Most people even remotely interested in science fiction will know about Han Solo.
As a central character in George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy, Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, represents the ‘ordinary guy’ who becomes a nobleman by virtue of his honorable ethics and outstanding deeds.
In the Star Wars expanded universe, Han Solo is understood to have married Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher.¹
Solo and Leia’s union could be seen in terms of what mythologers and depth psychologists call a ‘sacred marriage.’ The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung says a symbolic union of opposites is fundamental to most mythic cycles. And psychologically speaking, a union of opposites usually takes place after many astounding and abhorrent adventures in the psychological underworld—at least, it occurs if a person is successful in overcoming the negative powers of the destructive archetypes.
Myth and Symbol
There is no universal agreement about the difference between myth and symbol. Some scholars advocate differentiating a myth, itself, from subsequent attempts to symbolically interpret it. This distinction between a myth and its interpretation is, however, problematic because many believe human beings always interpret.
Postmodern thinkers say an academic treatment of myth creates a new kind of ‘myth’ about myths. While some academics tend to use authoritative words like “methodology” and “analysis,” a postmodern thinker – or any sociologist worth his or her salt – would argue that these words are really an academic smokescreen. They try to legitimize a discipline by making it sound important and scientific.
Some scholars welcome this critique and embrace it in their work. But some second-rate thinkers and downright hacks get defensive when their apparently rock-solid ‘methodology’ is proved to be nothing more than a strategy to boost perceived legitimacy.²
Joseph Campbell and Hero Myths
Am I am taking the Star Wars saga too far into depth psychology? Maybe it’s just a good story?
Well, we would do well to remember that George Lucas himself says his work owes much to the celebrated and Jungian-influenced scholar of mythology Joseph Campbell.
Lucas insightfully realized that his Sci-Fi story would work better if it had a genuine mythic ring to it. By listening to and adapting Campbell’s views about the myth of the hero, Lucas hoped that his epic space opera would resonate with the masses. And clearly, Lucas hit it out of the ballpark when he made Star Wars.
¹ For full details of releases and portrayals, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Solo
² As part of my grad studies employment, I proofread some professors’ papers for an upcoming conference. When I implied in a seminar that the material was sheer fluff (which it was), one of my professors became quite hostile to my project. However, other more real and sincere professors laughed and talked about how it is important to ‘play the game’ in an academia tarnished by hypocrisy and corruption. The good professors liked my honesty and continued to support my work but the creep got defensive. It seems the crummy scholars among us are able to reflect on everything except themselves and what they are up to.
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Edit – Just divided some paragraphs. No other changes.
10:40 a.m. – added second subheading – Joseph Campbell and Hero Myths