Is forgiving Darth Vader in RotJ like forgiving Hitler?

I offer this quote and this link to an interesting article by David Brin:

From “Star Wars” Despots vs. “Star Trek” Populists
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So? Am I right in considering my beloved childhood story shattered? Is Lucas’ perspective that screwed up?

More accurately, suppose it was Mussolini who saved his son’s life by killing Hitler… I think they still would have dragged his body through the streets.

No. Hitler didn’t have the force.

Um, Hitler was real, and killed millions of real people. Darth Vader is not real.

This seems more like a Great Debate, but anyway . . .

Darth Vader / Anakin Skywalker underwent a fundemental transformation of character. By striking down the Emperor, he turned away from the Dark Side of the Force, as confirmed by his appearence as a ghost in good-guy Jedi garb rather than evil Sith-wear. If he had lived, he probably would have recognized his debt to society and willingly embraced whatever punishment the Republic found fitting, be it a sentence in the salt mines of Kessel, a job as an Ewok choir director, or what have you.

Actually, it’s probably a good thing for him that he died.

Normally I’d take anything that David Brin says straight to the bank, as long as Kevin Costner isn’t involved, but I can’t entirely agree with this.

First, yeah, Vader saved his boy. But there’s that slightly more important aspect of killing the Emperor and destroying the Empire. There’s some redeeming qualities in that, and let’s not forget that young Skywalker couldn’t pull it off himself.

Second, I’m not so certain that Vader was totally forgiven. I mean, we didn’t see him hanging out with Alec Guiness and the Muppets at the end, did we? Oh, wait a minute. I guess we did.

I don’t know, maybe he’s right. He likes Ralph Bakshi, hates L. Ron Hubbard, and writes about talking dolphins. That’s not all bad. But while Lucas might support mass murder, at least his films don’t make members of the audience want to kill themselves.

I have a real problem mapping the morals of the Star Wars universe to our own world…

on the one hand, you have Obi Wan Kenobi urging Luke to ‘use the force’ to blow up the Death Star, thus killing hundreds of thousands of people, the vast majority of which are clerks, technicians, and other support personnel, so using the Force to kill faceless people who have probably never fired a shot in anger or done a directly evil act is a Good Thing.

On the other hand, ‘using the force’ to kill the Emperor would have hurled Luke down the unredeemable path to the Dark Side. Using the Force to kill somebody face-to-face is a Bad Thing, even if it’s the Emperor.

On the gripping hand, Darth Vader redeemed himself (whatever happened to “forever will it control your path!”?) by pitching the Emperor down a shaft. Killing somebody by throwing him down a well is a Good Thing.

lissener: Yeah, I know that. If you need clarification, I mean analogous in the context of the fiction that is the Star Wars series. Better?

Podkayne: I like that thought, and generally agree with it. It certainly is better for him that he died, though. How embarassing would it be to face people who’d had relatives on Alderan? The mind boggles.

Though Yoda still has some 'splaining to do. Brin makes a pretty good case for him being as bad as the emperor.

You never saw Clerks, did you?

Definitely a Great Debate.

I’ve always thought that it wasn’t the use of the force to kill people that resulted in turning to the DARK SIDE. Obi Wan dismembered someone in Mos Eisley, and considering the speed the old man was moving at I assume he was using the force.
I always assumed it was using the force directly on other living creatures that caused a Jedi’s perception of his own importance in the scheme of things to slip, thus leading to the DARK SIDE. After all Luke could just as easily have levitated a person as C3PO on Endor, and with more favourable consequences, but didn’t. He could have crushed the Rancour against the ceiling in Jabba’s pit, and didn’t. The list goes on. I don’t think it’s the use of the force to hurt people that causes a Jedi to go bad, just using it directly in a God-like way, rather than as a guiding force to enhance your own abilities.

Killing someone probably wasn’t the good thing, saving something worthy of saving (ie Luke and the entire free galaxy) is the good thing, particularly if it involves personal sacrifice. This is the standard morality used to justify killing in wars.
As for the ‘forever will it control your path’, well it’s true. It may have continued to control Vadar’s path forever, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t fight against it. It’s like an addiction.

The idea was that destroying the Death Star was done out of necessity, whereas killing the Emperor would have been done out of anger.


Actually, it seems like a shockingly stupid debate, the kind you might have after too much bad weed on a weeknight.

Off to, I guess, IMHO, to see if anyone bites.

Boy, is David Brin a colossal kill-joy, or what? And talk about not having a clue! How did he miss that the entire point of the Rebellion was to overthrow the autocratic Empire and restore the rule of the democratically elected Senate? How can he interpret the Hero myth as a Nietzchean ubermensch, which completely ignores the all-important moral aspect of Campbell’s definition of hero? How can he like Star Trek better than Star Wars?

He gets a lot of the little details in Star Wars wrong. For example, Vader never kills billions with the press of a button. Grand Moff Tarkin is the one who orders the destruction of Alderaan, while Vader stands by. Heck, Vader is opposed to the idea of the Death Star to begin with. Vader functions in Star Wars more like Heinrich Himmler than Adolf Hitler. He’s the emperor’s right hand, outside of the chain of command but reporting directly to Palpatine. His function is an enforcer and chief of special police operations, like hunting down the Jedi. Sure he’d evil, but he’s not Hitler evil.

Brin’s insistance that Vader, Luke, and Leia form an aristocracy is just silly. First, Vader isn’t a ruler. He’s not even remotely noble born. He’s a talented and ruthless warrior who rose to his current position through long and painful service. He didn’t get to his position through birth or breeding, but because he was the best at what he does (i.e. evil.) That his children have the same potential he does isn’t classist, its genetic. Lucas makes clear that the proper use of this genetic gift is in the service of other people. Using it for your own ends leads to the dark side, madness, and destruction. As for the rest of this supposed royal family, Luke is a farmboy from the ass-end of the universe. Hardly an “elite.” His sister is a noble, but only by adoption, which suggests a rather liberal attitude towards class origins, at least on Alderaan.

I admit I have problems with RotJ, especially the end. I wish he hadn’t included the ghosts at all. I don’t read it as a moral statement, however. Rather, it was an ill-advised attempt at getting the happiest possible ending, from the viewpoint of Luke Skywalker. Still, with a little effort, even this disappointingly unambiguous ending can be rationalized. Evidentally the universe decided that, in the balance, Anakin Skywalker did more good than Darth Vader did harm. Or maybe not even that. Maybe he’s like the soldier who threw Joan of Arc a cross as she was burning at the stake, and for that one good act gets one day off a year from hell so he can park his damned butt on an iceberg. Anakin gets to show up with his old pals and give Luke a well deserved warm and fuzzy feeling, then he’s yanked off to the metaphysical equivalent of the spice mines of Kessel.

The worst part of this article is at the end, where Brin starts raving about being “the children of Pericles, Ben Franlin, and HG Wells” Geez, Dave, don’t hurt yourself trying to pat yourself on the back.

I’d like to preface this by saying I know this is a stupid thing to debate, but it’s fun, so f’ck it. Thank you.

I’d have to argue that Vader is definitely culpable here. He could easily have given Tarkin the long-distance esophagous handjob and assumed command. Instead, he calmly watched billions of people get murdered in cold blood. Really no excuse.

And even if he didn’t pull the trigger on Alderan, he certainly “hunted down and destroyed the Jedi.”


Uh, no. For starters, Vader is hardly a “self-made man.” He is an immaculately-conceived demigod, described with powers “off the scale” and called “the chosen one” when discovered in his youth. Lucas is so clumsily obvious with his Christ references, it’s maddening. Anakin’s even got his own Qui-Gon the Baptist, for crying out loud!

And even if Vader’s not technically a noble, he certainly travels in those circles (“circles” being “pants” in the case of Naboiuan royalty). And of course, Luke and Leia are both royalty by birth, displaced though they may be. Let’s not forget their mother was a queen!

(BTW, Luke certainly got the short end of the stick, adoption-wise. Leia is orphaned from a Queen and gets taken in by the Star Wars equivalent of the Kennedys. Luke gets to be a struggling farmer on a desert planet. Hell, Leia still gets to be called “Princess!” WTF?)

Getting back to the OP…

I usually don’t have much interest in arguing anything SW-related, but seeing as that I found all all the movies to be good and quite enjoyable (yes, including ROTJ…I don’t understand the rap against it at all), I can’t sit idly by on this one.

Davin Brin is grasping at straws. The confused what-if scenario doesn’t even apply to Darth Vader, since he was not captured. I never got the impression that he was “totally forgiven” or that saving his son alone (which was pretty admirable, considering who that son was) got him off the hook for exterminating the Jedi. What happened was that he was faced with an all-or-nothing choice: Let his son die, save his own skin as the Death Star explodes, and remain a Dark Lord for life, or cast away his evil past, destroy the emperor, and seal his own doom for the good of humanity. Because he made the ultimate sacrifice AND saved the universe from the specter of the Emperor, he earned redemption. Some redemption anyway; I fully believe that he still had a lot to atone for, but at least he was no longer the incorrigibly evil master of the Sith. That’s the impression I got from the ending, anyway.

And while Luke certainly forgave him, the jury’s still out on Leia, Han Solo, the friends and family of all the rebels slain in the wars, and any surviving Jedis. I’d hardly compare the compassion of a single Jedi with an entire nation pardoning a brutal dictator.

Scupper - I’m pretty sure the facts of Luke and Leia’s separation will be revealed in the last two movies. The irony, of course, is that the privileged princess became a ferocious, fearless rebel leader very early in life, whereas the hard-working farmer didn’t enter the rebellion until fate forced his hand.

And let’s all hold our horses on the “virgin birth” theory (and that’s all it is right now, a theory). Note how open-ended Shmi’s statement was. “Somehow I knew I was pregnant.” Could mean a virgin birth. Could mean that she was impregnated without her knowledge for some reason (and considering the general moral climate of Tatooine, we certainly can’t rule that out). Again, time will tell.

Actually, Amidala was elected Queen, and not Queen by birth. It’s a weird system, where I think ‘Queen’ is merely a title of the leader, and not in the traditional usage.

So Luke and Leia are not royalty by virtue of birth at all. They’re just ordinary people with midichlorians out the wazoo. A heck of a lineage, a heck of a pedigree, a heck of a responsibility, but no real importance otherwise.

Do not forget that Luke was anxious to go off to the Rebel Academy to join his friend Biggs. The only thing that was holding him back was Uncle Owen’s attemts to protect him by keeping him on the farm.


Damn good points, all.

I’ll agree it’s possible Lucas will weasel his way out of the VB thing. Still, the messianic crap in Phantom Menace was laid on thicker than in Dune.

GuanoLad: I’d argue that being the child of even an “elected” queen puts you in the high cheese, but I see your point.

Also, there are two movies yet to come, and they are very likely to change your view of ‘royalty’ in regards to the Star Wars galaxy.

Before we can compare forgiving DV to forgiving Hitler, we have to determine under what, if any, circumstances it becomes justified/appropriate/necessary to forgive Hitler.