The moral confusion of Star Wars - Steve

So we went to see Episode III the other night. I enjoyed the plot's struggle between good and evil, light versus dark, the self-devouring nature of evil (Anakin choking Padme toward the end), the self-deception of evil (I want power to protect YOU, Anakin says early on), as well as the politics between the Jedi and Emperor. The latter's seduction of Anakin through offering power, sowing seeds of envy and pride against the other Jedi was also good. There were some interesting visual cues to the struggle: as the movie went on the contrast intensified in different scenes getting progressively brighter and darker. Obe Won wearing white and Anakin black during their duel was an obvious one.

But, oh, that duel. Right in the middle of it, in response to a forgotten line by Anakin, Obe Won says, "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." (Sith is the darkside equivalent to a Jedi.) I laughed out loud. Right at the climactic fighting scene, I was incredulous at the moral stupidity of these people. So, only a bad guy believes in moral absolutes? Only a bad guy believes in good and bad? Huh? This was the lie that the emperor told Anakin, to turn him against the Jedi: they're not really "good," you know, just out for power like every one else. Oh really?

I was amused in that shake the head and smirk sort of way, but I still enjoyed the movie, because the whole premise is based on the goodness of freedom, democracy, accountability, etc. and the badness of selfish ambition, pride, envy and death. Apparently, this "Only a Sith deals in absolutes" line was a bone the writers threw to the philosophical relativists in the crowd. Talk about inconsistent.

There are other things going on I don't like about Star Wars - the whole balance of the Force, where the presence of evil (the dark side) seems morally neutral and needed for "balance;" and the impersonal nature of the Force, analogous to the Holy Spirit. But if you can navigate the bad and glean the good, there is some edifying material here. Redeem the culture, I say; no need to trash it. Though with movie tickets these days, it's getting a little pricy to redeem this part of the culture...

The non-stop action got annoying, and almost seemed intentional to make up for such a shallow plot. It seems so much more could have been done in connecting other episode details, or adding new ones. Oh, well.

Not sure why, but I also made some Bush-critical connections. Isn't he the emperor who uses a war to increase his own power? Right. Or is he a Jedi, seeking to keep dictators accountable? Search your feelings, Anakin, and you will know...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:05 AM

    Hi, Steve. It's Conrad.

    I was also annoyed by the "balance of the Force" issue that showed up in Episode I. I understood it as a yin-yang eastern philosophical element being introduced into a western good vs. evil framework. But I thought Episode III cleared it up. If I remember correctly, Obi Wan said that the chosen one was supposed to eliminate the Sith in order to bring balance to the Force. So they salvaged the western philosophy in the end.