On the Comlink is a feature in which StarWars.com writers hop on a call (virtual or old fashioned) and discuss a specific Star Wars topic. In this installment, Kristen Bates, Dan Brooks, Dustin Diehl, Kelly Knox, and Carlos Miranda talk about the families within Star Wars, from how they impact us to their thematic meaning.
Dan Brooks: Since it’s Thanksgiving season, a time when friends and families come together, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about the idea of Star Wars families, both in a thematic sense and in a literal sense. I wanted to open it up with that — what do Star Wars families mean to you in each of those ways?
Whoever wants to go first, feel free to jump in, or else I’m going to call on someone.
Kelly Knox: Uh oh.
Dan Brooks: Kelly Knox! You made a sound!
Kelly Knox: Dang it! [Laughs] Obviously, found families is one of the main themes of Star Wars. You’ve got hope, selflessness, doing the right thing, and, right in there, is found families. I think that’s what we see in every trilogy.
Dan Brooks: Even when your found family includes your actual sister!
Kelly Knox: Surprise! [Laughs] It’s more than just Luke and Leia being literally “I found my family,” but even — when I think of found family in Star Wars, I think of the Ghost’s crew [in Star Wars Rebels]. That’s a prime example of a big family that had no intention of ever coming together. Even Obi-Wan and Anakin, who technically aren’t supposed to have attachments or family, I think they find in each other a little found family themselves. There’s lots of different variations of it, but it’s one of the most important parts of Star Wars.
Dan Brooks: When you first got into Star Wars, was that something you were conscious of on any level? Was it something that resonated with you?
Kelly Knox: Ah, not so much, because I’m pretty old, so I was just a kid. It was just the original trilogy. I think what mainly resonated was just the more literal sense of Luke finding his family, finding a new place, and losing Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen. I think that was more what made an impression on me when I was first getting into Star Wars. But as I’ve gotten older and the story has evolved, I can see that theme a lot more clearly.
Carlos Miranda: Something Kelly said that really resonated with me — I’m also kind of old, I guess? I was born in 1982 so I was too young to really experience that first wave of Star Wars. I really came into Star Wars because, in 1988, my grandmother gave me a set of the original trilogy. It was that — I actually still have it — set of three VHS tapes and From Star Wars to Jedi. I became hooked and obsessed immediately.
I grew up at a time when there was that desert of Star Wars. There wasn’t anything. Yes, they had the VHS tapes; if you ever came across [Caravan of Courage] or Battle for Endor on VHS that was amazing. It was that kind of time —
Dan Brooks: The dark times.
Carlos Miranda: The dark times! I forgot who I was speaking to — I can throw in these things, and no one will judge me and more than two people will know what I’m talking about.
So, finding anyone who shared your love for Star Wars at that time, really in the early to mid-‘90s, before the toys came back and before the Special Editions, where all we had were three VHS tapes and a Timothy Zahn book.
That, to me, to what you were saying, Kelly, Star Wars is so much about found family. Grogu, like I can see behind Dustin, you have Grogu and Mando, it is so much about found family. I grew up moving around a lot, and Star Wars was a constant in my life. Always a constant in my life. It was such a beacon to draw in other people that were like that. The moment I found anybody who was into Star Wars, it was like, yes, you have found your tribe. You’ve found your found family. The friends that I found during that time are some of my closest friends to this day, 30 years later.
Dan Brooks: There’s an idea of, “You get this thing that I get! It’s reaching both of us.” So you have that connection.
Dustin Diehl: Similarly, I was introduced to Star Wars through actual family. My dad was the one that recorded the Star Wars movies. A TNT movie marathon, probably, and it was fast-forwarding through the commercials on your VHS tape. So I’ve always an association with the introduction of Star Wars in my life to my actual family.
In a similar vein, growing up in that era, I think the big thing for me was reading the Young Jedi Knight series. That’s all about found family as a teenager, and going to an academy, which is like going to school. For me, finding friends that similarly liked Star Wars was that same kind of story of, “Wow, we have a connection here.” I can see myself represented in these books with these young people.
Obviously, that’s translated into other things. The concept of found family, for me, resonates around people I’ve met through [Star Wars] Celebration. Going to Celebration, there’s people that I don’t ever see outside of it, yet I still feel really connected to them and stay in touch. When I do see them every couple years, you pick up where you left off. There’s something special about that. I think Star Wars in general lends itself to that kind of connection, which is really cool.
Kristin Bates: It is interesting that we are talking about the concept of found family, because that’s basically Star Wars. I think we all have a similar background in terms of how we were introduced to Star Wars. My dad introduced me to Star Wars. We went and saw the Special Editions of the original trilogy. [Pumps fist] Heck yeah, I love them.
What always stood out to me as a kid, the found family concept kind of came later, but I was so interested in Luke’s journey and his desire for something more. Just watching the twin sunsets and just wanting something more. He had this persona that, you don’t have to [make] the choices of your blood family. You don’t have to follow that same path.
One of my favorite quotes, I will share this until my dying breath, is from Star Wars Battlefront II. When Luke Skywalker is in that cave and he gives the quote, “You have a choice to be better.”
I think that can speak a lot in terms of the families that Star Wars characters have come from, in the prequel era to the original trilogy and into sequel trilogy. The idea that, just because it’s blood, doesn’t mean that you have to abide by it. That’s something that always stood out to me, and then of course that transitions into this found family conversation. The found family, nine times out of 10, is more important than your real family. That was really cool to see.
Dan Brooks: That’s interesting. On that note, that’s something the movies are saying, that you don’t have to follow in the footsteps of your family that came before you. But I think it says a lot of different things about family. Is there a message or a theme in Star Wars around family that specifically resonates with any of you?
Kristen Bates: Sacrifice. Shmi [Skywalker] sacrificing her wants and her needs in the prequel trilogy. I’ll always be a Shmi stan. She was willing to live out her life and make sure that Anakin had, to the best of his ability, a childhood. When he up and left, it was her telling him, “You need to go. Don’t look back. You need to live this life.”
That’s something that stands out to me. When you love someone enough, you put yourself back and you make sure they’re elevated to the best position possible. Having her do that, that really stood out to me. And Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, when Vader sacrifices himself so he can save Luke, that always stands out to me — the idea of sacrificing yourself or your needs for the greater good and for the people around you.
Carlos Miranda: I think it hit those story elements. Obviously, Obi-Wan sacrificed himself so everyone could escape the Death Star [in Episode IV]. I don’t know how many of you guys are parents, but I view Star Wars slightly differently now that I’m a father… My kids aren’t into Star Wars at all, I think it’s that kind of a reaction. They got into The Bad Batch, which is awesome. Every week we watched it. Other than that, nothing. [Makes a zero sign] I’ve literally failed.
Dan Brooks: [Laughs]
Carlos Miranda: It’s really a reaction to me. They’re like, “We don’t want anything you’re into.” But I do think that theme of sacrifice hits a lot harder. You can imagine what Shmi did, what Obi-Wan did, really hits a lot harder when you’re a parent. You try putting yourself in those situations. That’s real love. There’s an undercurrent of, Star Wars really is about — obviously it’s about family, it’s about relationships, but it’s also really about love and the things we do for those we love. The things that we’re willing to do, whether it’s literally sacrifice yourself.
I think, Kristin, your quote from Battlefront II… That kind of stuff hits home, in particular when you’re sitting around a Thanksgiving table and not all of your relatives necessarily share your same views around something.
Dustin Diehl: I think that’s a good point, too. While yes, there’s a lot of conversation about being a part of a group, a part of a family, or a part of a whole, I think one thing that sticks out to me too is, there’s still value in being true to yourself. The [character] that jumps out to me most in that regard is Padmé. Padmé had her family in Anakin, and he went to a place where she couldn’t follow. She wasn’t beholden to family to the point of losing herself. She still had to stay true to herself, and ultimately lost him.
On the flip side, with Jyn [Erso], she pushed against what her family had stood for originally. Ultimately, she kind of came back to it, but it was her own journey. She made that choice for herself and in a way that was different. I think that makes that reunion with her father so impactful and emotional. Despite those years of building up walls, in that moment she was that little kid again.
I think those two characters in particular are a good example of, family is critical, but not at the expense of yourself.
Dan Brooks: Right. I think Ahsoka Tano is a great example of that, in leaving everything that she knew because it didn’t feel right to her anymore. It’s interesting because, the idea of family is at the heart of Star Wars, in all the storytelling that has followed since the original trilogy, as well. To the point I was making earlier, it’s saying a lot of different things about that. There’s good in it, and then there are complexities within it, as well. Star Wars, as it’s developed over the years, really explored that theme. It’s only made the galaxy richer.
I did want to ask, if story-wise, if everyone kind of has a favorite Star Wars family?
Kelly Knox: I’ve had Obi-Wan Kenobi on my mind a lot lately, and I think his relationship with Anakin is probably my favorite right now. Along the same lines of a theme or message that Star Wars does well is in their final confrontation. Anakin yells, “I hate you!” At that moment, Obi-Wan doesn’t respond with, “I hate you, too.” He takes a moment to say, “You were my brother, I loved you,” and he chooses to respond to that hate with love.
It’s something that’s really stuck with me lately as general attitude about not just family, but how we all interact with each other. So right now, I think I would say Anakin and Obi-Wan are my favorite found family in Star Wars.
Carlos Miranda: I’d say Han and Chewie. As a kid, Han Solo to me was everything. Everything. That’s a relationship that — not that it’s overlooked, necessarily, but because there are so many more complex relationships in Star Wars, whether it’s Obi-Wan and Anakin, which is amazing, or Luke and Leia.
I think that love, it’s so tangible, particularly in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, but talking about the original trilogy, I think that that love they have for each other, they’re brothers in a way. We can get into the backstory of who owes who a debt, but I think the reality of it is they love each other. They care for each other.
Han Solo is still my favorite Star Wars character ever, so I immediately jump to that. That, to me, is a beautiful Star Wars found family.
Dan Brooks: I’ll go. [Everyone laughs] Everyone else can get their answers ready.
For me, I think it’s the Ghost family in Star Wars Rebels. It felt like the first Star Wars family where all the dynamics were there. Unless I’m forgetting one that came before, but this one you really had the mother figure [in Hera] and the father figure [in Kanan]. You had the older brother in Zeb, the younger brother in Ezra, Sabine as the sister. Chopper was the grumpy cat. That felt like watching a family and everything that really goes on in a family.
Everything from Sabine wanting to be more involved and know more about what’s going on, and Hera protecting her and being like, “There are some things you’re gonna know and some things you’re not gonna know. That’s for your own good.” She has to go through something to understand that. That felt very real world to me but through this lens of being a rebel against the Empire.
To me, that’s when Star Wars is working at its best. You’re enjoying it on this one level, but you’re really seeing the parallels to what we all experience.
Kristen Bates: I’ve been watching a lot of the sequel trilogy recently, with Rey, Poe, and Finn, and I have an appreciation for that family dynamic — especially with Luke and Leia, their experiences and what they’re bringing to Rey as she trains. In The Rise of Skywalker, when she finds out that her grandfather is, unfortunately, the Emperor, spoiler alert, she cuts herself off. She hates herself, she wants nothing to do with herself, because of the legacy that comes with that name.
You have Force Ghost Luke telling her, yeah, we knew, we still trained you and we still love you. We don’t care. Then he tells her when she’s trying to burn her belongings, he basically tells her that your blood isn’t important. He already has that experience. He knows where she’s coming from.
I think that’s my favorite found family right now. Subject to change, I always have a favorite each season, I feel like, but I feel like Rey embracing the people that embraced her even though they weren’t her family, and forming that bond, that was really cool to see.
Dustin Diehl: I always come back to that scene in The Last Jedi with Luke and Leia. I know it’s a really short scene, but to me, that’s probably one of my favorite Star Wars scenes ever. That, to me, is kind of the epitome of what family is. She knew he wasn’t even really there, I think, but at the same time, she still had her wit. She still had her Leia-isms and Luke was able to connect with her, even after years of being apart, and having that feeling of “us” between them. They were able to connect in that way. I think that’s the epitome of what we want family to be; even if there’s distance or space between, when we come together, there’s that reconnection.
More recently, I’ve enjoyed The Bad Batch. I think that’s such a good example of that family dynamic, and the journey of Omega trying to find her place in that world. What’s interesting there is that’s kind of mix of not only “blood” related but maybe even DNA related. [Laughs] But also still that element of being disconnected a little bit and then trying to have that be something and create something that really wasn’t there before.
I think that also ties into the story of Crosshair. Understanding what it means when you do have a member of your family take a path that hurts you, and how do you reconcile that? How do you leave space for them to come back? How do you try to maybe try to see things from their perspective, while going back to what I saying earlier, without losing yourself and losing the things you believe in? I think they’ve done a really good job for a quote “kids show.” They’re tackling some pretty heavy storylines there and I appreciate that.
Dan Brooks: One thing I was thinking about The Bad Batch is it’s kind of a new way of looking at family. They’re all siblings, and I don’t know that we’ve ever seen that before. I’m just curious if anybody here who watches the show, if it hits them differently because they have a lot of siblings?
Kelly Knox: I have a twin. I don’t know if that counts. [Laughs]
Kristen Bates: Basically, a clone.
Kelly Knox: Exactly!
Carlos Miranda: Who’s a clone of who, though?
Kelly Knox: I always liked the fact that Luke and Leia were twins. I always felt a little camaraderie there. Bad Batch-wise, I think that they’re just like my sister and I where — I don’t even consider her a twin or like I’m looking at myself. We are so different, and I feel like they probably feel the same way. They may be clones, but they’re absolutely their own people, and that’s how my sister and I see each other, too.
Carlos Miranda: I have a brother, and he’s 13 years younger than me. It’s a very different dynamic than what you find in The Bad Batch, but what I love about the Bad Batch as well is [that] it also kind of reminds me of a group of friends or a team together, or the guys I grew up with or went to camp with every year. There’s that certain level of kinship and brotherhood, whether you’re brothers or not.
The dynamic between all of them is, like Dustin was saying earlier, really about that they’re a family, they have different personalities, they all bring different things to the table. They get on each other’s nerves the way family gets on each other’s nerves. They love each other the way family loves each other. And for a kids show, as he was saying earlier, it works on multiple levels. I think that dynamic between all of them is very much one of that line of yes, they’re clones, technically they’re all brothers, but also, in a way, they’re all defective so they all found each other. There’s an element that draws them together. There’s definitely a found family there despite them all being clones.
Dan Brooks: I wanted to ask about the theme of family — has your view of that theme in Star Wars changed as you’ve gotten older?
Kristen Bates: Growing up and becoming an adult, and doing adult things like figuring out who am I [and] what do I want to do in this world, I think shifting into that area of my life has definitely made me look at a few aspects of Star Wars differently. Like when Luke is going through his existential crisis and he’s, again, I always go back to that scene of the twin sunset, and he’s trying to tell his uncle, “Hey, I’m going to join the academy, I can’t be a farmer the rest of my life.”
Taking that one step in fear, and not knowing what’s gonna come with that, and then taking one step after another after another and growing into the person that he is at the end of this hero’s journey. Then taking that knowledge with him in future films, like when he’s training Rey and he’s talking about his shortcomings and the idea of failure, and how you want to protect your family at all costs, and you want to impart this idea of failure. That’s really changed for me as an adult.
I don’t have any kids, so I don’t relate to it from a parent’s perspective. But from the perspective of somebody who’s walking this path of just figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their life, it’s really cool to see that in the Star Wars saga, and how this found family rallies around each other, lifts each other up, and supports each other in their endeavors.
Whether that’s Luke telling Leia, “I gotta kill Darth Vader, I gotta leave,” and she’s like, “Get as far away as you can from here but don’t kill him because you’re gonna die,” that’s lifting each other up, supporting each other, and wanting what’s best for each other. That’s been interesting to see as I’m stepping into adulthood.
Dan Brooks: When I watched Return of the Jedi with my kids, and we got to the end when Luke is being tortured and Vader’s deciding what to do, that hit me in a totally different way than I ever anticipated. I get a little emotional just thinking about it.
After having kids and watching that moment, it reframed all of it for me. In fact, I would say the whole trilogy, at this point. I think when you’re a kid — and [Kristen, you’re] talking about now, you’re not a kid — you identify with Luke. You want to get out and do things and see what the world has to offer. Once you’ve had kids and you’ve been out there for a while, for me at least, you look back more and you’re obviously protective of your kids.
You feel for Darth Vader in that moment. He’s understanding the mistakes that he made. Part of being a parent is hoping that you’re doing your best by your kids, and you’re not failing them. I see that character in a totally different light now than when I was just a teenager.
That is one way that the idea of family in Star Wars has changed for me, through specific moments. As I’ve gotten older, I’m identifying with different characters and that scene, and it just hits me in a different way.
Kristen Bates: Does Yoda’s quote in The Last Jedi, when he says, “We are what they grow beyond,” does that hit you differently as a parent?
Dan Brooks: Yeah. That was another moment I loved. Anyone who has ever been in the position of mentoring or caring for someone younger than them will understand what that means. That’s the truth, though, what Yoda is telling Luke in that moment. Eventually they’re on their own. They will live their own lives and you’ll have done all that you can. The idea is that in the time that you have with them, are you doing your best?
And that was another thing, not to go off on a tangent, but about Luke’s arc in that movie that also resonated with me as an elderly person. [Laughs] You look back in the rearview mirror and you have made mistakes. I think everyone knows that. The question is can you move beyond them and put them in their right place. That’s something I thought that movie did really well.
Kelly Knox: I agree with you. It’s astounding how different watching a movie is once you become a parent. All of sudden, like you said, you’re not identifying as much with Luke. You’re sort of more identifying with the people around him. Going back and seeing Uncle Owen being grumpy about, he needs help with the harvest, you kind of start to get the feeling that he knows Luke is going to leave eventually. He just doesn’t want that to happen yet.
Part of it goes back to selflessness being a major theme in Star Wars. That’s what gets Anakin, right? The selfishness of not wanting to let go of Padmé. Sometimes I see that with me as a parent, that same theme of the selfishness of not wanting to let go, so I try to remember, they have to go off. They have to grow beyond. It’s a theme I really like in Star Wars, that selfishness versus selflessness.
Dustin Diehl: I think, for me, it’s up-ended expectations, right? I think watching Star Wars as a kid, you know, you do see kind of the more traditional, oh, Vader is Luke’s dad, and Luke and Leia are siblings, those kinds of more traditional relationships. I think as I’ve grown older, and also as I’ve been exposed to new Star Wars content, I think about the up-ended expectations.
One of the characters that always jumps out to me is Leia. I love Claudia Gray’s Princess of Alderaan, but because we finally get to see her relationship with her adoptive parents. It makes that scene in A New Hope that much more tragic. But then it also makes her arc in the sequel trilogy, to me, more impactful. She knew what it was like to have a really supportive family unit. Granted, it was taken away from her tragically, but I can only imagine she would have wanted to do the same thing for her son.
To see then in the sequel trilogy, she and Han aren’t together, I imagine that was something she probably hadn’t anticipated. When she thought of her family as a young senator, that probably wasn’t in the cards or what she planned to do. Expectations are up-ended when it comes to family, right? And you make do.
Obviously, talking about expectations, Ben Solo for sure — I think there’s a lot still to be told in that middle period there, how he grew up and what those expectations were for him, but I think that led to a big part of his arc and where he ended up. You hear the pain in his voice when he says, “I can’t go back to her,” when he talks about going back to Leia and feels like there’s no place for him there. Yet we know, with Leia’s sacrifice in the last movie, that there was always going to be a place for him, regardless of what he felt.
I just think Leia is such a fascinating character that I want to learn more about. She, to me, is very much the epitome of family, because it changes for her so drastically throughout the movies. She’s still there. She still seems to be able to hold a thread and an understanding of what family means.
Carlos Miranda: I think that’s the amazing thing about Star Wars. It evolves and changes and flows, not just with the times, but also your relationship to it — especially as something that you really love. It’s something you grew up with. It means different things to you at different times of your life.
You always remember and you always think fondly of what it meant to you when you were 10, when you were 20, when you were 30, when you were 40, but that’s the genius of Star Wars. It is a story that means different things to you at different points of your life. Like we were saying earlier, different characters meaning different things. I loved Han Solo as a kid. Dan was talking about seeing yourself in Luke, I always wanted to be Han Solo. Just give me Han Solo 24/7!
But as I get older, to me, the character that sticks out, particularly in the original trilogy, is Leia. Han is like, where my heart will always be, but I think the best character in the original trilogy might be Leia. A lot of it has to do with Carrie Fisher and her personality, but the arc of the character and what she has to go through — in many ways, especially in the original film, she’s the only adult in the room. That’s wonderful and that’s amazing, and as I’ve gotten older, she’s the character I identify with the most. That was definitely not the case for 10-year-old Carlos, right?
I think that’s the thing about Star Wars. Ultimately it ebbs and flows and changes, dynamically with the times, so your relationship to it changes. You see a different facet of it every single time you go through a major life change. That’s what separates a classic, epic tale of the ages, which is what Star Wars is, versus just a simple movie.
Dan Brooks: Well said. I think we’ll end on that.
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