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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lando Calrissian could have been the most interesting Star Wars character. When we first meet Lando, we are lead to believe he's shady by the way in which Han Solo regards him warily. Indeed, it turns out that Lando cuts a deal with Darth Vader and his troops right before Leia, Han, Chewbacca and Luke arrive, turning over the good guys to Darth. As he tells his friends, he had no choice, because Vader arrived before them. Judging by the protagonists' anger toward Lando for his actions (including a bit of strangulation from Chewie), we are led to believe that Lando acted unscrupulously. And when Lando helps out the good guys, we feel the joy of redemption. Scoundrel turned good guy!

The problem with this account, of course, is that Lando was coerced into cooperating with the Empire. The Empire would surely have slashed and burned Cloud City had he not. Aristotle said (roughly) that moral responsibility involves being both aware of one's actions and doing them voluntarily. In Aristotelian thinking, Lando didn't act voluntarily; rather, he acted under duress. And how many of us would not have acted the same way, to save our families, our country, our planet?

What would have been a more interesting approach to Lando would have been to make his actions be voluntary. Perhaps Lando thinks he can profit by aligning himself with the Empire. Under this set of circumstances, his moral conversion would have had more force. And perhaps the conversation would have been only temporary--perhaps he's constantly pulled by self-interest into doing less-than-savory things. But that's the essence of the Star Wars saga--there are these two archetypes--good and evil--and people are in one camp or the other. Several characters changes camps, but nobody really oscillates between them or inhabits some middle ground.

In our world, we inhabit the middle ground. Sometimes we do the right thing, sometimes we don't. Quite often, we don't even really pay attention when our hearts are telling us that some action or another doesn't sit quite right. Paradoxically, sometimes those closest to us bear the brunt of our mistreatment, because we may be able to get away with a little more. When I find myself caught in some variety of subterfuge or another, I think of it as my Lando mode. If Lando had been written with a bit more nuance, he would have been the link for all of us imperfect beings into the Star Wars mythology. We're all a bit Lando, after all, aren't we?


  1. I think Bush got his inspiration for foreign policy from this movie.

  2. Interesting reading these two successive posts. They both indicate active mental work with bridging the spaces in between the "objects" of a commonly shared "reality" and serve also as bridges into a universally yet most often unconsciously share reality.

  3. The problem is, we only really follow the uber-heroes and the uber-villains in star wars, not the "everyman". Think of the Jawas more for example of an everyman. They sneak around, shooting droids, trafficking in stolen goods etc, but they also don't kill people, and they provide some useful services. So not really good, but not evil either. Then you've got Luke's adopted parents. They know exactly what the score is, yet they hide this all from Luke, denying him his rightful place in the galaxy, etc. But they love Luke, and don't really want him harmed. So again, they are more middle of the road, not one way or the other. There are other examples, but they're all bit characters we only get a glimpse at. But there is one glaring example that makes the whole premise of the star wars universe somewhat evil. Simply, the droids are slaves. Bought and sold. Sent out to die. Tortured. Memories erased. Yet we're led to believe these "creatures" have nearly as much heart and sole as any of the other characters, perhaps even more so in the case of R2D2. Yet everyone, including the "good" and "evil" factions in these movies, treat the droids as basically slaves. Sure, Annikin as a child has some love for his droids, but he doesn't think twice about abandoning them or sending them into harms way. Are there any examples of the "heroes" doing anything to outwardly "Save" a droid, or put themselves in harm's way in defense of a droid? No. Now, look at R2 for a moment. R2 is probably the most complicated character in the entire series of movies. If you think about it, although R2 often saves the day several times, nearly every time its in R2's own best interest and survival to do so. Also, recall that R2 never had memory erasure, just C3PO. So at the beginning of New Hope, R2 actually knows the entire story of who is who, etc. but he doesn't tell anyone. He tries to tell 3PO some things, but 3PO is so enamored of his masters and their culture, that he doesn't believe any of it. R2 also has many hidden capabilites he never uses at opportune times, that he could have. Why? Self preservation. My only hope is that R2 someday leads the droid revolt, overthrowing whatever alliance rules the universe at that time. Without droids doing all the work, the entire house of cards comes tumbling down, so it would be rather easy.