Vader’s Little Princess, by Jeffrey Brown
I have to admit that I found this particular book particularly winning in the way that it takes advantage of framing to view what most readers would think of as the heroic resistance by Leia to the Empire as the teenage rebelliousness of an overly cosseted and privileged princess. The reader of this book (or the other books in this particular vein by the author) might be led to ponder what it is that Darth Vader was like as a father. It is one thing to see Darth Vader in youth as the pouty teenager, or to think of Vader as the brave and fierce apprentice to the emperor, but how many of us have ever stopped to think about how Darth Vader is like as a father? I must admit that I have not thought too deeply about this but I was happy to see that the author has thought about this subject and reflected about how differently the rebellion of Luke and especially Leia looks from the point of view of a father who is frustrated but somewhat indulgent at beloved children. We are not used to thinking of high-ranking leaders in brutal empires as indulgent fathers, but given our own world it is a worthwhile way to think given that we are not always on the side of freedom and rebellion even in our own societies.
The story itself is told from the point of view of a Darth Vader who wonders what has happened to his daughter who used to be such a sweet and innocent girl. No longer does she want to play in the pool with her brother, she is now embarrased at being dropped off by a droid at the school door. She wears crop tops and the Return of the Jedi harem slave getup that offends Vader’s sense of propriety and modesty. She resists getting out of bed and struggles with essays about what her father actually does. She brings home a boyfriend that her father does not approve of (Han Solo) while rolling her eyes and chatting on the phone to avoid awkward conversations about various messages and transmissions. She has friends that her father does not relate to, namely Ewoks, and doesn’t like doing the chores that she is assigned. To see the rebellion of Leia (and Luke) against the empire from the point of view of a frustrated but decent father is definitely a strange perspective for many readers to adopt.
Yet there are benefits to doing so, to putting ourselves in the point of view of Darth Vader and reflecting that as a father he is not so much unlike what we may be in the eyes of rebellious young people. As Americans, we are residents of an empire, and a great many fathers may be managers or executives within institutions that their offspring may view as worthy of rebelling against. While we are all convinced of the rightness of our own causes, we may not always be able to see that we are villains in the eyes of others who are just as sincere as we are (if often mistaken). In a strange and satisfying way, a book like this can help someone develop empathy because it shows someone from an unexpected point of view and reminds us that even the most powerful of villains does not see himself in such a fashion, but as a devoted servant of the empire and as a loving and generous father in spite of the provocations of rebellious children who wish to destroy everything that he has worked for. It is worthwhile to see rebellion from a point of view that is not romanticized, after all.