Star Wars – The Force Awakens is full of counseling themes that can be utilized when helping children and teens (even adults!).
Why use movies to address emotional and behavioral issues?
Movies are made to connect with the audience on a personal and emotional level…at least the good ones have been. The feelings and challenges faced by the characters allow us to work through our own issues in a non-threatening environment.
The general safety of the theater or our living room and the brief duration (yes, even 3-hour blockbusters) gives us a finite opportunity to experience the emotions vicariously through the characters.
Counseling themes can be found in almost all movies: from the obvious like Inside Out to the less obvious like the Star Wars saga.
For the sake of this article, I will focus on the newest Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Now let me give you a bit of a warning before proceeding with my list…
I am a Star Wars fanatic. I grew up with the movies…playing with the action figures…creating Death Stars and Millennium Falcons, and Cantinas out of cardboard boxes. My brother and I memorized the lines and acted them out. That is to say that my extensive knowledge base gives me a bit of an advantage when it comes to connecting lining up some of these themes.
Which leads me to my next point…
You Don’t Have to Be an Expert
As with everything, kids know you are the real deal. They will know if you are a true fan or not. While talking the talk of Star Wars can lead to rapport building, it is not necessary when using The Force Awakens to reach kids.
Just be honest.
Kids love being “the expert”. What more is that they love it when an adult is truly interested in learning about what interests them.
If you’re not sure who’s who and what’s what then it’s best to present some of the themes below and allow the child to make the connections.
I have to admit…I am often humbled when I hand over the counseling reigns to the child I’m helping, as they often go in directions I didn’t anticipate.
Even more humbling are the times when I think I know what one of my students need, only to find out it’s not even an issue for them.
Without further ado, here it goes:
-Kylo Ren has some major anger management issues. He lashed out and threw a fit when got frustrated or something didn’t go his way…often slashing wildly with his light saber. Not safe behavior, especially when you’re on a starship powered by a reactor!
-Rey was dropped off on Jakku as a young child. Completely cut off from a parenting figure as a child, Rey had to get by on her own wits.
-Luke left family and friends after his nephew, Ben, betrayed him by embracing the Dark Side and becoming Kylo Ren. General Leia knows that her brother, Luke, would give them the advantage over The First Order but he’s nowhere to be found (at least until the very end of the movie).
-Rey longs for adventure. She is excited to talk to a resistance fighter and is thrilled to be asked to join Han and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon. Ultimately, her longing for her family won out and she declined the offer.
-It’s not clear if Leia and Han got married, but they did have a son, Ben. The stress of Ben joining The Dark Side created an emotional wedge that drove Han and Leia apart.
-Han and Leia still have strong feelings for one another even though they were separated.
Absent Father Figure
-It’s revealed that Rey sees Han Solo as the “father figure she never had” when Kylo Ren reads her mind.
-Kylo Ren rejects his biological father, Han Solo, and seeks the tutelage of an evil character that wants to dominate the universe.
-Han Solo moves away from his son’s mom after the loss of their son.
Complicated Family Issues
The three categories above are filled with examples of family issues…However, there are several more that I noticed:
-Lack of communication:
Leia and Han have a hard time talking about their feelings when Ben left.
Luke becomes a recluse after Ben becomes Kai Ren.
-Not being able to protect your child from harm. -> Rey is left as a child on a desert planet.
-Rebellious teen…Kylo Ren
-Parents not connecting with their children…Kylo Ren
-Giving family members unlimited chances to “be good.”…Kylo Ren
-Trying to live up the reputation of family members….Kylo Ren
-Family members betraying one another. Stabbing a loved one in the back (or front)….once again, Kylo Ren
-Ben was seduced to join The Dark Side and became Kylo Ren.
-All of the characters that reported BB8 to The First Order for the reward.
-Finn is taught to follow all orders…no matter how evil.
-Finn resisted being like everyone else when he refused to shoot the villagers. He became a traitor to those he knew in order to do the right thing.
-Kylo Ren is influenced by the Supreme Leader Snoke to stay on The Dark Side.
-Han and Leia grieve the loss of their son, Ben. Ultimately, leading to their separation.
-R2D2 grieves the loss of Luke by shutting down for years.
-Rey and Leia comforting one another after Han dies.
-Chewie’s loss of his BFF.
-Kylo Ren is jealous of his grand father’s power.
-There also seemed to be a flash of jealousy when The Supreme Leader Snoke requested Kylo Ren to bring Rey to him.
-Rey discovers that Kylo Ren is afraid he won’t be as powerful as his grandfather, Darth Vader.
-Kylo Ren appears fearful when he discovers how strong The Force is with Rey.
-Rey remains loyal to her parents, even though she can’t remember them.
-Leia and Han continue to believe in Luke, even though he left them years ago.
Personal Identity & Discovering Your Path
-Rey was a stranded orphan girl who had no real memory of her family or where she was from.
-Initially, Rey ran from the “calling” of the lightsaber. Ultimately, she went back and picked up the mantel.
-Finn was captured as a boy and was trained to be a Storm Trooper. Finn stayed true to himself and refused to participate in evil acts.
-The Resistance force pales in comparison with The First Order, yet they continue to fight for what they believe in.
-Rey flies the Millennium Falcon like it’s nobody’s business…taking it into very dangerous places to dodge The First Order.
-Finn uses Rey’s light saber to battle the powerful Kylo Ren even though he’s never used one before.
Defeating a star-destroying planet-sized weapon is no easy task. Take my word for it. 😉
However, before blowing up the Starkiller and saving The Resistance’s base. The Resistance had to overcome many obstacles:
-Finding the map to Luke.
-Hiding the map from The First Order.
-BB8 landing in the desert and rolling through the sand until it found someone who could help.
-Finn made the choice to leave the Storm Troopers and The First Order.
-Rey chose to follow the path in front of her.
-The negative choices Ben made turned him into the evil Kylo Ren.
-Han and Leia wanted Kylo Ren back home even though he had left them for the dark side.
-Rey sees the good in Finn and quickly forgives him for lying to her about being with the resistance.
Telling the Truth
-Finn tries to keep up a lie, but is eventually in a situation where he must tell the truth. He is relieved and able to move on.
-Rey was initially considered just “an orphan scrapper” and was dismissed by others until she showed signs of The Force.
-BB8 was overlooked as just “a droid”. Little did everyone know that he held the map to Luke!
Team Work & Cooperation
-Finn helped a resistance fighter escape the Starkiller. They didn’t know each other. Finn needed a pilot and the resistance fighter needed to get off the Starkiller. -> Win/Win
-One simply cannot pilot the Millennium Falcon & fight off The First Order at the same time.
Working Towards a Goal
-The Resistance tackled finding Luke one step at a time. It took many years and sacrifices, but they succeeded.
Opportunity & Growth Mindset
-Rey was able to use The Force when she embraced her newly discovered talent.
-Rey showed the most grit in The Force Awakens. When she was a child, she was abandoned on a desert planet and had to fend for herself.
-Han, Leia, Luke, and R2D2 displayed poor coping skills when Ben turned to The Dark Side.
-Kylo Ren comforts himself with his quest for power even though he has the support of his family.
Well? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Are you looking for more ways to use counseling themes in movies? Check out my post: 20+ Counseling Themes in Inside Out!
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