Note: Kinda sorta spoilery.
So, I am “I was a child when A New Hope came out” years old. I have been a massive Star Wars fan all of my life and a proudly self-labelled Star Wars Nerd. As an adult, I manage complex post traumatic syndrome (cPTSD), anxiety, and depression. My mental illness has been pushed to the outer rim during this pandemic too.
How do my geekness and my mental health make an unexpected pairing right now? Well, episodes one and two of Obi-Wan Kenobi dropped last week, and I could not have predicted their content for anything. Especially the state of Obi-Wan himself. I deeply felt the isolation and monotony his life had become, the rejection, the persecution, and the alienation from anything to do with his previous life when the Jedi council was alive. He was alone, he had night terrors, he felt hopeless and not like the person he used to be. He basically erased himself from himself. It wasn’t that he was merely hiding undercover to watch over ten-year-old Luke. He truly believed he was powerless.
Holy crap, I thought. Obi-Wan is depressed! He’s got PTSD!
I mean, of course he does! He’s been through the works, lost people he loved, and assumed he killed Anakin, his best friend who had been like a brother to him.
I was blown away by this writing choice because far too often, characters in SFF who seem larger than life tend to shake things off like Wile E. Coyote does an anvil to the skull. Obi-Wan’s mental health matters here, really matters to the story. It also matters to the viewers, folks who might be dealing with their own mental health, such as people who have had to remain isolated or whose lives have changed dramatically because of the ongoing pandemic. But even for reasons other than the pandemic, mental health issues exist. And I bet dollars to donuts that young fans who are depressed could think, “Hey, even a Jedi can feel the way I do. I’m not a freak!” It can be so powerful to see yourself in your fiction heroes. Sometimes transformative!
Now, I can write an entire blog on WEE LEIA!!! But it’s also interesting to me how she might be set up as a catalyst in Obi-Wan’s life. Maybe to provoke self-reflection. Maybe for him to remember who he is. In my life, I have always had those people run interference against my negative self-perception, and many times, they have no idea they’re meeting a need in me. Sometimes a person can randomly express how they view you, and it prompts you to remember yourself.
We know where Obi-Wan gets to in A New Hope, but I feel it’s really important for us to see him in a bad place mentally. It’s real, even in a galaxy far, far away.
I must say a great big thank you to the writers for taking this direction and to Ewan McGregor, who portrays this state of being so well, even wordlessly. It really came across to this space opera author who always wants to see more disability and mental health rep in SFF.
Seriously. Thank you.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is currently streaming weekly on Disney+. Content note: Episode One’s intro shows a flashback where children padawans and their teacher are running from Stormtroopers shooting at them.
Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Lovers, and Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Her short stories appear in Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, We Shall Be Monsters, Space Opera Libretti, and Stargazers: Microtales from the Cosmos. Cait also founded the Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too anthologies, whose authors and protagonists are disabled, d/Deaf, Blind or visually impaired, neurodivergent, Spoonie, and/or they manage mental illness.