I’m in season 3 of The Clone Wars. The arc of a series of episodes spurred me to write this post on the depiction of goodness. I wish I could sound as calmly lyrical as Bottleworder, Andra Watkins, or Lavender Moon Girl always does. But I can’t. Not when I feel like screaming.
I can’t avoid spoilers, so if you don’t want to know anything about this arc, you might skip to the part where it’s safe to read (bold capitalized text below). If you want more information, click here.
In the episode that begins the arc, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin’s padawan, Ashoka Tano (see hero pose below; I often stand like this with my friends) are brought to a planet (Mortis) where they meet the beings known as the Ones: the Father, the Daughter, and the Son. For more on them, click here.
Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ashoka
Take a look at the picture of the Son and Daughter below. Guess which one is the embodiment of the light side of the force and which represents the dark side. (I would have liked to see a role switch.)
When the Daughter and the Son fight each other for arc-related reasons, guess which one is easily defeated. I’ll give you this one: the Daughter—the good side. Why? Because she is “good” and thereby constrained by the limits of goodness. The bad side, however, has no real limit.
We learn about a weapon that can defeat the Son—a dagger that reminds me of the sword Samurai Jack wields in the titular series—the only defense in the fight against Aku, the shape-shifting evil spirit. However, as the episode of The Clone Wars goes on to show, this valuable weapon is easily stolen by the bad side, thus once again proving that bad barely has to break a sweat to triumph over good.
The notion of the light (or goodness) being limited in comparison with the dark side gets my hackles up, especially since good is personified as a woman in a flowing gown who acts like a doormat. Based on her outfit, was the expectation that she would stand around and look pretty? Does that somehow show the power of goodness? Grrrr. Since when has good become this limited? Why is it limited?
IT’S SAFE TO READ NOW. BUT I’M STILL RANTING. I’ve seen this limited-good aspect played out in other series and books where the good guys seem about as engaging as a bowl of milk, while the bad guys are like ice cream sundaes—enticing, interesting, layered, and much more powerful than the good guys. While I can understand the need to place some limits on good for the sake of conflict (i.e., in the Lord of the Rings), I don’t understand the efficacy of the limits in this Clone Wars arc.
That’s why I’m thankful for shows like Avatar and characters like Katara and Toph.
They are the face of good in the series, along with Aang the Avatar. None of these characters is perfect. They make mistakes, some quite boneheaded. Even when defeated, they come back fighting. And neither wears a trailing gown, which would be a hazard in a serious fight.
I have to stop here to explain that I grew up in a rough neighborhood. When I was in middle school, there was never a question of whether you’d get in a fight, but when you would. So I had my share, though I didn’t instigate them.
In a fight, the first things to come off were earrings and anything your opponent could yank or twist. That’s why I can never suspend my disbelief when a character is shown in battle wearing a prom dress with trailing sleeves. But I digress.
I’m also grateful for movies like The Avengers
and characters like Natasha Romanoff/the Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson. Sure, she has a checkered past. But she’s got layers. She’s a complex character who stands with the other heroes in The Avengers based on the choices she’s made. And I think you can guess which scene in the movie is one of my favorites. If you can’t, please comment and I’ll tell you.
Script writer/director Joss Whedon didn’t have to lower the stakes to make the heroes look effective. He kept raising the stakes because they were. So, I’m grateful for that and for . . .
. . . beautifully, nuanced characters like these. They’re imperfect—prone to argue with each other. But they get the job done. Sure they were afraid. When Syndrome came knocking, these heroes answered the call. This is what GOOD looks like. And note the lack of capes and trailing sleeves. The movie provides an effective argument against both.
Want another image of good? If you get a chance, take a look at the photos at the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Service (iWomen). Go here for those. It takes guts and determination to be an emergency professional. It also takes a strong desire to help others. That’s the nature of goodness. Strong. Sacrificing. Real. And no prom dresses in sight.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go calm down somewhere.
Images from marvel.wikia.com, imdl.com, heatdown.com, deviantart.com, fanpop.com, captainrover220.blogspot.com, coverdude.com.