Star Wars’ improvement in writing mental health stories

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For many years, mainstream media didn’t talk about the mental health of its characters unless it was to make a joke at the expense of the character, including primarily negative stereotypes. Jokes about padded rooms, calling characters crazy, taking them away to the looney bin, and things of that nature. Rarely were there quality displays or discussions about mental health and treatments for those needing those services.

However, there has been a changing of the guard. We have begun to see many shows talk about mental health and mental health care, with displays of people experiencing mental health issues that are more accurate and less comedic in nature. Our galaxy far, far away has been no different. Shows like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka have shown their title characters endure trauma and even experience moments of PTSD accurately to what someone in real life may be experiencing.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and PTSD

A cursory review of Obi-Wan’s life shows that he is the poster child for PTSD. Obi-Wan watched traumatic event after traumatic event unfold before his young eyes. He was 25 years old when we first saw him during The Phantom Menace, before the start of the Clone Wars, and approximately 38 years old when the war stopped. During that time, he watched his friends die, including the clones and other Jedi in the theater of war. He watched the death of his mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn, in a violent fashion. Not to mention, the woman he loved but could not be with because of the Jedi Order, Duchess Satine,  was also killed in front of him. He had to fight and kill the very clones he served alongside and created friendships with. Obi-Wan then watched a hologram of his best friend and the man he raised killing younglings. And then, to top it all off, he had to fight that very same friend that he considered to be like a brother to him.

We see Obi-Wan dealing with all this weight in the Obi-Wan Kenobi show. We see him being frozen at times when panic attacks or PTSD have trapped him. We see him going through moments of mental pain and anguish during mental flashbacks and having to talk about the people, places, and things of his former life.

Perhaps the best thing about all of this is that the writers and directors of the show didn’t try to wrap it all up with a pretty bow and make it a pretty Hollywood-style ending by the end of the episode. Why? Because that’s not how life works. For anyone. Ever.

What we saw was a more realistic view of life dealing with issues that affect one’s mental health and how that gets dealt with. It may not have been perfect, but it has been the best Hollywood has had to offer in this regard in quite some time.

Ahsoka and trauma

Ahsoka was approximately 14 years old when we were first introduced to her in The Clone Wars movie. She is a child soldier thrust into the heat of battle and eventually given the responsibilities of the lives of the men who would call her commander. That’s a heavy burden for someone who hasn’t fully developed emotionally and mentally yet. To be honest, it’s a heavy burden if you’re a fully grown adult as well. There is no way that Ahsoka could go through the Clone Wars and not have to deal with the trauma she endured.

But we see her also dealing with feelings of abandonment after being falsely accused by the Jedi Order and removed as a Jedi. Ahsoka learned to put up walls to protect herself from those who could or would leave her. That’s why we hear Ahsoka say to Hera Syndulla, “ I walked away from [Anakin Skywalker]. And the Jedi. Just like I walked away from Sabine.” Ahsoka was used to putting up defensive walls, not an uncommon practice by someone trying to protect their own mental health.

In Episode 5 of Ahsoka we see flashbacks of the battles that Ahsoka had to fight with and without Anakin by her side. We see the guilt she felt for the lives of the clones and the burden it placed upon her. Although a brief scene, the writers did a great job of giving a glimpse into what Ahsoka must have been experiencing at that time. Fourteen years old and watching war unfold right in front of her.

Ahsoka definitely had to learn to deal with her past. Episode 5 showed that by the end of the episode, she was on her way to doing that.

Moving forward

No show is perfect in how it shows its characters handling mental health and PTSD. But as someone who deals with both issues, it’s appreciated that the effort is there and Hollywood is making the effort.

Mental health is a long journey filled with highs and lows, but if Hollywood can continue in this direction, it’s good for us all. Let’s continue normalizing discussions about mental health and help everyone get the help they need instead of fearing a stigma that shouldn’t be.