Revenge of the Moral Relativists

I saw STAR WARS Ep3 last night. Good film. I am privileged to be alive in a day and age when the covers of ASTONISHING THRILL SPACE WONDER STORIES can come alive before my wondering eyes. There were duels, fire-fights, dogfights, space-battles, sword-battles, gun-battles, bold heroes (a tall blond one, a short green one, and one that looks like a Hoover vacuum cleaner), sinister villains (Insectoid cyborg-robot thing, malevolent yellow-eyed wizard in a black hooded cloak, and Christopher Lee) and at least one fair damsel (the rather attractive Natalie Portman). There was a scene of a aircraft-carrier sized space-battleship doing a Skylab into the atmosphere.

Only one moment jarred my suspension of disbelief.

In the dramatic show-down between bold hero and sinister Dark Lord of the Sith while they sword-fight in a burning building on the slopes of a raging volcano (a set-piece worth the price of admission just by itself), they stop to exchange hero-villain dialog. “You’ve turned her against me!” “Your own rage and ambition has done that.”

So far, so good.

But then the show-stopper: the Bold Hero says, “Only a Sith speaks in moral absolutes.”

I almost spit out my expensive popcorn-flavored butter-substitute-coated snack food.

Keep in mind that the Dark Lord’s previous comment was that he wanted to rule the galaxy. It had nothing to do with moral absolutes.

Keep in mind that not three minutes earlier in the same scene, the Dark Lord was saying, “Well, from MY point of view, the Jedi are evil. It all depends on your point of view.” Which is, by the way, almost a word-for-word quote of the line the Bigger Darker Lord used on him to corrupt him to the Dark Side of the Force: “What is called good is merely a point of view.”

So, here we are in the Star Wars universe, where the degree of attunement to the mystical Force can be determined by an instrument that reads the number of psychic bodies in a blood count, Mitochondria Chlorates or whatever Mr. Lucas called them. There is a Light Side and the Dark Side. Light and Dark are established, scientific fact for this universe. No gray side, no mysterious power that tempts a man’s heart toward True Neutral.

Ergo the Bigger Darker Lord, within the context of the story, is lying when he tells Dark Lord that good and bad are just a point of view, i.e. moral relativism. The Light Side is GOOD and the Dark side is BAD, (hence the name).

In fact, I can think of no other science fiction movie which has such a clear, sharp and absolute division between good and evil. Star Trek does not: the Klingons are not wholly evil. Spiderman does not: the Green Goblin and Doc Oc are persons Parker rightly admires in their civilian garb. Jedi use their power only for defense, never for themselves: fear and passion unleash the Dark Side. One moment of giving into Hate, even to kill an enemy who richly deserves death, and forever will it dominate your destiny.

This clear division between Good and Evil, Light and Dark is one thing that makes Star Wars such a powerful science fiction myth, in addition to being good old fashion pulp sciffy fun-ness. It is one reason why we all like this film so much.

But Mr. Lucas’s storytelling instincts cannot always strangle his Hollywood counter-culturalism. The counterculture, the enemies of our civilization, reject the values on which this civilization is based, including the idea of moral absolutes. To him, morality is an evil, and so he must have his heroes bad-mouth it, even if it makes no sense in the story, defies what has been established about the universe, and breaks the mood of the scene.

I am surprised he did not have the Bold Hero say, “Only a Sith would be a conservative Christian!”