Were the Jedi Vegetarians?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately. In the gaps between important thoughts that impact the family, as usual I start to wonder about Star Wars questions no one asked.

The Jedi could sense suffering and death. All living things were a part of The Force.

Therefore, I wondered if it would necessarily follow they were vegetarians.

We have on-screen evidence that the Jedi can sense the large scale suffering of beings. However, we don’t know that it has to be sentient life.

When Alderaan explodes, Obi-Wan gets heartburn. To extend this specific speculation, he merely says “millions of voices cried out” (which seems kind of low for a planetary population, but whatevs); maybe he was also sensing the forest creatures and house pets that the Alderaanians had.

Adding to that is the on-screen evidence of a link Jedi have for animals. In Attack of the Clones, Anakin can “connect” to the Reek so that he rides it. This implies some sort of affinity with creatures regardless of species.

Further pursuing the thought of heightened sensitivity, perhaps they were vegans. Living in a galactic culture where just about everything can be synthetically produced, it seems to follow that they’d have become vegans. If you feel the death of an animal through The Force, I imagine it dissuades you from consuming or killing it.

In an existence full of hyperspace and city planets, they’d have access to all the resources necessary to eschew animal-based products of any sort.

However

The strongest counterpoint is that the Jedi do seem to have their sensitivities tuned to the sentient. Luke kills the Rancor without so much as a light headache. Obi-Wan slices and dices the Acklay piece by piece. Mace Windu kills the Reek without a pause. For goodness’ sake, other Jedi drop like flies on Geonosis and the ones left standing are doing fine.

If they were that sensitive, then the Rancor eating the Gamorrean should have made Luke curl into a little ball and cry like an abandoned child.

In short, the animals of Star Wars can go screw. The Jedi obviously had barbecues.

Luke Skywalker: Crisis Manager

It’s been a point of contention on this blog as to how “convoluted” Luke’s plan to save Han from Jabba was. I won’t go step-by-step because, if you haven’t watched Return of the Jedi, please go watch the movie and then come back.

Plan “F.”

Some have observed there were a lot of unnecessary layers, especially when he could have just shown up with his lightsaber and kicked a ton of exhaust port.

Of course, that action isn’t necessarily Jedi–like. And that plays into my new thinking on this matter, because I think we need to start drawing the distinction between Luke’s intended plan and his crisis plan management.

Always In Motion, the Future Is

A lot of people forget that Jedi cannot see into the future with any reliability. To presume that Luke knew for certain that his plan would end with the sail barge fight is fooling ourselves.

As a result, Luke was executing several plans in succession, not one ridiculously ill-conceived one.

“Surprise, surprise! It’s Lando in disguise!”

To wit, Lando was planted as a scout. This is really good thinking, as he could let Luke know the strength of numbers, who was armed and how closely-guarded our favorite frozen Corellian was.

The one hitch with that, and I freely admit it, is that Lando should have given some sort of heads-up about the Rancor pit trap. But let’s presume he didn’t want to blow cover until things went down.

Luke may have also misjudged his ability to get at Jabba before the trap was sprung. In which case, he was just rolling with one more piece of the plan going wrong.

And this plan starts going wrong from the beginning. But we’ll fast forward to the key component.

The Lightsaber

Luke is testing Jabba at each stage to see if he can find a peaceful resolution to everything. The lightsaber is not on him for three possible reasons in this scenario, all of which I think make a lot of sense. You could also take two or all three in conjunction with each other.

    They are:

  1. Luke wants Jabba to underestimate him.Think about it. The Jedi have been extinct for decades by that point, at least so far as the public knows. Better to have Jabba believe he’s a crackpot that presents no threat.
  2. He doesn’t want to rely on the weapon as it sends a more-antagonistic signal than walking in unarmed. Sticking to that pacifist ideal, Luke wants to project that he is unarmed and so avoid escalation. As Lucas repeatedly demonstrates unintentionally, pacifism never works.
  3. There’s not a chance they’re letting him walk in to see Jabba with it on his belt. This is the obvious one. No need for explanation.

So, he puts it in Artoo as that last-resort option. He does not know that last resort will be on the sail barge. He likely thought Artoo would be in the throne room (Artoo gets places) and he could get the saber in a pinch if the last negotiations fail. Of course, this opens up the question of why no one ever thinks of searching Artoo since everyone hides vital things in him constantly, but at that point you’re nit-picking.

Dealing With Things Going Wrong

So with this cascading waterfall of miscues, Luke doesn’t count on Leia being captured and displayed in the way she was.

Remember, she sneaks in to Jabba’s palace to get Solo. Jabba catches her, but instead of imprisoning her with Han and Chewie, he chains her up. You could make the argument her presence makes it more difficult for Luke to threaten Jabba with the gun, since he has to take greater care about firing.

Han, Luke, Chewbacca, Lando, and various thugs on the way to the Sarlacc Pit
“Is this the time to tell you that everything I’ve tried to do up to this point has gone horribly wrong?”

R2 isn’t where he expects him to be. Lando is unable to assist, because he wants to make sure Leia is safe once Luke is sent to the Rancor (notice he was positioned to help if things had gone differently). Threepio is useless in a crisis. Han and Chewie are in the dungeons.

So basically, it’s not that Luke had a convoluted plan, it’s that things constantly went sideways and he kept trying to adapt the plan. He should be lauded for adapting in such a way as to guarantee victory. We never get clued in as the audience because like Qui-Gon, Luke maintains an even keel even in the worst storm.

I think all of us, who manage people and/or projects, should admire this.

Can Droids See Force Ghosts?

Netflix recently unleashed the entire run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, including the sixth and final never-before-seen season, which dominated my weekend watching habits and has doubly reinvigorated my mental pursuit of esoteric Star Wars questions on top of the recent exchanges on Words With Nerds.

Often I promise these sorts of blogs will be brief musings, but then I start writing and I can never predict their final length. I like to think as I write on these things instead of coming into it fully-formed. Let’s see where we go this time!

What I’m Wondering This Time

One topic I’m not sure has ever been explored fully, is whether ‘droids see Force Ghosts. For those who don‘t immediately understand that phrase (really?), I mean things like the ghostly blue apparition–figures that appear after certain Jedi deaths.

Obi–Wan is of course the first we ever saw as an audience. Yoda followed by the end of Return of the Jedi, along with Anakin. The prequels later teased out the fact that this was a rare occurrence. I think that as an audience most presumed all Jedi could come back in this form. After all, our sample size of Jedi was fairly small, and they had a 100% return rate.

So anyway, I was wondering while watching one of the season 6 Clone Wars, could R2 see Obi–Wan on Dagobah? Yoda was talking to Luke as he boarded his X–Wing and he was joined by Blue Ben® trying to impel the youth from rushing off to face Vader at Cloud City.

Luke spoke to both, and Ben’s voice is heard very clearly by Luke and the audience. But if Obi–Wan is using some ancient art to communicate with another Force User via his connection from the Cosmic Force to the Living Force, could a ‘droid even hope to hear or see him?

As Obi–Wan explained to Luke, the (Cosmic) Force is generated by all living things. The living things are loosely explained in the prequels to be the Living Force, emphasizing the theme of duality Lucas was exploring in The Phantom Menace.

The key function of all this is, of course, the fact that the physical aspect of the Force is living.

As endearing as the ‘droids are, as key as they are to the motion of the story, they are not alive. There is no “living circuitry” to them. They may have intelligence artificially engineered into them, but they are in no way organic. Therefore, they are not alive.

If you want to play semantics, they are less alive than fire, which eats, breathes and grows. (Thank you, Backdraft!)

No Ghosts For R2!

So to my mind, R2 would be ruled out from seeing Obi–Wan in either The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. He does not possess the correct antenna to see him, which is a connection to the living Force.

R2 can feel the effects of the Force when he is lifted in the air. He has personally witnessed the tremendous abilities of the Jedi. So he is aware of the Force, and has seen evidence of its existence, but cannot ever hope to participate with it on an intimate level.

This has to be troubling to a sentient machine. R2 would even see Luke conducting conversations with the dead while seeing nothing except a living person talking to thin air. That has to be maddening, even possibly causing logic conflicts that a mere ‘droid cannot resolve!

That opens other possibilities as well with ‘droids that would develop a deep resentment of living creatures in general and Force Users in specific. So perhaps, though I’ve spoken about the unfair treatment of ‘droids in the past, there was a practical reason for the bartender (Wuher) in A New Hope to have a “no ‘droids” policy.

After all, people couldn‘t know whether seeing someone doing one more thing they couldn’t would cause automata to snap finally. Imagine how messy it could get if a bunch of machines wigged out and started killing patrons. Very bad for business.

Loopholes

The one loophole I see in this would be that possibly a ‘droid could see the Force Ghost but not hear it. Then, at the very least, it would be able to reconcile why otherwise–sensible beings occasionally sat down on logs and talked into space.

Or perhaps there is a threshold of impact for Force Ghosts at first, but the more they exert their influence on the physical realm the more non-Force Users can interact with them. But then they become full–on poltergeists and then we have to speculate that possibly there is some Star Wars version of the Ghostbusters out there, whose actions inadvertently cause them to be evil since they’re interfering with the “light side” interacting with the living.

See? I never know where I’m going with these things either.

The Vague Racism of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Many of the most devoted Star Wars fans obsess over the strangest minutiae while ignoring the more sublime and abstract themes. I take them to task for this on Words With Nerds occasionally, the fine podcast featuring Craig Sorrell and myself.

I tend to go down strange roads when considering the series. I don’t say this to elevate myself, but to qualify that I don’t entertain the usual thoughts about George Lucas’ epic saga.

However, this blog was triggered by how much attention R2–D2 has gotten as the hype machine slowly comes to life for Episode VII: The Fanbase Fractures Further™.

R2–D2 and C–3P0

Every character has their own trajectory in the saga.

We all love R2–D2. As children, few of us noticed the trick (and some complained about as older children) that R2 always had the perfect solution housed somewhere in his metal casing. Regardless, he goes from a simple ship’s mechanic to constant aide of two legendary Jedi.

Threepio goes from “…not very good at telling stories” to a yarn–spinner whose tale gains the necessary help to overthrow the Empire.

Treatment

However, I want to focus on the demeaning treatment that Artoo, Threepio and all ’droids™ received in the Star Wars films, and our blindness to its deeply uncomfortable implications.

To make clear, I don’t mean just the treatment from the Empire or Wuher the bartender (replaced by Bea Arthur after running a meth lab under the Cantina), but the arguably racist treatment they received from the main characters themselves.

Second–Class Sentients

First, of course, let’s establish the treatment of ’droids™ as a whole.

’Droids™ are the Galactic Servants of the Living. Races that don’t wish to risk their own lives build Battle ’Droids™ to fight wars for them, though even those ’droids™ are later given autonomy and display personality.

Setting aside the changing nature of Battle ’Droids™, other ’droids™ act with awareness of danger, act out of self–preservation and display camaraderie and animosity.

Additionally, while ’droids™ demonstrate free will pursuant to consciousness, they are allowed to exercise it only when their master allows.

While Luke seems so “progressive” in the first film at insisting Threepio not use the honorific “sir,” he certainly slides happily into a dominant role later.

They are sent into hazardous conditions without regard for their own well–being. During the escape from Naboo, it’s not human lives on the line but ’droids™ that are thrown out to space to repair the ship under horrifically dangerous conditions.

They run dangerous errands like delivering the Death Star plans. Their safety is at best a secondary concern when Luke sends them into Jabba’s lair, where an actual torture chamber for ’droids™ exists.

This is significant because the series had established by that point that the ’droids™ can feel pain. Threepio exclaims “Ow” quite clearly when Chewie is banging his head while boarding the Millenium Falcon™ in The Empire Strikes Back, and Artoo screams when he’s fried in the original Star Wars (now Star Wars: A New Hope).

Luke sends them anyway, which in this light is nearly inexcusable.

An Inconvenient Truth

Some fans may try to wriggle out of the coming conclusion by telling themselves that our beloved Threepio and Artoo are treated better than other ’droids™. I concede they are treated better.

Restraining bolts are removed. Artoo accompanies Luke to the most secret places without having his memory erased.

But the threat of a memory wipe is there still; one of the first things that Uncle Owen wanted to do in the 1977 film was erase the ’droids™’ memory.

One of the last acts ordered in Revenge of the Sith is Bail Organa’s command to wipe Threepio’s mind. Not just memory, but the entire thing. In other words, he has Threepio lobotomized rather than risk him talking about the Skywalkers.

What sentient being does that to another?

Conclusion

Further, how have we overlooked so plainly in these films that ’droids™ as a whole are basically slaves, aware of their second–class status?

How have we overlooked how tragic it is that Threepio, even when given the choice, insists on calling Luke “Master”?

C–3P0 and R2–D2 are little more than House Servants. Treated more kindly, but with the same condescension as Prissy.

We as fans should be ashamed for not picketing these films and demanding that the next three films show a more evolved way of thinking about sentients! Because if a machine can learn the value of life, maybe we can too.

Another Unanswered Question from Attack of the Clones

Today’s question is from Attack of the Clones.

And honestly, it’s one that’s bugged me for years.

Why Didn’t the Galactic Republic Have Some Sort of Armed Forces?

This one has the symbolic level – the Republic can go to war without the people minding because there isn’t a direct toll on their lives/lifestyles. If it doesn’t impact daily life, people tend not to give a care.

And I know that the Jedi are the guardians of peace for the Old Republic (or as I termed it many years ago, the Thugs of the Old Republic), and are supposedly working in tandem with the government to keep the peace across the galaxy.

And I know that there hasn’t been a war since the formation of the Republic (per Sio Bibble’s line in the film), and as hard as that is to swallow, I’ll accept the exposition as fact.

But come on. They had no token military at all? What if there were some sort of genocide-type thing happening on a planet? Wouldn’t the full military force of the Republic be used to protect the people being harmed?

The possibly horrifying conclusion is that the Republic is so hands-off about things that there are terrible things happening regularly and they just send in the Jedi every so often to intimidate and kill who they want removed. Kind of a crappy thought, but I’m interested – what do you think?

Why would the Republic not have a standing army of some sort?