When Star Wars gives us permission to grieve

(L-R): Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher) in Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) and Paz Vizsla (Tait Fletcher) in Lucasfilm's THE MANDALORIAN, season three, exclusively on Disney+. ©2023 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

I would have liked to open this by saying that 2023 has been a difficult year. But we all know it’s not just one set of pages on a calendar that’s been hard. The last three years have shaken the entire globe to the point where some of us will grieve our hardships and losses for the rest of our lives.

While the past few journeys around the sun have presented more challenges than any one person should be expected to handle in a lifetime, the 2020s thus far have given us something unique in a much less tragic way: Nonstop new Star Wars stories.

Since 2020, we’ve gotten more Star Wars books and comics, TV shows, and audio dramas than the franchise has ever provided in such a short span of time. We have seen bounty hunters war, Jedi find the light, former queens find hope and lost masters find faith.

For many fans, Star Wars is an escape. This is a fair, valid, and often essential part of consuming media. At points, it exists to entertain. It serves to pull you out of our world for the duration of a story and into a fictional universe. That is, fundamentally, why stories exist.

But it is not the only reason stories are made. Sometime, Star Wars can — and should — serve as a safe space to feel. To grieve. To reflect. Even, in some instances, to change one’s mind. More opportunities to do this have come around during the pandemic than we honestly deserved. Maybe we all needed it.

Growing up, many of us were taught that grief should be short-lived and quickly buried. I remember being nine years old and deeply troubled that my best friend was moving away. We were both told to find new friends, to not be sad about change. We found new friends. I was sad, but I learned not to show it.

So much of being a Star Wars fan — particularly online — has become about the analysis and “rating” of the stories we consume. There’s a place for that, and there always will be. (I know I’m behind on my Mando reviews, and I promise I’ll get back to being analytical tomorrow.)

But we don’t always have to hide our feelings behind our reactions and immediately move on to the next hot topic as if this week’s episode never aired. We should give ourselves permission to sit with what we’ve seen. We should, rather, let Star Wars give us the space to do that.

What if it’s okay, actually, to watch Star Wars and feel real human emotions and react to these stories with genuine joy, sadness, and everything in-between? What if reading a Star Wars book makes you reflect deeply on your past and you just … follow those thoughts wherever they take you?

When you drag yourself out of bed earlier than usual on a Wednesday morning to watch The Mandalorian spoiler-free — and you avoid Twitter for the episode’s runtime to avoid said spoilers — something becomes very clear.

In that brief time offline, you are allowed to just … be.

You are allowed to stand up and cheer (only slightly upsetting your dog) when Bo-Katan gets the darksaber back. You are allowed to cry when Grogu saves mom and dad from certain death as Moff Gideon burns off in the distance. You are allowed to experience a story that moves you without having to consider how you’ll react to it when you’re back online.

Right now, Star Wars is the only thing helping me work through personal grief. It’s been a while since I’ve lost a friend, but it seems the further you venture into adulthood (against your will!), the more you fear to lose. We exist in a world that discourages stopping, even for just a moment, to feel your feelings. It’s painful. It makes the pain hurt worse.

When you need it to, Star Wars can validate your hurt. The stories may not be real, but the emotions they trigger very much are. On the surface, you’re sad about Paz. Deeper down, perhaps you’re wondering how it will feel when you lose your own parents.

It’s not bad to let a fictional universe help you face your very real life.

Let Star Wars let you grieve.

It can do that for you, if you give it that chance.

Next. Some Star Wars fans get mad when you criticize Star Wars — here’s why. dark

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