gwinna: (Palpatine - most evil)
[personal profile] gwinna
So, I was rewatching the Star Wars prequels recently, and it occurred to me that I had never listened to the audio commentary for Revenge of the Sith. Accordingly I went and did so, and it was very interesting, but there was one thing George Lucas said which struck me as rather bizarre and incredible. I quote:

One of the issues in all of this is, that bad guys think they're good, and Lord Sidious thinks he's bringing peace to the galaxy, because there's so much corruption and confusion and chaos going on, and that now he's going to be able to straighten everything out, which may be true, but the price the galaxy's going to have to pay for it is way too much. -- George Lucas, RotS commentary


All I can say is, if that is what Lucas was trying to convey, he failed signally. I have never once considered that Palpatine might genuinely have wanted to bring peace to the galaxy. It never even occurred to me as a possible interpretation of his character. Nor have I ever come across such an interpretation in either fanfic or profic (admittedly I haven't read much profic, but since I like Palpatine I have read a decent amount of fanfic about him).

This bit of commentary takes place during the scene in which Anakin is christened Darth Vader, at the end where Sidious says, “Once more the Sith will rule the galaxy! And we shall have peace.” Now, it always seemed to me that the first part, the ruling the galaxy part, is what Sidious really cares about, and he tacks on the second half to ease Anakin's conscience, because Anakin cares about peace.

And I can see Anakin/Vader rationalizing what he's doing as being for the good of the galaxy – well, he does rationalize it at various points in the movie (“I have brought peace, freedom, justice and security to my new empire!”) – but I always saw Palpatine as someone who has no illusions about himself. He simply desires power, and doesn't scruple to take what he wants.

Lucas seems to be aiming for the idea that evil people never view themselves as evil, the villain is always the hero of his own tale and so forth. While I think this is generally true in real life, I'm not sure it's universally true, especially in a fictional world where good and evil are literal, tangible entities. If it applies to Palpatine, I would say it's more in the sense that he rejects the concept of good and evil altogether, a sort of “there is no good or evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it” mindset. In which case, although he might not view himself as evil, he doesn't view himself as good either.

However, I personally tend to think he does view himself as evil. Some of the things he says, both in this movie and in RotJ (“Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side”), suggest to me that he believes evil is more powerful than good, and therefore consciously chose to embrace evil in order to achieve the ultimate power for himself. Though I suppose in a way that would mean he views evil as good, for a certain value of “good,” so from that point of view Lucas' point does still stand, if not in the way he intended.
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June 2015

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