As a Star Wars fan, I wince whenever I see an article about Star Wars characters because I know that Luke Skywalker is likely to be lambasted within (as discussed in the TheGloss’s recent Fuck, Marry, Kill where almost %50 of you wanted Luke off’d). The liberal use of “Sun-In,” the tunic- and poncho- based wardrobe, the limpid blue eyes . . . he’s an easy mark for those who like style and sass.
But how can you like Star Wars if you have only disdain for Luke? That’s like loving Citizen Kane, except for the Orson Welles parts (Joseph Cotten’s character was so much cooler, right?). I can’t make you find shaggy 70’s hair and tunics sexy, but on the subject of Luke, I implore you to look again.
He is a classic swashbuckler, swinging across chasms with a girl in his arms, rushing headlong into danger, wearing an ominous black glove to hide the scars of his past. If someone who didn’t look wet-behind-the-ears tried these moves (Zorro? Burt Lancaster?), we would notice the style. If that bionic black-leather clad hand were on anyone else, all the ladies would be swooning over it. But –“I’m going to the Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!” You can’t un-hear it, can you?
So Luke has been charged with being “feeble” and “boring” because you met him when he was a teenager. When you know what a person is like as a goober teenager, it is difficult to see them as anything else, ever. That’s why your older siblings keep treating you like a kid even when you are an adult and have your shit together better than they do. That’s why Sabrina (you may take your pick of Audrey Hepburn or Julia Ormond) goes to Paris for five minutes so she will be seen as more than the chauffer’s daughter when she returns. Is teenage Luke of A New Hope sexy and cool? No. He is perfect for a teenage girl crush because he’s good and in no way sexually suggestive (See also: Legolas). Look at Luke across the whole trilogy, however, and give him credit for these attributes: power, influence, and style evolution.
At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke is the most powerful person in the galaxy, because he is the strongest wielder of the Force. (Jedi mind tricks are the best argument against marrying him, come to think of it. “Those aren’t the chores you want me to do.”) He also has power as a commander in a military organization. He is so effective at his job (blowing stuff up, defeating baddies) that he is given the freedom to come and go as he pleases. He heads to Dagobah with a huge piece of Rebel Alliance property, and he waltzes in late for the meeting with Mon Mothma, but no one bats an eye.
Luke has an immense influence on those around him, because he brings out the qualities he needs in his comrades. This is a special kind of power. People do what he wants them to do, and he doesn’t have to force-choke them in order to persuade them. Han Solo is a scoundrel with a heart of gold, but it is Luke’s influence that turns him from a smuggler into a hero. He is the rising tide that lifts all boats no matter what the situation. He reminds Han Solo of his conscience, he inspires the other rebel pilots, he brings out the human in Darth Vader, and he even puts C3PO’s self-aggrandizement to good use. He uses people to the best of their abilities.
Although Luke begins the trilogy as a rube, he quickly develops better style.
This last outfit is the definition of cool. Simple black clothing is best when it is understated in a way that makes your sartorial choice look bolder than what everyone else is wearing. That is exactly what Luke achieves by wearing a minimalist ensemble while surrounded by the geared-up military uniforms of both the Empire and the Rebellion. His outfit says, quietly and firmly, “Weapons? I don’t need them.”
In sum, my first reaction to Luke Skywalker is that I’d like to be like him. I’d like to be frighteningly effective at my job and an integral part of a group of dynamic, interesting people that causes widespread change. I’d hope to be dressed well during this mission. So I’d be him, I’d marry him, or I’d fuck him, but I would never kill him, and I would never, ever undervalue him.