Why Not Call It Something Other Than “The Dark Side”?

We find ourselves back in Star Wars territory today, with a question posed recently by my friend, @theinsanerobin. He originally shared this thought on Twitter, Before you wonder if I somehow broke my social media fasting, he proved one of my theories true by sharing this musing with me independently.

As he shared it with me:

You’d think the Dark Side would brand themselves differently. Something other than what the Light Side calls them.

Everyone thinks they’re righteous.

Like instead of being “Anti-Light” they’d be “Pro-Passion” or something.

My response was, simply, Do you really want to go down this road[?]

He said my insight would be fun. While I do have fun with my insights at times, I don’t know how fun this will be.

I do believe you’ll enjoy it, though.

Brandon Lee as The Crow in the movie The Crow released in 1994 starring Brandon Lee and featuring the great soundtrack to The Crow starring Brandon Lee.
Let’s have some fun!

What’s in a Name?

The first thing to establish here is that I’m not going to pursue any pedantic, circular arguments about Lucas establishing a fairy tale. However true that is, which does ameliorate a lot of these sorts of questions, it’s an easy way out of the argument.

I’m going to present logical, believable reasons, consistent with everything understood about the Dark Side of the Force.

It boils down to the very Shakespearean sense of the Sith, and any other Dark Side user in the Star Wars galaxy. To borrow the Bard’s sentiment, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

The Honesty of Darth Bane

Practitioners of the Dark Side are simply too honest to care about using a different name. They do not waste their time with preamble about why you should believe their doctrine. Either you will buy in, or you won’t. The only liars are the ones who can’t be honest with themselves.

I’m including Anakin in that line about characters lying to themselves. I still entertain the controversial view that Anakin flipped to the Dark Side in Attack of the Clones, and the rest of the Prequel Trilogy is the story of a man denying what he’s truly become. He’s started the slide, and as he scrambles back up the slope continues to find that his heart pulls him back to the truth of himself.

I’m not completely sold on that interpretation, but it does fit. Even if you incorporate The Clone Wars television series, you can see the Jedi being dishonest with themselves and indulging his worst tendencies in the hopes their prophecy comes true in a positive way. They pushed all their chips in to bet on Anakin, and will do anything to make sure it pays off.

It’s certainly a really interesting filter through which to watch his arc.

The Honesty of Another Bane

Back to the point at hand, Dark Side practitioners may be dishonest as a means to an end, but they’re never meaningfully dishonest about their quest for power. Their end goal is power, control, and domination. They are ultimately selfish.

There is a universal objective recognition that the goals they seek are not good. Since they cannot be of the light, why not simply call it what it is, and pronounce it dark.

You can look to another work that demonstrates this principle just as clearly. Christopher Nolan’s superb The Dark Knight Rises has a character called Bane who’s painfully honest about being “molded by [the dark].” He refers to himself as “necessary evil.”

This gets to an underlying and interesting philosophical point that surely would cause LANDRU to explode. (If you don’t get that reference, it’s a Star Trek thing.) Bane, like his mentor Ra’s al Ghul and other people “of the dark,” can often see themselves as the unpleasant tools of life. They understand and appreciate the personal wrongness of what they do, but can justify it as a means to an end.

I don’t think that applies to Palpatine, though, who’s just an all-around bastard.

Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, a Batman movie starring Tom Hardy as Bane because Bane is a primary villain in The Dark Knight Rises.
Another example of an Honest Bane. Darth Bane would be proud!

They’re Not Trying to Sell Soap

The idea that there’s some sort of political advantage to having a nicer name seems a byproduct of our marketing mindsets. After all, we’re self-marketers on social media, leveraging hashtags and keywords to generate engagement and satisfy our…whatever.

While Sheev Palpatine may have danced around it at first, note that he was exceedingly up front with Anakin Skywalker in the opera box. He flatly declares, “The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural.

In short, there’s no reason not to call it The Dark Side. There’d be little to no point, because once you got past the name, you’d say, “Boy, that sounds pretty…dark. Like the opposite of light. Can we just stop calling it Fluffy Bunny Side and keep moving?”

It’s about pursuing things that are ultimately selfish. The means to achieve these things are against the Natural Order, like creating life using dark magic, or justifying the slaughter of innocents as a necessary tool.

Anakin is correct that the Sith – our model Dark Side users for the better part of four decades – think inwardly, only of themselves. It’s not limited to the Sith, and I’m not even bringing in the Nightsisters to supplement the argument. I’m not even talking about the Knights of Ren (or Stimpy).

There are people in the Star Wars galaxy using the Dark Side who have no affiliation, or who don’t even have a strong Force connection. Their selfish and monstrous acts simply feed that Dark Side.

The operatives of Crimson Dawn, the soldiers of the Empire, and the chalky visage of General Hux all display an honesty that, while not admirable, is exceedingly blunt. Those of The Dark Side don’t care about what you want to call it. What point is there in obfuscation once they’re revealed?

Their point is not simply to convert, but dominate. To borrow a line from Darth Sidious, “If you will not turn, you will be destroyed.” You can either be down with the sickness, or get 10,000 volts blasted at you through evil magic.

In Conclusion

What is that people always say they want to see more, anyway? Honesty! Billy Joel pointed out that it’s such a lonely word, and everyone is so untrue. So embrace the Dark Side’s honesty. They don’t care if you join, because they believe that their power will give them the way to win either way.

I should be president of the Dark Side. Too bad I don’t want to be.

Ray Park as Maul, who was formerly Darth Maul, but became Maul instead of Darth Maul because he wasn't a Sith and Darth is a Sith title and so he's just Maul for SEO purposes.
Remember, NOT a Sith at this point in the story. Do not use “Darth” or he’ll mess you up.

JJ Abrams Hates Midichlorians

Now that I have your attention, let me go on to my real topic.

Disney/Lucasfilm/Abrams/Prequel Bashers have been making a big act of everything that will make The Force Awakens “different” than the prequels. They highlight “more practical sets,” focusing on the original actors and the…well, they’ve got two major characters who are CG so I guess that one flies out the window.

I’ve highlighted this tremendous act of pandering while podcasting, but it’s really gotten under my skin again. JJ Abrams did some press for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation where he once again highlighted that his approach to The Force Awakens emphasizes the Original Trilogy, as opposed to the Entire Saga or including the Prequel Trilogy in specific.

Even more specifically, he replied emphatically “no” when asked if midichlorians will be featured in the new movie. He made news earlier by saying that he treated only the Original Trilogy as “canon,” a favorite abuse of a religious term by fans when referring to the affirmed officialness of works in their preferred stories.

OK, fine. We get it.

I’ll remind everyone that this is no guarantee that the movie’s going to be the terrific work of wonderfulness that everyone expects. The same fans that are lining up to hand out back-alley pleasure trips to Abrams for his sentiment are the same ones that savaged him over the development of LOST, attacked him for his use of lens flares in the Star Trek Reboots, and have otherwise found a mountain of reasons to belittle his work.

But this time, it’ll be different because he says the things that the people who dislike the prequels like to hear!

It Makes Sense Anyway

Plenty of people had trouble coming to terms with the fact that Lucas split the Force into the Living and the Cosmic Force, playing even more on the Buddhist philosophies that everyone claims they knew to influence him but never actually read anything about.

It’s like the people who know that Lucas read the works of Joseph Campbell but never read them on their own. Or who don’t know that Leigh Brackett actually died after handing in her first draft of The Empire Strikes Back and Lucas co-wrote that one, too.

But I digress.

It makes sense that midichlorians aren’t featured because each trilogy has its own flavor so far.

I understand The Force Awakens may shape up to be little more than a reboot of the original series, or it may succeed in becoming its own story. But that’s the point. Each trilogy is supposed to stand on its own while serving the other. The midichlorians pertained most heavily to the Prophecy of the One Who Will Bring Balance, and played through the works set in that era.

But Stop Dismissing Those Who Like/Love the Prequels

For Pete’s sake, there was a time when I introduced the prequels to someone who’d never seen them they not only cried at the end of Revenge of the Sith but, when we continued to the original Star Wars, they mentioned unprompted how much more depth there was to Obi-Wan and Vader’s Death Star confrontation. Of course, to support those that love the originals only, I should have alerted them that their opinion was shameful and should be ignored.

Let me highlight an important point. There are those of us who love the Originals, the Prequels, and The Clone Wars TV series. We’re fans of the whole package. It doesn’t make us better, but we do exist.

All of this bend-over-backwards-bulls*** to appeal to “old school fans” is kind of like a middle finger to those of us who have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the things that came from Lucas himself. Is there some coded dismissal of our opinions?

I suppose that’s just fine since their focus is to “sell” the new movie. I suppose also that they know they’re going to get people “like me” in there anyway.

If you keep treating the other pretty face too nice, you’re going to piss off the one who’s been with you all this time.

Relationships 101, that is.

My Repeating Hope: Killing the Expanded Universe (EU)!

OK, that headline is a little bit of an attention-getter on purpose. Maybe I really just want the wounding of the Expanded Universe since there is some stuff worth retaining, like the Thrawn books and a lot of the Prequel Era stuff I’ve read.

I won’t spoil anything, but the recently-unveiled Season Six of Star Wars: The Clone Wars had a final story arc that completely blew up an accepted fact from other sources of “Expanded Universe.” People not very steeped in non-film Star Wars lore likely won’t even catch onto it, but I literally giggled when the simple twist of a name erased a footnote to the “history” of the EU.

Like I said, I won’t spoil anything. But it was a gleeful moment for me that signaled again the willingness on the part of Lucasfilm (and now Disney/Marvel, buying back the comic license) to destroy even a tiny piece of the complex arcana that has been constructed over the last couple of decades.

How much they’ll destroy remains a question. Some sources indicate that it will steer clear of what has happened to allow fans who like the EU to reconcile the new films with the extra materials. This is something I still contend is an issue some fans had with the Prequels; they contradicted EU materials blatantly and willingly. If a fan held those materials dear, there’s undoubtedly a sense of “betrayal” that is felt.

But at least I can believe that the new films won’t feel restricted to follow only the stories that have been put in novels and games up to this point. This gives it all a real chance to feel as fresh and original as the first six, and that’s sure to please me as much as an all-you-can-eat buffet would please Jabba.

And in the end, isn’t the new trilogy just about making me happy?

I think we can agree that it is.

Also, every time I write “EU” I imagine that Vladimir Putin is nodding, saying, “I hate it too!” And then getting really disappointed when I tell him we’re not talking about the same thing.