With “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” being released in theaters this December, Star Wars fandom is at a level not seen since the release of the original film. This is the second Star Wars film released in two years, following last year’s “The Force Awakens”. The right to choose who one wishes to be is a fundamental construct of human existence. Generally, the moral component of choice is weighed in the ideas of Good versus Evil, themes that are playing out heavily in the epic Star Wars saga, a movie series where the light and dark sides of The Force clash to the observation of millions.
The heroes and villains of Star Wars are recognizable characters from around the globe, and possibly galaxy now that TV is streaming into space. Although quite the success, there has been the unmistakable affection for the genre’s villains, namely Darth Vader and Boba Fett the bounty hunter, over the saga’s heroic rebels such as Han Solo, Yoda, or even Luke Skywalker. This sample comparative essay from Ultius will analyze the differences between the light and the dark sides of The Force, and how they compare to the kind of effect and desirability they may have on the fan base.
What Is The Force?
Star War’s central theme, besides there being galactic warfare, is that there is a comprehensive animating force that can be used for either good or evil. Although there have been actual religions based on UFO’s or galactic beings, The Force is also likened to a being that is omnipresent and intelligent, similarly to many real-life mainstream religions. The Star Wars genre picks up this lead and takes it to the stars with their force phenomenon, a concept that is not fully explained until the later films. In the first film (chronologically), the Phantom Menace, the writers explain The Force as the action of tiny living organisms known as midi-chlorians, that exist within every living cell through a symbiotic relationship (Rinzler).
These tiny organisms tend to run strongly in various blood lines, something that the show plays heavily on within the Skywalker family. Furthermore, certain creatures have a stronger ability to work with The Force, such as Yoda, the saga’s small green sage. Within Anakin Skywalker, the midi-chlroian count is believed to be the highest ever recorded, something that prophecy suggested would ultimately lead Anakin to balance the good and dark sides of The Force. A blood test revealed that Anakin has nearly a thousand Midi-Chlorians in every cell, whereas in normal beings, there are just three (Rinzler).
According to George Lucas, the saga’s creator, these midi-chlorians are at the heart of every cell and are all interconnected as one, and can communicate with the larger sphere of The Force (Rinzler). The Force is described as a way of seeing, and also a way of life. The Force may give one extra-sensory perception, move objects with psychokinesis, and even shoot lightening from their fingertips (Rinzler). The key theme according to Lucas is the lens of perception that one uses to access and use The Force. The Force is considered a higher form of awareness and/or perspective.
Lucas goes so far as to suggest that The Force is available to anyone. Lucas states in one interview with scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan,
Yes, everybody can do it. It’s just the Jedi who take the time to do it. Like Yoga. If you want to take the time to do it, you can do it; but the ones that really want to do it are the ones who are into that kind of thing. Like Karate.
The Light Side of The Force
The light side of The Force is used by Jedi Knights spread across the galaxy with the intention of keeping order and peace. The light side of The Force is usually given to be associated with honesty, mercy, self-sacrifice, compassion, and many other positive emotions according to Katherine Habrel of The Odyssey. With the light side, one is led to peace keeping and would never use The Force against another, especially those who are unarmed. Meditation is a commonly seen device used by Jedi to keep their own cool, something that when blown can lead them down to the dark side.
Jedi Master Odan-Urr wrote the Jedi Code, an ode to the ideals and ways of the Jedi.
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is The Force (Clarke).
With this mantra, the Jedi held order across the galaxy for thousands of years within the Knighthood. The main idea of the Jedi code is that emotion is forbidden and that all efforts in this life should be directed towards harnessing The Force, something that will allow them to transcend Death. Yoda has many helpful quotes regarding the perspective on emotion, death, and The Force. Some key ideas communicated by Yoda are
- Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to suffering.
- Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into The Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.
- PATIENCE YOU MUST HAVE my young padawan
- Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose
- Do or do not, there is no try (Yodaquotes).
The Dark Side of The Force
While departure from the light side seems like a bad idea, right from the get-go, the history holds that the division was the result of conflicts within the Jedi Order. Andrew Dyce of Screenrant notes that the break first happened in the ‘Second Great Schism’ when the Sith Lords left the order to seek and complete other goals. Namely the mastery over life rather than diplomatic partnerships with it (Dyce). The Sith Code, written by Soruzus Syn, a rouge Jedi who left the order a few thousand years before Anakin Skywalker’s saga began, goes as follows
Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me (Clarke).
The dark side is far more existential. One can see from the Sith Code that a key attribute of the dark side is conquering one’s condition for the sake of freedom. The freedom of the Sith is without morals or restrictions, a sharply different approach to life than style of the ascetic Jedi Knights. This likely why the dark side is the more advanced side of The Force technologically speaking. According to the lore, the Sith were the ones to invent hyperdrives, technology that ushered in a 25,000-year rule across the galaxy (Dyce).
Anakin Skywalker joined the dark side after being enticed by a Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, who promised to help Anakin save Padme Amidala, the woman he loved, from death in childbirth. Something Anakin had prophetic visions of occurring (Darth Vader). He was then christened as Darth Vader, the helmet headed Sith Lord, and committed all manner of atrocity across the galaxy including the destruction of a planet, the murdering of children, and several other atrocities (Darth Vader). He does however destroy his master Darth Sidious after seeing Sidious use lightening on his son, Luke, and thus did fulfill the Prophecy about his destiny.
The Light Or Dark Side Of The Force: Which Side to Choose
The light and the dark sides of The Force each have their own appeals and drawbacks. The dark side certainly seems to permit greater ambiguity than the polarized light side which tends to lend itself towards a type of Asceticism. In the dark, conditions, desires, and actions are not subject to the scrutiny and demands of the Jedi Knights, a stern fellowship that are known for their suppressive and disciplinary actions. On the other hand, failure in the dark side can mean death, something that is usually just reserved for subordinates.
The contradictions of the light side are something of a drawback which may help to explain why the dark side has been so glamorized in the films. Although it seeks equanimity, tolerance, balance, and acceptance, the light side shows itself to be ironically harsh against key emotions such as fear and anger, two primal human emotions known to psychologists and physiologists. ‘There is no emotion’ is a pretty hard axiom to live by. It is almost like saying there is ‘no negativity’ allowed. Instantly, one is struck by the weight of the light side.
The dark side on the other hand promises to set one free from the chains of such dogma. The Sith embraced the full range of human emotion, including love, the original reason why Anakin converted to the dark side in the first place. His efforts however did turn out to be in vain since Anakin force-choked Padme to near-death when he found out she had brought his master Obi-Wan Kenobi to try and stop him from joining the dark side.
As Vader however, Anakin’s own life is preserved thanks to Sith technology, items including helmet, chest board, cape, and saber, which are widely popularized in film-culture.
It is said by Obi-Wan that “only Sith deal in Absolutes” (Star Wars). Even so, Jedi work their absolutism, the rigidity of which helped to bring their own downfall. The Jedi did however seek to preserve order and did, in work with the rebellion forces, take down the death star, a craft of near supreme destruction. Fan favoritism appears to be rising for the dark side, especially since Kylo Ren, the most recent Sith and grandson to Darth Vader has entered the series. Whether or not this will continue to be the story is perhaps a question of choice that will be resolved by people in and out of the saga.
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Clarke, Jeremy. “Sith Wars Day Meditations: Jedi Code v. Sith Code“, 2-15. Web. August 4, 2016.
Darth Vader. Star Wars, 2016. Web. August, 2016.
Dyce, Andrew. “6 Reasons the Jedi Could be Villains in a ‘Star Wars’ movie“. Screenrant, 2013. Web. August 6, 2016.
Habrel, Katherine. “Light Side vs Dark Side“. The Odyssey Online, 2015, Web. August 4, 2016.
Rinzler, J.W. “So What The Heck Are Midi-Chlorians.” Star Wars, n.d, Web. August 4, 2016.
Simpson, Ian M. MoviePilot, 2014.Web. August 4, 2016.
Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith. IMDb, 1999-2016. Web. August 4, 2016..
YodaQuotes. Yoda Quotes.net, 2016. Web. August 4, 2016.
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