Monday, April 22, 2013

Adoption Movie Guide: Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope

Luke and Leia were separated at birth. Their mother died shortly after delivery, and their father… Well… He’s Darth Vader. Neither child knows much about him, and they know nothing of each other. Leia was adopted by non-relatives, and Luke is being raised by his step-uncle and step-aunt, Owen and Beru Lars. In this film, Luke is told that his father was murdered by Darth Vader. Meanwhile, an oppressive, galaxy-wide government is trying to suppress any thought of revolution. Luke sets off with his father’s old friend, Ben Kenobi, to save the galaxy and to learn more about his father.

How is This Relevant to Adoption? 
Luke and Leia were both adopted. As is the case in some adoptions, they don’t know about each other. They seem to know nothing about their birthmother, and only have misinformation about their birthfather. Yet, without realizing it, Luke shows similarities to his father – a great amount of strength in The Force, an adventurous spirit, and a propensity to whining. He also follows in his father’s footsteps – studying under the same master, growing up in the same neighborhood, and even working on the same droids.  

Strong Points
Luke shows much resilience. In the face of many losses, he demonstrates bravery, the ability to trust, and the ability to never give up. Leia is also brave, intelligent, and bold.


Luke is curious about his father, and about his own history, but his uncle shuts down his questions. Luke eventually meets Obi-Wan Kenobi who was a close friend of his father, but is fed partial information and misinformation. Luke only learns the truth in a subsequent film – and even then Obi-Wan defends the misinformation as being “true, from a certain point of view.” The reluctance of Luke’s family and friends to share the truth with him is understandable – after all, his father is one of the most notable film villains ever. But Luke really did have the right to know, process, and make sense of his story.

Sure, Darth Vader is a villain – but Owen and Beru have a hurtful conversation about Luke’s father. Beru counsels Owen to let Luke explore the galaxy, “He can’t stay here forever. He’s not a farmer. He has too much of his father in him.” Owen responds, “That’s what I was afraid of.”

Luke sees Leia and, without realizing that she’s his sister, develops a crush on her.  Eventually, she seems to reciprocate. They even kiss. Some adoptees have reported anxiety about unwittingly falling in love with a sibling, and these scenes might be uncomfortable if they evoke or introduce this fear.

When Luke’s aunt and uncle die, Luke turns to his heritage. He explains, “There’s nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of The Force and become a Jedi like my father.”

Luke goes through a series of broken connections. His mother died shortly after his birth. His father is thought to be dead. His aunt and uncle die. His new mentor also dies. Some kids will certainly relate to the feeling of a series of deep losses, but some might be troubled by it.

Weak Points

Secrecy seems to govern much of Luke’s life. When he was an infant, his friends decided to keep much of his history secret, for his own protection. Even as a young adult, information is withheld from him. Obi-Wan knows about Luke’s sister, but doesn’t tell Luke. Luke directly asks Obi-Wan, “How did my father die?” and is lied to.

One scene has the potential to be very troubling to some young viewers. Much as Anakin was too late to save his mother from invading forces, Luke is too late to save his aunt and uncle. He returns home from an excursion to find their charred remains.

Leia is (unknowingly) in a position of helping her adoptive father fight her birth father. Darth Vader is abusive to Leia (he threatens her, and subjects her to a mind probe.) Although neither of the characters are aware, this is a troubling scene of a father abusing his daughter. He even orders her execution, and does (indirectly) kill her entire adoptive family (by blowing up their home planet.)

Star Wars Episode IV is a classic movie, loved by even very young children. It also has a lot of adoption connections. It might be most valuable to kids over age 10, who might be ready to start talking about losses they’ve experienced. Parents should decide ahead of time whether their children can handle the potentially troubling scenes mentioned in this review.

Questions for Discussion after the movie

Were Luke’s family and friends right for lying to him about his father? How could they have helped him deal with difficult information?

Which of Luke’s losses was the hardest?

Some kids worry about accidentally falling in love with a sister or brother. Do you?

Luke is like his father in many ways. How is he different? In what ways is Leia like her father? How are you like your birthparents? How are you different from them? How are you like your adoptive parents, and how are you different from them?

Luke runs into elements of his father’s life by chance – for example – when he ended up buying C3PO and R2D2, which his father had owned previously. Where in your life do you see your birthparents’ influence?

Have you ever been to a place like Mos Eisley Spaceport?

Don't forget to check out the Adoption Movie Guides of

Star Wars Episode 1
Star Wars Episode 2
Star Wars Episode 3


  1. Unfortunately, the issues you discuss in the review only become apparent in subsequent films, Luke doesnt know Leia is his sister (neither did the writer/director at this point). Lukes father is not known to be Darth Vader etc. There is no connection made with R2D2/C3PO and his father - so these questions for discussion really just don't stand up. Star Wars is pretty safe for Adopted children.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I see your point, that on its own, Episode IV doesn't really touch on many different themes adoption-wise, just Luke being raised by his Uncle and Aunt, wondering about the father he never knew. I'm still a bit uncomfortable with the lie (half-truth?) that Obi-Wan tells him. Even so, I do enjoy the movies! Again, glad you commented :)


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