Monday, October 13, 2008

Buddhsim and The Force Unleashed

I enjoy writing fanfictions, but the vast majority never actually get started due to my lengthy planning stages. I outline everything in my stories before I even think about starting chapter 1. I write spot paragraphs to see if scenes can be conveyed properly and time is taken to make sure everything about the story works before I start. Some writers are content to write half a story and then drop it when a fatal dead end is met, but I am not.

It's this process that has kept me from writing anything Star Wars. It wants to be science-fiction (as most people think it is), but in reality it's fantasy. Any "technology" you see is meant to to be as magical as the force, and dire consequences await anyone who messes with that unique balance (midichlorians anyone?).

The relationship between the Jedi and Sith is also oddly limiting when unique stories are trying to be told. The light ("good") side deals mostly with order and discipline, while the dark ("bad") side is instinctive and base. So if you want to write about a Jedi who falls in love, you're pretty screwed because love is an emotion, and emotion invariably leads to the dark side. Writing about a Jedi is like writing about cardboard, and if you made a Sith the hero, he would have to have a "change of heart" and become good, which means cross over to the light side, which means drop his passion, which means you're stuck.

I can understand where George Lucas got this idea, as it's been around for quite a while in many major religions like Christianity, Judaism Hinduism. Move away from your animal emotions is akin to moving closer to divinity. Catholic priests are told not to have sex, for instance.

All that being said, some may be confused with the story of the latest Lucasarts game, The Force Unleashed. After playing through it twice on the weekend (thanks to my friend and fellow geek Barry for lending to me) I realize that no law of SW lore was broken. First of all, yes the apprentice was dark side and (depending of the ending you choose) he can save the day and be a hero. He's trained to use the dark side and a is primal force-user to be sure, but that doesn't necessarily make him bad or a Sith. His actions defined him, not the source of his power.

The last level was what really showed me what the writers had managed to come up with. Beyond all his darkness there was one guiding light in his heart, his connection to Juno Eclipse, the female pilot of his ship. Did he love her? Maybe, but the key is just after they kiss, he throws himself off his ship and away from her, knowing he'd never see her again. Buddhism teaches the source of suffering is worldly attachments and desires. So how is an emotional connection supposed to lead to the light? It doesn't. He was never a Jedi, but his ability to say goodbye while still holding onto what that love meant to him kept him from being evil. Releasing himself from that attachment kept him from being controlled by it. Some call this being an anti-hero, but that term is thrown around way too often.

This point could have been better illustrated if the final boss (in this case, Emperor Palpatine) would have captured her as a hostage. Also, the game should have been longer to allow various characters to develop a little more. That said, it's a great story and expertly told. It's also helped me to think a little outside the box when it comes to the force. Maybe I can finally get a SW story done.

It's always darkest before the dawn, and we wouldn't recognize the light if there was no darkness.


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