This article is an addendum to Forever Star Wars Episode XVIII: The Chosen Ones, available now.
Star Wars is replete with the theme of found family. From the bonds of love shared by the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars: Rebels, to the sequel trilogy trio of Rey, Finn, and Poe, there are many examples of characters coming together as family when their families of origin are no longer an option. In those cases, the chosen family serves the same role in the characters’ lives. Family provides a sense of identity — a way to ground one’s self in relationships built with trust and honesty. But sometimes found family can suffer the same pitfalls as biological family. Sometimes they let their loved ones down. Such was the case with Ahsoka Tano. It struck a chord with me because of how I saw my own life experiences reflected in her story.
For generations, Jedi were raised within the Order after being found as children with special Force-sensitive gifts. They said goodbye to their families of origin and grew up within the strict, dogmatic structure of a monastic way of life. In this respect, Ahsoka was no different. She was taught the disciplines of the Jedi way of life from the time she was barely able to hold a lightsaber. So, for all intents and purposes, the Jedi were the only family she ever knew.
As a Padawan, Ahsoka was brash, snarky, and more than a little impulsive. It was for this reason that Yoda assigned her to Anakin as his new apprentice. It was thought that they would both learn the patience needed to tame their more headstrong tendencies. Anakin and Ahsoka did, in fact, have a profound effect on one another, but it was not in the way Master Yoda foresaw. Each began to question their Jedi family’s values, but with much different results.
As a kid, I wasn’t like Ahsoka. Young Ahsoka is more confident and self assured than I ever was at that age. However, the one personality trait we did have in common was sarcasm. Just like Ahsoka, my mouth often got me into trouble. But there is one aspect of Ahsoka’s life to which I can relate the most — her dogmatic upbringing.
I was raised evangelical Southern Baptist. My Dad is non-religious but my Mom is a devout born-again Christian. We didn’t have cable in our household until I was 16 because my Mom didn’t approve of what could be found on cable TV. As a much younger kid, the only movies I was taken to see were from Disney. So it was remarkable that I was allowed to go with my Dad to see Star Wars when it hit theaters in 1977. But I was. And the rest is, as they say, history.
Much like Ahsoka, I was raised in a faith that had strict tenets. The tenets of the Jedi Order included selfless love for others, but attachment was strictly forbidden. One of the problems with such a strict set of rules is that relationships are rarely so absolute. Brotherly or Sisterly love — such as the kind the Jedi had for one another — could certainly lead to attachment in the form of deep social bonds. Were these bonds wrong? The Order had created a surrogate family of shared values for its members. Families love and are often quite attached to one another. Were the Jedi taking attachment too literally?
If you were to ask Anakin, his answer would certainly be yes. Ahsoka shared a lot in common with Anakin. She too questioned the status quo. But where Anakin was often consumed by ego and a narcissistic tendency towards self-pity, Ahsoka strayed by being more focused on others. Which is probably why she didn’t realize she was being set up to take a fall until it was too late.
When Barriss Offee framed Ahsoka for a crime she didn’t commit, and Ahsoka was captured and put on trial by the Republic, she began seeing the Jedi Order in an entirely new light. Her life had been suddenly turned upside down. She found herself grasping for someone or something that could make sense of it all. But she was left with the realization that this was a fight she would have to face alone.
I came to the realization about my sexual orientation around the age of 13. But it wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I finally came out to my family. It was not easy for me to tell them and it was no easier for them to hear. Most of my family was supportive — especially my brother. But my Mom took the news hard. She couldn’t reconcile what I was telling her with who I was in her mind, and she certainly couldn’t reconcile it with her faith.
In spite of her beliefs and in spite of my upbringing as an evangelical Christian, I had to confront this truth about myself. It was more important for my self-esteem and self-worth to accept my sexual orientation than to follow the tenets of a faith that taught that my sexual orientation was wrong, or try to be something that I was not for the sake of my family of origin.
Ahsoka’s disillusionment with the Jedi Order didn’t happen in quite the same way, but she was faced with a choice much like my own — stay within a belief system that she no longer trusted or felt welcome in, or go her own way to discover who she could be without the Jedi Order.
This is one of the only times in Star Wars that found family proves so problematic for a character that they choose to part ways with it. I didn’t part ways with my family of origin, but I made a choice that took me along a different path in life than I would have if I had remained constrained by a belief system that condemned who I was.
The rift between Ahsoka and the Jedi Order remained evident when she was reunited with Anakin and Obi-Wan prior to the Siege of Mandalore. Ahsoka confronts Obi-Wan when he and Anakin are called away to rescue the Chancellor. To Ahsoka, Obi-Wan represents what the Order has become. The Order is more interested in the war and in politics than in helping people in need. To Ahsoka, Obi-Wan and the Jedi were abandoning the people of Mandalore and betraying the tenets of the Jedi in favor of politics.
This mirrors some of the tense conversations I’ve had with my family of origin in subsequent years after coming out. We love each other, but we don’t see eye to eye when it comes to politics, and my feelings about evangelical Christianity are very close to Ahsoka’s feelings about the Order.
But Ahsoka’s journey would come to include found family again, making it one of the more beautiful examples of this theme. Just as I found family in the LGBTQ+ community and with straight allies, Ahsoka and Rex develop a close bond due to a shared experience of having lost so much. Rex lost his brothers, the clones, and Ahsoka lost the Jedi. Both families were lost in the figurative and literal senses. As a result, Rex and Ahsoka became closer than ever.
I feel such a profound connection to Ahsoka because our journeys have been similar. She is an inspiration to me; she lost her standing within the Jedi family, but did not lose what made her a good person. She remained faithful to the light side of the Force, even as she gained a more complex understanding of life outside the Order. Her newfound path did not compromise her values nor her commitment to helping others. This is why she became invaluable as Fulcrum in the early days of the Rebel Alliance. Ahsoka would continue to find new people to call family because her personal truth was its own kind of light.
I strive every day to make my own personal truth that kind of light as well.