Star Wars Canon and the Exploration of Extremism

by Lindsey Guidotti

We hold these truths to be self-evident— Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and the Rebels are heroes. Darth Vader, the Emperor, and the Sith are villains. The Light Side is always good. The Dark Side is always bad. George Lucas has said plenty of times in the past 40 years that this is the point of Star Wars.

What if the point of the new canon is exactly the opposite? What if they’re trying to show the hypocrisy of either side and how the ones in the middle are the only real heroes?

We’ve been taught that there’s a spectrum of good to evil a person or organization can fall on. The Jedi and the Rebels are all the way on the “good” side, with the Sith and Empire way over on the “bad.” Most recently, we have the First Order occupying the same space as the Empire on that spectrum. They have vile methods — abducting children from their families to be raised as stormtroopers. It’s a heartless and unacceptable practice. Except when the Jedi did it.

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These are the same Jedi who claimed absolute power and the right to assassinate an elected official in an attempt to stop him from gaining absolute power. This Order branded themselves as defenders of peace while spending their last years carrying out a war.

It might not be fair to categorize every Jedi, or Imperial for that matter, as a hypocrite. We now know that even while the Empire enslaved entire species and blasted cities into thin air, most people had no idea what was going on. Certain officers, like Ciena Ree, just wanted order, peace, and social mobility. Others, like Kallus in the first two seasons of Rebels, knew what was going on but stood silent, falling to the morally bankrupt side of the spectrum.

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With so many ways to defend certain actions, how do we judge where people fall on the spectrum? By their actions? Then the rebels are absolutely evil, having killed over a million people when they destroyed the Death Star. Their motivation? Poe Dameron doesn’t grasp the real point of the Resistance until just before The Force Awakens. His motivation to join was just to pilot. Their end goal? Then Vader killing younglings could be justified since he was trying to save others.

And can a person really be judged if they aren’t aware of both sides?

Let’s consider Thane Kyrell. He was an Imperial poster boy, until he witnessed the horrors of slavery first-hand. When he told Ciena, she didn’t even care. It’s a level of callous indifference that’s almost impossible to defend. Kanan Jarrus, on the other hand, was completely apathetic to either side, until he was personally touched by what the Empire had done and joined the Rebel Alliance. At what point in their arc can we say that any of them have fallen on one spot on the spectrum?

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If the new canon keeps warning of us the dangers of extremism on either side, what does that mean for The Last Jedi?

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