20 Years to Forget

I’ve always had this weird problem with how everyone in ANH just shrugged off the Jedi and the Force like they were a part of long forgotten history.  It was only 20 years before (19 years to be exact) that the Old Republic was strong and mighty, with the Jedi Council located in the heart of Coruscant.   I mean, could the Jedi really be forgotten that fast?

There are so many factors to take in here, namely that the Empire, ruled by Palpatine and Vader, stamped out any remembrance that there once were Jedi and there was such a thing as the Force.  But another factor to consider is a whole new generation has risen up since the fall of the Old Republic and they have no memory of Jedi or the Force.  My guess is that parents could have talked about it or mentioned it in passing, but by the time we get to 0 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) which is when ANH takes place, the children born in the past 20 years, don’t really care about this moment in the past.

If we remember the scene where Luke is given his father’s lightsaber by Obi-Wan (Yay for Lucas having a distinct moment when Obi-Wan picks up Anakin’s lightsaber in ROTS.  Continuity makes me happy), Luke looks at the weapon curiously.  Oooo a new toy!  He asks what it is and he clearly does not know the damage it can do.

LUKE: What is it?

BEN: Your fathers lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster.

Luke pushes a button on the handle. A long beam shoots out about four feet and flickers there. The light plays across the ceiling.

BEN: An elegant weapon for a more civilized time. For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.

Luke hasn’t really been listening.

LUKE: How did my father die?

BEN: A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.

LUKE: The Force?

BEN: Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

Luke doesn’t even know what the Force is, which I think is more understandable, but not even know what the Jedi are?  Or maybe he knew what the Jedi are, but doesn’t know what a lightsaber is?  Murky waters luke and obi wanhere, Captain.  An excuse could be made that Uncle Owen kept Luke so sheltered and on a planet so far from the interior, that this kid knew nothing about history.  Owen may have kept him in the dark, but Luke is 19 at this point and I doubt he’s THAT sheltered.  It’s not like the Jedi were a part of history only reserved for the planet Coruscant.  The Jedi were all over the galaxy, an Order of over 25,000 years old.  You can’t just erase their history like that.  Or can you?  I’m unsure because I live in a wonderful country where, though we’ve rewritten history in some senses, it’s never been entirely erased.

Further on in the movie, we have Han Solo give his opinion on the Force.

HAN: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

LUKE: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?

HAN: Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

Han Solo hokey religions

Here, it’s clear that Han looks at the Force with ridicule and scorn.  The Force?  That’s such a foolish religion.

But Han is slightly older than Luke, so you would think he might remember a time where the Force did exist and the Jedi were alive.

So based on what I had been thinking about, I looked up historical events during 1980-1990 (I was born during that time frame but not telling you when – muaha) and see if I remembered anything 20 years later or if any history events during that time had an impact on me.

  • 1980 – John Lennon was assassinated.  I definitely was aware of his assassination when I was 20 years old.  How could you grow up in the USA and not know who the Beatles were?  The fact that one of them was sadly killed…I mean I knew that since I was little.
  • 1981 – Princess Diana and Prince Charles wedding.  Meh.  I only knew about this because my grandmother was obsessed with Princess Di (kind of funny because I am now obsessed with Kate Middleton, so I must get my Royal Obsessive traits from her) and had calendars of her all over the place.  However, that is probably because I became more aware of her when she was killed, so her actual wedding had little effect on me.
  • 1986 – Australia and New Zealand fully separate from Britain and become completely independent.  Despite my heritage, this doesn’t really mean anything to me.
  • 1989 – Berlin Wall falls.  That’s a big piece of history that didn’t matter so much to me when I was 20.  Yes, I understood the importance, but it was part of the past that seemed irrelevant to me now.

Of all these events that I know about in my lifetime, the most similar ones to the Star Wars Universe would probably be Australia and New Zealand’s full independence (kind of like the separatists?) and the fall of the Berlin Wall (government changes).

But did those two events resonate with me when I was 20 years old?

…No.

So I’ve kind of rethought my theory a little bit.  I say “kind of” because none of these events were completely life changing in the country I live in, so I relate it a little bit to Luke living in the Outer Rims.  The planets closer to the center were probably more affected by the huge governmental change when the Empire took over.  Perhaps something like an event of 9/11, which rocked the United States, would be a better example to choose but I only know my 17 year old brother and 9/11 is also constantly brought up in news, media, etc.  I doubt the Empire constantly brought up the Jedi.

Okay, that’s my food for thought.  Thoughts anyone?  Was it possible the Empire really wiped out all remembrances of the Jedi so that the younger generation didn’t even know about it?

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9 thoughts on “20 Years to Forget

  1. I think it’s entirely possible. Palpatine was a masterful weaver of lies – with an Empire stretching across the Galaxy at his command, I imagine history was easily rewritten by his propagandists – most of whom had been seeding anti-Jedi sentiment since before the Clone Wars.

    I think on the “regular Joe” side of things, in a good portion of the Galaxy, the Jedi were perceived as just as bad as the Sith were during the Old Republic. Departing only slightly from the Clone Wars and Galactic Empire Eras, the Old Republic was a constant power struggle between groups of people the little man wouldn’t give the time of day. A farmer only cares about his farm, until someone comes in and tries to take it from him. I can’t see that the Jedi and the Republic army, facing a foe like Palpatine and a plan like he implemented, wouldn’t have upset just as many neutral colonies and planets as the Separatists did to gain ground against their foes at any cost. I think the Clone Wars series painted that very well.

    As swiftly as Order 66 wiped out the Jedi Order, wouldn’t it be easier to believe that the Jedi were the corrupt power-hungry meddlers the propagandists said they were, and that only the wisdom and swift action of the Supreme Chancellor saved them all from a fate worse than order?

    I think it was easy for the Empire to pitch that the Jedi had been terrorists all along, and that the Rebellion was just an extension of that terrorism. The Empire brought order to what was growing into chaos … and ironically, Palpatine brought balance to the Force.

    Look at Lando before Vader screwed him over. His chief concern was getting the Empire out of his hair – after years of war, who wouldn’t want a little peace, and even if it was a massive evil Empire run by two Sith Lords, at least no one was commandeering your speeder or raiding your mines to feed their troops.

    Sure, the Rebellion had tons of supporters … but even for them, the Jedi failed. It wasn’t a widely publicized fact that two Jedi were hiding out, and two Jedis against an Empire? Not quite the thing to inspire your kids with. As I understand it, ALL Force-sensitives were under high scrutiny by the Empire, so I doubt it got mentioned that much.

    And as for Luke … he was headed for the Imperial Academy after all, wasn’t he? Doesn’t sound like the Lars household was too concerned with the evil Empire if they were willing to send Luke off to be a part of it – after the harvest of course.

    Wow, sorry, for the long post. It’s just I always questioned it too, and over the years this is what I’ve built up as an excuse for it.

    • Good call on bringing up TCW. It’s funny how I’ve watched the series, yet I don’t always bring it into my discussions because I still have trouble blending the movies and show. The series definitely did a good job on showing the transition from the Jedi being “good” to being questionable in their actions and Palpatine using that to his advantage.

      As for Luke heading to the Imperial Academy, it’s funny, because as I was looking at the script for this post, Obi-Wan asks Luke to join him in going to Alderaan. Luke’s response? “…it’s not that I like the Empire, I hate it!” That struck another confusing chord in me. You hate the Empire but want to join it? Or is it Luke just being whiny again?

      Your points on the little man are excellent ones and help me to see why some people would have thought that the Empire at least brought them stability, if nothing else.

  2. I second that the Empire would have used their propaganda to downplay the Jedi while also painting them as villains. This is similar to areas of Russia where missionaries from my church proselyte, and the local citizens do not know about Christianity because of the anti-religion efforts of the USSR.
    Also, as for Luke joining the Imperial Academy, maybe his uncle keeps pushing back his application to protect Luke. And, Owen and Beru would want to keep Luke as far away from the Jedi as possible. It would probably be something no one would talk about, and spoken of in hushed tones because it is forbidden.

    • I agree with you that Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru wanted to protect Luke and keep him away from the Empire and Jedi. Just knowing what we do about Luke in the OT, he would have probably excelled really fast in the Imperial Academy and gained the attention of higher ups, and perhaps the attention of Vader annnnd…that would not have been good.
      It’s funny that Owen refers to Ben as a “crazy old man” so even if Ben talked about how he was a Jedi, the derogatory expressions Owen used over the years about him would not have led Luke to have that much faith in Obi-Wan until much later. I’m surprised he trusted him as much as he did!

  3. Other than the obvious plot device to introduce The Force, there is a simpler explanation for this. A 19 year old Luke Skywalker has probably heard of Jedi, Light Sabers and even The Force but he doesn’t remember it right away. In real life people may not remember everything they read or learned about something until it gets refreshed in their mind. So the real conversation would go something like:

    LUKE: The Force?

    BEN: Well, the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

    LUKE: oh that’s right, i remember seeing that on entertainment channels or history books or Uncle Owen mentioned it once.

    • Good point on the refresher. That could very well be it and also why he ended up tuning out when Obi-Wan starts telling him about it. I also think your example of the Vatican is appropriate. I knew it was once all in Latin and that it was only in recent history that they changed it, but it’s not something that would stick in my mind if I went to a mass.

  4. As for forgetting something 20 years later, i can come up with some examples. Every few years some Professional Sport changes or adopts a rule and after enough time, no one recalls immediately how things were before (okay this is probably more common in the USA than the rest of the world).

    Or for any Catholics readers out there, 20 years after Vatican II, most catholics recall that the mass was in Latin but its not the first thing that springs to mind.

  5. I find it believable that Luke would not know of the Jedi and the Force. He’s been stuck on Tatooine in the Outer Rim, which doesn’t have much contact with the rest of the galaxy (even in the days of the Republic). And his aunt and uncle are obviously motivated to hide talk of Jedi and the Force from him.

    I don’t find it as believable that Han wouldn’t believe in the Force. The only way it is believable is by noting that Vader was the only publicly known Jedi/Sith alive, so his use of the Force could be written off as trickery. But Han is old enough that he might remember the Clone Wars (with the Jedi Council, Jedi Generals, etc.) so he should remember other Force users. He’s also well traveled so he’s not as sheltered as Luke.

    There are other characters who don’t believe in the Force as well — most notably some of the Imperials in the scene where Vader chokes one of them until Tarkin tells him to stop. Some of those Imperials (including Tarkin) were definitely around during the Clone Wars so it’s hard to believe that a “lack of faith” in the Force would be so seemingly widespread even in the Empire.

    Overall, it’s a necessary discontinuity brought on by the fact that Episode IV was the first one out. I think Lucas originally intended the Clone Wars to have occurred farther in the past, which would have made everyone’s lack of knowledge about the Jedi and the Force more believable.

    • Hi Null – apologies for not replying sooner! I was away on vacation and can’t yet figure out how to get into my blog from my phone. One day I will get technologically advanced enough to do that.

      I think you make a great point about the scene in ANH with conference in the Death Star/Admiral Motti’s choking. I mean, you gotta love Motti’s overconfidence and contempt for the Force, only to be proven so, so wrong. Then, yes, others also don’t believe in the Force, even those higher up. Epicipseity brings up TCW and how they tried to tie everything together in that TV show, which I had also forgotten. So Tarkin was definitely around when the Jedi Council was losing it’s popularity.

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