Jedi Justifications #5 - A Certain Point of View on "A Certain Point of View"

What better way to celebrate Star Wars Day (May the Fourth Be With You) on The JediCole Universe site than with a brand new Jedi Justifications?  By golly it’s been a while!

“What a cop out!”

That was the sentiment I had quietly expressed when Obi-Wan Kenobi, in the form of an ethereal spirit, applied a circuitous logic to the outright lie he had foisted on Luke Skywalker shortly after their first encounter on the Judland Wastes.  By his own admission George Lucas did not originally have designs on Darth Vader having been the youthful hero’s sire.  Subsequently the storyline found itself painted into something of a corner following the events in the curiously impractical inner workings of Cloud City.  But was the espousal of “a certain point of view” so much of a conceit?  Or did Ben have his reasons to deceive Luke about his lineage, especially in light of his encounter with the Sith lord that predated the necessity of admitting the truth.  An admission that came in a certain justifiable form.

This particular justification was one that has been a long time in being realized.  Of all of the justifications I have produced it was the hardest to personally rectify.  As stated in the introduction I felt more than a little slighted by what seemed a patch over a glaring hole in the overall history of Luke Skywalker and his family.  But then that is always the problem with retrofitting a plot.  When I first saw The Empire Strikes Back I diligently championed the concept that Vader’s claim of parenthood was simply a  ploy.  Watch the duel between the two as it moves from the carbon freeze chamber to the awkward gantry and you will see the Saga’s chief villain casting about for some way to break down Luke’s resolve.  He tests the hero’s fortitude again and again, abandoning ploy after ploy in an attempt to turn the untrained Jedi to the Dark Side.  Going into Return of the Jedi three years later I fully expected to have my cause vindicated against all who wholeheartedly embraced Vader as Luke’s closest living relative.

Family Ties

Alas I was bemused to discover that the masses were correct in rallying behind Darth Vader’s admission of paternity.  Though I would come to embrace this as canon in time, in the moment of that first screening my disappointment was palatable.  And then insult was heaped upon injury when Luke confronted his late mentor on the subject of his father’s reported demise.  Seemingly dancing around his own deception, Obi-Wan’s excuse for his deceit seemed as transparent as his spirit.  A certain point of view!?  What could be more dismissive of one’s culpability when caught in a lie?  It seemed as if, in death, the slain Jedi was determined to back peddle on his choice of words when called down on reality versus what he chose to share of his past relationship with the ex-Jedi.  And yet as the years went by and this troublesome turn of events continued to nag at the back of my hardcore Star Wars fan brain I eventually found common ground with the approach that “old Obi-Wan” had taken in softening the blow for his would-be apprentice.

In delving into this conundrum it is important to look at what came before, but only in the sense that what did come before was largely implied rather than expressed.  Every fan knows that there was a gap of over a decade that preceded the resolution of both Obi-Wan’s and Darth Vader’s past.  In 1977 we had to derive what we could about the rise of the Empire and the young Jedi known as Darth Vader’s role therein.  And who was our source for this history?  None other than Jedi-in-exile Obi-Wan Kenobi himself!  But that history was imparted, on screen, to only one individual.  And when that individual is the sole reason you have parked yourself for years on a largely ignored Outer Rim world then you would naturally want to choose your words carefully if the issue of your prior relationship with a man who would become the bane of the galaxy.  And this is exactly what Ben does when Luke inquires about his father’s death.

On screen there is a gap in the dialogue through which the Millennium Falcon could fly when the crucial question of the demise of the man we would later know as Anakin was broached by his son.  Kenobi is clearly formulating his reply during this pregnant pause in the conversation, selecting how best to shed light on a mystery that has plagued the orphan before him all of these years.  Certainly he cannot reveal what decades later would be known to audiences, that it was he himself who delivered a newborn Luke into the care of the man who must pose as a blood relative from that moment forward.  Nor would he wish to share the hard truth about the connection between Anakin and Darth Vader to a boy so enamored of the memory of a man he never knew that he interprets Owen Lars’ pronouncement that Obi-Wan Kenobi died around the same tame as Luke’s father to mean that they were somehow familiar with one another.  Luke Skywalker’s psyche was rather fragile at that time, especially in regard to the question at hand.  The next time you watch A New Hope, take a good look at the scene and you will see, perhaps really noticing for the first time, this lapse in the conversation that will seem overlong in retrospect.

Which Way Does Your View Point?

But how does one’s point of view enter into the equation and  how does that become important in the greater scheme of things?  This is where the prequel trilogy becomes a positive boon, at least after a fashion.  I say this simply because the two trilogies are akin to a pair of jigsaw puzzles by the same manufacturer.  All of the pieces in each puzzle are duplicated in the overall pattern so one could easily build half of one and the other half of the other and the corresponding edges would mesh seamlessly while producing an incompatible image.  That is rather what happens when much of Ben’s dialogue in Star Wars appears to have been ignored by Lucas himself when creating the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  There is little indication of young Skywalker making the slightest impression upon Kenobi in regard to any piloting skills.  In fact Anakin’s first excursion in a spacecraft of any kind illustrates more luck and droid intervention than piloting acumen.  So when Ben recalls his old apprentice in that context he is drawing more on his overall experiences than the actual first time the two met.  In fact, as illustrated on film, Obi-Wan is none to thrilled with Qui-Gon’s latest “stray” and maintains a level of apparent disdain for the lad throughout their supposed friendship.  It appears that age tends to mellow a Jedi’s perspective, or point of view if you will.

Indeed if anyone’s point of view of Anakin Skywalker leans more to the accurate it is Yoda when arguing the fate of Luke Skywalker with the late Obi-Wan.  References to his the former Jedi’s bellicose nature being evident in his son are certainly borne out more accurately in the prequels than a sense of strong Kirk-Spock level friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin.  Yet there is method to Ben Kenobi’s madness that is implicit in the overall saga.  In addition to having time to consolidate all of his memories of Anakin Skywalker into a rosier picture while his former colleague’s son is growing up under the most bland of conditions, Obi-Wan was also afforded plenty of time to reflect on the loss of the prophesied “Chosen One” to the Dark Side.  Midchlorians or not (read more on that here), how could the Jedi destined to bring balance to the force fall prey to its more seductive aspect so easily.  Unless of course, as so often happens, the prophesy was misinterpreted.  In his hiding in plain sight exile, Obi-Wan Kenobi could easily have had the epiphany that Anakin would indeed bring balance to the Force as a catalyst rather than as the actual manifestation thereof in physical form.  The answer lay in his offspring, not in the man himself!

Such a change in the point of view on the ancient Jedi prophesy (the future is always in motion after all) would lead the venerable Kenobi to do whatever was necessary to guide Luke to his destiny.  In many ways Ben Kenobi becomes to Luke what Senator Palpatine was to Anakin.  Certainly the statesman from Naboo would be only too aware of the prophesy and its consequences to the Sith and sought to circumvent such a fate by corrupting the long awaited Chosen One.  Secure in his triumph the newly self-appointed Emperor set about destroying any hint of the Jedi Order, oblivious to his role in the fulfillment of the very future he sought to prevent.  And much as Palpatine had done with the Tatooine farm boy’s father, Obi-Wan manipulated the truth to usher Luke on a path to become the first Jedi in a generation.  In such a context even Yoda becomes complicit as he and his old friend’s incorporeal essence squabble over the eligibility of Skywalker to take on the mantle of a Jedi Knight.  While Yoda’s words about Anakin ring truer than Obi-Wan’s, they simply serve as a compelling counterpoint that encourages Luke to almost demand that the Jedi master take him on as an apprentice.  The Bill Cosby-level reverse psychology employed by these sly adepts of the Force insured that the boy who had been in their watchful care since birth would choose the hero’s path.

Why Lie?

By now it has become clear that, as with all Jedi Justifications,  I have imposed my point of view on this subject.  In so doing I have achieved a balance in what, in the 80s, seemed pointless and ridiculous.  And became disjointed in retrospect with all that was presented on screen in the prequels.  Ben Kenobi’s “certain point of view” is more than just a means to cling more favorably to memories that are less than ideal, it also serves a purpose.  While the Force has a tremendous influence on the weak minded, those with more robust mental capacity require something more down to earth, subtle manipulation of facts to achieve an end.  Certainly Obi-Wan was more than wise enough to realize that had Luke known that Darth Vader was in fact his father, the boy’s path would have been considerably different.  Confronted with the knowledge that the cold-blooded right hand of the evil Galactic Emperor was his sire might have sent him into a tailspin of self-loathing or on a far more destructive approach of trying to vindicate the family name by singlehandedly destroying the hated face of the oppressive Empire.  Given Luke’s nature he would have done anything possible to eliminate Darth Vader or die trying.  The result of such an impulsive action would likely have been Luke’s hatred being an ideal vehicle to carry him into Palpatine’s sway.

So given the fortunate turn of events that delivered Luke back into his care, Obi-Wan played every angle at his disposal from half-truths about Anakin Skywalker and his untimely “demise” to passing on his legacy to his son.  What better encouragement for a potential Jedi who dreams constantly of adventures beyond the stars than the signature weapon of the lost order?  While the subterfuge may have been ignoble, it served a higher purpose as a means to an important end.  And in the end the truth that Obi-Wan clings most strongly to is that sometimes a lie can be a vital pave stone to a higher truth. 

And as I conclude this long promised installment of Jedi Justifications it occurs to me that I have managed to open the door to yet another, the whole question of “the Chosen One”.  This certainly bears more in-depth exploration and will be getting its due in time.  That is to say I will delve more deeply into what the on-screen saga suggests to me about the Jedi  prophesy in a later installment of this feature, but not the very next one.  When I again scrutinize the plot holes, burning questions, and other justification-worthy aspects of the cinematic Star Wars universe it will be with a certain vehicle of war popularized on the big screen back in 1980.