Archive for Opinion

“For a Thousand Generations…” – Evolving Jedi Philosophy from Star Wars to The Last Jedi

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On April 15th, 2017, the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released to the thunderous roar of a thousand live attendees at Celebration Orlando and the individual cheers of viewers at home. The trailer closed with a line from Luke Skywalker, uttered in a gravelly voice and tinged with foreboding, “I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Cue the launching of a thousand speculations as people wondered what exactly those words meant for the Jedi and the overall philosophy of the Force in the Star Wars universe.

When Star Wars came out in 1977 the concept of the Jedi, as explained by Ben Kenobi, was relatively simple – the Jedi were space-age knights, chivalrous and inherently good, wielding a mystical energy field that was ever-present but relatively unexamined and mysterious. Juxtaposed against the evil of the fallen Jedi Knight Darth Vader in a space-fantasy play, it seemed their position as the relative “good guys” was pretty much sealed.

Over the course of the original trilogy we got to explore aspects of the Jedi and their relationship with the Force. I’ve always felt that Star Wars was conceived as an adventurous morality play with the dynamic of the light side versus the dark side as the center theme of the classic films. Although it can be argued that Jedi believe in the yin and the yang of the Force where the light and dark comprise a whole that ties the galaxy together, they are firm believers that the “yang” or “light” side of the Force is morally right. Their actions and philosophies reflect this attitude and are not challenged within the original trilogy itself. » Read more..

Everybody Lives: Rebels and Character Death

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Star Wars Rebels has just wrapped up its third season with the biggest Empire-versus-Rebellion showdown we’ve yet scene from the show. Prior to the episode, speculation swirled around the promised battle, with many wondering just exactly how the rebels we know and love are going to make it out of thione. And, inevitably and tiresomely, spirited discussion sprang up around which Ghost character would die in the ensuing conflict.

It’s not the first time there has been speculation around a major character dying in the show. Like clockwork, the closer we get to a season finale, the more discussion there is about why someone on the Ghost needs to bite it. Rex and/or Zeb needs to go out in a blaze of glory. Kanan needs to die for pathos and so the fandom can make tragic fics about Hera. Ezra needs to die because of a thousand and one reasons (the main one being that the majority of the older fanbase finds him irredeemably annoying). They all have to die because we don’t see or hear anything about them in the original trilogy. Inevitably, it all comes down to fans wanting to see that things are different, that the rebels have finally faced a serious threat and come up short and now have to find a way to overcome.

And yes, that’s certainly a good (and necessary) narrative to explore. After all, it’s not exciting if your heroes never face any serious challenges or defeats. But why is it that we automatically go to “major character death” as the best way to show the severity of a threat or to shake up the status quo?

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Republic Rising – A Political and Cartographic Look at the Post-Galactic Concordance Galaxy

It’s a year since the Battle of Endor. As the dust settles on and above Jakku, the Aftermath (pun intended) of the climactic battle of the Galactic Civil War leaves the New Republic the sole major galactic power. Rebuilding, reparations, and de-militarization are the orders of the day. Yet, even after the signing of the Concordance under an ancient tintolive tree on Chandrila, the galaxy’s political alignments are still taking form. Chancellors, emperors, presidents, and warlords across the galaxy now have to decide where their allegiances lie. The New Republic – egalitarian, democratic, and freedom-loving – is eager to expand its ranks, but equally content to let worlds choose their own paths. The wounds left by the Clone Wars, the Empire’s harsh rule, and the Galactic Civil War can now heal – but scars will remain.

Thanks to books like Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, Bloodline, and various other canon sources, we now have a good idea of how the New Republic grew and expanded between Jakku and the destruction of Hosnian Prime. Yet, other powers emerged too. Large regions remained neutral, some to harbor the worlds that would be the harbingers of the First Order. The New Republic, victorious but still fledgling, comes of age in this galaxy. So, join me as we chart the political alignments and leanings of the galaxy in the years following the signing of the Galactic Concordance.
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The Case For a Reconstructed Thrawn

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Ages and ages ago, I wrote a really long “Top 20 Expanded Universe Moments” piece for my personal blog at StarWars.com, which was a thing they let you have once.1 Most of it was the kind of thing your typical EU fan would gush over, but two entries were devoted to stories totally outside Legends continuity—what was then called Infinities.

One, actually my third most memorable moment, was a standalone Darth-Vader-versus-Darth-Maul story from Star Wars Tales, which sounds like the fanwankiest thing ever (and I mean, it was) but also happened to be a very interesting examination of Vader through the lens of a much more straightforward, dogmatic Sith Lord—who nevertheless proved to be the weaker of the two. The other was from the Infinites retelling of A New Hope, in which Han ends up accompanying Luke to Dagobah and, being a con man himself, immediately sees through the hermit routine—“this guy’s Yoda!”

What these two stories had in common was that they offered really interesting insights and character moments that couldn’t have happened in continuity as it was then.2 Ideally, that was the entire point of Infinities as a branding—not only can “what if” tales be great stories in their own right, but they can enhance our understanding of characters’ “true selves”, by showing how they might comport themselves in far-fetched circumstances. » Read more..

  1. If you’re interested, I ported it over to ETE when we got started here—it’s a pretty good snapshot of my tastes and priorities back when the EU was the only game in town. []
  2. Maul ended up coming back for real, of course, but that’s neither here nor there. []

Selfish Love: Why the Jedi Were Right About Attachment

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It’s a common take: the Jedi were wrong to forbid “attachment,” and Luke proved this by saving the galaxy through his love for his father.

Themes are always open to interpretation, and my reading is a little different. I’d argue that the Jedi were, broadly, correct, and whatever the flaws in their approach, I firmly believe George Lucas meant for us to view his story as a warning against the jealousy and greed that arise from becoming overly attached.

What is “attachment”?

The key is to understand what is actually meant by “attachment” in Star Wars. Anakin explains it in Attack of the Clones:

Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion – which I would define as unconditional love – is central to a Jedi’s life. So you might say that we are encouraged to love.

Attachment, here, is one manifestation of love – one tied up with “possession,” and separated from the selflessness of compassion. Yoda reinforces this in Revenge of the Sith:

Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is. (…) Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

“Jealousy” is used here in its true sense. It is not the same as “envy,” which is wanting something that somebody else has; “jealousy” is the fear that somebody or something in your possession will be taken from you.

The influence of Buddhism on Lucas’s thinking is well documented, and echoes of its ideas are undeniable here. In Buddhist terms, attachment can be defined as “exaggerated not wanting to be separated from someone or something.” Compassion is the selflessness of “wishing others to be free from suffering.” To traditional Buddhists, attachment is the path to misery, because change is inevitable; to gain peace, we must accept change and learn to let go. » Read more..

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