Hope is an idea that we have all heard of, talked about, and seen play out in nearly every work of fiction and Star Wars story. It goes to the extent that even one of the movies has the word hope in the title, but what is hope? Is hope always a good thing to have, and if not; when does hope become an idea that is bad to hold on to? To examine the different angles of hope, we must first define what hope is. If you look up the word hope in a dictionary, you will likely get a definition similar to this:
“A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”
Hope Manifested in The Three Trilogies
This sets the standard for what we, the audience, view hope as in the stories that we have access to. In Star Wars one of the main themes through the eyes of our heroes and from their point of view. In the original trilogy, you see the rebels hopeful that they can beat the Evil Empire and restore what they view as peace to everyone throughout the galaxy. This seems to be the most basic theme and idea of hope in most stories throughout Star Wars. It even goes as far as having pieces of music like “Binary Sunset” or the Force theme that paint the picture of a brighter day and display the idea of hope through music.
In the prequels, there is a similar idea of hope, but instead of just defeating an authoritarian power, it is the hope of an individual. Nearly all of the ideas of hope in episodes one through three deal with the concept of putting faith and hope in the individual, Anakin Skywalker bringing peace, prosperity, and balance to a galaxy after receiving the title of The Chosen One. This is a display of hope where many people believe a single individual will fulfill an ancient prophecy.
In the sequel trilogy has made the central idea of hope a much more personal one, and not something that has been viewed in the wider scope like all of the other movies. In The Force Awakens, you have Rey that imagines a life outside of Jakku and this example in the sequels is very minuscule in the grander story compared to all of the other stories in this universe. The Last Jedi takes this a little further and paints the picture of a story where our heroes have a real lack of hope throughout the story. The characters in the movie have this true lack of hope that everything will work out and it is the most unique aspect of hope in Star Wars, in my opinion.
The Light Side of Hope
Now that we have covered how the idea of hope and how it manifests itself in the story that is Star Wars, we can get into what hope is, and when it’s good; but also, when it’s bad. There is this old phrase that goes “hope springs eternal”, you could read about it at nauseam. This phrase and the idea of hope is used often very casually and as more of a pick me up. It’s used in everyday life to try and lift somebody’s spirits and get them through a rough time. Hope is often found when someone is down on their luck (like Luke in A New Hope) when they have felt like they have hit rock bottom and the only thing they have is the hope that everything will get better. Hope is something that everyone has, and it is what helps make these movies so relatable.
It is a good thing to have hope. As the hero of your journey and your own story, you want to succeed, and sometimes to do that you need a hell of a lot of hope in your life. If Luke never had any hope that his life would get better, his journey would have never happened. Holding on to hope is considered courageous more times than not. To have the belief and faith especially when a hero is beaten down by life and circumstances, but still hold on to hope; that is one hundred percent courageous.
Hope is the extension of confidence that everything will work out in your favor and that through patience and determination, a situation will get better. This can be seen in Star Wars through the lens of yet again our protagonist, Luke Skywalker. He sees a greater life for himself and the entire universe. It would be incredibly easy for him to never chase that greater life, but he chooses the more difficult path, the one that involves a lot of hope. He has the patience and determination to see these goals through to the very end, and if never got a grasp of the idea of hope, the argument could be made that h would never have the motivation to do everything that he did.
The Dark Side of Hope
For our heroes in Star Wars hope is an incredibly powerful emotion and something that many of them want to hold on to, but hope does have a dark side in a few ways. The first situation is holding onto hope when nothing can be done can be debilitating. This can break someone’s spirit and give them a false sense that everything will be alright and turn back to some state of peace, or normalcy.
The best example of the false sense of hope in Star Wars comes with Rey in The Force Awakens. Rey is holding onto hope that whoever left her on Jakku is going to come back for her. It has been around fifteen years since she was left there, and she still held on to that hope, but it probably never happens. Now Rey’s example is a double-edged sword (or lightsaber, if you will). She has this undying belief that somebody will come back for her, which is great to believe it. It shows that she has this real spirit and belief that there is good in the galaxy and that people are genuine in their actions and should be trusted to do what is right. On the other side of her hope for happiness in her situation, it keeps her from advancing in her life. She believes that she needs to stay on this planet because she will miss whatever she believes will come back. Sometimes hope has you thinking that whatever situation you are in is the best for you and you wait for something great to happen instead of going out and achieving greatness.
Sometimes we are like Rey in this situation. We are stuck somewhere in life. Maybe it is a place or situation, or state of mind and we choose to be stagnant hoping that change will just come to us instead of pushing forward and deciding to make the change we need in our lives. In this sense, hope can be debilitating towards our progress.
Hope also can make us vulnerable. We see this during Revenge of the Sith with Anakin and his turn to the dark side. Anakin believes based on a dream that his wife will die during childbirth and will do anything to stop it. Because of this fact he is easy manipulated by Palpatine to do whatever he wants all based on the promise that he can teach Anakin how to save his wife from certain death.
Anakin is desperate and because of this puts hope into the wrong hands and will do anything if it gives him the glimmer of hope to achieve what he wants most, a healthy and happy family. Now it could be debated what Anakin wants most in life. Some may argue power and success, but for the sake of hope, he wants love and happiness through his family. Anakin is a perfect example that sometimes when we are at our lowest in life, we become vulnerable and will put hope and faith into anything without true clarity. We might believe in something sometimes if it sounds like it will benefit us in the short term without looking at the ramifications in the long term because we are living through our most desperate hour and will grab a hold of anything that gives us a thread of hope to keep pushing forward.
There is also the idea of evil hope. I do not know if this I a phrase that has ever been used before, but let’s roll with it here. With our heroes in our stories (Luke, Rey, Anakin, The Jedi, etc.) we see hope as this great concept that allows them to continue fighting for what they see as right, but on the opposing side of that fight what are the villains fighting for? Or more importantly why are they fighting? If heroes are fighting to give people hope, wouldn’t the villains fight for the opposite, and I supposed the opposite of hope would be despair, but hat doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Nobody fights for the idea of despair in my mind. People in all stories, and especially Star Wars believe that they are in the right, not the wrong. The Emperor and Darth Vader at their core believe what they are doing is right. They also have the idea of hope, even if from an objective point of view, it might be evil. Their hope lies in the fact that through force they will be able to do what their counterparts are trying to do: bring peace and prosperity to everyone. The way they are trying to achieve this goal is entirely different than our heroes, but at its core doesn’t seem that different.
One of the best examples of this evil hope comes through the eyes of Director Orson Krennic in the 2016 movie Rogue One. Krennic is essentially middle management (and he is incredible at it), but he displays a lot of hope throughout the movie. All Krennic wants is to be considered successful by his peers through gaining credit for the completion and test of the Death Star. From his point of view, he has hope that he will be credited for this grand achievement that will help advance the cause of the Empire. This was a prime example that the evildoers of Star Wars have just as much hope for their causes as those we have painted as heroes throughout the story.
It wouldn’t be fair if we did not talk about hopes not so distant cousins, greed. I am not trying to call people greedy for having hope, that’s not my purpose, but the argument can be made that hope, in a roundabout way is sort of greedy. If you think back to the basis of what hope is, it’s the idea of bettering your situation and getting out of your rock bottom. The inverse of that can be that some people hope that a situation will get better for the masses, but this is far from the majority. Often when people are hopeful or find hope in a hopeless situation it is to benefit themselves and not everyone around them. I’m certainly guilty of investing in hope that ill only benefits myself in a greedy sense as I’m sure everyone reading this has to a certain extent. Shifting this back to Star Wars, most times hope is the idea that whatever the cause is, it will help out more than one singular person. The mist selfish example of hope would probably be Krennic as he is the only hopeful individual that is trying to get his success while making sure nobody else is sharing in his achievements.
I want to clear one thing up. I am not saying don’t hold on to hope, in fact I think that it is crucial to remain hopeful during the darkest of times. It is a powerful thing to have in life and remains one of the foundations of Star Wars storytelling and always will be. Be careful what you invest hope in to and make sure you keep pushing forward for something that you truly believe in. If you are going through or have ever gone through a rough patch you know as well as I do that sometimes hope is all you have, and often it is all you need. Hope has been the common theme throughout all Star Wars content, and it is what has made it such a great story and so relatable for the last four decades. Hold on to whatever hope you have in your life because sometimes hope is all we have. If there is anything you do with hope don’t lose it but give others the sense of hope and supply them with a reason to remain hopeful in dire situations.
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