Tag Archives: Trauma

Could Maul Have PTSD: A Star Wars Speculation

Of all the things to come out of The Phantom Menace, Darth Maul and Duel of the Fates are two icons that came out of the first prequel movie. Qui Gon and Mace Windu were other interesting characters and Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan would go down in history as an example of the perfect casting choices. Yes, there is Jar Jar and yes, it may not have aged the best, but The Phantom Menace is actually one of my favorite Star Wars movies, and honestly, it wasn’t all bad.

Yet, despite having the aforementioned positives, and being one of my favorites, it is a flawed movie. Special effects were still a work in process, the political side of it would feel odd, and midichlorians added what some might consider an unnecessary explanation of the Force, just to name a few critiques.

However, I am not here to dissect The Phantom Menace. No, today, I would like to dissect the character that only had a few minutes of screen time and ending up becoming one of the most developed characters to come out of the Prequel Movies.

Darth Maul

Darth Maul. The red Dathomirian Zabrak with the black tattoos and double bladed red lightsaber. He was Darth Sidious’ first apprentice given to Sidious as a baby (Legends) or as a child (Canon) and raised to be a Sith. He would fight Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan, killing the former and being “slain” by the latter. However, through pure hatred it was revealed that he survived, returning in the fourth season of Clone Wars, which just so happened to come out several months before Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney. Maul would stay alive through the rest of Clone Wars and into Rebels where he died. Scattered throughout, several Canon comics were released, where as his previous novels were considered Legend when Disney bought Star Wars.

Maul is certainly a well liked character. While maybe not as popular as Darth Vader or even Sidious, he left enough of an impression to make a return. And with his revival in Clone Wars, Dave Filoni was able to expand on the character. Not only by giving him a new lease on life with his motivation to kill Obi Wan and Sidious, but a family as well. Along with Asajj Ventress, viewers would get to learn more about the Dathomirian Zabrak. Asajj was revealed to be a Nightsister, the female Dathomirians, while Mother Talzin and Savage Opress was Maul’s mother and brother respectively.

With the development he got, how he was raised, and how Clone Wars ended, I feel like there is a discussion to be had about Maul’s psychology. Namely, that he could have some form of PTSD. And while that is by no means an excuse for the actions that he’s taken, it could help explain certain reactions and how his upbringing damaged him mentally.

What is PTSD?

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be defined as “a mental condition where someone experienced something traumatic”. Reactions can be triggered when remembering what happened, which can result in things like nightmares, depression, and feeling numb to name a few symptoms. It was at one point called shell shock, combat fatigue, and battle fatigue. When it comes to people with PTSD, the most recognized group are military personnel. With everything that happens during war, it isn’t surprising that they could/would come home with trauma. With that in mind, PTSD isn’t exclusive to war. Surviving a car accident could be another reason someone has it, or violence of any kind on a person could trigger it. These are just a few examples.

Common Symptoms/Reactions

There are a few common reactions and traits when someone has PTSD. Whether it be another mental condition, a physical reaction, sleep patterns, or something else, there are a few traits that someone with PTSD might experience. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Heightened Anxiety/Panic
  • Depression
  • Agitation
  • Isolation
  • Easily Angered/Increased Angered Outbursts
  • Easily Startled

I will touch on what symptoms Maul exhibits that could line up with him having PTSD. But first, I’d like to take a moment to go over why he might. What kind of trauma he might have experienced that would trigger PTSD in the character. And again, while this isn’t meant to condone his actions, it could help explain it with an additional angle.

Why Would Maul Have PTSD? What Could Have Caused it?

If Maul were to have PTSD, I’ve narrowed it down to three different catalysts. Because beneath all of the Sith training and high levels of anger and vengeance, which is common for a Sith, I wouldn’t say his life was easy. Who he was raised by and connections he lost couldn’t have been easy.

Darth Sidious: Raised, Trained, as Well as Tortured by

Where it be from infancy or as a child, Maul was raised by Sidious all the way up to his twenty second year. While Jedi have certain regulations, I don’t think he would have been as harmed by someone like Dooku or Qui Gon. And while all Sith aren’t harsh or abusive, Sidious isn’t known for being a warm master.

The man was cunning, intelligent, and strong in the Force. He desired power and control, following the Rule of Two as a guideline in which the apprentice wouldn’t surpass him. He wanted his apprentice strong, sure, but not enough to defeat him. Basically a puppet.

Now, depending on if it’s Canon or Legends, what Maul went through may vary. The only content to remain Canon for Maul after Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars was The Phantom Menace and Clone Wars. He got a few comics after the acquisition, like Son of Dathomir, Darth Maul (2017) and an issue of Age of the Republic as well as reappearing in Rebels. While storied lie Wrath of Darth Maul, Darth Maul (2000), Shadow Hunter, Saboteur, the Clone Wars tie in graphic novels, Maul Lockdown, and Darth Plagueis are all considered Legends.

Either way, it can be, at the very least implied that Darth Sidious was not a great guy to Maul. In Legends he was very stern with Maul due to his pride, which on it’s own wouldn’t seem problematic, but what really would make it problematic would be things like leaving him alone in Wrath of Darth Maul for extended periods as a means to hide him from Plagueis. In Canon, we don’t get to see too much of his childhood with Plagueis, but one could imagine he wasn’t much better.

Torture

Then you get into what viewers do know happened to him in Clone Wars and Son of Dathomir. Maul would be subjected to torture not around the dame time as two loses, which I will get into in a moment. He was electrocuted, imprisoned, and treated harshly.

And while Maul may hate Sidious, if seasons five and seven of Clone Wars were anything to go off of, he was terrified of Sidious. Begging for mercy even. But he never got it.

All an all, I would say that Sidious is Maul’s biggest source of trauma, outside of maybe the deaths of those close to him. Also how he survived The Phantom Menace.

Mental Instability After The Phantom Menace

Whether him surviving after being sliced in half was pure luck, a show of true will/hate, or plot armor, he did survive. He spent years on a trash planet where his sanity flew away. Going temporarily insane doesn’t really result in PTSD, and when I say ‘insane’ I mean he fell into madness while alone on Lotho Minor. I also believe it didn’t help. If being cut and half and surviving didn’t scar his psyche, the eventual break from being alone sure did.

This isn’t a super big cause, but I believe it could have been partially responsible. Being alone without a lower half on a trash planet for years doesn’t sound like an ideal situation. And the solitude less than ideal, even if he was more of a solitary character. Think solitary confinement, but a planet sized solitary confinement. Socially and mentally that doesn’t sound reasonable.

The Deaths of Savage Opress and Mother Talzin

This would be another big cause. Having witnessed both, it would have been traumatizing. Despite treating Savage like an apprentice like Sidious did with him, and not being able to show affection in a conventional way, Maul did care for him. In Rebels, when he tells Ezra how they could defeat the Empire as brothers, it is clear to see that he is still hurt by it.

The death of Mother Talzin wouldn’t be much better. She was the only family he had left and after escaping torture from Sidious, she would be killed by Grievous. He witnessed it, and while he has seen and caused his fair share of death, Talzin and Savage were the only people he had left.

It would also become a piece of his revenge puzzle. While coaxing Ezra into helping him, he relates to him by stating how the Sith (and by by extent the Empire) took everything from him.

In conclusion, Sidious, the loss of his family, and the time spent on Lotho Minor are all reasons that I believe Maul could have PTSD.

What Symptoms Would Maul Exhibit?

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/ has a page on PTSD. On this page, it has a section discussing symptoms. There they have them categorized into four categories, re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance symptoms, arousal and reactive symptoms, and cognition and mood symptoms. For each category, someone would have to experience one ore more of the symptoms in each for at least a month. One or more for re-experience and avoidance, and two or more from arousal and reactive, and cognition and mood. Using the examples provided, I think I’ve narrowed it down a little.

Re-experience Symptoms

I would say that flashbacks, recurring memories or dreams of the event, and/or distressing thoughts. I feel flashbacks would be a given, but since it’s never really confirmed whether or not he has had flashbacks to his trauma, I do have a few alternatives. Recurring memories feels like the more accurate symptom in this category since at multiple times, he seems to dwell and recall Savage’s death and what Sidious is capable of. The former is more of a sad one since whenever he mentioned Savage (and Talzin) in Rebels it seems to be with a slightly more sorrowful tone, or an angered one when he remembers how the Sith did it to him.

Distressing thoughts could allude to how in season seven, when he is captured by Ahsoka, there is a moment of what could be perceived as disturbed or terrified. He would rather die than be captured and he’s vocal about it and how Ahsoka didn’t know what she had done. He sounded distressed. Not only because he was captured, but because he knew what was coming (Order 66) and that alarmed him.

Another disturbing thoughts, that might not have to do with his Sith upbringing, would be with how he felt abandoned by the Sith, namely Sidious. After surviving Phantom Menace and learning that his former master took on Dooku, he wanted revenge. However, there also seems to be an underlining feeling of abandonment. He was supposed to be there to help set up the Clone Wars, he was raised to be apart of that. So when he returned, he felt like he was abandoned. That everyone left him behind.

These are all potential ways that Maul could fit into the re-experience symptoms category. He could have had flashbacks that viewers never got to see. Feelings of abandonment or fear of the impending future could be signs of distressed thinking. Though the most likely is reoccurring memories, since it is shown that he does dwell on the losses of Savage and knowing what Sidious is capable off based on what the Sith Lord put him through.

Avoidance Symptoms

Of the two symptoms mentioned in this category, I would think that staying away from places/events/objects would be the more accurate symptom. He doesn’t try to hide his feelings and does dwell on certain thoughts pertaining to his life and potential trauma.

Of the two symptoms mentioned in this category, I would think that staying away from places/events/objects would be the more accurate symptom. He doesn’t try to hide his feelings and does dwell on certain thoughts pertaining to his life and potential trauma. Along with avoiding places, I would also add avoiding people.

While it was also a smart move on his part, going into hiding until the events of Rebels season 2 could have been his way of avoiding things. On Malachor, he didn’t have to worry about running into Sidious or any planet that could turn him over to him. He might have had to deal with an Inquisitor or two, but fore the most part, he was on his own to reflect and plan his eventual return. Which he would later get to some degree by the time Rebels came along.

Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms

The first of the two categories that need two or more symptoms, I think I know the perfect two. Irritability with angry or aggressive outbursts and engaging in reckless, risky, or destructive behaviors. Both fall may fall into what makes a Sith a Sith, but I think they would be amplified.

Angry or aggressive outbursts could be explained by how explosive his anger was when he found out about. He was angry that he was abandoned and even more so when his brother was killed. Another example of an aggressive outburst was when he killed the Seventh Sister. When Ezra refused to kill the Inquisitor, Maul took it the matter into his own hands. And while this could be seen as a logical choice from one aspect, to Ezra, who at that point was taught not to be as lethal, it would have been a pretty aggressive move.

Engaging in reckless, risky, or destructive behaviors could appear in the form of getting revenge against Sidous and Obi Wan and trying to manipulate Ezra into becoming his apprentice. Revenge can be a risky business, but in Maul’s mind, it’s justified. People did him wrong and he wanted to make them pay. It never really ended the way he wanted, but it wouldn’t stop him from trying. Manipulation can be destructive. Not only to the person doing it, but to the person being manipulated.

Those are the arousal and reactivity symptoms that Maul fits into. These symptoms would have been amplified because he was a Sith, but all the same, they are symptoms that fit. Aggressive/Angered outbursts and partaking in risky/reckless/destructive behavior are the symptoms that I feel Maul fits best into.

Cognitive and Mood Symptoms

For the final category, the two symptoms that Maul would have include negative thoughts about oneself or the world, in this case the world and distorted thoughts about the event resulting in feelings of blame. I also feel like ongoing negative emotions would also be another symptom of his, if merely amplified thanks to his Sith teachings.

In regards to negative emotions to the world, Maul sees the world as doing him wrong. He lost the life he had after Phantom Menace, he lost family during the Clone Wars, and bitterly notes how he was abandoned in Rebels. These events lead to negative thoughts, but not on himself. Rather, towards the world. Life and people had been cruel to him and it wasn’t something he personally internalized.

Which leads into the distorted thoughts and blame. One could argue that some of what life dealt him was self inflicted. His pride being his biggest weakness in a lot of fights. However, he never put the blame on himself, whether he was partially or whole heartedly to blame, if at all. Instead, he blames others, most notably Sidious and Obi Wan. Both did him wrong on the most significant level. Obi Wan beat him and Maul wishes to get back at him for it. Sidious, he caused Maul to be where he was at throughout the series. The fact that Maul was so easily “replaced” and abandoned left two scars.

One being in the form of the only person he had a connection to in some way leaving Maul behind and cutting those ties. Part of that does have to do with Maul being presumed dead until Clone Wars, which was a good decade or so after Phantom Menace. Yet, when Sidious knew, he didn’t take Maul back, which could have dug that feeling of abandonment deeper. The second being how Sidious, in Maul’s mind, would be the source of all his problems. He trained him, tortured him, and killed his family. Had Maul not been taken in by Sidious, his life could have been better. Not by much considering Dathomir’s hierarchy looked down on the male Zabrak and treated them as lower class/slaves, but somewhat better.

In those ways, Maul has hit at least two cognative and mood symptoms. They do overlap, but are distinct in their own way. Two are layered yet separate symptoms.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Maul could very well have PTSD, implied or diagnosed. It isn’t outright confirmed or canon, what he went through, coupled with his Sith upbringing would play a role in his mental state. The loss of family and torture at the hands of Sidious, alongside how Sidious treated him on a personal level is grounds for unresolved trauma. When inspecting the character and his story, he can fit into each category of symptoms, re-experience, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognitive and mood, in his own way.

Source

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#part_6127

Peter Gordon, Trauma, and Psychology: The Power of the Dog Introspective

Trauma. It can have an array of effects on people including nightmares, fear, and depression, among other responses. In media, it can be used to explore a type of trauma and/or to help the character grow. It’s not uncommon, yet not an everyday occurrence.

In The Power of the Dog, both the book and movie, it’s something Peter Gordon, one of the main characters is familiar with. The death of his father. Having seen his father’s lifeless body after he killed himself, which the book goes into more detail on, to say that Peter was effected by it might be an understatement.

Then comes the Burbank brothers. While George is a wonderful gentleman, it’s his brother Phil who makes the home a bit more hostile.

They way his father’s death not only effected him personally, but how he perceives his duty. Because he never really had a father figure in between his father’s death and Rose’s marriage to George, he in some ways had to grow up and take care of his family. And though not as expressive or emotional, readers and viewers never really get to see how he grieved. If he did.

Through various quotes and moments, I wanted to take a deep dive into Peter Gordon as a character. Mainly how things like his father’s death, alcoholism in the family, and Phil may have contributed to some form of trauma.

“When my father passed, I wanted nothing more than my mother’s happiness. For what kind of man would I be if I did not help my mother? If I did not save her?”

-Peter Gordon (The Power of the Dog)

The movie starts off with this quote. Because of the death of his father, Peter essentially was the “man of the house” and was in charge of making sure his mother was safe. This also foreshadows how he approaches Phil later on in the story, specifically more towards the end, giving what he did more motive.

He has to worry about his mother, since he is all she had until she marries George Burbank. And when she does get married, he still worries about her.

While Peter did become independent, his relationship with Rose could be seen as a form of parentification. He genuinely loves his mother and wants to protect her, because of his father’s death. However, in some ways, Peter had essentially become a caretaker for Rose.

Parentification is defined as a child taking on the role of parent for other children and/or parents. There are two main subsections in parentification: instrumental and emotional parentification. Instrumental is where the child performs duties that might normally fall on parents, like making dinner for the household, taking care of sick family members, and taking other children to and from school. Emotional parentification is when the child takes on the role of emotional confidant/counselor/caretaker to their parents.

I would say that Peter could suffer from a combination of both. Because while he does care for his mother and had cause to confront Phil on her behalf, he shouldn’t have been required to. And while Peter was mature for his age, he was still a sixteen year old who was dealing with the lose of his father with his mother. He shouldn’t have had to with him being sixteen, but he did. Things were also much different in the 1920’s too.

While I am not a psychologist, I can’t say that he does exhibit that behavior. However, I could see how Peter could have developed a sense of parentification after his father’s death. The trauma of losing his father and how Phil treated her could have culminated into something along those lines.

“…Yeah, your father. I guess he hit the bottle pretty hard. The booze.

Until right at the very end, then he hung himself. I found him, cut him down. … He used to worry I wasn’t kind enough. Then I was too strong.

You, too strong? Huh! He got that wrong. Poor kid. Things will work out for you yet.”

-Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon (Power of the Dog)

At this point of the movie, Peter is back home for the summer and finds himself essentially under Phil Burbank’s guidance. The man, who for the most part, was belligerent to his mother and picked on Peter, wants to start over by helping Peter and get to know him. During a moment of peace, the two end up discussing Rose, Peter’s mother, and her alcoholism. This discussion takes a turn when Phil asks about his father, resulting in the excerpt above.

The alcoholism is discussed, but rather it being a tale of abusive alcoholics, it’s more a tale of how depression and distress can lead to it. While his parents’ alcoholism might not have effected Peter in the way of physical or emotional abuse, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t effect him in the long run. Whether that be in the form of inheriting their alcoholic tendencies or being completely turned off by drinking entirely.

Essentially, while not being abused due to a drunken rage, it could have caused Peter to be turned off from it. Seeing what happened to his father and how his mother fell into a drunken state because of Phil, he could have hated how it effected the people close to him. And seeing the spiral it caused, it could have made him hate it and maybe fear losing people because of it.

Antisocial Personality Disorder as a Result of Trauma

Antisocial Personality Disorder, also commonly referred to as sociopathy, can be defined as someone who has a hard time in social settings, may have a hard time caring for right and wrong, and can be seen as manipulative. Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a term that was used to describe sociopathy, however ASPD is a bit more complex than that.

While I am not a psychology major, I do like to look into psychology from time to time. Especially if I want to better understand a condition. When it comes to ASPD, I’ve found that there doesn’t seem to be one set definition or ruling on the condition. DSM or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental defines it as

Do I Think Peter is a Sociopath?

Yes and No

I feel this really comes down to how the character is interpreted. Some might say that he was a sociopath given the nature of his plan and/or sympathizing a bit with Phil given where his character ended up. Some might say no, because of Peter’s motivation and Phil’s antagonistic behavior towards Rose.

One thing that could add to a viewer’s interpretation of Peter is Peter’s father. While the movie addresses that he dies, viewers are never really shown what lead up to it. As such, it could be easier to infer that Peter had no qualms with killing Phil and how he could have been behind his father’s death.

I have also seen the case made that Peter could have autism, and how the director, Jane Campion, may have brought that to the foreground of his character. ASPD, Autism, and Psychopathy, while all different conditions, do have some overlap in symptoms. Similar to how ADHD and autism may have similar or overlapping traits. Yet, despite the similarities, an individual can have one or both.

In the case of Peter Gordon, I think he has ASPD, but isn’t a sociopath. Because while his actions may have been manipulative, may not be as empathetic, and crosses a line of morality, his motives weren’t out of indifference. Rather out of love.

Because while he nay have a hard time expressing emotion, it was out of love and a sense of duty to keep his mother safe. Based on my interpretation of the character, and with the general research I did, I would say that Peter has a comorbid (two or more conditions diagnosed in an individual) diagnosis of autism and anti-social personality disorder.

Autism would help explain things like areas of his interest in becoming a doctor and the repeated behavior with running his thumb through the teeth of the comb in a repetitive and relaxing way (stimming). The manipulative tactic he used and disregard for whether it was right or wrong could be explained by anti-social personality disorder. While both could explain why he seems emotionless, not particularly social, and seen as awkward in social interact.

It might not be a perfect diagnosis, but it is a reasonable explanation. With Campion putting it to the foreground according to some sources and some of his behaviors being associated with it, it’s not hard to see why he would have autism. And with the movie taking place in the 1920’s, it wouldn’t have been diagnosed and could have been a factor in people making fun of him. Not because he should have been made fun of for it, but because understanding of autism wasn’t as understood back then as it is today.

As for anti-social personality disorder, I believe the death of his father is what triggered it. While the movie doesn’t show what happened to his father, it’s understandable if people would see Peter as more of a sociopath and possibly killed his father. However, if someone has read the book, it does state that his father took his own life. Whether he had autism or not, seeing that at a young age would have effected him negatively. I suspect that seeing this was what pushed him into the quiet, introverted state readers and viewers got to see. I also think it could have been what caused him to feel it was his duty to go as far as he did to protect his mother. conclusion

Conclusion

With everything Peter has been through, I believe he has had his fair share if trauma and struggles. From the death of his father to the way Phil treated Rose, he probably had some baggage. He felt like it was his duty to keep his mother safe, he probably had animosity towards alcohol, and due to seeing how his father died probably contributed to an ASPD diagnosis on top of a possible autism diagnosis.

Sources