In honor of May 4th, I’m going to go with a Star Wars blog.
My hope is that some random Star Wars fan will read this and spin themselves up trying to argue it in some way.
It is spurred primarily by a recent conversation with a coworker wherein I detailed how Princess Leia only accidentally avoided being responsible for mass murder. The key word there is accidentally. As in, the argument could still be made that she has billions of deaths weighted against her eternal soul.
The conversation was spurred when a coworker, looking for clarification on A New Hope, asked about the mind probing interrogation Leia underwent. They were unclear on whether she broke.
I pointed out that Vader comments that her resistance to the mind probe was “considerable,” a fact later shoe–horned into the mythos to support the idea of her latent Force abilities; he says it “will be some time before we can get any information from her.”
What follows is part of my response to my coworker from that point forward:
She didn’t break – hence why they went and threatened Alderaan. Tarkin cited it as an “alternative form of persuasion.” Even then, with billions of people’s lives on the line, she lied about the location of the rebel base (saying it was on Dantooine). But Tarkin said he was going to blow up the planet anyway…so she gets absolution on that count by default.
Or Does She?
Think about this.
She sold out her entire planet. She bartered for the lives of billions with false information. So far as she knew, she had just condemned everyone she knew and loved (and what she believed to be her real father). The best case scenario was that the Death Star would go to Dantooine, find out she lied, and go back to Alderaan. The most she had done was alert Alderaan to the fact that there was a big, scary ship on the way.
The only way I can see around that being a total jerk move is that it might have spurred the rebellion into action, or caused an uproar within the Empire. The problem with that is, as Tarkin mentions, the Senate had been disbanded just around the time the Death Star went operational (remember that Alderaan was the inaugural–and only–use of the Death Star to quell a population).
But Wasn’t the Rebellion More Important?
This is the one counter–argument that really holds some water. If she had told Tarkin the real location of the (main) rebel base, then the rebellion would ostensibly be over, without warning. The major pocket of organized resistance would be snuffed out.
Also, the Royal Family of Alderaan would be traitors still. At a minimum the Empire takes over the planet and declares martial law. Most likely, they double back and blow Alderaan away again (though it makes little sense, considering they have “no weapons” and are a bunch of space hippies.
(I won’t even go into the completely impractical nature of having zero weapons on an entire planet. They had to have something; what if someone started some trash? Also, how would you keep individuals from sneaking them onto the planet, and beginning a reign of terror on the people who are obeying the law? Wouldn’t the cops need to have weapons at least? But I digress.)
So the core question becomes, was Leia instead making a terrifically courageous choice to sacrifice her home and everyone living there for the sake of preserving the main source of resistance to the Empire?
I’m pretty sure that just about anyone is going to capitulate when the fate of billions is on the line. That’s the whole idea behind intimidation: getting people to break.
But Leia gets something of a moral pass by virtue of the fact that Tarkin was never dealing straight with her. Maybe she knew that on some level. But she sure did act surprised by his treachery, so the film itself speaks to the idea that she was at best just postponing the inevitable fiery deaths of every Alderaanian because, again, it’s not like they weren’t going to follow up on her information.
So there you go. Your pure–as–snow Princess Leia has blood (ashes, really) all over her hands. When you look at those sparkly eyes and ridiculous hair style now, know that she’d sell you out too.
For those who don’t get it: this was all tongue-in-cheek. An exercise to prove you can create inane reasoning to support any insane conclusion.