The Seduction of the Dark Side

Guest Talker: Michael J. Miller

“You don’t know the power of the Dark Side,” Vader promises Luke during the climactic scene of The Empire Strikes Back. As Luke struggles to survive his encounter with the Sith Lord, both physically and emotionally, we see the central struggle of the Star Wars Saga once again – the struggle between the Light and the Dark…and the Dark looks like it’s winning. We see this play out through all six films, in Anakin, in Luke, and across the galaxy as a whole. It’s a struggle we share, and one that often gets the best of us. That is one of the most important parts of Star Wars as a modern myth. It’s meant not just to entertain us but to teach us as well.

We’re meant to connect to the myth, just as it masterfully connects to itself. With this in mind, a thought struck me as I read the first issue of Marvel’s (brilliant) Darth Vader comic. Whether this connection was intentional on the part of the author Kieron Gillen or not isn’t the point (although I’m pretty sure it was). The revelation hit regardless. The comic opens with Vader entering Jabba’s Palace for a negotiation. The whole thing feels very familiar, calling to mind the opening of Return Of The Jedi and Luke’s entrance to Jabba’s Palace. The gate raises. Vader decapitates two Gamorrean guards. He then forces an audience with Jabba where the Hutt warns him not to attempt any mind tricks.

Lord Vader chastises Jabba the Hutt. Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics - Darth Vader Issue # 001

Lord Vader chastises Jabba the Hutt.
Photo Credit: MARVEL Comics – Darth Vader Issue # 001

But a deeper connection came a few pages later. Jabba tells Vader, “Oh Jedi…always making everything so difficult.” Without hesitation Vader immediately cuts apart Jabba’s forces with brutal efficiency. Vader then proceeds to Force choke Jabba while warning, “You called me Jedi. You know nothing. Mind tricks are not of the Dark Side. We prefer force. Do you understand?” When Luke appears before Jabba to bargain for Han’s release four years later, Bib Fortuna confidently affirms, “He’s no Jedi.”

Yes, this is a condescending swipe at Luke. But, as with so many moments in Star Wars, this serves multiple purposes. Bib Fortuna is stating a very real truth. Luke is no Jedi. He has fallen quite far from the path and the opening pages of Darth Vader #1 illustrate that in a new (and brilliantly connected) way. Darth Vader shows Jabba, in no uncertain terms, the difference between the Jedi and the Sith. When Luke appears in the same spot years later, he acts as a Sith does. He is no Jedi.

In A New Hope, Obi-Wan taught Luke (and the viewer) much about the nature of the Force. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda teaches Luke (and the viewer) what it means to be a Jedi. It is interesting to note that “Yoda” is Sanskrit for “warrior.” The diminutive Yoda is not what one would traditionally picture when you think of warrior. Yet, with his name, he is meant to symbolize the model in the Star Wars universe for the ideal warrior. This ideal warrior chides Luke for craving adventure and excitement. He tells Luke that “wars not make one great.”

On Dagobah, Yoda teaches Luke, “A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the Dark Side. Anger. Fear. Aggression. The Dark Side of the Force are they. Easily they flow. Quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will. As it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.”

Yoda teaches Luke about the Force. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda teaches Luke about the Force.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Anger. Fear. Aggression. Easily they flow…yet they will consume you. The Dark Side offers power – quick, easy, and strong. But it will take and corrupt you as payment. It is impossible to use the Dark Side without sacrificing all that is good in you. It seems like it can be helpful, that it can even be used to good ends. But that is an illusion, the seductive allure of the Dark Side.

We live in a culture where the Myth of Redemptive Violence reigns. We are taught, by the silent (and often sinister) voices of our culture that we can solve our problems, right wrongs, even defeat evil by using violent means. It is a challenge to even consider rejecting the Myth of Redemptive Violence, much less committing to and living out that rejection. It’s scary to reject the norms of culture. It’s also difficult to believe we can triumph over the forces of darkness in our world without violence and retribution. Luke poses the same questions to Yoda as they train.

Luke—“Is the Dark Side stronger?”

Yoda—“No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”

Luke—“But how am I to know the good side from the bad?”

Yoda—“You will know when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never attack.”

Luke—“Tell me why I can’t…”

Yoda—“No, no! There is no ‘why.’”

Yoda refuses to even entertain the idea of using the Force for anything other than knowledge and defense. Anything else is of the Dark Side. Luke, like all of us, wonders why we can’t use it – from time to time – if our motives are pure and our cause is just. Why can’t we, to quote singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn, “kick the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight”? Because, Yoda would answer (traditionally with far more inverted syntax), that’s the Dark Side. Yet Luke can’t see this, as we learn when he reaches the cave.

Luke—“What’s in there?”

Yoda—“Only what you take with you. Your weapons…you will not need them.

Luke descends into the cave on Dagobah, weapons anchored around his waist.  Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke descends into the cave on Dagobah, weapons anchored around his waist.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Ignoring Yoda, Luke straps on his weapons belt and (quite symbolically) descends into the cave. He also takes in his anger, fear, hate, and self-doubt, illustrated (again, symbolically) by his weapons belt. These emotions take the form of Darth Vader because he is of the Dark Side and the Dark Side gets its strength from those very same emotions. This vision of Vader doesn’t draw his weapon or attack until Luke does so first. Therefore, Luke fails the test in the cave because he becomes the aggressor. He attacks. He gives in to the Dark Side.

Once Luke kills Vader he sees his greatest fear—his face in Vader’s helmet. This symbolizes what Luke may become. (It also symbolizes something Luke doesn’t know yet, that Vader is his father and they are both susceptible to the pull of the Dark Side.) Despite his failure at the cave, Luke still draws his lightsaber first when he’s confronted by Vader on Cloud City.

Vader toys with Luke in combat, goading him to let go of his hate as it’s the only way Luke can hope to defeat him. With Luke physically beaten, Vader reveals he is Luke’s father, breaking him spiritually and emotionally. He takes Luke’s hand as well as any sense of self Luke had.

Luke's face appears in the helmet of Darth Vader. Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke’s face appears in the helmet of Darth Vader.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

This all leaves Luke balancing on the precipice of the Dark Side – a place his father has stood before. So when Return Of The Jedi opens, it’s no surprise that Luke is acting as Darth Vader did in Jabba’s Palace. Vader is no Jedi. And, at that moment, Luke isn’t either. The struggle at the core of Star Wars continues to play out, in Luke as it did in Anakin a generation before…as it plays out in each of us every day.

Fear. Anger. Aggression. They feel omnipresent, in our world as well as in Star Wars, and they can often seem impossible to overcome. But they aren’t, as Luke shows us. Luke transcends the seductive pull of the Dark Side. He shows us what we are meant to be. We are called to so much more. “Luminous beings are we.” But if we believe that it’s impossible to transcend these violent forces, well that is why we fail.


Check out these other Guest Talker posts by Michael Miller:

The Nature of Hero

A Man in Debt to a Hutt

So, What’s Luke Been Up To?

28 comments

  1. I am not entirely certain that Luke’s actions in Jabba’s palace are those of the dark side. His behavior is not of a true Jedi but still not like a Sith. Luke entered the palace with the intent of saving his friends without violence. He understood the difficulty of this since Hutts only respond to money and violence, a fact Luke would know from living on Tatooine and one that is demonstrated when Leia uses a thermal detonator to get Jabba to pay her more for Chewbacca. Luke attempts to negotiate with Jabba using the droids, but that ultimately fails. He then resorts to idle threats but doesn’t intend to follow through with them. Luke is hoping that Jabba will be more willing to negotiate if his life is on the line. If Luke truely wanted to free his friends with violence, he would have brought his lightsaber. The fact that he entered a potentially hostile area unarmed shows that he was commited to a peaceful resolution. When Luke finally resorts to violence it is because his life was in actual danger.

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    1. Doesn’t this simply justify the Myth of Redemptive Violence? If we say Luke has to act this way because “the Hutts only respond to money and violence” then we justify Luke’s use of violence. That’s how the Myth of Redemptive Violence works. We ” have to” use force because that’s all “they” understand and we can’t find peaceful and loving outcomes because of the other we face. The Jedi, as we learn, are supposed to be more than that. While Luke didn’t enter Jabba’s Palace armed, he did pull a gun on Jabba and threaten Jabba’s life twice. Also, it wasn’t like Luke left his lightsaber at home. R2 had it the whole time and as soon as Luke had it in his hand again, he immediately began chopping apart Jabba’s men without hesitation or mercy. That to me all seems to radiate the Dark Side of the Force.

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      1. Luke never had the intention of using violence. Luke is bluffing the entire time. He pulls a gun on Jabba hoping that by showing Jabba that he is capable using violence to get his way. He feels that Jabba might respect him more if Jabba sees Luke is willing to go to extremes. Leia does the same thing with the thermal detonator. Jabba justs laughs when Leia does this and was willing to make a compromise since she showed resolve. As a Jedi, Luke knows not to use violence, but as a Tatooine native, he knows that the Hutts are ruthless and do not believe in morals. Luke is playing the role of an actor to try to free his friends. He also tried to use flattery and bargaining to to free them but when that fails, he uses threats to make Jabba more willing to listen. The gun was supposed to be leverage in the negotiations. Luke never actually begins to kill until he was being pushed into the Sarlacc pit. Luke is not acting like a Jedi because Jabba has no respect for the peaceful methods that Jedi use.

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      2. We do not see the Gammorean guards actually die. It is possible that they were simply incompassitated to make sure that they do not attack or cause a rukus which would lead to unnecessary violence. They cannot be manipulated as well as Bib Fortuna so he essentially removes them as a possible problem. Force chocking is generally frowned upon but here there is necessarily any death and it is used to prevent violence.

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  2. Just because something CAN work (threats, thermal detonators, etc.) doesn’t mean that we SHOULD use such a method. We still have a moral responsibility for our actions. Yes, those methods may prove successful but Luke – especially if he’s trying to be a Jedi – need be aware of how he’s acting. As I discussed in the post above, Yoda tries to teach Luke that we are “luminous beings.” It seems that using violence (even the threat of violence) isn’t very “luminous.” Moreover, Yoda tells Luke that anger, fear, and aggression are the Dark Side of the Force. Regardless of motivation, threatening a life (multiple times) is aggressive, as is cutting apart people with your lightsaber. Pulling a blaster on someone is aggressive. Force choking Gamorrean guards (even if you don’t kill them) is aggressive. (Look at Anakin. He Force chokes Padmé but doesn’t kill her. That was still clearly of the Dark Side.) I’d also say Luke lowering himself to Jabba’s level (if Jabba only understands money and violence) is rooted in fear – he wants to save Han and fears another approach won’t be as effective. Also, giving R2 his lightsaber is rooted in fear as wel, fear that he can’t save Han peacefully. I’d argue the threats Luke levels at Jabba are anchored in anger too. You don’t say something like “Free us or die” or “That’ll be the last mistake you’ll ever make” if you’re calm, at peace, and passive. You say those things when you’re angry. So, while all of Luke’s techniques may’ve been effective in dealing with Jabba and his organization (obviously they were! He freed Han and they all (save Jabba and everyone working with Jabba) got out with their lives) they certainly weren’t anchored in the Light Side.

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    1. I agree that Luke’s actions were not those of a true Jedi, I mentioned that in my first comment. However, Luke is not acting with the Dark Side. Luke shows precaution and concern for the lives of others that one who has fallen to the Dark Side would not have. He makes several attempts to solve the conflict without violence. He uses gifts, flattery and even has Leia use stealthier meathods to save Han. When the time comes, he enters Jabba’s palace unarmed. He doesn’t give R2 his lightsaber out of fear. He is actually following Yoda’s advice “leave your weapons”. Luke doesn’t believe he will need his lightsaber and is commited to use the necessary means to solve the problem without any conflict. Luke is not lowering himself to Jabba’s level but is trying to gain his respect. Jabba likes those who use these methods. When Leia threatens to blow up the palace, Jabba says “this is my kind of scum”. Luke is trying to appeal to Jabba so maybe he will be more willing to compromise. When Anakin chokes Padmé he does it out of jealousy and anger. His motive was to harm even if he didn’t try to kill her. Luke chokes the guards to incompassitate them and move them out of the way. If Luke had fallen to the Dark Side, his entire method would be different. He wouldn’t have argued with Jabba. He would just choke him (like Vader), save his friends and leave. He obviously doesn’t do this. When Luke does start to kill people, he doesn’t do it because he is on a murderous rampage. When he is force kicking the guards into the Sarlacc pit or slices them with a lightsaber, he does so in defence. To save his life and his friends lives which are now in immediate danger. Yes, Luke doesn’t act like a Jedi should but his actions are not of the Dark Side.

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      1. I think Tommy, we may just have to agree to disagree here. In closing here I’ll point out that, even if using those methods gains Jabba’s respect, should Luke – clearly not a Jedi yet but someone who aspires to be one – care for the respect of a crime boss and head of a slave empire? The means can’t justify the ends. Even if he Force chokes the guards to incapacitate them, does that make it okay? He’s still CHOKING them. They didn’t even attack Luke. The merely tried to stop him to see who he was. That was their job. So Luke wasn’t using the Force for knowledge or defense – as they didn’t even attempt to attack him – but aggressively. The ends can’t justify the means, at least not as far as the Force (as it is depicted in the film) is concerned. Yes, Luke shows concerns for his friends but no one else – as we see when he leaves Jabba and his cartel in ruins. A Jedi must have concern for all life. I wil agree Luke isn’t a Sith…but, as I’ve said above, he is using the Dark Side of the Force. And that is the point! As is written far more eloquently in other places, Lucas used Jospeh Campbell’s work as the framework for Star Wars. Where Luke is mythically at this point in the story is the Descent into the Abyss. At this point the hero faces the darkness – and Luke is immersed in it. It is the lowest point of his quest and we see this by Luke openly using the Dark Side. It is only later in the Hero’s Journey (to use Campbell’s terminology) where the hero triumphs (in the case of Star Wars by Luke rejecting the Dark Side that had been tempting him and embracing the Light). But I think that, at this point, I may be unable to sway you Mr. Russell! You are a worthy adversary, confident in your opinion.

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  3. I have been following this comment thread for a while now and have chosen to remain absent from it because I have enjoyed the back and forth taking place. I think, though, that as Mike has pointed out, you two have reached an impasse. Clearly, you each have differing, but equally strong opinions on whether Luke was, or was not, using the Dark Side in his actions with Jabba. Regardless as to who happens to be right, what I think is important to recognize is that you are both discussing deep philosophical, religious, and mythological story elements that are not only critical to the entirely of the saga at large, but precisely what Lucas wanted people to engage with. I can’t help but think that Lucas would be thrilled to know that his story gets this level of debate from two fans!!!!

    Now, in regards to the content of your debate, I have a couple of questions for each of you to think about, whether you would like to address them or not, though, is up to you both. And, just fyi, while I have my own thoughts on this particular topic, I am more interested in continuing the conversation than putting my weight behind one side and cutting off the convo. It is far more exciting to keep the convo going!!! So….

    Mike – Thinking about what Mr. Russell has laid out, that Luke is not using the Dark Side, would you agree that there is a gray zone whereby a Jedi (or wannabe Jedi) can be acting in a way that is un-Jedi like but is also not of the Dark Side? While I personally do not believe there is a gray zone in the Force, I can’t help but wonder if it is possible that Luke is treading an area of everyday morality in the galaxy far, far away. Leia, for example (not a Jedi, and not even knowing she has the potential to use the Force) can threaten Jabba and get away with it because we obviously do not hold her to the higher standard of Jedi. While morally speaking she is acting in a way counter to what you, I, or Mr. Russell might agree with (threatening to blow up everyone in Jabba’s palace), is it possible as well for Luke to make similar threats and not be acting of the Light, but also not be fully immersed in the Darkness? Or, put another way, since Luke is still only a Jedi in training, can we, or should we, hold him to the standard of the Light Side and JEdi Order at this point?

    Tommy – I am curious as to what you would consider to be an action that is of the Dark Side. Since you are convinced that Luke, while not acting like a Jedi, is also not acting with the Dark Side, I can’t help but wonder where the line is for you. You stated in one comment that the Guards are choked but do not die, but what is the difference? If I choke you, you can’t breathe. Does it matter if my intention is to kill you? And, even if my intention is to simply incapacitate you, isn’t there a necessity that my life actually be threatened before I act and, say, put you in a head lock? I am not allowed to just walk up to someone and choke them, rendering them unconscious. However, as we know, Luke does not physically touch the Guards, he uses the Force. This is where things get tricky – the Force has two sides, Light and Dark. If Luke feels threatened or is attacked by Guards, then I would agree with you that he has the right to defend himself, especially if it is an unwarranted attack. But the Guards do not attack him. Instead, they step in front of him, and why shouldn’t they? Their job is to defend Jabba’s Palace, so do they not have the right to keep someone, even Luke Skywalker, from going any further? Yet, when they do this, Luke’s first choice of action is to choke them with the Force. Since there are only two sides to the Force, I ask you this – how is his action not of the Dark Side and how is it of the Light?

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    1. Well I see the Dark Side as more than just actions but the emotion and intent of the actor. A person of the Dark Side acts selfishly. He gives into his emotions and acts on his impulses and passions without regard to how it affects someone else. The first and only question a person consumed by the Dark Side will ask is “how does this benefit me”. Since this is how he of she feels, this person will use the easiest(sometimes the most violent) method available. Since he acts of his emotions, a user of the Dark Side will often harm people out of anger and hatred. A person of the Light Side acts selflessly. He thinks of himself and his wishes last. He is compassionate and merciful. A person of the Light Side(particularly a Jedi) acts without emotion or passion since these cloud their judgment. Essentially, a follower of the Light Side puts the needs of the entire galaxy above his own. An example of an action of the Dark Side would be if Luke had killed Vader on the Second Death Star. Luke is attacking his father out of anger and hatred which are the Dark Side. However, the act of killing Vader itself isn’t necessarily an action of the Dark Side. First of all, Luke was encouraged to kill Vader by his two masters, Yoda and Obi-Wan. Yoda had no faith that Vader could be redeemed but tells Luke he must confront him. Yoda tells Luke that “once you have started down the dark path, forever will it dominate your life”. Yoda expects Luke to kill Vader. Even Obi-Wan has no faith in redemption. He tells Luke that his father, Anakin Skywalker, is dead and only Vader remains. So two Jedi masters are not going to tell Luke to perform an action that will result in him following his father’s path. But, on the Death Star, Luke tries to kill Darth Vader out of hatred. In contrast, we see Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith trying to kill his former apprentice. He went to Mustafar with the intention of stopping Anakin at any cost. This is heart-wrenching for Kenobi since he has grown attached to his former padawan. Yet when the time comes, he puts his feelings aside and confronts him. He tells Anakin “I will do what I must”. He is prepared to kill Anakin to prevent the Sith from taking over the galaxy. Obi-Wan’s actions are not of the Dark Side since he is fighting Skywalker not out of hatred but out of necessity. Going back to the original question, Luke choking the Gammoreans was not done out of hatred. There was no way that they would let him through. It was their job to keep him out. And there is the possibility that when Luke told them his name that they would attack him if he didn’t leave immediately. So Luke chokes the guards to get passed them and make his “audience” with Jabba go a little more smoothly.

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      1. While I would agree with you that the act (choking the Gammoreans) does not seem to be done out of hatred, I can’t help but wonder: what difference does it make? Luke uses a technique that is distinctly of the Dark Side. Does he have to exhibit pure anger or rage to utilize the Dark Side? While I can understand what you are saying about the intention behind the action, I think it is far more nuanced than this. The intention to do good can still result in an action that is of the Dark Side. A great example of this is the Council’s decision to kill Count Dooku in Dark Disciple. In short, the decision to assassinate Dooku is justified as intending to put a stop to the war, but the Council also recognizes that in committing assassination they are engaging with the Dark Side. When Luke enters Jabba’s palace, his intention is to free Han Solo, a noble intention indeed, but this intention does not give him a Carte Blanche to act however he wishes. While I don’t think we need to hold Luke to the same standard as Obi-Wan or Yoda, that does not get him off the hook for utilizing a Dark Side technique (if you check the Star Wars Databank, Force Choke falls under the category of Sith techniques). And on top of that, there is a far more serious thing to consider: where and how did Luke learn to Force choke anyway? While I can’t imagine he learned it from some teacher, or picked up some Sith manual, all I can surmise is that in that moment he just sorta slid into it – it was the quick, easy, and seductive tool to use when the Guards stepped in front of him.

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      2. I think it makes a very large difference. If the intention of killing someone, one of the most heinous acts possible when it comes to the Force, can be considered either of the Dark Side or not, can’t that apply to almost everything. Taking a life causes perceptible tremors in the Force, as is seen by Yoda’s reaction to the massacre of the Jedi and Kenobi’s reaction to the destruction of Alderaan. The loss of life is a very serious matter. There has to be a difference between Obi-Wan trying to kill Vader on Mustafar and Luke trying to do the same on the Second Death Star. Luke’s actions here are of the Dark Side because of his anger and hatred. The Dark Side uses these emotions and encourages its followers to give into them. Without hatred and without anger, how can there be a Dark Side of the Force. Choking someone with the Force is usually considered a Dark Side ability since it is usually used in anger. Look at how Darth Vader uses it. He chokes people when they fail him which causes him to become angry. He is either using it to kill someone or to make them suffer. Luke’s intentions are very different. He does it without any emotion whatsoever. It was not a method a Jedi should use, but it is not the Dark Side. And as to where he learned it, I assumed he picked it up on his own. The action is simply the use of telekinesis on a smaller area, which does require more focus than moving a rock.

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      3. Alright Tommy, I’m back in! I thought we were done with this post but it appears you’ve lured me back to debating the finer points of the Force. With that in mind, above you say “It was not a method a Jedi should use, but it is not the Dark Side.” Doesn’t that statement contradict itself? If a technique is something a Jedi shouldn’t do, it would seem logical that’s because it’s of the Dark Side. Why would an action be forbidden to the Jedi if it wasn’t part of the Dark Side or something they feared could lead to the Dark Sided? Look at romantic love – the Jedi Order forbids it because they believe it will lead (or can lead) to attachment and the shadow of the Dark Side. But, back to Luke. I addressed much of this in my first post for Jeff but I’ll return to it here. The beginning of ‘Return Of The Jedi’ is supposed to have Luke toying with the Dark Side. Visually, he looks just like Vader or the Emperor, cloaked in black. Jedi don’t wear black. He has a mechanical hand, mirroring Anakin’s first step in becoming “more machine now than man.” He uses Dark Side techniques – the Force choke, killing quickly and violently – as he rescues Han. He is arrogant, threatening, and condescending when he talks to Jabba. Lucas does all that intentionally. Luke is using the Dark Side just like his father. That is what Lucas need to show us; that’s his story. Anakin falls and becomes Darth Vade in Episode III. Luke begins to fall in Episode VI…but then comes back to the Light Side and redeems his father along the way. That is what makes Star Wars so powerful as a myth. It teaches us that the Light will always triumph over the Dark and everyone is capable of redemption. Luke, as mythic hero, must descend into the darkness – must use the Dark Side and face it’s pull – so he can show us the way out. It is though love and faith that we are redeemed. It is the rejection of violence and the movement of love that brings the light. If Luke doesn’t descend into darkness then the myth doesn’t work. We need to see the Light pull him out. We need to see how he chooses the Light over the Dark, even when the Dark Side is easier. And that’s the thing with the Force choke! The Dark Sided is “quicker, easier.” For Luke to try and talk his way peacefully into Jabba’s palace takes time, and may not work, he chose ” the quick and easy path, as Vader did” to get in as fast as possible. That’s the Dark Side. He doesn’t have to be a seething anger machine to be using the Dark Side. But I’ve digressed. Anyway, for Star Wars to work – as mythology – Luke must begin to fall, illustrated at the beginning of ‘Jedi,’ so he can show us the way back to the Light Side. That’s the Hero’s Journey.

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      4. First, I wish to argue once more about why Luke has not succumbed to the Dark Side while dealing with Jabba. It is necessary to state that I do see a grey area in the Force. The Jedi and those of the Light Side do not just avoid evil, they do good. There are actions that are not good but aren’t necessarily evil. The Jedi cannot indulge these actions either. That being said, I feel that Luke is in this grey area and not the Dark Side. For me, this is demonstrated by how hard Luke tries to find a solution in which no one dies or is permanently harmed. He begins his dealings with Jabba via hologram. He has nothing but praise for Jabba, calling him “exalted one”. One who is of the Dark Side will never lower himself in such a way. He then gives Jabba C3PO and R2D2, not just droids but faithful companions, in the hopes that this will secure a friendly relationship. Sadly this is rejected. He then sends Leia in to save Han(probably with the hope that Lando will be able save Chewy and the Droids later). This also fails. Luke realizes that Jabba doesn’t think much of Luke’s original submissive attitude. So when he comes in person, he tries a bolder attitude, hoping that Jabba might appreciate it and may at least listen to Luke’s offer. Jedi are not supposed to use threats, but a Dark Sider wouldn’t bother with them. He would simply start killing people the second he was denied. Luke shows a patience that is not seen with the Dark Side.

        Second, I think the story is more meaningful if Luke doesn’t encounter the Dark Side at this time. As the movie goes on, Luke’s connection to the Light Side grows stronger. He progresses from this grey area to being almost submerged in the Light. He first realizes that there is still good in his father and refuses to kill him. Then, on Endor, he senses that he is putting his friends lives in danger. So he goes to Vader, knowing that he will probably be taken to the Death Star, which he believes will be destroyed soon. Essentially, he sacrifices himself for his friends. This shows how far he has truly come. On the Death Star, he still shows his dedication to the Light Side. But then he gives into his hatred and tries to kill his father. He was at the pinnacle of the Light Side, but in moments he descends to the Dark. His sudden transformation shows how insidious the Dark Side is. If he can go from being an example of the Light to its exact opposite, doesn’t that show how strong the pull of the Dark Side really is? It is when he stands above Vader and sees what he has done that he truly realizes the corruption of the Dark Side. He goes from refusing to fight his father to almost killing him. Before this moment he didn’t know the Dark Side. Yoda’s teachings never resonated with him until know. By seeing what the Dark Side has done to him, he can understand how is father, who was once a good Jedi, could become the personification of darkness itself. After seeing what the Dark Side has done to him, he is able to rejected it completely. He is now a true Jedi. Even the emperor is able to sense this and decides to kill him. If Luke had been toying with the Dark Side this whole time, doesn’t it mean that it tempts Luke less? The temptation is better exemplified by a sudden reversal than a steady descent.

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    2. I’d say Luke IS treading the ground of everyday morality in a galaxy far, far away. I’d also agree his actions are similar, as you’ve laid out, to Leia’s. However the difference is Luke is training to be a Jedi. Before Luke leaves for Bespin Yoda tells him, “Mind what you have learned! Save you it can!” Yoda is clearly worried about Luke falling to the Dark Side like his father. The implication is that Luke (clearly) is not a Jedi but he must still follow his Jedi training. This can help save him from the pull of the Dark Side. So it seems clear that Luke, as a Jedi-in-training, still must act as a Jedi would. Also, Yoda informs him, “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will.” That also seems to I,y that there’s no real grey area in Jedi conduct or use of the Force. You are using the Light Side or you are using the Dark…and that path will consume you. So while Luke isn’t “fully immersed in the darkness” at Jabba’s Palace (he has yet to fall as Anakin did, even if he’s descended to the abyss and is facing temptation), he is still using the Dark Side. And that, even for a Jedi-to-be still doesn’t seem right.

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      1. I like the way you approach this in the sense that while one can certainly take a full fledged deep dive into the Dark Side, it really is more of a gradual process. Rather than diving in, one wades into it. This would seem to go along with what Yoda is saying about starting down the dark path. Ultimately, I agree with you. I don’t think that a gray zone really exists for the Jedi. However, I do think it is possible that as one wades into the Dark Side, they can continue acting with the Light. I think this is precisely what happens with Anakin throughout the Clone Wars. He has moments of Darkness, but he also has moments of Light. In fact, this is essentially what Dark Disciple is all about, sort of the line of demarcation whereby one can act with BOTH sides of the Force without being fully immersed in either. I will be interested to hear what you have to say about this topic after you read the book…ahem….so read the book.

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  4. As a closing argument, I would like to mention that Luke actually does show some concern for the lives of Jabba and his cartel. When he enters, he negotiates and tries to do everything without violence. Had Luke been consumed by the Dark Side he wouldn’t have bothered. He would just kill everyone from the beginning. The last thing he wanted to do was to kill Jabba and his minions. The plan that he created was probably made after serious contemplation and concern for how it would end(probably did not see the Sarlacc pit coming). And it is worth mentioning that Jabba refused to let Luke come to negotiate. The guards and Bib Fortuna were told by Jabba “not to let him in”. The guards would not have let him in and would have forced him out. That is also why Luke needs to use a Jedi mind trick when dealing with Fortuna. At this point, however, I doubt either of us would be able to persuade the other.

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  5. So this is all very interesting (and very lengthy). I have been wrestling with how I feel on the subject while reading each argument, and haven’t really nailed down how I feel about it yet. I do agree with Michael when he talks about Luke flirting with the Dark Side. The fact that Luke faces the same struggle that his father did, but in the end turns his back on the Dark Side is what makes the redemptive aspect of the story so great. In theological terms, this would have Anakin appear as Adam – the chosen on who fell from grace – and Luke as the second Adam – or the one who brought forth redemption. That being said, I have a hard time believing that we will never see Luke resort to violence again despite the Myth of Redemptive Violence. They are still knights and will use force (and maybe the Force) to defend those incapable of defending themselves, which is really a primary difference between the Jedi and Sith. The Sith use violence as a means of power and control. They use it to obtain their own individualistic desires and to treat others as objects. The Jedi have to stand in their way. There is a reason they train in the use of the Force and the seven forms of lightsaber styles. I also think there is a smidgen of gray in the Force. The Jedi are still fallible, which is made obvious by the rise of the Emperor right under their noses… or snouts, or whatever. Their understanding of the Force is still limited by their capacity to understand the infinite. After all, both Obi-Wan and Yoda did tell Luke that there is no coming back from the Dark Side, and that Vader is irredeemable, but this proves false when Luke actually does bring about the redemption of Vader (and we know he was redeemed because Hayden Christenson popped up on Endor during the celebration). I think Qui-Gon shows this too. He disagrees with how the sees the Force. He is also slow to violence and does not fight out of hatred (we see this when he meditates mid-battle), but he will cross sabers to defend what needs defending. Sorry for the stream of consciousness paragraph. I hope that made some sense.

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  6. First Cam, that made perfect sense and I also really enjoyed the stream of consciousness flow of your comment. Second, “Their understanding of the Force is still limited by their capacity to understand the infinite” is one of the best lines and insights about Star Wars I’ve ever read! In fact, I may (meaning, “will”) use it (giving you credit of course) the next time I teach about Star Wars. Third to your point about Luke resorting to violence again, I’m sure you’re right. (Just how that happens is something that concerns me which (given the nature of my two posts on this site and all these comments) should be no surprise.) In fact, I think the how and why of the use of violence is one of the major dividing lines between the Light and the Dark Side. And i’d say it’s a very, very thin line between them. I think that is an important distinction to consider in Star Wars as a story and also as a mythic/theological teaching.

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    1. Here is a thought I just had and I am throwing it out there without really thinking it through so my bad if it sounds confusing….

      Mike, you note that: “the how and why of the use of violence is one of the major dividing lines between Light and the Dark Side. And i’d say it’s a very, very thing line…” And, you say this in response to Cam’s point that “I have a hard time believing that we will never see Luke resort to violence again despite the Myth of Redemptive Violence. They are still knights and will use force (and maybe the Force) to defend those incapable of defending themselves, which is really a primary difference between the Jedi and Sith.”

      Okay, so, here is my thing – the Jedi can’t use violence. At all. Period. End of story. If they do, that IS the Dark Side. There is no way around it and I say this because of the definition of violence. Seriously, just google the word and you will see what I mean. The first thing that pops up on dictionary.com is: “swift and intense force.” The second thing: “rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment.” And so on and so on and so on. This is NOT to say that the Jedi do not engage in combat, or that they can’t. “Knowledge and defense, never attack” is what Yoda says to Luke and rightfully so. Now, we could debate the semantics of this endlessly. Someone might say: “But what if they are engaged in Lightsaber combat and press their attack! Isn’t that violence, isn’t that the Dark Side.” NO! The purpose of intense training in the Light Side and with a lightsaber is to utilize both simultaneously so as to ensure that when one engages in combat, they do not go into a blood lust. Pressing your opponent in combat in order to disarm them, in order to end the fight for the sake of those you are defending, that is the goal. Sometimes a good defense is a good offense, but that does not mean one preempts the attack, nor do they engage in an offensive action for the sake of their own desires.

      And I think that is one of the things, in RotJ, that we are supposed to recognize about Luke – he consistently starts the fight in the moments he needs to STAY CALM! Whether it is pulling a gun on Jabba or igniting his lightsaber to kill the Emperor or going on a rampage against Vader when he is being goaded about his “sista.” Luke uses violence to: save Han, to kill the Emperor, to defeat Vader. Every time we see him do this, we should do a *face palm* because Luke is giving into the Dark Side and, as Yoda says, “that is why you [he] fail(s).”

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      1. Love it. Pack it up, boys. Show’s over. But seriously, I totally agree with that thought process. We see that in how Obi-Wan fights. He generally remains calm, but will engage with an enemy when necessary. Unlike Anakin who time and time again read headlong at the enemy despite his masters orders.

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  7. First Cam, that made perfect sense and I also really enjoyed the stream of consciousness flow of your comment. Second, “Their understanding of the Force is still limited by their capacity to understand the infinite” is one of the best lines and insights about Star Wars I’ve ever read! In fact, I may (meaning, “will”) use it (giving you credit of course) the next time I teach about Star Wars. Third to your point about Luke resorting to violence again, I’m sure you’re right. It had to happen. (Just HOW that happens is something that concerns me which should be no surprise.) In fact, I think the how and why of the use of violence is one of the major dividing lines between the Light and the Dark Side. And I feel it’s a very, very thin line indeed.

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  8. i would like to point out.. that what ever the act but the intention and the feeling u carry while doing it and desired consequences define that act eg. Whats the difference between a murder and a death sentence , authority. Even if force choke is considered a dark technique , a jedi using it to knock enemies unconscious might feel dark but in his mind if his intentions are not generating a dark energy then its light only. its the intention , purpose and the energy u generate while doing anything that defines ight or dark, the user defines the tool . Using choke to knock enemies out can be considered clever too. because u have to stop the blood flow to the brain to knock someone out , just to prove a point no one needs to go and manually do it.

    As far as violence goes. Any attack will hurt the other person. might accidentaly kill them too. So combat will be a better word. And sometimes we all have to do a little combat , it just what the situation demands sometimes , u cant plan it.

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