Sometimes I am Darth Vader without his mask.
When you think about it, Darth Vader without his mask is very metaphoric. As a dad of two boys, I am both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader.
When Darth Vader takes his mask off, he transforms into who he really is. We all walk around with masks on; it's a necessity as parents. We must have both a side that rules with an iron fist as well as a softer, more personable side to us. But which is our true self?
The iconic scene where Darth Vader (aka Anakin Skywalker) removes his mask and reveals himself to Luke will always be etched into my memory. It's one of the most famous scenes in the entire franchise, and one that's quoted by dads everywhere. I remember, as a young child watching the movies for the first time, wondering what the real Darth Vader looked like underneath his looming black helmet.
Even then I knew there had to be more to him than just what we had seen so far. Here's the original scene:
I am Darth Vader. I am Anakin Skywalker.
Darth Vader was an imposing figure on the screen, and represented an authoritarian fatherly presence. He was distant and disconnected as Darth Vader, but when he took his helmet off, he became Anakin Skywalker again. When he took his helmet off, even if just for a few minutes, he became a dad, too. He was no longer the masked tyrant ruler that the galaxy feared. He was now Luke's father, too.
I sometimes feel like my boys see me this way as well - as a dad and as a father. As a nurturer and as a "tyrant ruler", forcing them to do things they don't want to do (like clean their rooms).
Walking the line between a nurturer and tyrant ruler.
I don't know about you, but I struggle with this challenge. On one hand, I want to be the nurturing, caring and doting dad. And in a lot of ways and many times I am.
But on the other hand, my boys don't listen to me. They don't do what I ask. They make me repeat myself and sometimes they even talk back.
The Darth Vader in me comes out, and I become the enforcer. Is this just the way the world works? I remember as a kid, as I'm sure many others do, if I was misbehaving that day my mom would say, "you just wait until your father comes home...". Note she said "father" and not "dad". She was warning me of Darth Vader's arrival, not Anakin Skywalker.
The photo you see at the top of this post is from the Star Wars Launch Bay attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park in Walt Disney World, Orlando. You can look Darth Vader right in the eyes just the way Luke must have done nearly 30 years ago.