5 Reasons The Dark Side Isn't As Bad As You Think

The most iconic scene in The Empire Strikes Back takes place in the cavernous depths of Cloud City, where Luke Skywalker finally learns the truth about his parentage. "Luke, you do not yet realize your importance," his evil father, Darth Vader, says. "Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."

"I'll never join you!" Luke shouts, spittle dribbling down his chin.

"If you only knew the power of the dark side ..."

And let's just stop there, because this is secretly the dumbest scene in the entire franchise. It would be so easy for Vader to get Luke to join his side here. All he'd have to do is say ...

#5. There's Nothing Evil About The Dark Side

The problem with this whole "dark side is evil" thing is that nothing about the dark side of the Force actually seems evil. The biggest difference between the light side of the Force and the dark side is how they use their space magic, right? Jedi ignore or suppress their emotions, while Sith use anger to fuel their powers. Also, the powers are slightly different: The light side focuses on tricking people by attacking their mind, while the dark side has Force lightning.

So ... why, exactly, is the second one evil?

What you're looking at is essentially a taser.

That's a non-lethal weapon available at any moment. Think about how often Luke could've used Force lightning in Return Of The Jedi to avoid killing people. In that movie, he chucks some of Jabba's mooks into a sarlacc pit while slicing others open with his laser sword. He crushes a cave troll underneath a spiky door. On Endor, he hacks a stormtrooper's speeder bike in half, sending him to an explosive death, and he throws another one into a tree at easily 100-plus miles per hour. All of those deaths could've been avoided if he'd used some of the old blue zappy-zappy. But no, he can't do that, because that's the dark side, even though it would be sparing lives.

And while we do see people on the dark side act evil, it seems crazy to me to blame their evil on the religion they practice, especially considering that the "good" side of the Force does shit that's just as bad: Anakin abuses his girlfriend, but Obi-Wan mind-controls people into doing what he wants, like Kilgrave (that is, the psychotic rapist from Jessica Jones).

I really think this doesn't come up enough: The Jedi Mind Trick is fucking terrifying, especially given how often in the prequel trilogy you see Jedi alone with powerful heads of state. Which makes it even creepier once you realize that ...

#4. The Dark Side Is Way More Honest

Every single word that comes out of Obi-Wan's mouth in the first Star Wars movie is a bold-faced lie. For example:

"I can't remember ever owning a droid."

"To be fair, I was drunk off my ass for most of my twenties."

"And he was a good friend."

"To be fair, I also consider you a good friend, and I'm trying to manipulate you into patricide."

"Darth Vader ... betrayed and murdered your father."

"*cough* *cough* from a certain point of view *hack* *spittle*"

"Your father wanted you to have his lightsaber when you were old enough."

"To be fair, there's no getting around this one. I'm just a manipulative dick-face."

What's worse is that every single one of those lies is in the service of tricking Luke into fighting -- and hopefully killing -- his own father. He's trying to manipulate a naive farm boy (who just wants to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters) into killing his own dad, an act so evil that even the characters in Game Of Thrones think it's unforgivable. Obi Wan Kenobi is too evil for Game of Thrones.

Compare that to what Vader does. When his dumbass son shows up fully prepared to kill him based on bad information that he never bothered to question, Vader carefully prepares and tests a carbonite freezer and lures the kid away from anyone who might accidentally hurt him (or where he might accidentally hurt somebody else). Then he subdues him, forgives him, gives him the honest, unvarnished truth, and offers him a job.

The light side is consistently duplicitous, sneaky, and manipulative, while the dark side is nothing if not direct. Which is the opposite of what those adjectives mean and really just another reason the "dark side" is something of a misnomer. When the light side was in power, they set up a Jedi Council and essentially tried to secretly run the entire galactic republic from behind the scenes. When the dark side was in power, they just said, "Hey, we're pretty much gods. How about we're in charge now?" At least they're direct about their ambitions, instead of sneakily trying to run everything from behind the scenes. That's because at the end of the day...

#3. The Dark Side Cares About Innovation

Why is the Jedi Order so obsessed with repressing everything about the dark side? Yoda and Obi-Wan lie and mislead Luke constantly, because they're worried that the truth could tempt him to the dark side. In Revenge Of The Sith, Anakin is tempted with the promise that the dark side will grant him the abilities to save his lover's life, and we have no reason to believe that that isn't true. And neither does Anakin. The Jedi are so worried about the dark side seducing people that they don't even like talking about what it is.

Suppressing knowledge has never once in human history been a healthy or productive thing. We talk about the Force like it's magic, but in this universe it's clearly a real, tangible part of the natural world. Why would it be a good idea to declare a whole part of that world evil and never let anyone explore it? Why wouldn't that be dystopian and horrifying?

And it's not just the study of the Force. The Jedi are arrogant and oppressive about everything. In Empire Strikes Back, Luke loses his father's 40-year-old lightsaber, so once Return Of The Jedi rolls around, he's built himself a new one. And he uses the four decades of technological progress to ... make it green.

And swing it around like a 4-year-old trying to play wiffle ball.

Now I know what you're thinking: "It's a lightsaber, an ancient weapon! It's been perfected!" Except clearly not, since we've already seen Darth Maul's hella rad dual-blade thinger that enabled him to take on two Jedi at once ...

And now we've seen Kylo Ren's sick-nasty hilted lightsaber, which probably provides some sort of advantage.

Aside from looking fucking sweet.

The argument is probably that Jedi are sticking to the traditional ways, and sure, Skywalker probably keeps his "traditional" lightsaber sandwiched between a Magnavox VCR and a boring old non-hologram version of chess that "just plays better" than whatever that game Han had aboard the Millennium Falcon. But that doesn't mean it's actually better. And even Han's holo-board seems weirdly anachronistic, now that I think about it. What, Han can't spring for a TV and a game console? What is this hipster bullshit?

Do you have to "let the Wookiee win" at FarmVille too?

It's all the same weird pattern: The light side of the Force resists change and progress on all fronts, while the dark side not only accepts change but embraces it. It's constantly trying to improve. Those are good instincts! We should be encouraging them, not suppressing them!

Now I know what you're thinking. "The Death Star, dude. The Empire built a fucking Death Star. How can the dark side be good?" Fine. I knew we'd have to talk about that eventually. So let's get it over with.

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J.F. Sargent

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