Like, I actually do like Star Wars. I kind of love Star Wars. That said, here’s another article about why Star Wars sucks. Basically, it’s about the force. I hate the force.
There’s this thing about the force I’m going to call “the evil-switch”. It’s basically, the idea that you can take a person, flick a switch in their head, and suddenly they become an evil version of themselves. It’s what happens when you get seduced by the dark side. You’ve seen the films, you don’t need any more examples, but here’s the one everyone has heard of. So, take Darthy V. Before Darth Vader became himself, he was just plain ol’ Annakin, a pretty stand-up guy, mostly, but then he flipped the switch, and became the most evilest guy you could think of. Then you have Ben Solo and don’t get me started on the expanded universe, but it happens a lot in the expanded universe. People go evil a lot there.
But let’s just think about this for a second. What the films are saying is that the basis of becoming evil is anger. If you have enough anger, if you act on it enough times, you reach the point where you turn into an evil version of yourself. You just become evil. Actually, the way it’s presented in the films, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a slow progression. One act of anger is enough to turn you forever. For Luke, the pivotal moment comes towards the end of Return of the Jedi, where he’s battling Darth Vader and he has him on the ropes. Sure, he’s made to be pretty angry here, but it’s not like we’ve seen him steadily building up to be angrier and angrier earlier in the film.
Yet, the way the scene is presented, it’s pretty much, if Luke had struck down Darth Vader here, then that would have been it. Evil-switch flicked. And once you’ve turned evil, there’s pretty much no way to go back. Yes, again, Darth Vader does it, but only after three films and a lot of effort by everyone. So basically, if you get really angry this one time and do something awful, that’s it, your evil-switch is flicked and your going to be a bizarro evil version of yourself for the rest of your life.
But that’s really not how life works. If you do one bad thing, you don’t suddenly become an evil robot. That’s stupid. People don’t just turn evil all of a sudden. That just doesn’t happen. If we go back to the scene we just talked about, when the emperor asks Luke “so… do you want to be evil?” Luke’s answer is a pretty resounding “um… no. That’s stupid.” It’s a powerful, chest-thumping moment because, “all right! Down with evil, up with good!”
We can compare that to scene in episode three when Annikin gets asked the same the same questions and his answer is almost literally “yeah sure, why not.” That’s scene doesn’t resonate in the same way because that’s not how people behave. We can identify with Luke because if someone said to us, “Hey you, do you want to be evil for the rest of your life?” our answer would also be “um, no. That’s stupid.” That’s why the moment when Annakin’s turn in Episode three rang so false. No one can identify with just turning evil out of nowhere. It’s supposed to be this defining moment in the Star Wars Mythos.
The whole prequel trilogy, and arguable the originals, have all been building to this moment. And it just ends up being kind of “meh.” Lucas has received a lot of criticism for his handling of this scene – justly so – but the problem isn’t necessarily his handling of the scene, or not just that at least, so much as the fact that the basic concept is flawed. Evil-switches don’t exist and I think as an audience we’re reacting to that, even if we’re not aware of it. In a world of lightsabers and levitating rocks, someone just turning evil is more than we are willing to suspend our disbelief. And, if you think this is hypocritical of me, recall, I argued strongly for being able to say something like that.
Having said that, I think I need to clarify what I mean a little bit, and preemptively defend myself. I’m not going to deny that there have been some atrocious and terrible acts committed by man. I’m not even going to deny that normal people have the capacity – under certain conditions – for doing terrible things. I mean, World War II did happen. But the thing is, pretty much every time you have someone committing terrible acts, they are preceded by a fairly predictable pattern of events.In the case of normal people doing terrible things, this usually happens through dehumanization of a person or group, and some sort of distance, either psychological or physical between the perpetrator and the victim. Another typical prerequisite is a gradual escalation of violence and desensitization. In most cases, there is still a lot of emotional distress involved – most people just don’t feel good about doing awful things.
We can compare this to Star Wars where Annakin goes from being basically a decent guy (or at least not super evil) to a remorseless childkiller in a matter of hours. So I’m not saying that some people aren’t evil or that evil doesn’t exist (actually, I would say that, but that’s a discussion for another day) or even that people can’t become persuaded to do evil acts, but I am saying that the way this is presented in Star Wars, the existence of the evil-switch, is patently ridiculous.
I also want to, again, stress how much I adored Rogue One.