Why Star Wars is Important To Me As An Abuse Survivor

By Derek Newman-Stille

I am a child abuse survivor. My biological father beat me throughout my life until my mother, sister, and I were able to escape when I was 15. This may not seem to be related to Star Wars… but it is.

As a child, I read about abuse to try to understand what was happening to me. All of the work that I read suggested that there was a cycle of abuse and that I would inevitably become abusive, just like my biological father.

Star Wars deals with cycles. It is a story about cycles and about breaking cycles and resisting inevitability. This mattered to me as a child, as a youth, and still matters to me. Star Wars offered a glimpse at the potential to break a cycle. It offered a glimpse into possibilities of redemption and resistance. It showed an evil father figure who was able to be redeemed and resist hatred. It showed a son figure who was able to resist becoming what his father was, a son who was able to push back against anger and hatred and become his own person, become something good instead of succumbing to the inevitability of hatred.

Science fiction doesn’t just exist as entertainment and escape. It exists as a way of teaching us lessons through stories. When we think that a future is inevitable, science fiction offers the reminder that the future is a story being told, that it is flexible, and that it is changeable. Science Fiction offers the idea that there are multiple futures out there and that the future can be written, unwritten, and rewritten.

It’s why Sci Fi has been so important to me. It offered a way out. A possibility for a future that wasn’t inevitable, but instead could be changed. This is an important message for someone who is being abused, and an essential reminder for those who are continuing to deal with the repercussions of being abused.


Written by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Superhero Psychology

A review of Michael Johnstone’s “Missing in Action” in OnSpec # 105 Vol 28, No 2 (2017).
By Derek Newman-Stille

Can a superhero retire? Is it the sort of lifestyle that can be surrendered? Michael Johnstone’s “Missing In Action” is a tale of a superhero who is experiencing PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) after the murder of his son. He surrendered his position with the League of Canadian Heroes because every day on the job reminds him of his loss and re-traumatizes him. He has sought to keep his identity a secret, hiding from public life, and avoiding people who could recognize him, burying himself in a new civilian identity because he wants to be a normal human being. 

But the world isn’t that simple, and the cape and cowl aren’t as easy to give up as it seems. Jason Park can’t stand by and see a girl be abused by her father, especially since he is trying to excuse his abuse of his daughter on the fact that she is “a freak”.

Johnstone brings out aspects of the superhero mythos that are under-represented. He asks what would happen if there were vigilante justice in a world where abuse continues to happen and police rarely do anything to stop it. He reminds the reader that the sort of experiences superheroes have are not ones that can be easily shrugged off and that there would be long term psychological consequences for loss, not a short hate spiral that only lasts the length of one comic issue. Johnstone’s “Missing in Action” is a story about complicating the superhero narrative, and taking it into areas that are less simple than good vs evil.

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