Opinion: My Narcissistic Father Spoiled the Ending to ‘The Empire Strikes Back’

Walter Rhein

Image by Walter Rhein

I still remember the day.

I was sitting in the family van. The van was blue with galaxy detailing. It was the end of May. The year was 1980.

My narcissistic father got into the driver’s seat and looked at me in the rearview mirror. “I know how ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ ends,” he said.

I hadn’t seen ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ yet.

I didn’t know that my dad was a narcissist at the time. I had only just started school. I didn’t know anything in life except that I loved everything that had to do with ‘Star Wars.’

My friends and I were all desperate to see the movie. The only thing we wanted for Christmas was more ‘Star Wars' toys. The only game we ever played was ‘Star Wars’ make-believe.

I wouldn’t learn what a narcissist my father was until decades later. The knowledge came slowly after he left the family. The recognition of my father’s narcissism came as I labored to try to put my life back together.

“I’m going to tell you how it ends,” he said. Then he told me.

I’m not going to say that being told how ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ ended before I saw the film ruined it for me.

‘The Empire Strikes Back’ played a huge role in my childhood. In the grander scheme of things, the fact that my narcissistic blew the ending in the family van in May of 1980 didn’t destroy my life.

But that action does fit into a larger pattern of behavior that did cause me an enormous amount of pain.

I’m relating this story now because it’s relatable.

What kind of person spoils perhaps the greatest movie reveal of all time? The answer is a narcissist.

My narcissistic father had to make the ending of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ his reveal. He took it away from me.

Many people will read this story and say, “Get over it.” Don’t get me wrong. I am over it. I’m over him. I’m telling this story to illustrate my narcissistic father’s behavior.

My father had enough awareness to identify the things that were important to me. Then he took action to ruin them. Spoiling the ending to ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was just one example. My father did things like that every chance he could.

Day after day, week after week, month after month, my narcissistic father was on the lookout for things I cared about that he could destroy.

In 1980, we didn’t even have the word ‘spoilers.’ Today, people become very angry if you ruin a movie they haven’t seen.

I wonder how much different my experience of watching ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ might have been if my father hadn’t revealed the ending.

Would the moment of Darth Vader’s reveal have been more impactful?

As it was, I knew what Darth Vader was going to say. It wasn’t a surprise. The emotion of the moment was blunted.

I think that’s an effective way to talk about my experience of being raised by a narcissistic father. He made me blunt my emotions. I did it as a matter of self-preservation.

I’m not angry at my narcissistic father for spoiling the ending to “The Empire Strikes Back.” I am angry that I had to go through a large part of my life with blunted emotions.

Spoiling the ending to a movie isn’t an act of cruelty, but blunting the emotions of your children is.

As a father, I try to be mindful of the things my children enjoy. My girls are huge fans of “Harry Potter.” I saw the films before they did. I knew what was going to happen.

I did the opposite of my narcissistic father. When the reveals happened, I didn’t spoil them for my children. I let them enjoy the moment. I got to see the expressions of delight on their faces.

I’ve learned that not everything is about me. I wish my narcissistic father could figure that out.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI

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