Darth Vader And Friends, by Jeffrey Brown
In this installment of a series of books that serve to recontextualize the familiar world of Star Wars in ways that are both amusing for children and interesting for adults who have grown up in the Star Wars universe and who might be open to seeing it from other angles. It must be admitted that this particular book is written from a point of view that is quite distinct from that which most people would expect when thinking about Darth Vader and his friends. Did Darth Vader have any friends? Obviously we are dealing with a fictional character here, but within the world of Star Wars, could it be said that Darth Vader had any friends? He served the emperor, but Emperor Palpatine was not someone that one could easily befriend, and the same was true of Vader himself, thanks to their brutality and the high amount of authority that they had. But surely they thought of themselves as people who were worthy of friendships. Did the various generals and leaders of the Empire hang out and have some beers together, or play poker and engage in witty and humorous conversations? Perhaps so. It is not only people that we approve of that fashion themselves to be friendly after all.
In this book we see Darth Vader’s freezing chamber used to make ice cream, and see that the Gunguns might want to be friends with Queen Amidala, but not Jar Jar (a wise move on their parts), and also see the difficulty that cloned bounty hunters have in telling each other apart. We see the hazards of copying the same coats from an angry General Grievous as well as the competitiveness of Darth Vader on the soccer pitch. Darth Vader has to deal with people who want to hang out with him that he doesn’t like and we see Hans Solo, Luke, Leia, and Chewbacca hanging out as if they were friends in the same school. Luke’s skill with a lightsaber is shown as being suitable for breaking apart a piñata, and view his desire to speak for himself as cute in the point of view of adults. Humorously enough, we see both the sort of friendships that take place in the empire (often with a lot of brown-nosing) as well as the friendships that exist for the rebels, which include some odd quirks like Chewie being afraid of fireworks, showing that whatever side you happen to be on, success requires a great deal of support from one’s friends.
Indeed, that is perhaps the most important insight that this book provides, which ought not to be a surprise but may not be something that we actively think about. Success in life requires more than simply individual effort, but also requires a great deal of cooperation and collaboration. Those with whom we agree, those we work with and have the same sorts of goals and ideals as, and those with whom we are have a mutual degree of fondness and respect are going to be considered as friends. We all view ourselves as being worthy of the support and cooperation of other people in search of like-minded goals, whatever our character and integrity and loyalty happen to be. And Darth Vader is certainly a worthwhile character to see in the context of his friendship with others, whether it is in the behavior of his surprising offspring and their efforts to destroy the empire, or in his own obvious intellect and his sense of humor in handling the social aspects of existence, given his obvious violence and brutality as well as the fact that he always wears a mask and thus might have some struggles in the social realm that most people lack.