Mothers in Star Wars: Absent?

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Family relations are a big theme in Star Wars. There is no surprise that Disney usually takes the opportunity of Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day to showcase some of their characters. Shmi Skywalker, Leia, Padmé or Hera Syndulla from Rebels are often-used examples of important Star Wars mothers. Despite this it seems that fathers are still getting more focus – both biological and adoptive ones (especially thanks to The Mandalorian and now also The Bad Batch).

Is that a bad thing? Certainly not – in the sense that having two positive stories about dads is better than having only one (or none at all, for that matter). However, at the same time, it is true that it would be nice to see more stories about mother-child relationships (especially mother-daughter, as that has appeared in the films effectively only in the form of Lyra and Jyn Erso – and even there, the major focus of the story was on Jyn’s relationship to her father).

Leia in The Last Jedi, sensing the presence of Kylo Ren about to destroy the ship she is on.

Leia Should Have Been The Gamechanger

We know from the writers of the sequel trilogy that The Rise of Skywalker was originally meant to focus heavily on Leia and Ben Solo’s relationship. The idea of Leia being instrumental for Kylo Ren’s redemption was certainly a good one. The plans were sadly influenced by Carrie Fisher’s death. The filmmakers nevertheless tried to keep the idea. I think they did their best in that regard but the fact is that they just could not unfold it to its full glory. Han Solo had to be used as a “proxy”, which meant that some of the focus was pulled to him. (Again – that scene provided some important closure to the Ben-Han relationship, and in that sense, it was good that it was there, but it further “stole the show” from Leia.)

Other film relationships between mothers and their children are either nonexistent (Padmé who dies when they are born) or end tragically (Shmi Skywalker, Lyra Erso). More importantly, we are never shown the mothers just chilling out and having a good time with their sons/daughters. On the other hand, father-child relationships in live-action Star Wars contain positive elements more often. Luke’s relationship with Darth Vader is far from ideal, but it ends with a beautiful reconciliation and redemption. Din Djarin in The Mandalorian is at first reluctant, but eventually amazing “dad” who does everything to protect his “son”, but we also see him numerous times just hanging out with the child: sharing a meal, repairing a ship – in other words, doing things together.

Jango Fett and his son Boba flying together in Attack of the Clones.

Dads Showed As Better Parents?

Even such a questionable person like Jango Fett is showed just doing things together with his son (whether teaching your child to fire ship cannons on Jedi Masters is a positive thing is another question, but Boba certainly seemed to enjoy it). This element is absolutely absent in the case of Star Wars mothers. Yet it is exactly the best way to show a working relationship between a parent and their child. One could say that some women function as “mum figures” at some point – such as Leia for Rey – but that sort of relationship is usually restricted to teaching or giving useful advice for life. That is an important part of parenthood as well, but the part of “just doing things together” may be more telling in terms of establishing a working, two-sided relationship.

Even if we look at Star Wars animation or novels the situation seems heavily imbalanced at the expense of the mums. The Bad Batch cartoon has set off with the clear intention of portraying a group of adoptive “dads” with one child. Even in its second episode where an actual mum (Suu Lawquane) appears, the most notable moments of interaction with children (including the visiting one) are provided by her husband, not her.

In Rebels, Hera Syndulla is very much “the mum” of the crew, but she is not really showed just hanging out with the “kids”; more often, she is in the role of the leader. Mother-daughter interactions such as Sabine and Ursa Wren in Rebels or Torra and Venisa Doza in Resistance are limited to a couple of scenes in one or two episodes.

Sabine Wren returning to her mother Ursa with the Darksaber in Star Wars Rebels – one of the rare cases of mother-daughter interaction in Star Wars.

Next Up: Mothers And Daughters?

Overall everything confirms the idea that father-son relationships are the most important in Star Wars, be they positive or negative. A father-son relationship ending with redemption was what the original films started with. The prequel trilogy created a mirror-image of this with a mother-son (or rather son-mother) relationship that ended with a fall.

Much later, the creators of Rogue One recognised the absence of taking daughters’ experience into account and focussed on a father-daughter relationship: certainly a good move, but still placing the father into the spotlight, leaving the mother the second place. The Rise of Skywalker tried to do the best, under the circumstances, to bring a mother-son relationship to the fore in the positive sense. This all left a mother-daughter relationship, out of the four, as the one not yet explored in-depth.

Recently, various works connected to Dave Filoni, such as The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch, have been focussing on father-son relationships again. I consider it noteworthy that also in The Clone Wars, another project related to Filoni and his team, the mystical Mortis arc featured three divine figures symbolising three aspects of the Force: the Daughter, the Son and the Father. Mother was conspicuously absent. That makes me suspect that Filoni’s focus on fatherhood is not incidental and that it should not surprise us if we do not see many mother-child relationships in projects coming from him and his team. Or that they are only getting second place.

To end on a positive note, however, it means that Star Wars has one big theme that it has not yet explored. That is good news for all fans of the saga. It means that without the need to jump through the hoops, Lucasfilm could make a completely new film or TV series with a yet-unseen theme: mother-daughter relationships in the Galaxy far, far away.