Do the characters in “Star Wars” have signs of mental health disorders?
To coincide with the release of the latest “Star Wars” installment, the Daily Mail published an article about the characters and their respective personalities. Apparently, that far, far away galaxy is rife with mental illness, which means it is a lot closer this galaxy’s inhabitants and their problems.
Vader: Villain or borderline?
Audiences learned in the first “Star Wars” movie Darth Vader was evil incarnate. Half man, half machine – possibly asthmatic – his sole objective in life was to crush the rebellion. In “The Dark Knight,” the Joker asks Batman, “Why so serious?” A similar question can be put to Vader: why so evil?
The Daily Mail article suggests Vader may have borderline personality disorder (BPD) and be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the latter due to his upbringing as a slave. The DSM-5 lists nine diagnostic criteria for BPD. Not all of them fit the Vader we see in the films, but a few may explain some of his behavior both before and after he becomes a Sith Lord.
Paranoid ideation, a symptom of BPD, plays a major role in Anakin’s betrayal of the Jedi and turn to the Dark Side. As Darth Vader, he most likely harbors an unstable self-image due to his transformation from heroic Jedi Knight to towering, half-machine monstrosity. Spending his down time sitting in a large, black pod, he most likely experiences chronic feelings of emptiness. Vader’s impulsiveness, another common symptom BPD, comes out whenever he’s annoyed at fellow Imperial officers and immediately chokes them to death with the Force.
Obi-Wan: Traumatized by the past
According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals with PTSD are plagued by intrusive and unwanted memories. They are prone to angry outbursts. They have feelings of overwhelming guilt or shame. They engage in self-destructive behavior, have trouble concentrating and sleeping, and are easily startled or frightened. It is curious the Mail article concludes Vader may have PTSD when a likelier candidate for the disorder is Ob-Wan Kenobi.
Obi-Wan lives alone in a cave. He has turned his back on his history, his heritage and the cause. He lives with the guilt of knowing he had a part in turning Anakin into Vader. Whereas Vader appears resolute in his devotion to the Empire and its nefarious cause, Obi-Wan appears ambivalent. He is full of trepidation before embarking on the Falcon with Luke and crew. This is a man haunted by his past. In a very real sense, he presents the world-weary aspect of many with PTSD, particularly former soldiers. He has done his part; now he just wants to be left alone.
According to the Mail piece, C-3PO displays traits of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He is a great believer in protocols, rules and order and becomes unglued when things do not go according to plan. George Lucas grew up in Modesto, California. Like most filmmakers, he watched a lot of movies as a kid. C-3PO does not have OCD. What he has are the mannerisms of an uptight British butler, as portrayed in the movies Lucas saw as a kid.
Referring to the DSM-5, OCD is defined by recurrent and persisting thoughts. Compulsions include repetitive activities, such as checking and rechecking locks, repeatedly washing hands, performing rituals a precise number of times and in a precise manner, etc. As annoying as C-3PO is in the films, his behavior is simply that of a disgruntled butler in a strange land, not of a person with OCD.
The article notes Han Solo evolves from a character with antisocial personality disorder traits into a hero, replete with a medal and pomp and fanfare. Solo is just another in a long line of lovable rogues: Captain Blood, Robin Hood, even Indiana Jones. What may qualify Solo as a person with antisocial personality disorder, according to the DSM, is his disregard for and violation of the rights of others. He engages in deceit to get what he wants. He is impulsive and fails to plan ahead. His impulsiveness lands him in tight spots, further indication not only of recklessness but also of habitual irresponsibility. But as a lovable rogue, Solo must possess equal parts virtue and vice; otherwise, he would be dull as paste.
Jabba the psychopath
The Mail saves its sharpest diagnosis for Jabba the Hutt. His lack of empathy and remorse coupled with his delight in watching others suffer make him a bona fide psychopath. He is lascivious, cunning, ruthless and omnipotent in his dank lair of minions and victims. He comes across as a real Machiavellian. Like a true psychopath, Jabba is motivated solely by satisfying his own wants with complete disregard for others.
What makes Jabba’s diagnosis interesting is psychopathy is not a psychiatric diagnosis. The term does not appear in the DSM. But some researchers believe 50 to 80 percent of individuals in prison display symptoms of antisocial personality disorder. Researchers believe the amygdala plays a pivotal role in disorder. They point to studies that individuals with the disorder have a pronounced thinning of the cortex as well as deformities in the amygdala. No research was done to determine, one, if Jabba has an amygdale, and two, if it has distinct deformities.
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About the author:
Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at email@example.com.