CHARACTER INJUSTICE: UNDERAPPRECIATED FIGURES IN THE STAR WARS UNIVERSE
By Emily Geerling (alias Frodo Baggins),
Word Count: 1378
Rating: G (suitable for all audiences)
Summary: An overview of forgotten or disliked characters in Star Wars, and why they should be better appreciated.
My pen name may be Frodo Baggins, but I am a huge Star Wars fan. I have the Star-Wars-themed keychains, pillows, and Barbie dolls to prove it. Don’t even get me started on my family’s Star Wars action figure collection (we have over a thousand!). Along the road of life, I’ve met a lot of other Star Wars fans. I usually enjoy having nerdy Star Wars rants, but I’ve noticed that certain characters are unjustly labeled or suffer from some serious prejudice (or, in the case of Admiral Ackbar, are just not taken seriously anymore!). So, I have put together a list of characters who are maybe not your (or anyone’s) favorite, but should still have your appreciation, if they don’t already.
Luke Skywalker: Okay, I know there are probably millions of Luke Skywalker fan girls in the world, but Luke is not one of my favorite characters. When we first meet Luke in Episode IV: A New Hope, he has a lot of problems: he whines, he’s reckless, and he doesn’t appreciate what he has. His tendency to whine is really why I don’t like him, and I’ve found that a lot of people agree with me. Still, I have to admit that Luke matures quite a bit. By the end of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, he can keep his feelings pretty well under control and was valiant enough to surrender himself in a final attempt to bring his father back from the Dark Side and save the galaxy. In addition, the whining is reduced to basically zero. Luke has earned my respect as a character, and I think people need to at least acknowledge the mature Luke at the end even if they can’t get over how whiny he is in A New Hope.
Padme Amidala: Padme certainly is a very controversial character. To some, she is a good and gentle beauty; to others, a stubborn and whiny…well, to put it bluntly, brat. I think that she is a mixture of both, and that she possesses many good – and bad – qualities. She undoubtedly makes mistakes, the most obvious of which is her forbidden marriage to Anakin Skywalker at the end of Episode II: Attack of the Clones. But Padme does deserve credit for constantly working for the good of the Republic and everyone in the galaxy, being one of the few galactic senators who did so. She always put the welfare of others above her own safety, which is most evident in Episode I: The Phantom Menace when, as queen of Naboo, she refuses to stay on Coruscant while her people are suffering at the hands of the Trade Federation. Her courage results in the Federation being driven from the planet and peace between the humans and Gungans of Naboo. Padme Amidala is not the most virtuous character ever, but she did her best to serve Naboo and the Republic, and for that she deserves credit.
Darth Vader: I will not deny that Darth Vader does some very evil things. However, he should not be labeled as totally evil, as he often is. My mom has a book by Conor Gallagher called If Aristotle’s Kid had an I-Pod. It is a very interesting book, and in one of the chapters it labels well-known characters as having certain virtues/vices. Most of the parallels are accurate, but the author uses Darth Vader to demonstrate a character that is completely evil. But that is just not true! Vader did murder countless people and allow the destruction of a planet, but in the end, he repents of his evil actions and brings balance to the Force. He was not totally evil; there was a bit of good left in him that Luke was able to bring out in Return of the Jedi, and in the end he was able to fulfill the prophecy about the Chosen One. In His infinite mercy, Christ will forgive anyone who has sinned and shows that they are truly sorry, and I believe Christ would’ve forgiven Darth Vader if the Star Wars saga had really happened. Although he was undoubtedly evil, Darth Vader was not totally evil, and should not be called such.
Jar-Jar Binks: I have yet to encounter someone who likes poor Jar-Jar Binks. Jar-Jar is stupid, clumsy, and has poor manners. When Jar-Jar is around, something bad is bound to happen. However, I think a lot of people don’t realize that Jar-Jar isn’t meaning to be a nuisance. He does let his curiosity get the better of him, and that often gets him (and his companions) into trouble. But Jar-Jar really tries to be helpful; he just isn’t always successful. He fights in several battles in The Phantom Menace, and although he doesn’t take out as many Battle Droids as, say, Qui-Gon Jinn, he still tries to fight as well as he can. This is best demonstrated during the Battle of the Naboo Plains. During the battle, we frequently see Jar-Jar trying to do helpful things like fire a catapult, but most of his attempts end up with him lying on the ground. The most helpful thing he does is destroy one of the Federation’s AAT tanks by accidentally releasing a chariot-full of blue energy balls. Despite his clumsy and immature behavior in The Phantom Menace, Jar-Jar has been made a Naboo representative in Attack of the Clones. This indicates either that the people of Naboo are not very smart or that Jar-Jar has had a change in character during the obscure ten years in between Episodes I and II. I think the latter is more likely, especially since he is chosen by Padme Amidala to take her place as senator while she is away. Though at first he may seem like little more than comic relief, Jar-Jar Binks can teach us many valuable lessons about perseverance and trying your best (and what not to do) if we let him.
General Grievous: Grievous is only in one movie, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but he makes many appearances in Star Wars: The Clones Wars, an animated TV show that aired on Cartoon Network for several years before Disney’s purchase of Star Wars from George Lucas. Appearance-wise, Grievous is basically the same in Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars and even has his trademark robotic cough in both (although technically he shouldn’t in The Clone Wars). What really bugs me, though, is that in The Clone Wars he is a big coward who brags about his lightsaber skills but isn’t really all that good at fighting. This differs from both the movie Grievous and the Grievous in another TV show about the Clone Wars which aired from 2003-2005 and (in my opinion) is better than the more recent show. In these, Grievous is a skilled and cunning warrior who can defeat multiple Jedi at once. I think his combat skills and his evil-robot look form an epic combination that is often overlooked by those who focus too much on the cowardly braggart from The Clone Wars. In Revenge of the Sith, Grievous does flee from his burning ship and then hide on Utapau, but I would hardly call that cowardice. I would call that common sense. The ship was on fire and going to crash, so the smart thing to do was obviously make swift use of an escape pod. Also, going to Utapau was not cowardly because the nearest planets were controlled by Grievous’ enemies, so if he landed on one he would surely be caught. General Grievous may be a coward in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but from a movie standpoint is a very cool robotic general who can wield a lightsaber better than many Jedi.
The Star Wars saga has had an impact on my life and on the lives of millions of people worldwide. Fans have their various reasons for loving Star Wars, and one of mine is that there are so many characters to discuss and analyze. In these discussions, I have found that many people focus only on a character’s bad traits. I hope that my arguments here will help to end the injustice that is frequently shown towards these great characters. May the Force be with you!