Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Season I, Episode VI: Downfall of a Droid


"Trust in your friends and they'll have reason to trust in you." Every once in awhile the epigram that begin the shows catch me off guard--I needed that one. Worth thinking about--why put nuggets of wisdom where "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" used to be? Perhaps to retroactively frame that original message as a piece of wisdom?
Anakin Skywalker, for all his dark side dabbling, maintains a respect for alterity lacking in the declining Jedi Order. He has an intimacy with droids, having built one--built an original trilogy character--and grown a forbidden attachment with another. . He even became friends with Jar Jar Binks. This episode is the story of his attachment to R2-D2. The attachment does not only signify Anakin's willingness to disregard orders (not wiping R2's memory--another sign of his salubrious relation to beings written off by even compassionate others. And how are our people's memory' wiped--entertainment?) as well as more important principles. The episode also weaves the longest will of the force--Anakin's bringing balance to it. He will bring balance partly by inspiring the next generation, the reformed order, to allow attachment. It begins with this young man, who eschew mystical energy fields, like Han Solo, in favor of good old-fashioned flying and his techno-wiz droid. (R2, by the way, gets techno music for the scene where he resists his restraining bolt. I like that the creators are willing to map new genre onto the Star Wars universe mold). The latter will be the flying companion of his son, the first of the next generation--another way in which R2-D2 is the glue that holds the whole saga together. The next generation will have its hands greasy, no rich-poor (Jedi-droids) gap, encouraging each to use her own strengths, rather than comply with the principle of an order losing relevance and losing its connection to life ("The Force"). "Hands-on experience", Anakin calls his disregard for his training, justifying to Ahsoka his running off after R2.
Make no mistake, though, there is a darkness that comes with this rebirth. It operates centrifugally from Anakin, who clenches his gloved, artificial fist when Obi-Wan says that droids are a dime a dozen. Anakin who is dismissive and angry at R3, R2's replacement, and Anakin with the psychotic plan of attack to which both his old master and his padawn reject.
But he's right about the attack, and right about R3, who turns out to be spy. This is the great burden and responsibility of being right--it can isolate you so much you become a monster. How about the framing story for this drama? Another attempt to save a planet from falling under Separatist control. There are many such storie in The Clone Wars series. But each planet the Republic 'wins' is won for a Republic on the verge of becoming a repressive Empire run for profit and power. As such, The Rebel Alliance has a strange affinity with The Separatist cause. The revolution will not necessarily be pretty, in any case. It's one more way Anakin's distrust of the Jedi turns out to be more perceptive than it first appears--these Jedi support a Republic on its way to empire. Sure, they are being fooled, but aren't we being fooled here in America, where a disturbing percentage of the working class vote for the people whose low-tax policies and military-police state insure their continued distance from the rich and continued lack of access to education and health care? The riddle of Star Wars is how can we learn from the only man whose senses are attuned to the weaknesses of his Republic, when that same man becomes the antidemocratic poster boy? He is like Soviet Russia--so close to real democratic reform until a Stalin takes over. No wonder we are afraid of revolution. But as I said above, the line between a Separatist rebellion and The Rebel Alliance is thin. To see the difference follow where the corporate funds are going...


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