A recent issue of the Dr. Aphra comic sums up how Lucasfilm defines those considered good and those considered bad. “Evil’s just a measure of how much your choices take away other people’s. A thesis worth testing —don’t you think?”
I think it’s absolutely a thesis worth testing, because it has it backwards. Taking someone’s choices away isn’t simply a measurement of evil. Instead, being the one whose choices are taken away is what breeds evil.
The most obvious examples of someone’s choices being taken from them are those in slavery. We have three very different samples of slavery in Star Wars:
- Watto and Anakin
- Dryden Vos and Qi’ra
- Jabba and Leia
These samples span different amount of times and three extremely different relationships between the owner and slave. While the owners all make different, unique choices, the end result is the same – the slave turns to evil.
Watto and Anakin come from a culture where slavery is the norm, and also the most similar to how we would define it today. The owner is in full control of the slave who does work that would otherwise need to be done by a paid employee. The slave didn’t willingly enter these terms and wants to gain back their freedom. Unfortunately, because it is the norm, the slave doesn’t have the means to do so.
Unlike the traditional sense of how we remember this type of slavery, we don’t have any evidence that Watto was ever unnecessarily cruel to Anakin. There’s never been any mention of him beating his slaves. If we look at Legends material, we even see in Tattooine Ghost that Watto was known for his benevolence and how much he cared for the young boy and his mother.
So while Watto did technically take away Anakin’s choices towards a future, I don’t think “evil” is the first word that comes to mind for him. However, this was the first step in Anakin’s journey towards the dark side. It doesn’t need to be said and it isn’t worth defending to great lengths that Anakin ultimately became evil. He did this, though, because of the lessons he learned as a slave. Notice that he didn’t turn to the dark side until he once again felt his free will being taken from him. His ability to choose, or rather his inability to choose, damned him. When he felt Padme was going to die and he had no control of it, he was willing to do anything to not become a slave to fate.
It’s easier to believe that Dryden Vos is more capable of an evil streak than Watto. (I mean, you don’t usually gain control of a powerful crime syndicate by working hard and having good manners). From what we know so far, though, he never extended any such cruelty to Qi’ra. She took his (extremely relative) kindness and obviously didn’t return it. Killing him also wasn’t enough. She went on to betray the good-est guy of all!
Qi’ra spent her life stealing, lying, and betraying people to eventually join Maul in whatever debauchary he has in mind. The end goal is for her own freedom, which could never be thought of as a bad thing in and of itself. Qi’ra will doubtfully use that freedom for anything good, though. She only knows how to act in ways we would typically deem evil because she’s had every other choice taken away from her.
At first thought, Jabba and Leia should disprove the theory that taking free will away is more likely to make the slave evil than the owner. Jabba is like Dryden – head of a crime syndicate and leaves marks of cruelty wherever he goes. He doesn’t seem to suspend this for anyone, though. He reveals in his evil deeds and holds nothing back, be it grunt work toilet cleaner or top lieutenant.
He famously doesn’t spare Leia from this treatment. Leia, who is equally as famous for being a heroine who is strong-willed and creates her own way out of any struggle. When she momentarily looses the option to find, create, or make her own choices becomes the “Hutt Slayer,” a title she’ll try to hide for the rest of her life. If a character raised by Bail and Breda Organa deems an act vile and immoral, you can pretty much take that as fact.
So therein the fact remains. Evil is as evil does, and how those of power treat those below them will determine the fate of the galaxy. Taking choices, above all else, can lead even the best amongst us down a dark path.
So while Dr. Aphra’s mother was on to something, she just didn’t have all the pieces in the right places.