***Spoiler ALERT!! If you read this article, I will assume you know the plot arch of all 7 Star Wars movies***
After reading the title, you might be thinking something like:
“Wait a minute – all the Jedi master’s said to let the force flow, so how can they be rejecting fluidity?”
For starters, flow and fluidity are NOT the same thing. To understand this concept in relation to Star Wars, particularly the newest movie, The Force Awakens, let us first look at the terms flow and fluidity.
The concept of flow implies such definitions as gushing out, being spilled, springing forth, circulating, etc. In terms of the force, letting it flow often describes allowing the energy of the force to circulate in your being and flow out of your body to do with as you wish. The important thing to remember regarding flow is that an individual controls the flow.
In contrast, we use fluidity as an adjective to explain such things as the force. Fluidity describes something that “lacks definite shape,” and that “flows and alters shape freely” (paraphrased from the OED).
Fluidity depicts the raw energy that IS the force.
Flow implies a means to control the force.
The Force and the Patriarchy of Control
Those in power, often described as the patriarchy, assert their power by controlling the attainment and ultimate use of power. Politicians do so through complex laws and legislation, dictators do so through fear and tyranny, and force-users do so by requiring a rigid form of training.
Both sides, Jedi and Sith, light and dark, have their own philosophies and methodologies around how to use the power of the force. If you only know Star Wars from the movies, it implies a simplistic binary of Jedi = good and Sith/Empire = bad. As you get deeper into the Star Wars universe, however, you start to discover that this rudimentary explanation ignores much of the reality of the situation.
Jedi believe in full detachment from their emotions as a means to be one with the force. And I do mean all emotions, good and bad, including love, joy, etc. It’s not that they don’t feel these emotions, but they try to control how they will feel them, because giving in to emotions, according to Jedi training, could open one up to the desires of the dark side.
In contrast, those who are trained in the ways of the dark side use their emotions as a way to gain access to the power of the force. Most of the time, this methodology depicts apprentices and masters giving in to the most violent of emotions, including rage, lust, vengeance, and other. In many ways, those trained in the dark side are shown as narcissistically pursuing their own selfish desires, sacrificing all else to obtain what they want most.
Obviously, especially from a storyteller’s perspective, having such polar opposites creates better conflict. Moving beyond that, if you are willing to look deeper, what the binary truly highlights includes the fact that the force itself is just an energy source that can be wielded any number of ways, depending upon the person wielding it.
Both the Jedi and the Sith have created power structures around their training academies, because forcing rigorous training allows them to mold young force-users into believing the ideology of either the light side or the dark side.
Think about it – why are the Sith so bent on destroying the Jedi younglings, as Anakin/Darth Vader did? Why do they want to wipe out all Jedi teachings? They do this because they recognize the power in the academy setting.
Within a training environment, like the academy, no matter which side you’re on, all you do is focus on how your side uses the force, why your side does what they do, and how to keep your side going strong. The academy promotes propaganda, it establishes the power structure as normative, and it identifies anything outside of that power structure as Other and dangerous.
On the light side, they seek out force sensitives and try to bring them into the fold under the guise that they are helping these youngsters understand themselves and avoid hurting anyone. They also offer these individuals a home, a place to belong, and a cause in which to fight for. On the dark side, force sensitives are often manipulated into the academy system. Generally, Sith Masters tend to offer force sensitives the chance to become like Gods, the opportunity to claim vengeance, patriotism, or whatever it takes.
The Force Outside of the Patriarchy
The first six movies set up the binary of Jedi = good and Sith = bad, and those movies implied that this binary was the only way the force works. In the newest movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we start to step away from this binary and ask ourselves ethical questions concerning the force.
Is the force inherently good or evil?
Some people might argue that the force is both, being that it has two sides, but again I would interject that the force represents raw, unaligned power. The idea of the light side and the dark side only serve to highlight the propaganda of the two training academies. With the force, there are no sides, only fluidity.
Interestingly enough, this concept of the unaligned force gets promoted not by a force-user, but by Maz Kanata, the old woman who runs the neutral bar. When Rey senses Luke’s light saber and goes on a vision quest, it scares her, because she lacks the understanding of what such visions mean. Maz begins to explain that the force is a natural form of energy, neither good nor bad. She offers Rey the light saber as a conduit between herself and the force, which at first Rey refuses.
Rey’s refusal stems from her state of shock after the terrifying vision and uncertainty of what her vision implies. Going deeper, her initial refusal of the light saber could represent her refusing the patriarchy of the academy, as the light saber represents the propaganda from both sides so monstrously depicted in the vision. Although Rey may not realize it consciously, the vision she saw further promotes the binary that enslaves the raw power of the force. How can she accept the force as a power of nature, as Maz says, yet wield the symbol of its oppressors?
When Rey and Kylo Ren fight at the end, she at first clumsily fights with the light saber out of rage, having just saw her pseudo-father-figure, Han Solo, brutally murdered. Kylo Ren immediately hones in on Rey’s rage, per his Sith training. He has already sensed her power throughout the entire movie, and now he sees her giving in to her emotions. As an unaligned force-user, he sees Rey as the Other, and a potential danger to himself. As his training teaches, and as the dark side propaganda promotes, he must bring her in and teach her the “appropriate” ways to use the force. With this in mind, he knocks her light saber out of her hands and begins toying with her. Then he tells her that she needs a proper master, and that if she will submit to him as her master, he can make her powerful beyond her own imaginings.
This is the pivotal moment.
In this moment where Kylo Ren could kill her if she refuses his offer, time seems to stop for a moment as Rey hears the words of Maz Kanata. In that moment of feeling the fluidity of the force all around her as a natural source, she sees how Kylo Ren manipulates that power to flow as he dictates. She sees how the academy has restrained the fluidity of the force, and only then can she reject the binary methodology and transform the weapon of the binary into her own symbol that she can use to push away the propaganda and cast it out. Through this transformation, she allows the force work through her as IT chooses, helping her wield the weapon and push away Kylo Ren
Uncertainty Between Flow and Fluidity
At the end, as Rey rejects Kylo Ren as her master and accepts the nature of the force all around her, one would expect her to do her own thing, yet at the end of the movie we find her seeking out Luke Skywalker. As we don’t know what happens in the next movie, it remains uncertain as to what Rey’s final gesture of offering the light saber to Luke actually means.
Many people interpret it as her submission to a Jedi master and her desire to be trained as a Jedi. I would not be surprised if that’s how the next movie goes, because it’s what the fans want and it goes back to the binary, which Hollywood understands.
Since Luke does not take the light saber, and since Rey does not kneel before him, I would like to argue that perhaps Rey’s actions represent something else. She has transformed the light saber into something uniquely her own, which she could wish to share with Luke. After all, Luke has become a hermit, hidden away out of shame. Does this new awakening in Rey imply a new way of using the force, and will Rey be more the teacher than the student?
Until the next movie comes up, it’s difficult to say for certain. Ideally, I would like to see the next movie show the flow of control butt heads with the fluidity of the unaligned force in order to create something new, but, sadly, I don’t think such a demonstration will win over audiences. In the end, people in the movie business make decisions based on the potential for profits. Perhaps the writers can find a way to please the masses without further using the binary to enslave the raw power of the force.