Warning: massive plot spoilers. Do not read if you don’t want to know the plot of Revenge of the Sith.
George Lucas has a wife and three children. If the Jedi mystique accurately portrays his vision of society, you wouldn’t want to be one of them. Let me explain.
Now that we have Lucas’ complete vision, we can see the story centers not around Luke, but around Anakin. That, as they say, changes everything. If Lucas’ first three efforts were about a young man learning to find himself, the last three are about marriage and family. It isn’t pretty. Only two families are portrayed in the six-film series: Anakin and his single mother, and Anakin’s own marriage to Padme (Luke’s aunt and uncle are merely plot devices who carry less than fifteen minutes of combined film time).
The contrast is stark. Even though she is enslaved, Anakin’s single mother is relatively happy. Her fatherless child, on the other hand, enters a marriage so dysfunctional that it leads to intergalactic war, the destruction of whole planets and the deaths of untold billions.
Did Lucas mean to show fatherless boys make bad husbands? Or did he mean to show how a skewed understanding of celibacy destroys lives? By the end of Revenge, it’s hard to tell. The whole story has become rather muddled.
The Evil of the Jedi
We learn that the Sith are evil because they are selfish, while the Jedi are good because they are selfless – they always serve others. This selflessness is apparently meant to explain Jedi celibacy. Jedi are not supposed to be attached to anything, “Train yourself to let go of everything you are afraid to lose,” Yoda counsels a despondent Anakin.
If this is Jedi philosophy, the Sith are right to destroy them. Persons are defined by their relationships with other persons. For that reason, marriage and family are superlative goods. In fact, marriage and procreation are so good that celibacy can make sense only if it permits us to participate in an even greater personal relationship than father and husband, mother and wife.
The only personal relationship greater than these is a personal relationship with God Himself. The pursuit of celibacy apart from a personal relationship with God is the pursuit of self-annihilation. Argue if you would like, but remember that only two kinds of religious celibates exist: the Christian celibate, who seeks more perfect union with the three Persons of the Trinity, and the Eastern mystic, who seeks to annihilate his own ego to become one with Nirvana – Nothingness.
The Jedi are Eastern mystics. For them, God is neither Person nor personal. Thus, when the Jedi require all their members to detach themselves from personal relationships, they require suicidal selflessness. This incoherence eventually destroys the movie’s plot.
The Dark Side: Marriage
Lucas’ Jedi ethic, for instance, respects the individual as an enemy, but not as a spouse. Jedi may not kill unarmed prisoners, no matter how evil, no matter how universal the suffering they caused. But they may not marry. The good of the one is greater than the good of the many as long as that one is an enemy – if it is a spouse, then abandon her.
Instead of seeing marriage as a life-long commitment to serve one’s spouse, the Jedi see marriage as a selfish attachment, a self-indulgence. Marriage is not a commitment to serve someone else, it is a commitment to make someone else a tool towards personal happiness. Anakin essentially says this when he tells Padme, “I cannot live without you.” He suffers from a failure of vision, he cannot conceive of a greater good for himself than Padme. He must have her. Marriage is how Anakin takes care of Anakin.
This explains Anakin’s attitude towards Padme’s pregnancy. Never does he inquire as to the health of the children, never does he question whether he will be a good father, nor whether he is on the path to such a goal. Padme is equally oblivious to her own condition. She cares only about his career, he worries only about her death. Rarely has the pregnancy of a protagonist, a pregnancy critical to plot development, been so universally ignored by every character in a story.
With the revelation of the pregnancy, we can see that Anakin began his walk down the Dark Side when he got married. He is angry at the Jedi Council because he broke their law against marriage. Their law has made his failures as a Jedi manifest. He is not able to think through the source of his discontent because the Jedi code virtually prohibits thought, “Follow your feelings,” he is told again and again.
When he does, he finds he has broken their law on marriage. But how could he avoid it? A Jedi cannot say “I think we should do X,” rather, he says “I feel we should do X.” A Jedi never tells people things: that implies possession of knowledge. Rather, he shares with them, which is, perhaps, why none but the Sith seem to think much.
The animus against thought is the only constant theme. When Senator Palatine warns Anakin against the Jedi because they are too dogmatic and narrow-minded, when he says the Jedi need a larger view of the world, we know Anakin sees dogmatism as a bad thing. But when Anakin quotes Jesus to Obi-Wan, “You are either for me or against me” (Matthew 12:30), we find out from Obi-Wan that Jesus was a Sith Lord – “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.” The Sith are apparently evil because they are the dogmatists. Selfishness and dogmatism are equated.
Indeed, dogmatism seems to be the only thing everyone wants to avoid. As a result, the entire story line falls apart as everyone becomes a hypocrite.
Certainly the Jedi are hypocritical dogmatists. After all, we don’t see the Jedi sitting down with the Sith Lords in order to work out their differences in common council by negotiating a middle ground. Instead, the Jedi insist democracy and republics are better than emperors and empires. They prohibit killing the unarmed. They prohibit marriage, enjoin celibacy, and insist you feel your way out of a situation instead of think your way out.
Likewise, Padme is meant to represent the good, the mother-earth principle. As Anakin becomes a dark techno-geek in the most literal sense, Padme enters a white chamber to give glorious birth. Except the birth isn’t glorious. As the two are showcased in their respective surgeries, we are supposed to see some sort of contrast between them, but ironically, we see they are both cut from the same cloth.
Anakin is quite willing to slaughter innocent children and his own friends in order to save someone he has decided he can't live without (although, as the rest of the series shows, he does manage to survive without her). Likewise, Padme is willing to orphan her children because her husband is an ass. Instead of living for love, she dies from petulance.
Nobody gives a hot damn about the children. Even the Jedi preserve their lives primarily as insurance against the Sith, so they have a way to wrest back power when the children come of age. In this story, every person is a pawn to be used, in a completely objective and disinterested way, of course.
The Sith are the only honest characters in the film, in the sense that they lie, but they know why they lie and they are consistent in their lies.
In short, the whole series is not the clear-cut clash of good against evil that attracted thousands in the 1970’s. Instead, it is transformed into a sordid mess, a series of stupid people doing stupid things for stupid reasons.
But, as Mark Twain says, everyone is good for something, even if it’s only a bad example. If anyone wonders what life looks like to a pagan, watch the Star Wars series. Its incoherence, senseless violence and skewed perceptions of reality combine to demonstrate that without Christ at the center, life truly is but sound and fury, signifying nothing.