There are a number of ways to judge someone. The tactics they employ. The motivations that get them there. The end goal they have in sight. For argument’s sake, let’s agree we’re judging a person or organization based on their actions. Agreed? Good. Now we can easily see that in a galaxy far, far away…it’s not so easy to say who is good and who is bad.
Let’s start with the basics. We’ve all known since the moment we were introduced to Star Wars that the Jedi, Rebels, and Resistance are the good guys- the source of the light side, the protectors of peace, defenders of the innocent. The Sith, Empire, and First Order are as bad as they come. Take a deeper look at the way they get to their goals and it’s not so black and white.
The Jedi should be the easiest to agree upon. Of course they’re good. The spent centuries defending those who couldn’t defend themselves. The epitome of the Light Side. Does it change our opinion on them when we consider how they stayed so strong? After all, it’s the exact same way as the First Order. As FN-2187 says, they take children from their families, never knowing their homes or parents, and train them to become warriors. It could be excused if they truly became guardians, but all they became are generals and soldiers who brought war to planets who only wanted peace.
The tactics the Jedi took are excused since it was a common practice at that point. That said, slavery was also a common practice. Paralleling the two really cause one to question.
As we find more and more in the new canon, human trafficking wasn’t necessarily favored, but it was easy to turn the other way. The best case scenario was that the slaver was kind, like Watto. Yes, he was a slaver. Yes, he put a chip in his property that would make them explode if they tried to escape. But, he treated them fairly and kept families together as best he could. If we bring Legends material into the argument, Tatooine Ghost shows how he truly cared about each of them and worried about Anakin every day.
While the previous movies hint at it, the new canon makes it totally clear – any side is evil if you take it too far. The Force Awakens shows how the Jedi and First Order are similar.
In Lost Stars and Bloodline, they come right out and say it: the Rebels are terrorists. This small band of do-gooders overcame the oppressive thumb. Lost Stars shows us a handful of the millions of innocent lives they took that day. How many Imperial officers killed in that attack believed they were doing the right thing with their service. Bloodline says it outright- the Rebels were terrorists. Who else could kill so many innocent people in a single attack?
Saw Gerrera epitomizes how even dipping one’s toe into the water can case a full nose dive to happen. Mon Mothma, in Rogue One, says his methods have become too extreme. We see a small bit of them in Rogue One, but Rebel Rising really shows how far the brutality went. Between the two mediums, there really aren’t many heroes when you judge them based on tactics.
Our typical heroes kill innocent people and our villains are able to defend their actions.
The clearest way to look at this is through the new canon of Grand Admiral Thrawn. To make this short, throw out everything we were introduced to in lLegends – both good and bad – and only consider what we know through Rebels and Thrawn. Of course we hate him in Rebels. He’s going after our beloved Phoenix Squadron. He never goes too far, though. Hera and her crew always have a solid chance to escape, not because Thrawn is weak, but because he’s humane. As we see in the newest novel, he cares so deeply about the final weight of victory compared to the resources being used.
This is something Luke did not consider when he fired the proton torpedo. That the First Order ignores. That the Jedi forgot. And that The Last Jedi must speak to.