Naked Yoda

This could have been one more “Unanswered Question from The Empire Strikes Back,” but let’s be honest. I couldn’t walk away from that title.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to go too weird with this. Well, not “sexual weird” at least. It’s weird I’m even thinking about the root question. I’m not the one on trial. Your objections are overruled.

Thinking About This, As Pertains to Climate, I Was

Even after acclimating to a stifling climate, a brisk walk will make you break a sweat on a hot day. Summertime in such a clime is absolutely draining.

I know this because I take brisk walks in a stifling climate on a fairly regular basis. I live in such a climate. Recently I was taking a brisk walk in a different portion of my new home state where it was even hotter and muggier. As I walked, I regretted wearing a heavy cotton shirt.

Naturally, I thought of Dagobah. I thought of…Yoda in exile.

Yoda in Return of the Jedi which is a Star Wars movie featuring Yoda that's the sixth episode in the Star Wars Saga, and the fifth to feature Yoda in chronological order, even though it's third in the release schedule. He wasn't in the original Star Wars that is now known as A New Hope even though it was Star Wars in 1977. SEO Text Gaming!
“Notice you will, Luke…my clothes. Itchy, they are.”

Change of Clothes, He Doesn’t Have?

What puzzles me most about Yoda’s exile in Dagobah is that he doesn’t appear to have taken a change of clothes with him. He’s in the same outfit we saw him wearing in the prequels. Even before the prequels, we saw no extra stash of clothing.

He knew he was headed to Dagobah. He didn’t crash land there, he chose his place of exile as Obi-Wan chose his. As The Clone Wars established, he’d been there before. He knew full well what type of place Dagobah was.

An alternative read is that he took changes of clothes, where every change of clothes is the same outfit. He did, after all, think to travel with a blanket – he has one on the bed. I won’t get into the practical aspect of where he would have kept these things in the

I’m aware that Obi-Wan also wore the same outfit, but they’re more practical for where he was. A desert environment is arid; there’s not a mildew-inducing moisture everywhere. Covering from the sun would also make sense; plenty of cultures in desert locales on Earth cover to help deflect the sun. As for the lack of a change of clothing, I guess without the moisture, the clothes aren’t going to retain the same sort of…bouquet that wool does in moist places.

The Only Solution, There Is

The only solution to this question I see, and the one which would have preserved his clothing the best, would be if Yoda walked around naked. Communing with nature, watching his step, and otherwise enjoying any breezes he might encounter.

Once Obi-Wan died, he would be able to communicate with him even more easily. He would have been given a heads up, and been able to run and put something on before Luke arrived.

Once Luke was gone, he was sad and wondered what path this young Skywalker would take. Then he would have ditched his clothes and meditated.

Feel free to send me thank you notes for this mental image in the comments below. You’ll never forget it.

I can’t.

Question from a Listener: “Why doesn’t Ghost Obi-Wan send Luke to Yoda right after he blows up the Death Star?”

Super Death Panda at Hoth

A listener of Words With Nerds (as you all should be) proposed a question to me on Twitter. To avoid misstating anything, here it is:

It’s a decent question. That is likely to be enough for @roberthayjr to feel happy; he’s a good egg who likes to challenge.

As I thought about the question, though, it’s one that I think is rooted in the “accepted timeline” between Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. That is currently accepted to be 3 years.

The first and easiest way to disregard the question, then, is to say that there’s nothing in the text of the film that mandates a long time between the films. It could be as little as a month between films. The only length of time required is for it to be long enough that they run into a bounty hunter on Ord Mantell, per the dialogue from Han. You can tweak that a little further by saying that it would also need to be enough time for Vader to get back to the fleet, discover Luke’s identity, and set off searching for him without telling the Emperor. (This triggers a new and intriguing thought that I’ll write about later.)

That’s a little bit of a cheat, though. It’s a way of “lawyering around” the question. I don’t want to do that….

…this time.

Ghost Obi-Wan is Emphatic
Luke! Don’t give away the secret recipe. That leads to the dark…fried.

My Answer

The answer as I see it then, is two-fold:

  1. Luke wasn’t strong enough in the Force to see Obi-Wan until that near-death experience on Hoth; and/or
  2. Obi-Wan was waiting to step across the fabric of two realities until Luke was judged ready to take the next step; we’d heard him speak during the final act of Star Wars, he was likely waiting to appear until the right time.

I like both parts of this answer because they can, technically, function on their own.

The second point deserves a little more exploration, though. For if Obi-Wan could speak to Luke, why couldn’t he just tell him to go to Dagobah?

Refining the Answer

The refinement is that Obi-Wan was waiting to send Luke to Dagobah until Luke was could indicate a development and maturity in his Force abilities that was a clear sign that he was ready for the next, important step. After all, as soon as Luke goes to Yoda, it’s going to set off enough of a disturbance in the Force for the Emperor to sense it — hence him coming to Vader and talking about it in Empire.

Again, Luke had to be strong enough to see it, and Obi-Wan appeared when he saw that he was.

As a final “nitpicking interpretation,” who says that Obi-Wan didn’t speak to Luke between Empire and Jedi, dropping hints? Clearly Luke develops further skills like telekineses seen at the start of Empire.

He could have gotten there through meditation, too, but it’s equally valid to think that Obi-Wan spoke to him as Qui-Gon spoke to Obi-Wan while he was on Tatooine. This is, again, an accepted bit of knowledge, inferred from the text of Revenge of the Sith as much as anything else.

So, Bobby, how’d I do? Maybe it’s worth a discussion on Aggressive Negotiations….

Yoda is a many-colored being.
I also come from an era when we accepted both green AND purple (AND blue) Yodas.

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.

The More the Criticisms Change, the More They Stay the Same

I found a fascinating clip by chance while clicking around for other things on YouTube after someone mentioned Roger Ebert. It’s an extant debate about Star Wars.

What strikes me about it is not just the fact that Siskel and Ebert really did change things for the way critics work; pay attention to how they keep going back to the context of the films they’re discussing. As in, the way you judge things needs to take into account its goal. As a nerd/geek/fanboy it’s something that we touch on in our Words With Nerds podcast from time to time.

What this clip really drove home for me though was that the film being savaged by John Simon was The Empire Strikes Back — the Holy Grail of Fandom for an entire generation of geeks.

He was dismissive of it because there were too many effects. Because the story and the acting were thin. Because Yoda was nothing more than a child’s toy marketed well.

Two decades later, these criticisms were being tossed at the prequels by the very children who were the target audience for the originals. So I ask as I often have: Isn’t it just possible that we’ve beheld the enemy and they are us?

Well really, the Haters, because I like to think I’m on the At The Movies side of the prequel debates.