I recently picked up the original Star Wars triology at Goodwill for $4. I love a good deal. So I’m watching the shows I watched when I was growing up. But this time I’m focusing on a different character than normal: C-3PO.
C-3PO could have been suffering from clinical depression. I know, I know. Droids don’t have bio-chemical imbalances or situational disasters that send them down the rabbit who so many of us experience. Duh. But run with me on this.
C-3PO has the miraculous way of always looking at the worst in any situation. “We’re doomed.” “I’m going to regret this.” “Oh he excels at that.” Most of C-3PO’s statements follow along these lines, especially in the first movie (or fourth movie, depending on how you’re counting).
Now from a cinematic point of view, he serves to ask the question and express the fears of the audience. “How are they going to get outta THAT?” It’s a part of what makes his character fun, expecially in contrast to the irrepresively happy R2D2. (I hate R2D2.)
But what really is intriguing is looking at C-3PO as a character. His view, frankly, could be the view of someone clinically depressed. It’s like your brain is hard-wired never to see the future, to dwell on the impossibilities of today, and to only imagine that things will get worse. (Confessional Lutherans, btw, are in general susceptible to this.)
This is how I often feel. It’s certainly how I have felt in my darkest hours. In the midst of the fog, the darkeness, the wet blanket of life, I can’t seem to get out of it. I can’t see past it. Things will collapse. I will never get better. I get mad at myself, I zone, I get angry at my family, lash out at anything and everything, if I have the energy to be angry. Often I just mentally implode, where nothing is moving and I can’t get out of it.
It does remind one of St. Paul’s words from I Corinthians:
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
This of course is the balance we all seek. Recognizing the trials of this life (including mental illness) are not forever. God does heal, and He does use people as his instruments. Doctors, counselors, psychiatrists, pastors, friends and family, all of these may be used in different ways to bring about healing, both on this side of the grave, and certainly in the day of resurrection.
Be at peace. Christ is here, in His Very Word and in your very mouth and heart through his holy sacraments. Even if your attitude is that of our friend C-3PO (as is mine often enough), God’s promises remain sure.
4 thoughts on “On C-3PO and Clinical Depression: Is there a Connection?”
Hmmmm. I think C-3PO suffers more from anxiety than clinical depression. You want a character with clinical depression, look at Eeyore, or Marvin the Robot (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)
Your featured Bible passages are interesting. I often feel I would be “happy” if I did not have the depression. But this is a sin-tainted world for all. Is it wrong that it makes me feel strangely better that all are being afflicted, even if not all feel the crushing of depression?
This question came up in the ethics of psychopharmacology a lot when I was studying:
What is temperament, and what is an actual disorder?
Is C3PO depressed or is he high strung and a natural pessimist?
My son has been high-strung since I was still pregnant with him. He would kick at the slightest noise. He does not like surprises. He does not easily trust. He gets frustrated easily. He gets down easily. He is sweet, loving, VERY insightful, and highly intelligent. I am a lot like him, and really always have been.
My daughter is also sweet, loving, not quite as insightful, highly intelligent, energetic, talks ALL the time, is generally upbeat, open to new experience, and very trusting.
By current societal standards, some would suggest an anti-depressant for my son. My daughter is more what society would say is “normal.” (though ADHD primary inattentive type would easily apply) But I counter that it is each’s temperament, not that therapy or drugs are needed. Both have related to the world this way since before they entered it. A psychologist would not know this.
Tom Sawyer, had he existed in today’s time, would no doubt be on Ritalin…yet we delight in him in a book (thankfully, we are not his aunt), and at one time, C3PO was merely comic relief (now the robot in Hitch Hiker’s Guide…there’s a guy in need of some serious help).
There are some ethical issues involved with psychotropic drugs, aside from the issues of not quite knowing why they work, how long they work for, and what are the long term effects.
Are we interfering with a person’s temperament and treating their natural state of relating to the world as dysfunctional?
Are we failing to see the strengths in cynicism and sensitivity even with the pitfalls that come with it?
Even if it is depression, are we interfering with the natural process that the person would take in relating to life?
Is the real personality the person who is on a psychotropic drug and the drug helps them muddle through it, or are they really who they are when they are off of it and struggling through? Which is better?
Do any of these questions matter when it comes to saving someone’s life? At what point do they matter?
It’s a Brave New World..
When I was filling out the inventories for my counselor 4 years ago, one of the questions led me to quote C-3PO. It’s a bit comforting to see that I was not the only one to make that connection.
I think for me it mattered when I couldn’t function anymore. When I was too depressed to get out of bed. When I was seriously wanting to kill myself. When I would cut myself. And when my ADD left me overwhelmed and unable to start anything. I’m a mom of two kids who homeschools. I need to be able to do things. Sometimes “thinking happy thoughts” doesn’t cut it.