I have to admit that I really didn’t care much for the Star Wars prequels and I thought it was because of idiotic plot devices such as the “midichlorians” and JarJar Binks, but perhaps the reason I didn’t like them was more involved than that. Perhaps I didn’t like them because the morality they present just plain old sucks. And not just in the prequels, but in the original movies as well.
I came to realize this after reading Fictional Morality: Star Wars over at Action Skeptics which turns a critical eye on the “Jedi Code” and explains why it’s one of the worst moral systems ever imagined:
Even bigger problems arise when we look at the Star Wars universe as context. The biggest implication of this part of the Jedi Code is that Jedi are urged to be completely emotionless. On one hand, this allows them (potentially) to deliver impartial judgements. On the other, it denies them things that might well make them better people, put them more “at peace,” so to speak. Anakin Skywalker could have had a perfectly fine marriage were it not for this code. Instead, he hid his marriage and was wracked with (poorly acted) anxiety over his breach of the code. Were this tenet absent, he would have had emotion and peace. Instead he had emotion and emotional turmoil because he was breaking Jedi dogma.
This tenet is also inherently cruel given the structure of Jedi training. The Padawan learner inevitably builds a strong emotional bond with his teacher, all the while being told that such emotion is immoral and wrong. We have problems from the outset. It is almost reminiscent of the oft-told story about various militaries through time: the troops are each given a puppy and told to love it and take care of it, then once they have bonded with it are instructed to kill their puppies. The Padawans are thrown into a situation where emotion is inevitable but are led to believe that such emotion is wrong and should be eliminated.
I hadn’t really sat down to think about it, but seeing it spelled out by Akusai in this essay really brings home one what is arguably the most irritating thing about the whole Star Wars universe. Namely that its system of morality sucks and results in some pretty piss-poor storytelling as a result. In the original trilogy the Jedi mythology was kept murky enough that you could overlook it, but we become much more familiar with the Jedi in the prequels and it’s then that the problems with the morality become more pronounced. Why it never occurred to me prior to reading Akusai’s excellent essay about it is puzzling. It’s a good read and you should check out the full essay. Next up is the morality of Dungeons and Dragons and I can’t wait.