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 ...
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 ...
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...
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.
The Dark Side Cares About Progress
There's no two ways around this: blowing up Alderaan was a dick move. I can't condone it. Definitely an atrocity, and the worst thing to happen in the entire series. I know that Darth Vader insists that "the ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force," but listen, Darth. No it is not. The ability to destroy a planet isn't insignificant next to anything.
Particularly not planets.
But -- but -- is it really fair to blame the "Dark Side" for that? This is war, a place where the depths of human cruelty knows no floor. And if we're really going to split hairs, the actual destruction of Alderaan was Grand Moff Tarkin's call, and he clearly has no patience for this superstitious nonsense. The real problem here is callous disregard for sentient life, which I'm not convinced is actually a trait that's unique to the Dark Side. I trust I don't have to remind you that the rebels blow up two separate Death Stars, killing probably hundreds of thousands of people -- the explicit guilt of whom is debatable -- and no one bats an eye.
What we don't consider is the economic repercussions of the construction of the Death Star -- or any non-military applications it may have. The biggest job program in the U.S. is the military, which accounts for two whole percentage points in our unemployment rate. We build and buy tanks just so that people can have a job building tanks. A Death Star could single-handedly pull a galactic Empire out of a recession. That's important. Not everybody has a gig at their family moisture farm to fall back on, ya know?
You think this band wanted to do a gig at Jabba's Murder Palace?
Furthermore, once the war is over, think about how useful a Death Star could be. We know what a hassle asteroid fields are -- surely this kind of technology could be used to clear those out, simplifying trade routes. There are tons of other potential problems too -- like, I bet planets crash into each other sometimes. That probably happens, right? It's a big galactic Empire, after all. A Death Star could prevent that by blowing one of them up (the one with no people on it). Maybe they come up with a less-evil-sounding name than Death Star, like "Life Sun" or "Friend Moon."
So yeah, the Empire screwed up by blowing up Alderaan. They should not have done that. But blame that on the people who did it, not the entire dark side. It certainly doesn't mean that the technology itself is evil, or that they're irredeemable as a political entity. And we can't forget all the good they did.
The Dark Side Is Better At Running Things
Aside from the conspicuous lack of stupid CGI bullshit, the biggest difference between the Star Wars prequels and the original trilogy is the distinct lack of slaves. Anakin was born a slave, but Luke grows up on the same planet as him, and there seems to be something of an economy, since he's a moisture farmer who plans on applying to the Academy. Aside from Jabba's palace, a place we can assume operates outside the law, we see no evidence of institutionalized slavery in the entire original trilogy. So at some point, the Empire -- led by Vader and Papa Palps -- abolished slavery. That's not a small thing.
And while I'm pretty sure that Vader's upbringing played a part in this, it's also clearly a pretty good move from a cold, calculated, economic standpoint. There's simply no way this:
Requires as much upkeep as this:
Even if you like to be especially dickish to your slaves, you still have to feed them or they stop being your slaves and become dead. And you have to provide them with shelter or the same thing happens. There's a lot of overhead to maintaining a human being that robots simply don't require. Does R2-D2 need to be recharged ever? Does Threepio need maintenance more complicated than what a Wookiee can pull off? Probably not, considering he was built by a motherfucking 8-year-old kid.
Basically, I'm sick of only hearing the Jedi's side of the story, considering we know that their favorite things are a) lies and b) preserving tradition, even when that tradition is slavery, and c) stifling progress.
But the dark side is good. The dark side is stronger. And it has been all along. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.