Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jedi Lies? - Episode I

I am examining each Star Wars film for evidence as to what the Jedi moral code has to say about lying. Are lying and deception acceptable practices for Jedi to engage in?

Let's examine the evidence from Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace. Do the Jedi lie or use deception in this film?
  • The Supreme Chancellor sends "ambassadors" to the trade delegation, but Viceroy Gunray has no idea that it is actually Jedi are on the way! Why not reveal this fact? The Jedi seem to act as if withholding the fact that they are Jedi is part of the standard operating procedure. Why intentionally hide this fact unless they are perhaps planning on a little more action than negotiations at the table? While not a lie, it's certainly questionable behavior. Doesn't the negotiator between two parties normally try not to scare either party into rash action? Perhaps if Nute Gunray anticipated Jedi he wouldn't have had such a dramatic overreaction.  
  • Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan convince Jar Jar with a little scare tactic, overstating the threat of the droids, saying that the "bad things" will "crush" them, and detailing other methods of injury or death. In reality, both Qui Gon and Obi Wan know that there is little immediate threat at that moment from the droids.
  • Qui Gon uses ye 'ol Jedi mind trick on Boss Nas to get transportation. By its nature, the Jedi mind trick is deceitful because it implants thoughts into someone's head that are not their own. Instead of using diplomacy, Qui Gon simply implants false information into Boss Nas's head: That he wants to give them transportation. 
  • Qui Gon tries, unsuccessfully to use the old standby Jedi mind trick on Watto when his reasoning skills fail. What if he was successful? Was he willing to leave Watto with Republic Credits that are "worthless" to him, essentially stealing the parts he needs? Once again - Jedi mind trick equals forcing somebody to believe lies. I mean, "trick" is in the name of the power! Thank God that Toydarians are immune to the Jedi Lie Trick! 
  • After receiving the transmission from Naboo, Obi Wan says, with firm resolve, "It's a trick!" to the captain then two seconds later, in private, asks Qui Gon, "What if it's true?" He hides his true feelings, even from his allies, simply to get them to behave as he wishes them to. Manipulation at its finest.
  • Qui Gon willingly goes along win Anakin's suggestion that he claim Anakin's pod is his own. Qui Gon even embellishes the story when speaking to Watto, claiming he won it in a game of chance - NONE of which is true. Lies, all lies!
  • After pricking Anakin with a blood testing needle or device, Qui Gon tells Anakin that he's checking his blood for infections. While this may or may not be true, his TRUE intention is to check for midichlorians. Way to model the noble Jedi way, Qui Gon!
  • When making a wager for Anakin's freedom, Qui Gon influences the "chance cube" with the force. Why? Didn't he trust the force to come up with the right result? After all, if it was DESTINED, surely the die would have resulted in Anakin being picked anyway. This act of deception causes his whole bet with Watto to be deceitful. Qui Gon is no better than somebody who tries to cheat at poker by having cards up their sleeves.
Now, in the interest of fairness, a large part of the deception and outright lies that Jedi do in this film are done by Qui Gon. I don't think we can draw firm conclusions at this point - we certainly don't have enough evidence to judge one way or another whether it's okay for all Jedi to lie but we do have evidence that at least SOME Jedi lie with regularity.

it is interesting to note that there are two times in the film that a Jedi give his word and one time that he makes a promise.
Qui Gon gives his word that he will care for Anakin.
Obi Wan gives his word that he will train Anakin.
Obi Wan promises Anakin that Anakin will become a Jedi. (Later, Obi-Wan insists when talking with Yoda, saying, "I gave Qui-Gon my word!")
In all of these cases, the Jedi is being 100% honest and does what he says he will do. So it seems when a Jedi say, "I promise," they are bound by the their word at that point. Also, the Jedi lie to and manipulate everyone except for the other Jedi. At least it seems that they have SOME honor.

At this point, we can say...
- Jedi lie, some with regularlity
- Jedi sincerely attempt to keep their promises, at least to other Jedi
- Jedi do not generally attempt to deceive other Jedi
- The Jedi mind trick is inherently deceptive as it forces someone to believe a lie


  1. Wow, and you wonder why you've been demoted to red shirt. I completely understand your argument (though question your motive), but you clearly are reaching here.

    Your first bullet point, completely speculative. Wouldn't hold up in court. Where exactly are the Jedi lying? If anyone is lying, wouldn't it be the Supreme Chancellor? Also, Jedi ARE ambassadors, or at least many of them are given ambassadorial powers. So no lies, no deception.

    Overstating the threat of the droids? What? The transport ships were crushing anything in their path. No immediate danger? Ohhhhh right. Cause Gungans live underwater, and the trade federation was engaged in a surface invasion. I see your logic, however, let me point out the flaw. Show me where Qui Gon and Obi Wan knew Jar Jar lived underwater at that moment? They met him on the surface, and are justified in assuming that Jar Jar is a surface dweller.

    Bullet point 3, after so many vewings, I NEVER got the impression that Boss Nass was under the influence of the Jedi Mind Trick. He does wave his hand about speeding them on their way, but not in the manor of a Jedi Mind Trick. I've also read a few copies of the script for TPM, and nowhere does it say he's invoking the JMT.

    Republic credits are fine. Tatooine is a stopover for many space pilots. How do you think they buy goods and services on Tatooine? There's probably several financial institutions that exchange currency. Seems Watto prefers cash, as would most crooks, especially in Hutt Space. You don't have to report it as income, don't have to pay taxes, etc. If anything, making Watto accept credits would be making an "Honest" man out of him.

    As for the transmission, it was a trick. They used as trsce program on it. So Obi-Wan was right. But later, when he asks, "what if it's true?", I think represents Obi-Wan doubting his conviction, not manipulating sallies. Two seconds later, please. An entire scene went by. Sheesh!

    The chance cube thing? Really? Your line of reasoning is similar to someone asking, "Why pray to God? He already knows the answer, and the outcome." Destiny only takes you so far, people still need to make conscious choices.

  2. Why would you find it so devastating if the Jedi are liars? What would that change about them? The films are still the same no matter what (well, ALMOST the same... thanks again, George Lucas!)...

    I don't see why you need to excuse and justify every example of Jedi deceit. I'm simply catalogueing all available evidence before making any judgments. Sure, some examples are much stronger than others. I am simply attempting to be as comprehensive as possible.

    Relax, dude.

  3. Actually, the Jedi were very uninterested in Jar Jar UNTIL they found out he lived in an underwater city. It's only after that they started pulling their con on him. Rewatch the scene.