Darth Vader: Masks, Power, and Meaning
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The psychiatric treatment of a schizophrenic male with the delusion that he was Darth Vader stimulated an investigation into this character from the Star Wars movies. The name itself is infused with inherent contradictions and multiple meanings. “Vader” is related to Indo-Aryan terms for father—“pater” in Latin, “Vater” in German, “vader” in Middle English. “Darth” is a perfect word for ambiguity, meaning both “glory” and “scarcity” in Middle English, with suggestions of “dark,” “death,” and “dare.” The black mask emphasizes rigidity and mystery. Since there are no facial movements visible, the characters and viewers cannot accurately judge the feelings or intentions, enhancing the sense of threat. The mask also indicates a secret to be hidden, and an urge to unmask others. The enormous power of Darth Vader adds to his fascination. The revelation that he is Luke’s father caused shock and astonishment in many viewers; the exact words used became an intrusive mental preoccupation for this schizophrenic patient. The temptation and threats from Darth Vader coincide with themes and fantasies of childhood and adolescence. His final actions of sacrifice and redemption allow these themes to come to a successful and inspiring conclusion.
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