Aug 12 2013 9:00am

5 Reasons Why Han Solo is the Most Realistic Person in Star Wars

Han Solo Princess Leia Empire Strikes Back

Essayist Ashley Cardiff makes an astute observation about Star Wars in her new book Night Terrors. In an essay titled “Nightmares,” she points out how, as children, we go from loving Luke Skywalker to loving Han Solo. Cardiff writes:

“But right about 10 or so, I started thinking Han Solo was the more charming and interesting of the two. This is because Luke represents chastity and virtue while Han Solo represents cock.”

Yes! We love Han Solo because he is sexy, but we think Han’s pervasive appeal might be even more interesting than that. The real reason Han Solo is so well loved is because he’s a very realistic character, way more realistic in fact than anyone else in all the films. Here’s why.

He’s Broke/In Debt

Han Solo Greedo

Star Wars may not depict a world in which people read or write, but they do still have to have jobs and make money. Luke’s family has to get by selling moisture to… somebody, while Dexter Jexter runs a diner where people still pay way too much for gross food. The point is, Star Wars isn’t a utopian, Captain Picard, money-doesn’t-exist world. No. People still have jobs. And Han is the classic person who got caught up in the system. He’s got a lot of old debts, not because he’s a bad person, but because he is a person. Sure, he’s technically a criminal, but as any good anthropologist will tell you, a lot of that comes out of class and upbringing. We’re not saying Jabba is like a credit card company, or student loans, or the IRS, but his hold over Han represents an unreasonable debt that’s hard to handle.


He’s Sort of Embarrassed by His Cooler Friends

Han Solo Luke Skywalker Return of the Jedi

If Han were one of your real friends, he’d be the guy who gets a little too drunk at the bar, and also probably can’t pay his tab. He’s also going to be the funniest person there and the one guy you always want to go out with, night after night. This is a strange paradox of certain friends. Han Solo claims he doesn’t trust Lando Calrissan, but “he is my friend.” Oddly, this is exactly how all of Han’s friends see him—he’s kind of a flake, but he means well, and after a while of hanging out with his cooler friends, they shame him into acting like a grownup. Han projects this onto other people like Lando by hurling around the world “respectable” as an insult. When you’ve never quite escaped from your immature phase, everyone who is acting like an adult is a phony to you. Is Han Solo like Holden Caulfield in space? Maybe a bit.


His Ability to Play it Cool Disappears When He’s in a Real Relationship

Han Solo Princess Leia Return of the Jedi

We’ve all been there. You first meet someone and you start to flirt with them. You are on fire! Full of so many quirky, witty things to say, expressing your affection in roundabout, clever turns of phrases (“I’m a nice man,” or “I know”). Through all this excellent flirty hard work, the object of your affections melts, and then you are totally dating. But what happens after that? Well, sometimes you lose your cool. Your ability to be fast and flirty with a good remark is gone, because well, you’re just so in love. This is exactly what happens to Han in Return of the Jedi. He turns into a whiny boyfriend who is constantly wondering, “Why isn’t she talking to me?” or “Is she mad at me?” and the whole time is thinking, “I love her soooo much!” This is good, nice and normal. But it’s certainly not “cool.” But hey, who said love was “cool?”


He is the Most Un-P.C. Guy in the Whole Saga

Han Solo C-3PO Empire Strikes Back

Sure, he’s got a Wookiee for a best friend, but Han Solo clearly has some prejudices that he wears on his sleeves. He’s flat-out abusive to C-3PO, for one—yeah, the Golden One can be irritating, but so can Han’s recklessness, so he doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on there. While Leia and Luke treat 3PO like another person, working to calm him when he gets too worked up, Han just yells at Chewie to hook him up to the ship like a recharging smartphone. He dumps on people for their stature—“Short help’s better than no help at all, Chewie.” He steps on the tail of Jabba the Hutt, then leaves with the parting shot of “You’re a wonderful human being.” (We know that scene was originally done with a human actor, but the line comes off differently in the final CGI-ed cut.) He’s not particularly nice to older people either, given the extreme attitude he takes up whenever Obi-Wan opens his mouth. Han’s that young guy who is convinced that he’s got all the answers; the Force is a sham, Ewoks are primitive idiots, droids are only good for their computing capacity. And when things go against his personal version of the galaxy, he gets a bit tetchy.


He Doesn’t Have the Confidence to Realize That His Skills Are Valuable, A.K.A. He Could Get A Better Job

Han Solo Chewie Empire Strikes Back

Han Solo is a star pilot, capable of keeping his beloved Falcon together with duct tape and bubble gum. He brags about his credentials a whole bunch, but when the going gets rough he nearly backs out on the Rebellion and his new friends. Why would he do that when he’s so skilled? Because Han doesn’t actually think his expertise is worth much. If he did, he’d have a better job by the time Luke and Obi-Wan showed up in the Mos Eisley Cantina. You know the type—those friends who could be the next great generation of entrepreneurs if they’d just admit that they had skills other people need. “You could be an incredible personal shopper!” you tell them. And they say, “No, shopping’s not actually a real ability, hon.” That person who bakes the most incredible cookies you’ve ever tasted, but refuses to sell them. Well, Han makes award-winning cranberry oatmeal cookies, but he refuses to believe anyone wants them. And of course, his time with the Rebellion changes him; once he realizes that they do find him valuable as a pilot and a fighter and a leader, he starts to grow up bit by bit.


So there you have it! Han Solo is by far the most realistic person in Star Wars, and maybe that’s the true reason why he gets all the love from fans—we see bits of ourselves in him. We take one look at that guy and go, hey! If he can marry the princess and become a respected resistance fighter, maybe all that time I spend plugging away at my guitar until four in the morning? My student debts? My paranoia over my new relationship? Maybe these are all just steps on my road to heroism.

Ryan Britt wants to make it clear that you like him because he’s a scoundrel—there aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.

Emily Asher-Perrin doesn’t know where you get your delusions, laserbrain.

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1. JMSaunders
One of the (many) things the prequal trilogy desperately needed was a "Han" character people could relate to.

Han is the Everyman. He's not royalty. He doesn't have any magical powers or a Destiny. He's the normal guy who gets caught up in events bigger than he is through no fault of his own, and he rises to the occasion.

None of the prequal characters fit that role.
Anthony Pero
2. anthonypero
Much of that is, of course, the way Harrison Ford chose to play Han, rather than how Han was initially written.
Chris Nelly
3. Aeryl
I really like this article. It's all SO true.
4. SarahSparrow
"Is Han Solo like Holden Caulfield in space?"

... Why are trying to ruin Han for me? I hate Holden Caulfield more than I hate Jar-Jar Binks.
5. ghosttie
Also, he shoots first
TW Grace
6. TWGrace
To steal a meme:

Be like Han.

Gregg Anderson
7. digrifter
@#5 by ghosttie

That's all I thought was missing! He certainly shot first!

Dan Rice
8. driceman
@1: More accurately, the prequel trilogy needed ANYONE we could relate to.
9. Willp
I somewhat have issues with #5. I don't think confidence is what Han was lacking. I think the issue would be more about trust and control issues. If I remember my expanded universe history correctly, every authority Han has ever dealt with has been corrupt. Han is a man of honor, more or less. Not being able to work within the system, be it The Empire, The Corporate Sector, or whatever, his only option was his own ship, and living on the raggedy edges.
It wasn't until the Rebellion/New republic came along, and he actually got to know people involved with it that he realized they were actually trying to make a difference, and not just "more of the same"
John Adams
10. JohnArkansawyer
One of the (many) things the prequal trilogy desperately needed was a "Han" character people could relate to.

Han is the Everyman. He's not royalty. He doesn't have any magical powers or a Destiny. He's the normal guy who gets caught up in events bigger than he is through no fault of his own, and he rises to the occasion.

None of the prequal characters fit that role.
I saw this movie for the first time with my daughter recently, and I beg to differ. That character is Jar-Jar Binks.
Caleb Huitt
11. cjhuitt
I just want to say that some of those screenshots have the greatest goofy expressions shown. Whoever picked them was genius.
Alan Brown
12. AlanBrown
Among all the 'special' characters in SF, we need a few characters, or at the very least, characteristics, that we can relate to. And that is where Han comes in. I would submit that, with their Laurel and Hardy relationship, C-3PO and R2D2, despite their metallic natures, are characters that we can relate to as well.
13. Stephen Scanlon
He DIDN'T shoot first if he stepped on Jabba The Hutt's tail.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
14. Lisamarie
Oh, I love this :)

Although I must quibble with the opening premise. When I first became a Star Wars fan, I was all about Han - he was charismatic, witty, rugged, exciting...

But after a year or so, as I got more and more into analyzing the movies (as well as more introspective), while I remain a huge fan of his character development and transition from selfish loner (at least on the surface) to a real member of something more than himself and in communion with others, Luke won my heart - perhaps he is not as cool/flashy, but I found his idealism and overall good-guy ness much more attractive. In many ways, Luke Skywalker was my first love and it's probably no coincidence that the man I married has more in common with Luke than Han (and also is one of the few men I know who prefers Luke to Han as a character - most men seem more drawn towards Han in my experience). Or that I named my first born after him (and people think I meant the saint ;) )
15. Dianthus
I was 7 when A New Hope came out in theaters. I think Han was my favorite even then (and, yeah, he totally shot first). I have a thing for the charming rogue with a good heart. I loved Remington Steele back in the day, and Spike will always be my favorite Buffy character.
Han could pilot my ship any day.
16. Llama
@10. It's true. Jar Jar is the only actual person in the prequels. He has a real personality, an arc in which he has agency, and relatable flaws; which is far more than can be said for anyone else in those films. I get why people think he's annoying, but he is not what's wrong with Episode 1.

I didn't go through this supposed process of moving on from Luke to Han. I've always liked them both, but I like Luke best. He is an extremely admirable character, a sheltered, starry-eyed kid who has to grow up very suddenly in a trial by fire and perservere through massive amounts of crap, but who never gives up on his idealism. He's a classic hero, but he's still very human. Everyone goes on about how he's a whiny teenager in New Hope, but I mean EXACTLY. That's where he started and look where he ended up! That's what makes him an inspiring character.

Also, I take issue with this because Han is the impossibly cool rogue character that everyone wants to be and whose mike is never off. Luke is the Everyman. He is a textbook Everyman. Literally: Star Wars deliberately evokes the classic Hero's Journey as it is described in literary criticism and Luke is the archetypal hero. That's what makes it such a universally appealing story, because it is the most basic story we tell ourselves told well and filled out with awesome world-building and unique, memorable, believable characters.
Anthony Pero
17. anthonypero

I have to disagree regarding Luke being an everyman. At least by how I've always heard that described in literary terms, the everyman is the character with no special skills, no special destiny, nothing that makes him need to be the hero or save the day. Luke is the son of the most ruthless mass murderer in the universe, his family is heavily involved in prophecies regarding the balance of the force, and he has access to a power that is beyond imagining, and he's the strongest in that power to come along in a very long time. There is no way that Luke fills the literary role of everyman. He's everything the everyman is not.
James Decker
18. deckergeek
I used to find Luke the most amazing character until I was about 23. Then it was all about Han Solo. This is the best commentary on Star Wars I've read in ages. Thanks for making me smile!
19. SueQ
For me, Han was the man! Always. From the very beginning. I was sneered at and told: 'But Luke is the hero'. I didn't care: I liked Han (& Chewie, of course). Years later, all I can say is : HA !!!! Told you so.
20. BassmanC
@#4 SarahSparrow

Amen. I f#$%ing hate Holden Caulfield. The only character remotely like him in Star Wars is Luke in the beginning of Episode 4 or Anakin in Episodes 2 and 3, and neither was anyhwere near as annoying.

Please don't ruin Han by comparing him to that worthless lump of literary garbage.
21. randy streu
Luke was a whiner and I disliked him from the first moment I saw him, until he arrived, fully formed, in Return.

Like many others, it's always been Han. Great article, though... his relatability is exactly what makes him a great character. You get the feeling that, under the right circumstances, ANYONE could be as cool as he is.
seth johnson
22. seth
.... and then we cut to Corsucant where Princess Leia is consulting with Landau Calrissian. Now it looks like they're just having a real intense meeting about trade regulations... I will NOT finish my speaking... about trade regulations. But when the rest of the council meeting leaves, they fall in each others' arms. Oh my god! Laundau Calrissian and Princess Leia are having an affair, because Laundau Calrissian was like, "Hey, if I'm going to lose the Millenium Falcon to you, I'll just take your woman." AND HE HAS.

24. lorq
In the first "Star Wars" film, Han is also the most "realistic" in the sense that he plays the role of the cynic -- the foil to Luke's idealism. Once he enters the story, he becomes the stand-in for the grown-ups in the audience, looking on with skepticism at the freedom-fighters and feeling no connection to their cause. His line, "Kid, I've been from one side of the galaxy to the other...", directly expresses this theme, and I'd argue is *the* most important line in the whole film.
25. Sargonarhes
So you are saying people today are dumber like Jar Jar that they were back when Star Wars first shows like the every guy Han Solo.
I'm sure I can agree with that, but I see myself as more of a Han Solo fool than a Jar Jar idiot.
This article is idiotic and it's authors are idiotic. Why don't you try seeing the film for what it is instead of forcing your shitty little dead-end personalities on it.
27. gern
Plus, he grabbed Leia's boob at the imperial base on Endor. :) Respect.

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