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An Analysis of Identity in Half-Life and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Identity is something that everyone has, no matter if they’re aware of it or not. Throughout our discussions, this was the topic that stuck with me the most, as I’ve experienced real life issues with finding an identity myself and also noticing the theme in some of the media I consume. No matter what media you’re interested in, there’s always some talk about identity, and for this paper I’m taking ideas we talked about during “Half-Life” and expanding them to real life examples and also examples that are present within the Star Wars movie series. I’ll be exploring ideas regarding identity that relate Half-Life to real world examples while also delving into identity within the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Half-Life surrounds the tale of two girls who live with their father after their mother disappeared into the ocean. As the story progresses, the reader comes to find out that the daughters and mother are selkies, a mystical creature that can become human by shedding its seal skin. The theme of identity is present throughout the whole story, and it’s written and portrayed in such a way that makes it mysterious and intriguing, which is why this particular story has stuck with me throughout the semester. After Astrid and Clarinda’s mother leaves to be one with the ocean again, the girls true identity is hidden, as their father is scared of them following in their mothers footsteps. He humors them when his daughters beg him to tell them “a strange, sad story” (Oshcner 403), and he launches into a tale about the selkies, which the girls have heard before, but still love. Having something to relate and feel connected to is a huge part of finding and maintaining an identity, and the way it is written solidifies the idea. The girls latch onto that story, clearly having a deep connection to it. That parallels what happens in real life as well, particularly to people who are in marginalized groups. Stories that have characters that aren’t often portrayed in media, such as transgender, bisexual, or lesbian characters, hold special meaning to people that fall under those categories and the like. They latch onto those stories and keep them close to their heart, just as the girls did with the selkie story. Sometimes, those stories even help people come to terms with their identity. An example of a show that I know helped people with their identity would be Glee. Just having representation in popular media is crucial to people’s identities, especially if they are marginalized.

In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there are a few examples of discovering true identity while simultaneously showing how one can reject identity when it’s thrust upon you. The film follows a girl named Rey who grew up without parents on a desert planet. Through a series of circumstances, she leaves her home planet of Jakku and ends up getting whisked away into adventures in space. At one point, she is given a lightsaber by this other character named Maz Kanata. Maz tells Rey to “close her eyes…feel it…the light, it’s always been there. It will guide you”. Rey grows irritated and snaps that “[she] doesn’t want any part of this”, indicating she is rejecting this destiny that is being thrust upon her. Rey has had the identity of a Jedi thrown onto her after not associating herself with it her entire life. Having a whole new identity given to you is shocking and this also relates to finding an identity for yourself. People like to take time to discover who they really are; not have someone tell them who they are and what they’re destined to do. Keeping with the theme of finding oneself, Rey ends up embracing her identity as someone who is strong with the Force, and using her newly found identity to her advantage. She channels her true self and uses that newly found strength to defeat the evil Kylo Ren. In her case, having someone guide her in the direction of a new identity was a positive thing, but obviously, it doesn’t always work like that in real life. I found the exploration of identity in Star Wars really intriguing and while it isn’t something you associate with the series, when you sit and look at specific scenes and examples within the franchise, you realize identity is prevalent throughout.

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