mother****** himself Samuel L. Jackson. So to all of us in this generation knows, that to allow Samuel L. Jackson being murdered is just wrong on any level.

~ The second biggest reason I got from everyone, is that Anakin, always had a choice. He could have turned back and purged himself, he could have left at anytime, walked away or even chose to rebel against his own master.  But he didn’t, he instead chose to lead a world into absolute darkness. He didn’t even think twice about his decisions until the very end when it was indeed too late.

~He was ruthless in all his actions when he became a Sith Lord as well.  In the AU world, the novels tell of a Sith Lord that had it all, land, castles, money and nothing for all of his work except destruction and death.

~ Poor Padame. She didn’t stand a chance.

~He chose a terrible way to manifest himself. Into a man suit? Terrible.

The Final Verdict:

No matter what your feelings about Darth Vader, one thing remains, he is one of the most complex and hard to understand characters in the entire series. I firmly believe, that he was a tortured soul, always conflicted between what was right and what was easy. Consequently when the time came for him to make his decision, he chose badly the firstly. But the second time, although it cost him his life, he made the right right one by protecting his son and daughter from oppression. In his death, he found his redemption, and was made whole once again.

Freedom from his mortal body, Anakin Skywalker is one with The Force.


One comment on “Anakin Skywalker: Villian Or Victim?

  1. He’s both a victim and a villain. He’s the oppressed and he becomes the oppressor. This is a real life paraphrasing of a quote from Paulo Friere in his seminal work The Pedagogy of the Oppressed about oppressors.

    He’s a victim of institutions and systems (as well as the obvious, easy choice Palpatine) from the slave system on Tatooine to the Jedi and the Galactic Army that sends children to be soldiers and warriors as well as Palpatine who grooms him from when he was a child.

    Once, he escapes slavery, he only gains new masters in the form of the decaying Jedi, who have become stodgy, distant from the people, and an increasingly militarized order, as well as the the corrupt Republic, which is actually a proto-Empire that cares more about the consolidation of power and the privileged . He is a spawn of the inequality, injustice and militarized violence of those systems just as many soldiers that work for the American empire are when they are serving imperialistic interests and brutalizing populations abroad. This is one of the reasons I find the character so interesting. As a vocal critic of American foreign policy and seeing the desensitization to violence, the PTSD, and basically seeing the effects of the empire on its sons and daughters, as well as on non-Americans abroad, I find these threads in the character’s narrative fascinating. So, we can’t just ignore these aspects of what makes Vader.

    But, choice and agency means that Anakin/Vader is a villain too. He has the cognitive ability to consent and he chooses to make all the wrong choices. The deck was stacked against him absolutely, but he chooses, despite his own awareness of the wrong he’s doing, to be complicit in Palpatine’s rise. That’s why he can’t just be a victim. The victim here also chooses to victimize others.

    For a comparison, if you watch Game of Thrones or you read ASOIAF, Cersei Lannister is a victim of the patriarchal society she lives in – she chafes against it but she also internalizes the patriarchal ideas regarding the roles of women and men to the point that she wishes she was born a man (instead of wishing to break the system). She’s destroyed by the system and she’s a twisted person and the damage can be traced back to patriarchy. But she also chooses to victimize other women less powerful than she is. She is a victim of patriarchy and she is the tragic consequence of patriarchy, but she is also a victimizer of other women.

    What’s great about this narrative is that Anakin loses everything. He becomes less than a person which is what he started off as in TPM when he was a slave. But this is worse because his own choices led him here to the suit with its artificial limbs and breathing apparatus. He loses everything and he knows it’s all his fault which is why the trauma leads him to disavowing Anakin Skywalker completely. It only comes full circle when Luke comes into the picture and he forces Vader to become Anakin again, Anakin with all his weaknesses and flaws and his loves.

    Vader does make the choice to finally throw his shackles off in Return of the Jedi. The novelization makes it clear that he sees himself and his bad choices when he sees Luke being electrocuted. He has compassion for Luke (compassion which Anakin once called unconditional love) enough to throw his chains off. Lucas even says that Vader knows that he can’t change what he’s done, but he can stop the horrors which he does by saving Luke and killing the Emperor.

    The narrative is about personhood, dehumanization, identity, and becoming a person again. So, it’s fitting that Anakin/Vader is both villain and victim.

    “The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors” – Paulo Friere

    “The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom.” – Paulo Friere

    If the above quotes don’t personify Vader in ROTS-ROTJ, I’ll eat my hat. In fact, the whole of this nonfiction work is great to read if you like the themes represented in Star Wars and other works depicting revolutions, imperialism, and oppression.

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