It’s been implied yesterday that I may be encouraged to watch one of the Star Wars films next year (I presume it’s the original Star Wars) as part of a narrative assignment. Because of this, I felt like writing about my personal problems with the story of the Star Wars films. Specifically, the narrative centering around the concept of the Force.
The Force, in the Star Wars universe, refers to a field of energy that binds all life and the galaxy together. Obi Wan Kenobi also described such energy being created by all beings, and surrounding and penetrating all beings. In the Star Wars films, there is the light side of the Force and the dark side of the Force. The dark side of the Force as used by the Sith is universally depicted as the evil source of power. The Force as used by the Jedi, meanwhile, is seen as the good or proper source of power. Supposedly, the light side of the force is aligned with enlightenment, selflessness, compassion, healing, and benevolence, while the dark side of the force is aligned with hatred, aggression, jealousy, fear, and malevolence. And therein lies my personal problem with this narrative.
The narrative surrounding the Force in these movies seems designed to teach us that goodness is based on harmony, peace, and an idealized light side, while evil is based on passion, personal power, and the “dark” side. This is not only a regurgitation of Christian and Zoroastrian cosmology but it also reflects the Buddhist view on suffering and desire. The Buddhists view suffering as being caused by desires, passions, craving, and attachment, and consequently desire and passion are viewed negatively. It also reminds me of the distinction between “white” magic and “black” magic as espoused by popular culture, New Age types, and so many flawed magicians. It tries to teach that the force of harmony is good, the force of passion is evil, and you can’t use passion for good or harmony for evil because one is exclusively good and the other is bad. I find it be a warped logic.
As I understand it, the light side of the force espoused by the Jedi seems to be focused on peace and harmony while the dark side of the force espoused by the Sith seems to be based on passion and desire. And outside the films, the nature of the light and dark sides of the force are expanded upon, and the nature of the philosophies behind them are revealed. I’m sure the Sith are still basically the villains, but the philosophy behind them can’t be dismissed as evil entirely, nor can the Jedi philosophy be exalted as purely good. I feel that the “dark” and “light” sides of the force are things that can be used for any purpose, that can be used for good or bad depending on the motives of the individual. Much like magic, it’s not necessarily about attributes, but how you relate to them and what your intention is. The problem with the Star Wars conception of the Force is that it takes something so broad, but limits it significantly as to how people can use it.