This is what “balancing the Force” looks like:
I wrote a 25-page paper on Star Wars arguing that “bringing balance to the Force” didn’t mean “the Jedi will be 100% in control” (and of course not the opposite) but bringing the two aspects of the Force into alignment, using Anakin as a case study. Brief recap of my paper:
- EPISODE I
- The Jedi literally don’t know that slavery still exists in the galaxy and are shocked when Shmi says “The Republic doesn’t exist out here… We must survive on our own.” So like… the fuck.
- Anakin asks Qui-Gon “Have you come to free us?” and Qui-Gon says “No, I’m afraid not,” to which Anakin replies, “Why else would you be here?” Here we can see the innocence and goodness in Anakin juxtaposed against the moral ambiguity of the Jedi. They’re there for repairs on their ship - nothing more, nothing less. Witnessing slavery does nothing to change those priorities.
- The Jedi take a child away from his mother, and when Anakin is (rightfully) scared for his mom, who has been left in slavery, the Jedi are still like well, you know, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, enforcing the laws against slavery seems kinda like a lot of work so we’re just not gonna get involved. That’s like… not quite what you would expect from the “Light” Side.
- Anakin is literally a child whose mother has been left in slavery and, understandably, he’s kind of freaked out. Instead of acknowledging Anakin’s pain as legitimate and working with him, the Jedi take an oppositional stance, telling Anakin that “Fear is the path to the dark side” - a phrase that was much more apt in the Original Trilogy than it is here, where Anakin is only nine, and his fears are 100% rational.
- EPISODE II
- Obi-Wan asks Anakin if he’s sleeping poorly because of his mom, Anakin basically admits yes, and Obi-Wan says “Dreams pass in time.” Uh, Obi-Wan, I’m sure you have good intentions and all, but the problem isn’t in the dream world. Anakin’s dreams are a reflection of the actual, legitimate, very real danger his mother is in, and Obi-Wan’s response only dismisses Anakin’s fear and drives him further away from the Jedi Council. And, again, the Jedi could have fixed this entire situation by either rescuing his mother or actually trying to stop slavery instead of just paying lip service to the idea.
- Anakin and Padmé fall in love, and Padmé is like “yo is this, like, allowed to happen for you??” and Anakin says “Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi’s life, so you might say we’re encouraged to love.” So… Taking a woman’s child so he can fulfill their prophecy and leaving that woman alone and enslaved on a desert planet is compassionate behavior now? Right. Sounds fake, but okay. Also, Anakin is literally pointing out the hypocrisy in that statement - so you can love humanity and people, but you can’t love a person? That’s super weird.
- Falling in love is like… not really something you can help? Especially not the first time. Just, you know, speaking as the classic lesbian who has fallen for a straight best friend… just saying “don’t do that” is not really going to help. At all.
- At this point, the Jedi have created a situation where if Anakin falls in love (as he is wont to do as a literal teenager who was not brought up in the Jedi Order of his own volition), he has to keep that love secret or a) risk expulsion from the Jedi and b) prove them “right” that he can’t be trusted. Which, you know, nobody wants to do.
- Padmé tells him that he “had a nightmare again last night,” and Anakin says, “Jedi don’t have nightmares.” Yo, what the fuck. This kid is a teenager, his mom is on a desert planet and enslaved, and now he feels like he’s not even allowed to have nightmares? Which are not conscious? I get that the Jedi are supposed to have total control over themselves, but first of all, that’s a completely unrealistic expectation to have of anyone, much less a teenager, and second of all, that’s a real fucked up thing to imply on a mental health level. “You’re guilty, even for the pain that your brain is inflicting on you from childhood trauma in situations (i.e., unconsciousness) that you can’t even control!” Yeah, no. There is no way that could possibly go well.
- If Anakin is made to feel guilty for being scared or having nightmares or missing his mom from whom he was taken when he was not even ten years old, and Jedi are pointing to those feelings as evidence that he is dangerous and untrustworthy, he is put in a situation where he cannot admit that he needs help and therefore cannot access help. Like, just get the kid a shrink! And maybe rescue his mom! There are ways to address this and help Anakin stop having feelings, if that’s something we really have to do, without shaming him, which is gross and also distinctly unhelpful.
- Anakin goes back to Tatooine to find his mom, she’s been kidnapped and tortured by Tusken Raiders, she dies in his arms, and he slaughters the Tuskens and vows to become so powerful he will be able to stop people from dying. Which, like, is not ideal - not condoning murder - but he’s also seen his mother for the first time in years, like at least half a decade, and he is a) completely overrun with survivor’s guilt and b) rightfully grieving and c) also rightfully pissed the fuck off that he finally sees him mom again only to have her die in his arms. Like, I’d be pissed, too. And you know what helps with grief? Talking it out!! Therapy!! Friendship!! You know what Anakin doesn’t have? Literally any of those things. He can’t admit that he’s grieving his mom because it would threaten his place in the Jedi Order. The Order’s strictness continues to place him in a catch-22 where admitting he needs help is already condemning him.
- EPISODE III
- Anakin beats Count Dooku in part because he is furious that Palpatine has been “captured” and taps into the Dark Side with that emotion. THEN, Padmé’s like “surprise, I’m pregnant,” and Anakin (again, understandably) flips the fuck out. He has nightmares about her dying in childbirth, and guess who he can’t go to for advice or help or even consolation? The Jedi!! Wow, this is going so well for everyone, what great policies we have here.
- The Jedi Council want Anakin to spy on Palpatine, and Anakin (correctly) points out to Obi-Wan that this goes against the Jedi Code, against the Republic, and asks why Obi-Wan is asking this of him… to which Obi-Wan replies, “The Council is asking you.” So, you know, this doesn’t exactly endear Anakin to the Council, who have already been pretty shitty to him and are now seemingly hypocritical as well.
- Palpatine says to Anakin, “Be careful of the Jedi, Anakin. They fear you. In time they will destroy you.” and yeah, he’s playing on Anakin’s confusion and suspicions and totally using him as a pawn here, but he’s also right. The Jedi have proven themselves to not have Anakin’s best interests at heart, even if they have good intentions. And they do fear Anakin, so, you know, that whole “non-attachment prevents fear” thing isn’t really working out for them either.
- Palpatine tells Anakin that the Dark Side can allow you to control death, and Anakin (who, let’s remind ourselves, has watched his mother die in his arms) begs to know how so he can save Padmé should his nightmares come true and she die in childbirth. And, again, since he can’t go to the Jedi for any help with this, he feels he has no choice but to trust Palpatine.
- Here we get to a real fun sequence of events. Palpatine tells Anakin he’s a Sith. Anakin threatens to kill Palpatine, but doesn’t, so he can maintain the possibility of learning how to save Padmé. He goes to tell the Jedi, who rush into action and don’t allow him to join them because they think his fear will cloud his judgment, ignoring the fact that a) they’re scared out of their asses too, and b) he literally just betrayed someone close to him??? for people who have really been nothing but shitty??? So I feel like Anakin’s doing surprisingly well rn and the Jedi are basically like, “Yeah, great, but also fuck you and stay here.”
- Soooooooo, Anakin goes to save Palpatine (again, to then save his wife), and in order to save him he kills a Jedi. At this point, Anakin’s like “I’m completely fucked,” which is true (although he’s been fucked from the beginning because the Jedi suck), and he pledges himself to Palpatine because he doesn’t think he has any other option.
- Okay, then he goes and murders a bunch of kids, so like. That’s not great. Not gonna condone that. This was A Mistake™. I think we can all agree on that. Moving on.
- Obi-Wan and Yoda see footage of Anakin’s fun murder time and Obi-Wan goes to try to find and defeat Anakin. In order to find him, he tells Padmé what happened and then hides away on her ship.
- Padmé talks to Anakin, flips out when she realizes Obi-Wan was telling the truth, and as she tries to talk Anakin down from his panic- and grief-fueled descent into insanity he says, “I won’t lose you the way I lost my mother! I’ve become more powerful than any Jedi has ever dreamed of and I’ve done it for you. To protect you.”
- Side note, at this point I get annoyed because, like, Anakin, she literally Did Not Ask. Buddy, pal, friend, she specifically told you not to do this. I know your heart is in the right place, but like, this really could have all been prevented if you’d just listened to your wife. Why are the women in Star Wars consistently the only people who know what the fuck is going on?
- Obi-Wan reveals himself, Anakin thinks Padmé betrayed him, and Force-chokes her. So, like, again, the anger is understandable, the Force-choking is not. Not going to defend that.
- As Obi-Wan and Anakin fight, Anakin says something extremely telling: “From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.” He isn’t lying. He isn’t even exaggerating. The Jedi have fucked him over at every turn. And the point that is being made here is that Anakin descends into madness because he, like the Jedi, lives at moral extremities. He goes mad and gives himself over to the Dark Side because the Jedi have thoroughly erased any possibility of a middle ground.
- The utter distrust that the Jedi Council have of “Gray Jedi” and the fact that “Gray Jedi” means both people who walk the middle ground of the Force and people who don’t answer to the authority of the Jedi Council also point to this. We can see this with Jolee Bindo and Qui-Gon, among others. If you walk the middle line, the Jedi will turn their backs on you. (Pro tip: if nobody is allowed to disagree with you, you’re probably not the good guys.)
- Aaaaaaaaand finally the whole fight ends and Anakin becomes a weird lava-deformed creature of the night and when he finally wakes up and asks Palpatine if Padmé is okay, Palpatine says, “It seems in your anger, you killed her.” So, Anakin at this point a) is consumed with self-hatred, b) has nothing to live for because all of his loved ones either hate him (Obi-Wan) or are dead (Padmé, theoretically), and c) feels like he has no way out of the horrifying mess he’s put himself in. And here the prequels end.
What I’m trying to say here is that the Jedi aren’t perfect, and they don’t always use the Force for good. (See: “slavery is cool, we guess.”) Their emphasis on shutting out your emotions is ultimately what drives Anakin to the Dark Side because they allow no room for mistakes and therefore erase the possibility of Anakin ever getting help. Or, you know, compassion, which is supposed to be the Jedi version of love. So… The Sith suck. But the Jedi also suck. Not as much, for sure, but they are definitely guilty of some real fucked up things.
Now for the fun part!!!!! Rey, in Ep. VII, wins her battle against Kylo when she gets pissed. You can also see in that scene that when he’s overpowering her, you can see both the red and blue light reflected in her eyes, and when she closes her eyes and thinks “use the Force” and opens her eyes again, you only see the red.
What that piece said to me, and what this trailer and the poster say to me, is that “balancing the Force” means recognizing that emotions are not evil unto themselves, that you can love people and use that love to fuel goodness. Rey has the potential to balance the Force because she has already proven that she can harness emotion, be driven by emotion, and still use that for the Light Side.
Anyway, I fucking love Star Wars, meta is great, Rey can kick my ass any day, and if I’m right and these trailers are backing up my theory I am literally going to lose my mind.