Monday, April 15, 2013

Confession # 3: I think the Old Jedi Order was run by emotionally disturbed morons.

I know there are a lot of fans out there who think the Jedi are awesome.  You know, they run around in robes and wave big shiny swords with blades made of light.  They have cool mental powers, and they make a lot of mystic-sounding noise about peace, balance, and trusting their feelings.

A closer look at the Old Order Jedi we've seen in the Star Wars films shows a group of people who don't know anything about their own feelings beyond a vague kind of intuition that they get when the Force tugs them in one direction or another.  These people live very long lives, and anything we know about their backgrounds indicates that they've spent a great deal of that time involved in social or military conflicts.  So they know very little about external peace, but are expected to maintain a constant sense of inner peace.  The dichotomy leaves most of them pretty unbalanced and badly equipped to have relationships of any kind.

On paper, the tenets of the Old Jedi Order look great.

  • Respect all life, no matter what form it takes.
  • Avoid aggressive behavior and don't act in anger.
  • Use your special powers responsibly and not for your own gain.
  • Practice self control and don't be ruled by your feelings or desires.

Somewhere along the way, though, everything got turned around.  In the Prequel films, we see a Jedi Order run by beings who think all personal attachments are a bad thing.  For most people, ties to home, family, and friends are positive influences and motivators.  They're not automatically things that lead to obsession and destructive outbursts.  The Jedi were so paranoid about falling to the Dark Side that they let that fear be a controlling factor in any doctrine or policy they adopted.

I think the attachment rule was more of a plot contrivance than anything else.  It's used when screenwriters or EU novelists need it and ignored or written around (even in Prequel Era material) when it's inconvenient.  It's impossible to write a story without characters who, in some way or other, form attachments.  Each author is pretty much left to decide for him or herself whether those relationships are going to throw up red flags based on the attachment rule.  Some older EU novels that were written before the Prequel films have had their backstory elements retconned in an attempt to make them fit the now-established film canon, but usually this ends up convoluted and stupid-sounding too.

Whether the rule was a plot device or not, if we take it seriously at all, we have to look at what it says about the Jedi who believed in and (at least nominally) enforced it.  I understand the idea that extreme and unhealthy attachments often cause serious collateral damage, and I know that the Prequel Era films were intentionally written to deal with this issue, but the Jedi should have been able to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy attachments.  Instead of trying to make that differentiation, they made a sweeping policy that almost always plays a strong role in any story dealing with the fall of an Old Order Jedi to the Dark Side.  I'd like to know how the Jedi Council--which was supposed to have been made up of the wisest beings in the Order--managed to go so long without making a connection.

There's a lot more I could say here, but I think I've made the main point.  I don't want to turn this into a dissertation.  Next week, I'll talk a bit about the Sith Order and why I think they were actually less disturbed than the Jedi.

No comments:

Post a Comment