If haven’t seen the original Star Wars trilogy, major spoiler alert:
Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia’s father. Also, what’s your deal? It’s one of the most beloved media franchises in history and you don’t even have to stand up to rent movies anymore.
Anyway, in the spirit of Star Wars Day, we present to you the Dad Grades for Darth Vader.
Note: This Dad Grades will only take into account the three original films. No prequels, no sequel trilogy, no novels, no comics, no lunch trays. The Star Wars universe is far too expansive to consider how Anakin Skywalker’s story arc in 1993’s The Truce at Bakura may have shaped his approach to diaper changing.
Darth Vader was many things. A father. A foe. A fashion icon. But we often forget that fourth thing he was: a business owner. Vader employed roughly 1.1 billion stormtroopers alone and oversaw the operations of 25,000 Star Destroyers. “Married to his work” would be an understatement.
In any other other edition of Dad Grades, over-commitment to one’s career would be disqualifying. But despite all that midnight oil clearly being burned—long days at the office supervising Jedi purges and hammering out the logistics of space-wide oppression—he still made strides to remain active in his son’s life.
Sure, the circumstances under which he seeks involvement are suspect. Coasting through space, eradicating life one planet at a time. This may not sound like your ideal father-son dynamic. But having catch in the backyard, building pinewood derby cars— bonding rituals of the dad who doesn’t have access to galactic superweapons.
“Luke, we can destroy the emperor… Join me and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.”
There was also a sweet moment near the end of Return of the Jedi when Vader throws Emperor Palpatine down a reactor shaft, getting electrocuted in the process, effectively sacrificing himself to save Luke. In his final moments, he asks Luke to remove his helmet, so that he can get one final good look at his boy.
No, you’re crying.
Vader’s big reveal to Luke, that they are father and son, is done with little if any tact. Reconnecting with your estranged father member should be, by all accounts, heartwarming. Expressing forgiveness, recouping decades of missed hugs. A moment of reconciliation worthy of Ellen.
But no. This dude indulges his son in a lightsaber duel.
And cuts off his hand.
Then, in his son’s most vulnerable, handless moment, Vader reveals that it was from his own villainous balls from which Luke swam. There’s bad timing, then there’s this.
Seems like the sort of thing he could’ve revealed moments earlier, precluding the lightsaber duel. Had the issue been approached with the pageantry and enthusiasm of a gender reveal party, Luke might still have his real hand.
We also can’t condone how adamant Vader is about his son joining the family business. This would be poor form even for a dad who owned a used car dealership, let alone one whose line of work involves boundless celestial genocide.
While one of cinema’s greatest characters, villain or otherwise, Darth Vader is a truly terrible father to Luke. Abandonment is never okay, regardless of how well you pull of a cape. Remember: Any guy can be a No, I Am Your Father. But it takes a real man to be a No, I Am Your Dad.
We’ll award bonus points, however, simply for the fact he has the most badass intro music of all time.
FINAL GRADE: D+
“Wait a sec,” you’re probably itching to comment. “You didn’t expound on his relationship with Princess Leia, who is also his kid.” Don’t worry. This is a Star Wars Dad Grades. We’d be remiss if we didn’t hit you with a sequel.
Check out our previous edition when we graded another supervillain named Thanos.