Friday, February 23, 2018

The Phantom Menace: The Subversion

This is the subversion post. It sits in the middle and is uncomfortable and usually will be quite dreary, like a more poorly written Lemony Snicket novel, without all the great humor. Writing it was depressing. You've been warned.

Unfortunately Padme was right: she can't convince the Senate, but not because of her lack of ability. The Senate is so bogged down by corruption that it can't hear her. There's nothing to be done, so long as everyone's deadlocked. Palpatine then plants the bug in her ear about demanding a vote of no confidence and his plans begins to emerge: this whole incident is his attempt to become leader of the Republic. He plays on Padme's greatest strength, her compassion, and leverages it against her for his own gain. Padme's hope that the system will save her people is well-known to Palpatine, who is very aware of her young and impressionable age. Far as he's concerned he's sidelined her for the rest of the conflict by having the Senate first find a new chancellor.

Meanwhile Anakin and us are meeting the Jedi Council for the first time, and it's not pretty. Instead of these people being like Qui-Gon, who generally tries to follow the will of the Force, they're stuck in their ways and pick on a nine year old boy who traveled across space seeking to be a Jedi. Instead of realizing that his great talent in the Force means he should be shown how to deal with his feelings of fear and loneliness they just pick on him for feeling those things. I mean, a 900 year old gremlin doesn't have the presence of mind to realize just how horrific he's being? Yoda spits out platitudes that, no matter how true, are used to block from view the inconvenience and annoyance of actually relating to Anakin.  He does injustice to his own creed, a creed that's supposed to help you reach enlightenment, not bully 9 year olds. It's straight up cruelty. Even worse? Obi-Wan agrees with them over Qui-Gon, right in front of Anakin. That's not going to bite Obi-Wan later, right?

We're going to take a second to take a look at something the Council says in reaction to the Sith's resurrection. They comment that the Sith hasn't been seen in over a thousand years. Episode III implies that the Sith had ruled the galaxy before this point and had lost it to the Republic and the Jedi. Yoda is 900 years old and has been teaching Jedi for almost as long. This means that Yoda inherited the victories of his recent predecessors and, standing on their shoulders, crafted his own version of what the Jedi should be like. Some may disagree with me on that score, but the fact is that Yoda is almost as old as the Republic itself but was not part of its founding. Yoda is the source of the problem. An organization that old with one leader for most of its existence is bound to stagnate, and stagnate it has. Everything has been divided up into its proper place so all may work in some sick version of harmony that merely throws the dispossessed into the far corners of the galaxy, far away from those sitting in these ridiculous ivory towers. Materialistic and hypocritical, the Council resents the presence of any reminder that they're not the center of the universe, summed up in this poor young child whose only sin was to be conceived by the Force. Most of us have that reaction to the supernatural, really, assuming we even acknowledge its existence. I mean, c'mon, we have life to live, get out of here!

It's moments of realization like these that make me half wish that Episode III had been rated R for violence against the Jedi. Fortunately Lucas had more restraint than I would have had.

To call the subversion of Episode 1 bleak is an understatement. There are no good guy or bad guys, just people who ignore others' pain and those that inflict it. As Palpatine states, there is no justice, only vicious politics from sociopaths all dressed up in pretty clothes. The Sith are right to want to tear the whole thing down, really. Their motives are certainly not good but the realization that something must be done to fix the system is certainly valid. And more often than not the Overworld doesn't want to fix things. We're comfortable in our shells and our cruelty is socially acceptable, so why not let things go as they are? But be careful, because by hating the Jedi we hate ourselves. We may very well want to be Luke, but most of us are far more like the Council than anything else. Complacent and arrogant to the point of ignorance we move along in our little enclosed worlds, self assured that the way we're living is the right way to live.

Oh, how the Shadow and Sith disagree.

Fortunately Padme has other plans. And thank God, too. I need a bit of a break from such relentlessly pretty darkness. Oh wait, she's not the hero either. Crap.

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