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20,000 Parsecs Across The Galaxy
On Suitless Vaders 
16th-Jul-2006 10:11 pm
nautilus
Stories featuring a suitless Vader seem to be a trend in fanfiction; I have noticed several running concurrently, two here on LJ and one elsewhere. Quality of writing notwithstanding, I have a great deal of difficulty with these stories because it is the suit that makes Vader. While it is indisputably more visually enjoyable to imagine Vader in his whole and beautiful pre-Mustafar state, to negate the serious and crippling nature of his injuries by making the suit merely a disguise, or by eliminating the suit altogether takes away the very core of the character.

Certainly it could be argued that medical technology in the GFFA should have been able to heal or restore his damaged parts more completely. As a medical professional I do suspend disbelief in this area because some of the injuries described, namely the burns and the heat damaged lungs, rarely remain in a perpetual state of limbo as depicted. In Earth reality Vader's injuries would have either led to his death within a few weeks, or through grafting and transplant technology he would have been healed to a state that would not require the degree of life support shown in the films.

However, without the suit, Vader is not Vader.The suit is life support, but also a prison and concealer. It prevents him from performing the essential human processes of touching and being touched, of eating in a normal social manner, and of expressing himself naturally through nonverbal signals. It is a constant reminder of his physical vulnerability, primarily his inability to oxygenate his body under normal atmospheric conditions, and thus his inability to function without the suit except under very controlled conditions. It is also a literal mask that hides and protects him from the intrusions of others by presenting a fearsome, impenetrable visage, which he without a doubt uses for his own purposes.

In summation the suit effectively isolates him from normal human contact and interaction. Given that before his injuries he was shown to be a highly emotional individual who was greatly dependent on the approval of others, probably no more appropriate punishment could have designed for him than the suit.Whatever one thinks about the idea of Vader's redemption upon saving Luke from the Emperor, it is inarguable that Vader did suffer for his crimes soon after their commission, and for a duration (twenty-five years) commonly associated with "life" sentences on Earth. All things of value were taken from him, and yet he persisted, evidence of his great will to survive.

The suit then introduces the primary drivers in Vader's life : isolation and suffering, with the resulting need for great endurance. A suitless Vader feels none of these pressures and becomes an entirely different person. If one wants to truly understand the character of Vader they must imagine what it would be like for young Anakin to live a lifetime in the suit, rather than contrive a situation in which he is able to avoid it.
Comments 
17th-Jul-2006 09:39 pm (UTC)
I agree.

You have to have a reason Anakin becomes almost frozen in time, or at least in growth and development. The suit means he adopts a persona and never moves beyond it; and never grows and matures beyond that persona. Or at least until he meets Luke. Luke becomes the first person since he put the armor on that expects Vader to be Anakin; that expects Vader to be able to move beyond the persona and to act as a human being.

Of course, in many of unsuited Vader stories, Luke doesn't seem to be Luke either.
7th-Nov-2006 02:37 am (UTC)
I agree that Vader in the suit is a fascinating character. I did a piece comparing him to the mythical Prometheus, in that he is chained for his crimes by the suit - the eagel of grief tearing at his innards. But I always look a things like that. To me Vader is an archetype used by those of us who enjoy creating our own myths in the modern world.

I think what is interesting about the suitless Vader is the idea of unbridled passion (not necessarily sex), but I rarely see it depicted well... although there are a couple.
8th-Nov-2006 12:38 am (UTC)
It's not that it isn't an interesting idea. What bothers me is that the motivation of most writers using a suitless Vader is not character exploration but denial of Anakin's horrific physical transformation. They can deal with his dark ideas(because he can change his mind and make it all better), but not the permanent physical limitations. It's the same with post-ROTJ redemption fics. The vast majority involve Vader being healed by Luke or by superior Alliance medicine so that he no longer needs the suit.

Fantastic art on your LJ, btw.
8th-Nov-2006 02:06 am (UTC)
" What bothers me is that the motivation of most writers using a suitless Vader is not character exploration but denial of Anakin's horrific physical transformation. They can deal with his dark ideas(because he can change his mind and make it all better), but not the permanent physical limitations. "

I agree completely! But most writers of suitless Vader want to swoon over the written image of bare chested Anakin (to quote a male friend). There are one or two that I can think of that do it for other reasons, although it may start out that way to lure the unwary. ;) "Beauty and the Beast" is a favorite theme of most Suitless Vader fics, certainly.

"It's the same with post-ROTJ redemption fics. The vast majority involve Vader being healed by Luke or by superior Alliance medicine so that he no longer needs the suit."

Some of that may simply be an attempt to make sense of the GFFA medicine, which you yourself have mentioned is a bit off. In 'reality' he should have either died or been more or less healed.

Ultimately though, Vader may not really be about facts, but about the human condition, which you represent so effectively in your prose.

The Anakin/Vader tragedy is timeless and something I've seen a number of times in life - stops self - Sorry! Caught myself starting to get all philosophical - can't help it sometimes - that damned degree! :D

Anyway, my criteria for good fic (no matter what the genre): is it well written, and does it make sense( are the motivations within the fic correct to the particular story)?

You hit the mark on both, my friend!

"Fantastic art on your LJ, btw."

Thanks - did the link to the gallery work? (bats lashes)
8th-Aug-2007 01:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know that I agree that the suit is what makes Vader Vader.

His choices, obviously made him Vader. We see the very human Vader in RotS. It is that Vader that leads the massacre on the Temple. It is that Vader that slaughters younglings and attacks first his wife and child and then his mentor/brother/father-figure.

But I think the suit is absolutely integral in the longevity of Vader as Vader. I think you're absolutely right on with the suffering and isolation. The suit enabled Vader to effectively murder Anakin Skywalker. Very few people knew that Vader was previously Skywalker. It was a clean (albeit messy, painful, etc) break from his former life. A cleansing fire. The suit was as much a haven as a prison in some ways. It exempted him from being expected to behave in a human fashion. I think it even exempted him from thinking he needed to behave as a human.

I'm also intrigued by the idea that Palpatine had to keep Vader doped up. I see references on Wookiepedia to "Sith stimulants" which were apparently administered via Vader's life-sustaining armor and integral in maintaining Vader's loyalty to Palpatine. I'm not sure what the source is on that. I haven't personally read anything that contained that particular facet of Vader's existence, but like I said, I really like the idea and the explanation. The idea that Palpatine kept him addicted to these drugs that he would dole out when he felt the need and the suit is the perfect vehicle for that. If Vader had been whole, Palpatine would have had no convenient excuse for getting him addicted to those drugs.

All things of value were taken from him, and yet he persisted, evidence of his great will to survive.

I don't know that it was necessarily a will to survive. I think surviving was integral to vengeance, he had to survive to exact vengeance. Vengeance against the Emperor. I think Vader clued in very quickly just how badly he had been played and from there on out, his mission was to gain enough mastery of the Dark Side to destroy his master.

I don't have a problem with suitless Vader (obviously, I'm writing a story), but I think that the idea that a suitless Vader would be the same person as canon Vader is absolutely laughable. Of course the suit shaped his existence in myriad ways. But for me, the bottom line is that the choices that made Vader into Vader were made when he was a human. The suit definitely perpetuated Vader, but it didn't create Vader. Anakin's choices did that.

I think without the suit that Vader would have found redemption sooner. But I also think it's arguable that a suitless Vader may also have been a bigger monster than canon Vader.

You said : before his injuries he was shown to be a highly emotional individual

And I agree completely. I think the suit taught him detachment and coldness. Vader is far more calculating and patient and unreadable than Anakin. And I think that is entirely a product of the suit.

Imbued with the powers of the Dark Side, the full potential he possessed as a whole human, I think a suitless Vader would have had the potential to be a bigger monster than Palpatine and a far more dangerous creature than the suited (and to some extent, muzzled) Vader of canon.

Wow, I kind of went on and on and on ... sorry.
10th-Aug-2007 06:26 am (UTC)
Hmmm, despite the moniker of Vader, I think it was Anakin who marched at the Jedi Temple. I could even buy that he's in some sort of limbo between worlds. For me, the physical transformation makes Vader, because it's what seals him from turning back.

The pathos of the character lies in his duality, that he is a good person trapped by his own horrendous actions in a reality which he never intended, and from which he cannot escape.

I completely agree that an unsuited Vader is a bigger monster because there is little that stops him from turning back. He's more akin to Palpatine then, a sociopath instead of a tragic figure. (Although I think Palps has his own story.)

I do really like SOTF. The messed-up family dynamics substitute for much of the suffering within the suit. It has a much grittier feel than the usual ROTS AU fics wherein he turns back within a few years. But the only way we can emphathize with Anakin is because we know the real him is hiding in there somewhere. And if he's hiding in there somewhere, what's keeping him from changing? That's what I need you to show me.


I don't know that it was necessarily a will to survive. I think surviving was integral to vengeance, he had to survive to exact vengeance.

The one armed crawl up the rocky shore of Mustafar: elemental Anakin. And I think venegeance was a far-off dream, not an essential motivator during his tenure in the suit. Look at how resigned he is in ROTJ, compared to the Anakin we know in ROTS. He makes his one pitch to Luke in ESB, and then puts his head back down when it fails.

Anyways, good to find someone else who enjoys the character analysis.
10th-Aug-2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
Anyways, good to find someone else who enjoys the character analysis.

Indeed. I'm such a nerd. I love discussing this stuff. Squee!

For me, the physical transformation makes Vader, because it's what seals him from turning back.

I definitely get where you're coming from with this, but I just see it differently. I think if forced to pick a turning point, I'd say it was the death of Padme that sealed it for the Vader not turning back (at least pre-Luke).

And even in the end, it is a suited Vader who finds redemption and once again becomes Anakin Skywalker.

For me, the suit isn't the stumbling block. It's all his emotional/mental chaos.

I really don't see that a suitless Vader can "turn back" at any point. Yes, he may still look like his former self, but the damage to his soul, the consequences of what he's done are still all there.

I do completely agree that the suit brings so many more elements to the table. The isolation, the limitations without a doubt shape the man that Vader becomes, forcing him into territory that neither Anakin Skywalker, nor a suitless Vader ever would have traversed.

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