Romantic Comedy Elements in Star Wars? Hannah Haig

When discussing the comic Oedipus situation in New Comedy, Fyre identifies a trope in romantic comedies where, ‘the heroine is discovered to be the hero’s sister, and has to be married off to his best friend.’ (Fyre, 1949, p.59)

When reading this, the first thing that immediately came to mind was the original Star Wars trilogy. These films are not romantic comedies however I thought it was really interesting that the three central characters form a love triangle, where both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker desire the attention of Princess Leia until Luke discovers she is his sister and she ultimately ends up with his best friend Han instead. This situation does bring an aspect of comedy to the series, especially in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (George Lucas, 1983, USA) when Han suspects that Leia and Luke are close because they are in love, however, it is actually because they have just discovered they are siblings.

Another aspect of New Comedy which Fyre identifies is the common narrative where the young man has to outwit an opponent to win the girl he desires. In Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977, USA) Luke and Han team up to rescue Princess Leia from the empire and Darth Vadar who happens to be Luke and Leia’s father. Fyre argues that the opponent in New Comedy is often the father who also desires the same girl. In this case, Vadar desires to possess Leia in a non-romantic sense, partly to outwit the rebellion but perhaps also because he knows she is his daughter. Regardless of the reason, I would argue that this follows the narrative identified by Fyre.

Although the Star Wars series would not be classed in the romantic comedy genre, there are certainly some elements of romantic comedy in these films.

References

Northrop Frye, “The Argument of Comedy,” English Institute Essays (New York: Columbia, 1949), 58-73.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. (George Lucas, 1977, USA)

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. (George Lucas, 1980, USA)

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. (George Lucas, 1983, USA)

5 comments

  1. I would suggest Han’s past rather than Vader as senex figure is getting in the way of Han and Leia’s romance. However, I think your application of the Oedipal situation to the love triangle in the Original Trilogy is very apt. A lot of the comedy is generated by emotional misdirection and is concluded by Leia and Han hooking up at the end of Episode VI.

  2. Honestly, Star Wars seems a perfect example of what Frye is talking about- the Luke/Han/Leia love triangle mirrors the Oedipus situation, and Vader fits the senex archetype quite well. While Star Wars isn’t a comedy per se, I can certainly see where and why the elements of comedy are employed.

  3. When reading Fyre’s essay a film that came to mind is Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs which is a parody of Star Wars. But where we struggle to view Star Wars as a romantic comedy because it does not have many immediately comedic elements, I struggle to see Spaceballs (which includes many of the narrative tropes Fyre mentions) as a romantic comedy as it is a parody first-and-foremost – its romantic comedy elements are parodic. All signs point to Star Wars being a romcom, but it feels difficult to call it such.

  4. It is interesting to see how the application of Genre can adapt these theoretical descriptions. The reason myself, and I imagine others, would struggle to view Star Wars as romantic comedies is due to the obvious Sci-fi and space opera elements which if anything distract from the rom-com style plot through moments of spectacle, yet the plot is incredibly well suited to the description of New Comedy.

  5. I am shamelessly exposing myself right now, but the first time I watched Star Wars, I only focused on the romance plot. I feel like the romcom’s formula you outline highlights how both perverted and seemingly universal these tropes are.
    Moreover, despite being a powerful general, it’s notable how infamous the image of an enslaved Princess Leia in a golden bikini is, and how her enslavement and rescue perfectly fits into Fyre’s New Comedy formula.

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