Who’s your favorite Star Wars character? If it’s not Chewbacca, chances are it’s Yoda. He’s been my favorite for a long long time. I mean, look at this email I got from Thinkgeek.com just like twenty minutes ago. Who’s front & center? That’s right. Yoda.
Hell, there are hundreds of web pages devoted to making Yoda Origami. Look up “Yoda wallpaper” and you’ll get forty million results.
Because we love the little guy. He’s our dude. He is the franchise.
But should he be? Because we’re inside 300 days until the greatest entertainment event of all time, Star Wars VII: The Force UnKrakens, and having re-watched the series recently, I can’t help but wonder if we’re all whistling past the graveyard a bit on Yoda.
Yes, he’s that archetypal oracle on the mount. Like Gandalf and Dumbledore and Morpheus.
But when their number is called, those other dudes WIN.
I’m not saying Yoda is completely useless. He’d be great at kids parties.Or like, running a laundromat. But as the de facto King o’ the Jedis? He’s George W. Bush bad.
But don’t just take my (blasphemic) word for it. Look at the facts:
— He (and every other Jedi) were working for the Dark Lord of the Sith for years and had no idea. Completely oblivious. Like, eating lunch with him. Taking orders from him. Sending inter-office funny emails back and forth. Just a complete fail in every way.
— He did such a good job training his apprentice Count Dooku that Dooku became a pillar of the Dark Side and the personal apprentice of Darth Sidious.
— He had no idea that a huge army of clones was being built over a period of like 20 years.
— He had no idea that a fellow Jedi, Syfo Dias, had ordered them.
— He had no idea that the planet of Kamino was wiped off the Jedi’s records, thereby rendering it magically unseen to the law. (Non-movie lore: Apparently so were 34 other planets, all done by Dooku after he left the Jedi. …)
— When he finally got to duel Dooku, it ended up a draw and his former apprentice got away. Come on! That’s like your 10-year-old whipping you at a game of HORSE. Speechless.
— Despite Mace Windu’s warnings, he put Anakin next to Darth Sidious.
— He sensed the rage and fear in a young Anakin and did nothing to train/help/mentor him.
— Under his watch, the prophetic “one” — the legendary “one” who would destroy the Sith — was turned to the Dark Side.
— He had no idea that his “Army of the Republic” had an implanted secret order that would end the Jedi Order in one fell swoop.
— When he finally had his moment in the sun, a mano-y-mano battle against the Dark Lord of the Sith for the future of the galaxy … he lost. Decisively.
— Instead of going right back and messing Darth Sidious up, he fled.
— Under his watch, he never thought of a lockdown scenario for the Jedi Temple, so that a recently-turned Jedi couldn’t, y’know, march in with a bunch of Stormtroopers and KILL EVERYONE including younglings! Younglings for the love of god! No panic room? No secret emergency transport to Yavin IV? No elite team of Praetorian Guard with a sworn mission to defend the Jedi temple and allow Jedi librarians and archivists to flee with sensitive information and younglings? How do you not fortify your castle? WHY IS THERE NO GODDAMN MOAT?
— In exile on Dagoba, he apparently turned into a Muppet.
— He laid it on kind of thick with the burping and farting when he met Luke.
— The lifelong Jedi training ritual, which was his big concern when Qui-Gon proposed Anakin as his Padawan, didn’t bother him at all with Luke, who was like 43 when Yoda met him.
— He trained Luke for basically a Memorial Day weekend. People spend more time tubing behind a boat some holiday weekends than Yoda took to train Luke to be a Jedi. It was the exact amount of time it took for the Millenium Falcon to fly to Bespin. So, not long.
— On, like, his first day of training he sends Luke into the scariest cave in the universe where he has a pants-shitting encounter with Darth Vader. I mean, accelerated much? How about shooting some cans off a fence? We have to jump right into worst-case-scenario stuff on Day One?
— After which, Yoda allowed Luke to leave and confront the most terrifying former Jedi in the galaxy … aaaaaaand get his arm chopped off.
— Before Yoda dies, he casually mentions Leia. Oh, thanks for that. Maybe if they weren’t your last words I could ask you a few follow up questions! Yoda? Yoda? Aaaaaand you vanished. That’s great. Tell me Dagoba wouldn’t be the absolute scariest place in the universe if you were alone. Like coming up the stairs from a dark basement. If I were Luke, I couldn’t get off that planet fast enough.
… And I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting. As I was watching and Yoda is spending every movie just sitting on his thumb I was like “STOP MEDITATING! DO SOMETHING GODDAMNIT!” Your enemies are all around you! DO OR DO NOT! THERE IS NO TRY! Oh, so it’s clearly do not, huh? Your default is do not. Got it.
By comparison, the Dark Lord of the Sith:
— Turned Yoda’s apprentice to the Dark Side right from under him.
— Turned the “one” who would restore balance to The Force. Right from under him.
— Got himself elected on Naboo, then orchestrated a complicated overthrow of super-powerful chancellor Valorum, then engineered a way to have himself replace him. Then gave himself war-powers. Then made those war powers permanent, then took away everyone else’s power and converted the republic to an empire with himself at the head … all to rousing applause. (No lightsabers here, baby! This is straight-up political manipulation at its finest.)
— Wrested control of the “Grand Army of the Republic” away from the Jedi.
— Implanted a secret Jedi kill-all order in the clone army.
— At one point, was in charge of the Republic, the Jedi, General Grievous, the Separatists, Count Dooku and the Trade Federation. So, everyone in the galaxy, basically. At the same time.
— Had like a zillion secret bases being built at all times.
— Had like 25 zillion people working for him at all times. Can you imagine the health care costs he had to personally sign for? Moffs and Grand Moffs and like lab technicians and Hutt spies and droid delivery van drivers and cantina guards. Must have been a paperwork nightmare. But he did it.
— Built the Death Star.
— Destroyed Alderaan.
— Managed to maintain his appearance as a regular-joe senator in front of the Jedi while actually being THE DARK LORD OF THE SITH.
— Completely fooled Padme in every way.
— Masterfully baited the hook with Anakin, setting the naive boy up perfectly. Had he not timed his seduction and reveal as a Sith so perfectly, he wouldn’t have been able to plead with Anakin to save him from Mace Windu. He planted the perfect amount of doubt about the Jedi in Anakin. He expertly crafted a situation where if Anakin didn’t chop Mace Windu’s arm off (leaving him helpless), it was tantamount to letting Padme die. Kiss your fingers with me. It was his piece de resistance.
— Wiped out the Jedi Order. That was like a Wednesday. I think I’ll just wipe out the most ancient and powerful collection of beings in the galaxy. Ho-hum.
— Became The Emperor of the whole Galaxy.
… with Anakin Skywalker as his enforcer, clearing out all remaining Jedi.
And I know, I know. The Emperor lost in the end. I mean, I still don’t know how, really, other than that’s what makes for a “better” story. But one of these businesses was run by a donkey and one was run by a genius and if I’m seeing these on paper? My money’s on the genius.
So, while I’m not embracing the tenets of the Dark Side (much), I am saying that when you take a long look at the game plan of each team, aren’t we giving the little green man a little too much credit? And shouldn’t we maybe be giving a little more credit to the visionary who single-handedly took over the galaxy before being thrown down a laundry chute like a sack of tased ham? At the end of the day, didn’t one of these guys achieve all of his goals at the expense of the other? Or is it OK to just think of Yoda as unilaterally awesome in a passive way, and think of his failures as the bridge that allowed for the rise of Luke Skywalker? Is there something I’ve missed?
Because even in the face of all this, I kinda still love him.