Over the last few months there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding Jedi philosophy and canonical as well as non-canonical applications across that spectrum. First, I want to throw credit to the ladies at Lattes With Leia, a podcast that is part of the Coffee With Kenobi network. In episode 23 of their podcast they discussed a lot of this topic and gave me some inspiration to write this post. Definitely give a listen to Amy and Dr. Drea!
Star Wars fans largely have pretty good ideas of what the Jedi and Sith philosophically represent. Most things in life, though, don’t purely exist in the dichotomy of good and evil, black and white, light and dark. Even personally, I consider myself a centrist in American politics; as such I draw on the individual issues of the parties and political philosophies to build my own. Further, how many D&D players do you know (perhaps even yourself) that don’t choose alignments at the furthest ends of the spectrum? As such, many players prefer neutral and chaotic alignments.
In Star Wars, the Jedi are supposed to represent pure good, and the Sith pure evil. As viewers, many of us see more complicated depth to these philosophies, or at least the beings who wield power within each of these. Many Sith, such as Palpatine and Vader, have exhibited wanting order and peace in the galaxy, and will obtain it at all costs, even the destruction of entire planets. The Jedi also want order and peace, but are considerably more altruistic in their pursuit, although sometimes blinded by their own philosophies as well. Many have said that the hubris of the Jedi has been their own downfall.
So, can there be Force users which are not aligned with the Jedi or the Sith? Sure – that absolutely makes sense. Star Wars Legends (no longer canonical) has examined this considerably. Canonically, many of these avenues have been examined, but there seems to have been some reluctance to place labels. In Legends, the term Dark Jedi was applied to Jedi who have fallen to the dark side, or at least darker ways. Certainly, Count Dooku and Anakin/Vader fall within this category.
Now to the term which has caused a great deal of vitriol in the fandom (what doesn’t?) – Grey Jedi. Grey Jedi, in Legends, was a term used for Force users who were neither Jedi or Sith. Typically, we would see these individuals as being more along the lines of neutral good or chaotic good, if I may borrow from D&D. They could be genuinely neutral, but typically not on the evil side of the spectrum. Grey Jedi were usually defined as being people who had good intentions, but didn’t fully align with the Jedi philosophy. They may have also used non-Jedi applications of the Force, such as Force lightning, to accomplish their goals. Canonically, Ahsoka is one of the best examples of what could be called a Grey Jedi. Amy and Andrea mentioned that QuiGon-Jinn could also be an example of this. While QuiGon was still a member of the Jedi Order, he was noted for having his philosophies being a bit more pragmatic than the Jedi would have preferred.
The root of the schism in the fandom over the Grey Jedi is largely the use of the term ‘Jedi’ for someone who is not aligned fully with the Jedi Order. Even Pablo Hidalgo struck down the term on Twitter about a year ago. That said, Pablo also tweeted that there is more to the Force than just the dark and the light – which we’ve clearly seen across much of the current canon. Personally, I’m OK with the use of the term Grey Jedi – at least until a more accepted term comes into use. While it’s true that only the Jedi Order can grant the title of Jedi, the PHILOSOPHY of the Jedi still exists beyond that of the Order. It is in the name of this philosophy that I see Luke granting himself the title of Jedi Master and Kanan calling himself a Jedi Knight. If these titles can be used absent being granted by the Jedi Council, why couldn’t the term Grey Jedi be applied? Certainly, there is no governing body of Grey Jedi, so the term is unofficial (in world) at best, but those two words seem quite descriptive of the being and their alignment.
Even if we consider the use of the title ‘Jedi’ misappropriated, we do it in real life all the time. Depending on where you are from, people use the trademarked name Kleenex for any facial tissue, Scott Towel for any paper towel, and Coke for any soda product. I have no illusions that the vocabulary of the Star Wars universe is better than our own.
I’m interested in your thoughts on this topic. Hit me up on Twitter @quigontimm!