By Christian Corah
A concept that makes Star Wars so compelling is that it is a story of good versus evil.
This conflict occurs within both the individual (the struggle of a person to stay on the light side despite the pull to the dark) and on a large scale (the wars of the Republic vs. the Separatists, the Rebel Alliance vs. the Empire, and the Resistance vs. the First/Final Order).
In the Original Trilogy, the line dividing good and evil is a clear one. The Rebel Alliance is so obviously good and the Empire is so obviously bad. Everything about the Empire, including the tall mechanically armored villain who chokes people and the shriveled up ugly Emperor, exudes evil energy. And everything about the Rebel Alliance, including an intelligent and beautiful princess, compassionate Jedi, and a scruffy-looking, handsome smuggler choosing to do the right thing, represents values we label as good. So we clearly know that the Empire is evil and the Rebel Alliance is good.
However, there is more to Star Wars than just the Original Trilogy. And, as it is in real life, the actual line between good and evil is not clear cut.
For example, in the Prequel Trilogy, we are led to believe that the Republic includes the good guys and the Separatists are the bad. But as the movies continue, we become less sure of this conclusion. Even Padmé expresses doubts that they are still fighting on the right side. She had long been associated with the Republic, but she began to see the flaws within it that she was previously blind to.
This raises the question: What if one had been long associated with who we consider to be the bad guys? Would they also be blind to the flaws within their system?
For the answer, I will first turn to Lost Stars, written by Claudia Gray. There will be some minor spoilers ahead, but I will do my best to limit them. Ciena Ree was born into the age of the new Empire. Instead of growing up loathing their new leadership, she grew up a proud citizen of the Empire. She never knew anything else and she had always dreamed of becoming a part of the Imperial Machine.
Through her story, we get to experience the events of the Original Trilogy from her perspective (this is ignoring Thane Kyrell’s part of the story). Specifically regarding the destruction of Alderaan and the Death Star, the viewpoint shifts dramatically. Instead of Alderaan being destroyed as a meaningless act of violence, it is seen as a necessary part of war. It is a very destructive blow meant to end the war and save many people from dying in the future: much like the USA’s nuclear bombing of Japan.
Then, the destruction of the Death Star is perceived as no heroic gesture. Instead, it is a blow by the Rebels that merely prolongs a war that they cannot win (eventually they did win, but it didn’t seem like they could at the time) meaning that more deaths will occur. So, it is understandable why Ciena would choose to keep her allegiance tied to the Empire during these times.
Next, I turn to Inferno Squad, written by Christie Golden. Through this novel, we get an unfiltered glimpse at Saw Gererra’s partisans. In Rogue One, we learn that they are not affiliated with the Rebel Alliance because their actions are perceived as too radical. They have even been compared to terrorist organizations, even though they are fighting against the Empire. Golden puts this side of the partisans on full display.
And what they do is absolutely shocking. I would go into detail since I don’t want to spoil the content of the book (and the book is very good, you should read it).
What I will say is that the partisans are fully prepared to die and kill others, regardless of who they are, for the success of the mission. If this was the only bit of Star Wars that a person was exposed to, they would no doubt believe that the Rebels were evil and the Empire was good.
So the line dividing good and evil is blurred through these stories: certainly for the characters. However, this now gets me to the whole point of this article. I believe there is a singular component of the good guys that causes them to be. . .well, good.
There are multiple instances in Star Wars where people fighting on the bad side realize their error and join the good. Oftentimes, this act of redemption is inspired by an act of selflessness by someone on the good side. It is when the hero puts the needs of their enemy in front of their own. This act is so powerful that it inspires change.
There is no hero that does this better than the great Jedi Luke Skywalker.
The instance that I will bring up is probably not the first that would have entered your mind. It is in the story mode of Battlefront II.
While this story mode was pretty limited in its content, it did have a powerful, short scene with Luke. While hunting for artifacts, Luke is attacked by many Stormtroopers and is forced to dismantle them. After this fight, he encounters Del Meeko, a member of the Inferno Squad. Instead of attacking Luke, Meeko was in a place where he needed help. He asked Luke for said help, and Luke responded how a hero should.
The result was two people on opposite sides of a war working together. It would have been safer for Luke to strike Meeko down, but he wasn’t thinking of himself when he made the decision. While Meeko had been committed to the Empire, it was this act that was eye-opening to him. It was something that he wasn’t used to seeing. This planted the seed in him that the Rebels were actually the good guys. If you’ve played the story in Battlefront II, you know the rest, he ended up defecting to the Rebel Alliance.
This is not the only story where someone on the bad side joined the good due to a selfless act. Luke threw away his lightsaber showing mercy to Anakin (Vader) and Rey gave part of her to heal Ben (Kylo). In both of these cases, the fallen hero was redeemed.
In times where the line between good and evil is blurred, a selfless act solidifies that line.
This is a powerful lesson that Star Wars teaches us. If you’re on the side that puts others’ needs before your own, you’re probably doing the right thing.