"Sure, he's pretty cool and all, but aren't you overdoing it a little?"
"I mean, of all the Star Wars characters out there that are so much more popular and developed, why do you pick that guy?"
Well...it's a long story.
It's been almost two years now that I've had this blog, harking on this and that about how much I love Cad Bane. I understand why it seems a bit odd that I would choose a lesser-known Star Wars character to be my all time favorite and the one I am so attached to. A character who not only had no appearance or reference in the first six films but was not even introduced until 2008. Sadly, even though I know a lot of people will acknowledge he is cool, there is very little and practically nonexistent Cad Bane "fan following". People who know Star Wars have given me funny looks when my love for Cad Bane is brought to light. I have received the counter-attacks; I have heard the arguments about why he should be loathed; I have been told I am not a "real Star Wars fan" because I love a character from The Clone Wars. I have prowled the Internet for every Cad Bane canon appearance, merchandise, fanfiction, art, video, and anything else I could find; yes, if there is something having to do with Cad Bane out there, I most likely know about it! I have also been working on a Cad Bane collection which is slowly but steadily growing. And to be honest, when you are a part of a subculture as massive as Star Wars and you literally run out of things to find for your favorite character, you start to wish you had selected someone more popular! It can be quite miserable!
As for those anonymous questions above, I have been asked them both on the Internet and in real life, multiple times. Some out of disdain and others out of innocent curiosity. And I know even if you haven't directly asked me you have probably wondered about it at some point. I have found myself always giving the "short version" of the answer, which is usually along the lines of "He has a cool hat." And while the short version is indeed plausible, it doesn't do itself justice.
So I decided that it is time to sit down and, to whoever is interested, tell the "full" story. Up until now, I have not told the full story to anyone, not even my immediate family. It was actually a huge emotional struggle for me to have the courage to tell all of it, and it has taken a long time to write. But at this point I owe it to myself. Mind you, it is a long story! So if you really want to know, please bear with me as I share with you.
Even though my Cad Bane devotion currently defines my Star Wars fandom, I have been a Star Wars fan long before the character was even created. One weekend when I was about three years old, my family and I went to stay at an extended relative's house overnight. A lot of our family were there, and for a reason I do not know they decided to watch the Star Wars movies. At that time, only the Original Trilogy and Episode I had been released. I watched all four of them and was, in a word, starstruck. It was most definitely love at first sight. It was the first time that I had fallen in love with Star Wars, and I loved everything about it. The heroes, the villains, the droids, the ships, the costumes, the planets...everything. The darker elements of Episode V gave me nightmares for a week or so. But I especially loved the pod-racers, most notably Sebulba's. I have one memory of me, three years old, going up the stairs to bed after watching Menace as I was trying to imitate all the sound effects of blasters, lightsabers, pod-racers, and even Jar-Jar Binks.
My parents saw the Original Trilogy when it was released in theatres, so they already loved Star Wars to begin with. Thus, when my siblings and I saw the movies, my parents were more than willing to let us embrace the franchise. We started to adapt Star Wars into all our playtime. We collected Star Wars LEGO sets, played with toy lightsabers, and reenacted our favorite scenes. In 2002, our parents took us to see Episode II in theatres, which still ranks as one of my top-favorite movie theatre experiences of all time. Seeing it only made me love Star Wars even more! Plus all the Star Wars toys and other things that came out that year were fun to look at in ToysRUs, the gift shops, etc. But our favorite thing to do was play as the characters. I still bear a scar on my elbow from one particular "podrace" on our bicycles around the block that did not exactly run parallel to the film version. In the years leading up to the Episode III release, my siblings and I invented our own explanation for the events connecting the two trilogies; we had duels, theories, character deaths, everything planned out. Once it was out on DVD, our family even did a Bible study centered on themes from the Prequel Trilogy. I remember it well and how, even at a young age, Star Wars not just taught me how to be a kid but how to grow up the right way, how to treat others and how to forgive.
My life changed forever one year later, 2006. We moved four hundred miles out-of-state away from my hometown where I had spent my whole life. One moment I had plenty of friends, people who knew me since I was an infant, and overall a happy, easy, simple life. The next moment it was all traded away for a new place where I did not know anyone. I hated every bit of it from the start. Because of my introverted personality I had a hard time making friends in our new town, but my siblings had no trouble at all. When I did get attention, it was under the impression that there was something wrong with me, that I needed to "break out of my shell". Plus almost all my peers had known each other since they were very young. Anger and confusion consumed me in the weeks before and after the move. Everything changed so fast that life itself became terrifying where once it had been a joy. In the span of a few short months, I grew up quickly. Basically I felt like the whole world was against me, and I just wanted things to go back to how they were before.
However, during the chaos of the move, we happened upon our own copy of the Star Wars Original Trilogy, which I had not seen in years. I watched them, and I loved them so much that I started watching them over and over again. The old love I once found at age three rushed back all at once. Something clicked for me. After that I was officially "obsessed" with Star Wars and I developed a strong emotional attachment to it. It became the only thing that gave me joy and energy. I devoured Star Wars, is how I should put it. So, for the second time in my life, I had fallen in love with the franchise. Because I felt so poorly about myself, my Star Wars obsession was the only thing I thought I could actually be proud of. I sang songs about it, memorized the movies, acted as my favorite characters, and was guilty of all the unmentionable stuff young girls do when they are obsessed with something. I was convinced that Star Wars was the only thing people would ever like about me. Surely if people knew I loved something as cool as Star Wars they would think I was cool, too, right?
Well, it did not take long for that to be proven quite otherwise. Only a month after the move, I met a certain family in the community through a local ministry we were involved in. Through the ministry's get-togethers as well as my staying at the family's house on a couple occasions, we got to know each other fairly well. Pretty soon I had made it clear that I loved Star Wars and I would love to talk about it with them anytime they wanted. This was all in my growing desperate attempt to make friends, of course. Well, as it turned out, this family strongly disliked Star Wars because they thought it was "pagan" and Christians should not watch it. When they found out how much I loved it, I was given a new nickname: "the Star Wars freak." For the remainder of my involvement in the ministry, I was teased endlessly on the subject of my Star Wars obsession. It was brought up whenever the chance arose, which was often, and in every which and way it could be brought up. I could not tell how much of it was out of playful jest or because they actually thought I was a horrible person for liking something "pagan"; maybe both.
I hope they didn't mean to, but they hurt me a lot. To be made a bad person and a "freak" because of the one thing that I thought gave me value was nothing short of devastating. The little self-esteem I still had was whittled down to practically nothing. Two years after joining the ministry, I was finally able to leave, but the damage was done. Because of this as well as other events after the move that I won't go into, I accepted the belief that something was wrong with me as an unchangeable reality. I thought I was someone who didn't deserve love or friendship. Before my thirteenth birthday, I had begun experimenting with self-harm.
In the end, that family had ended up making me feel so embarrassed about my Star Wars obsession - literally, a "freak" - that I backed away from it completely. Loving Star Wars a second time had come with too much hurt. I did not want to have anything to do with it anymore. For the rest of my middle school years, I thought little to nothing of Star Wars, and any love I had had for it left me. I still played some of our Star Wars games with my siblings and I appreciated a quote from the movies from time to time, but it wasn't the same as before. I told myself I didn't care, that I had grown up. The obsession phase had died out and was replaced with bitterness.
And deep down, I was truly convinced that nothing would ever, ever make me love Star Wars again.
Of course, as you know, I did return to my Star Wars love...but how? That is where a certain bounty hunter comes in.
For about a year, I had been telling myself I did not like Star Wars. I did not self-harm nearly as much, but I was still miserable. During this time, by reading our monthly LEGO magazines, I heard of a new television series called "Star Wars: The Clone Wars". I knew a good deal about it but was not interested, and I had no intentions of watching it. And yet, I vividly recall one occurrence in 2009 when I was flipping through a magazine and saw a teaser poster for The Clone Wars. A poster which featured a blue alien donning an exotic cowboy hat and mechanical breathing tubes, with bright red eyes I described at the time as "sinister". (The picture on the right isn't the one I'm talking about, but it's close enough.) I remember looking at it again and being vaguely compelled by the odd-looking, unnamed character. I felt like I wanted to know what his name was and why he was a Star Wars villain. So in a way, I guess you could say I have loved Cad Bane since, even though at the time I did not so much as know his name. But once I put the magazine away, I forgot all about him.
Skip forward about another year. I had renewed my walk with Christ where I discovered my true value as a person, and I was finally beginning to heal and find joy in my new home. Then, one day, an acquaintance brought the movie "The Clone Wars" to our house for us to watch. I was not that interested, but my sister quickly developed an obsession with the television series. So to be a good big sister I sat through Season One with her and watched every episode. While I did not hate the show, I was turned off by seeing cartoon versions of the characters I had grown up admiring. Not to mention it was Star Wars, and I was the girl who would never give anyone reason to call her a "Star Wars freak" again. Then the finale episode "Hostage Crisis" came along, and I saw Cad Bane for the second time. I recognized him as the character in the magazine ad. Instantly, there was something about him that made me just plain like the character. I liked him the same way one would like a new pair of shoes. I thought he was a cool villain and at least gave me a reason to watch The Clone Wars. I admitted out loud that Cad Bane made the show "tolerable."
The more I realized those feelings were here to say, the more I began to embrace my love for the character. The first thing I did was start writing fanfiction, which was something I had never done up to that point, but the inspiration was kicking in fast. Then I began drawing Cad Bane as well as some other Star Wars characters I had forgotten I liked a lot as well. Later, in May 2012, I created this blog to seriously step out on a limb. But here is the sad part...I was actually quite late in expressing my love for Cad Bane on the Internet! By the time I had my fanfiction and a blog rolling, a lot of people who once loved the character had seemingly long lost interest. There were countless times I would be looking for someone to talk to about Cad Bane online, and I would find something they wrote, say, two years ago; and I would think "yay, another fan!", only to realize they had either stopped caring or didn't like the character anymore. Fortunately, my experience has not been entirely lonely. I have been blessed to find a few fans who are still as crazy as I am! (If you are reading this you know I am talking to you, and I honestly do not know where I would be if I never found you. It has been so much fun.)
For a while, I felt like I was treading on thin ice because I was afraid my previous bad experience with Star Wars would happen again. However, within two years of finding Cad Bane, I finally realized I had nothing to be embarrassed about all along. Because I had already found my value as a person through the place untouchable by any force of Heaven or Hell, my Star Wars love was something I could be proud of again. I now know that your value as a person is not judged by what you like or wear or own, but who you belong to. And once you know who that is, you are free to enjoy the things you like so that you are able to express yourself in passion and creativity without constantly searching for something to make you feel special. As long as it doesn't stray your heart from the right path, there is nothing wrong with embracing your interests, whatever they are. Now, I could not care less if people think I am a freak or a bad person for being a Star Wars fan. I do not have anything to prove to anyone.
In fact, since looking back on how Star Wars and the character Cad Bane have impacted me, I have finally been able to tell my family about my self-harm and things that happened during and after the move, which up until now I had hidden from them. I am not going to hide it anymore, and I am going to stop pretending that I do not know what it's like to be there. It is a part of the past, and the new me has decided my past is not something to be ashamed of, but something I can open up about to show that there is hope for everyone.
And so, for the third time in my life, I fell in love with Star Wars. It was all because of Cad Bane.
From here on I cannot stress the impact that my third falling in love with Star Wars has been on my life. If the first love was for childhood adventures, the second to survive a life crisis, then the third would be a catalyst for a growing list of incredible blessings and opportunities. To begin with, I discovered a new interest in fanfiction, which has helped improve my writing abilities incredibly. I cannot even compare the quality of my writing to before I started fanfiction. In addition, fanfiction opened me up to online reading and publication. This interested me and I started doing more research on the subject. Soon I found out about the growing popularity of e-books in the world of literature. I learned how easy and increasingly popular it is to self-publish your books online. I was inspired with the idea to make my novel, "Resistance", into an e-book on Amazon.com, and in January 2013, I became a self-published author! This in itself has been an amazing part of my life since, and not because I found a way to make profit off my work, but because it was a huge milestone for me as a writer and as a person.
I have also found a hidden passion for art, which I am doing much more of now because I found things I actually want to draw. Before Cad Bane, I drew maybe a few times a year. Now it is daily. Art has helped me express myself and channeled a level in me I never knew was there before. I am learning and brainstorming constantly for art. It has been overall great fun and I know that all those sketchbooks would still be empty right now without Cad Bane. I am now considering expressing some things from my younger years that would be too painful to write, but I could draw them.
I know what you're thinking: "oh, of course, a girl only loves a character because she thinks he's attractive." And I am going to be honest, that was me at first. To say I loved Cad Bane back then for all the reasons I do now would be a lie. However, to say that this is the only reason the character is so close to me would also be unfair. I often hear it said that your favorite characters reflect a part of you, and looking at my roster of favorites I could not agree more. On that note, Cad Bane is the most accurate personification of my dark side that I have ever seen in a fictional character. On my worst days - or should I say, many days from my past - I identify with Cad Bane 100%. I could talk on that subject for a long time; how we (we as in, Cad Bane in general and me at my worst) are both control freaks, wanting to either be a loner or the boss, manipulative, calculating, and so on. It's the downright truth, if you want to see all my bad spots, just take a look at Cad Bane. But I also need to add that seeing the worst in you within a character can actually help you in the long run. It helps you label exactly where those things come from and understand how you can go about dealing with them. Sometimes, like in my case, it even helps reveal issues you may not have even realized were issues at all. While I cannot say that God and family have not been the biggest contributors to this for me, I can say that Cad Bane - who is my dark side - has been a helper.
Now, here I have to make one point especially clear. For all the years before I fell in love with Cad Bane, I never associated myself so closely or strongly with a fictional character. I love a lot of characters both Star Wars and non Star Wars, of course, but there was never once a character that stood out to me among the rest. Never a character I wanted to wear as a badge so I could say, "Hello, I'm Elian Lisette, and I love ______." Never a character I would even think of turning into my logo or my trademark. That was because fictional characters hadn't really done much for me as a person. Cad Bane changed that for me forever. My attachment to the character was incredibly strong since day one, and it only grows stronger as time goes by. I see so much of myself in him...so, so much (sorry if that gives you the creeps; I would never kidnap babies, I promise!). It is so strong it has gotten to the point where I feel anything the character feels. He smiles, I smile; he's angry, I'm angry; he hurts, I hurt; period. He is the only character I would describe myself as a hardcore "fan" of. The only character that is a mirror-perfect reflection of all my "bad parts". No other character comes even remotely close to the level of impact Cad Bane has had on me. Now he defines my love for Star Wars and for, I should even say, the realm of fiction in general, as crazy as it sounds. No other fictional character can ever replace the spot Cad Bane has claimed in my heart.
I would not have said this years ago, but I can say it now. Of all the things that have been a positive influence on my life, I can honestly say that Star Wars has been one of them. It has taught me important lessons from the beginning. It showed me how to be a kid, then helped me through a crisis, and now it has brought me new inspirations and new friends. It is the only franchise that I would say brings out the "geek" in me. I love it to death, and nothing about my love for Star Wars embarrasses me anymore. And I would not be able to say any of those things without Cad Bane.
When I look at the character now, I do not so much see the wide-brimmed hat, the alien features, or the sinister red eyes that I saw all those years ago in the magazine teaser. Instead, I see all that has become since. All I've done, how much I've grown, the people I've met, the things I've learned, and how much I dearly look forward to all that is to come.
So when I say I love the character of Cad Bane, I do. I love his cold attitude and his ability to manipulate. I love his Duro physical characteristics; like the red eyes and blue skin, for starters. I love the outfit; I am a country girl and I have always loved me some cowboys, so to finally see a Star Wars villain with a western vibe drew me in immediately. I love his sharp, smooth voice distorted by the breathing tubes, as well as his Hungarian dialect. I love how he fits into Star Wars canon and yes, I do love the hat.
But I am saying more than that. I am saying that were it not for watching The Clone Wars and falling in love with Cad Bane, I would not be the person I am today. Of all my favorite Star Wars characters, it was Cad Bane who taught me how to love Star Wars again. I was freed from the shackle of thinking I was a freak and a bad person for loving it. Without him, I would not be a better writer. I would not be a self-published author. I would not be an artist. I would not understand myself as well as I do now, nor would I have come to terms with a lot of my own darkness. I never would have met my best friend forever and many awesome fellow fans. Because of him, I have found love and excitement and adventure and new ways of expressing myself. I have the desire and the courage to keep writing, drawing, blogging, and dreaming of future adventures on the horizon. I have been able to open up more about my past. I am happier, I am stronger, and I am more comfortable being "me" than ever. And I owe all of it to one character and one character alone.
And at the end of it all, no matter how many other likes, interests, or "fandoms" pile up that I love and no matter how much any of them mean to me, Star Wars will always be The Fandom. The one that was there from the beginning and will always be with me. And that being said, Cad Bane will always be my favorite character. He did for me what no other character has done or will do. He filled a role no one will come remotely close to. He holds a place in my heart no one will ever, ever touch.
He is my dark side, but he has brought so much light into my life.