Celebration of Wickedness Day 25: DARTH VADER #atozchallenge

You knew this was coming, right? There is no way I can have any coherent discussion about villainy without addressing the Dark Lord of the Sith, the personification of evil for like 3 generations (cuz Lucas keeps re-releasing the SAME MOVIES!), your friend and mine—Darth Vader!

I was 4 the first time I saw the dark-suited wonder. It was at a drive-in and we’d gone to see Star Wars (the original, not this Episode 68 crap). I was two feet tall then; Vader was 20. He walked through the doorway of a ship, had to duck, surveyed the carnage and stepped over bodies without a word. No villain I had ever seen had been so imposing and made such a minimalist entrance. But what did he need to do? His stature said everything; his very presence conveyed everything we needed to know. But in case there were questions, in case we were unsure if he was the bad guy, the very next time we see him he picks up a man by the throat, asks him a question and BROKE HIS NECK BEFORE HE ANSWERED IT! And then threw his ass across the room.

This was more than my little 4-year-old mind could handle.

For the remainder of the next 2 hours, I watched this guy choke a dude out without touching him (in a meeting, no less! Not an argument, a regular Monday morning status meeting, Vader is choking folks!), blow up homegirl’s WHOLE planet, kill an old man and try to shoot down a kid in a fighter plane. And he wasn’t asking people to do this for him—he held the lightsaber, he was flying the ship. He definitely got his hands dirty. Did I mention this was a PG movie?

But it got better. In The Empire Strikes Back, Vader got a theme song that they now play in football stadiums. He killed his own people THROUGH THE TV. He didn’t even have to make the pinchy move with his fingers. Vader killed one dude while talking to another. When Han Solo shot at him, Vader caught the lasers in his hand and snatched the gun away. From the other side of the table. Then invited Han Solo to dinner. And then, to entice his own son to join him, Vader tried to freeze him, then beat him up by pulling shit off the walls with his mind, cut off Luke’s hand and told him, “Oh yeah, I’m your dad. We should totally go into business together.”

I am intentionally ignoring Return of the Jedi—I felt like it was an anticlimactic end to a stellar character. And I hate Ewoks. I could expound on Vader’s activities as Anakin Skywalker in the prequels but they truly are just the icing on an otherwise disturbing cake. And these items don’t actually illustrate why Darth Vader is so awesome: Vader gets it done.

I’ve said it before. He doesn’t give a damn what the obstacle is, what the challenge is, what’s in his way. As he told one of his admirals when their ship was getting blasted by asteroids while pursuing the Millennium Falcon, “Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral. I want that ship, not excuses.” Vader makes it happen. And he’s perfectly fine doing the dirty work himself.

But the truth is, what makes Darth Vader so incredibly potent as a villain is his rationale: Vader doesn’t have shit to lose. Think about it. His wife is dead, his mom is dead, his best friend tried to kill him and left him for dead, he has 4 prosthetic limbs, got burned alive and he’s permanently entombed in a leather burn unit. He killed everybody close to him, thinks his kids are dead, and his boss is a guy who figured out how to live forever. What else can happen to this guy? And when you truly have nothing to lose, you have nothing to fear. And when you have nothing to fear, well, there’s really nothing you won’t do, is there?

And that is what makes Darth Vader my favorite villain of all time.

Tomorrow, the Wicked Witch of the West breezes through. She’s gonna get you and your little dog too!

How We Broke Disneyworld Part III

RECAP: If you haven’t been keeping track (and who wouldn’t—this story is awesome, right?), we took a vacation to Disneyworld last week and became embroiled in the Peter Pan Affair: we snatched Peter Pan, took him to the top of Cinderella’s castle and let him go. Petey didn’t fare too well—he couldn’t fly but I’m actually surprised he bounced as high as he did. I didn’t know pavement was that buoyant. So we became fugitives—ran from Magic Kingdom, kidnapped a bunch of people on a parking tram, tried to make Tanner sit down, and escaped into Hollywood Studios.

I said it was gonna be easy, right? That our getaway could be fast and simple? Wrong. Running into the park to find a ride to get us out of the park proved to be an exercise in futility. For an amusement park dedicated to the movies, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a whopping 4 rides. FOUR. OK there are 5, but you won’t be riding Toy Story Mania at Disneyworld, not in this lifetime. People are camped out in the line with tents and shit like they were introducing a new iPhone. Screw that.

But there’s Star Wars! The tag line is “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” right? I can either a) go back in time and choose never to pick up that little bastard at all; or b) get the hell outta Dodge. Star Tours it is.

For something they don’t own, Disney takes its Star Wars shit seriously! Darth Maul is prowling around outside, scaring the crap out of Janey and Tanner; stormtroopers stand posted along the line, cradling blasters; little people—Ewoks or Jawas or munchkins fleeing the Great Movie Ride—keep cutting in front of us. We try to drop our eyes and ease past the stormtroopers.


We run on the ride amid a cacophony of Stop! Freeze! and heavy Darth Vader breathing. It’s us and about 10 assorted Star Wars characters—stormtroopers, droids, a chubby Han Solo whose vest is ENTIRELY TOO SHORT and that white shirt is sheer (yeah, try to get that image out of your head), and a man who takes up 2 ½ seats with a Yoda shirt that says Judge Me By My Size, Do You? A little bit, yeah, I do. You know the rules: click, click, everybody’s strapped in, guns are stowed below the seat and the ride begins.

This is no trip to the stars. At all. Hyperspace doesn’t actually take us anywhere. Instead we get C3PO moaning and crying, Artoo yelling “Whoooooo!!” anytime the ride moves, the fat Han Solo breathing hard and having “a bad feeling about this.” The ride takes us from the loading dock through 2 battles with X-Wings and TIE fighters and then back in time with Clones and droids (I don’t know how that works). Then, just as we bounce through the remnants of Alderaan, the Honey Badger gets branded a rebel spy! They post her picture on the ride, outside the ride, on t-shirts that say I Was The Rebel Spy. Everywhere.


We’re first off the ride (because stormtroopers’ guns keep getting stuck in the stowage nets below their seats) and barrel into the gift shop. The Wife pushes the annoying woman aside (no, I don’t want to see my face as Han Solo or Princess Leia) but does snatch her pin of Stitch as Emperor Palpatine (I’m a Star Wars geek—can you tell?). We are met by a group of stormtroopers. One of them stops us. “Hey,” he says, “aren’t you the ones who broke the fairy?” The person dressed like a droid next to him raises her weapon, “Roger, roger.” Janey says, “He’s not a fairy. Tinkerbell’s a fairy!” The Boy laughs, “They called Peter Pan a fairy.” I put up the hood on my Tigger sweatshirt, wave my hand, and say, “These aren’t the people you’re looking for.”

The stormtrooper cocks his head, “These aren’t the people we’re looking for.”

The droid says, “Roger—what?”

“We can move along,” I say.

“Wait—what?” The droid takes off her helmet. “Doggone it, Bill, he’s not really a Jedi! You know this isn’t rea—!” But she doesn’t get to finish her sentence: Darth Maul clubs her in the head with his plastic lightsaber and she fakes her death.

“Move along.” And the stormtrooper waves us past.

Out in the open, we hear: “Star Command, we have them now!”

The Rangers are back.

Unlike Peter Pan, these cats can really fly. Kinda. It’s actually a game of leap frog using glider wings but they keep swooping down on us like crows. Time to run.

Since the Mickeys are tied to the movies here in Hollywood Studios perhaps the best place to escape to is the Great Movie Ride. This is a thrill ride only in the sense a grocery store scooter-paced perusal of the 99¢ aisle at Blockbusters is thrilling. We tumble into the ride and the Rangers pursue, but they run like the gravity is really low—bounding along like they’re on the moon. The four of them file into the car behind us and we’re all taken through a slow-motion exhibit of great movies that combine real live sets, live action (and flames!), and animatronics that predate World War I.

The ride was so slow, I fell asleep. Until we got the Alien segment. Alien is my favorite movie of all time and the ride features a life-size replica of the cargo hold of the Nostromo, complete a shivering Ripley, Jones the Cat stuck in a box, and Mother counting down the self-destruct sequence. Oh yeah, and there’s a full-size Alien in there too. I think The Boy lost control of his bowels. He’s curled up in a tiny ball, trying to re-enter the womb, while this Alien with only half a body moves 7 inches toward us. Seven. He screams. The Rangers scream. The ride stops and we carry his funky tail through the Nostromo, past Humphrey Bogart and Ilsa, out the yellow brick road (but my wife did snatch the ruby red slippers from the Wicked Witch of the East) and we’re back into the park.

Now where?

“There!” says the Honey Badger. She’s pointing at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Shit. I hate that ride.

Part IV