Sometimes I stumble on an idea that's too interesting to ignore. It happens less often than I'd like. And usually when I'm nowhere near my laptop.
Like almost everyone else and their mom, I saw the new Star Wars movie the week it came out. I was a huge fan. While watching I noticed a bunch of things that I chronicled in other posts, things about storycraft, cinematics, etc. But one thing stuck out. It was how consistently different the Dark Side is portrayed when compared with the Light.
Consider this. Its usually easy to tell who's on the Light's Side. They wear light colored clothing. Their weapons all mimic straight blades. They have beards. They feel a sense of duty towards eliminating the Dark Side.
The Dark Side, by contrast, is hetero-specist. Their getup varies from suits of armor to simple cloaks. Their lightsabers take different forms (Darth Maul's double edged, Count Dooku's curved scimitar, Kylo Ren's crossbar). Most are clean shaven.
Most importantly, almost none of them have an obsession with the Light Side.
Traditional depictions of Star Wars pit the Light and Dark sides against one another as equal players on opposite sides of the board.
But if the two are not actually opponents then the story takes on an entirely different hue.
The Dark Side, despite being just as tied to The Force as the Light, has absolutely no fixation with eliminating the Jedi. They want power and plunder. Its easy to see why they're viewed as a threat.
In fact, that the Dark Side is threatening to organized structure is central to my theory on what the Dark Side actually represents: the wild, untamed aspect of The Force. It is the woods, the desert, the unconquered mountain. The realm of knowledge not yet canonize and civilized by the Light Side.
Carrying this notion even further, the Light Side seems utterly preoccupied with containing and eliminating the Dark Side. They resemble evangelists in this way. Think of missions colonizing far flung corners of the planet out of a genuine desire to spread the message of the Light.
Lets step into the bounds of academia for a moment. There is a construct in film called Gaze, which is the implied perspective a story is told from. It doesn't always have to be from the main character's vantage point, but it can be (consider Fight Club where the story is told by the unnamed main character but the gaze is undoubtedly that of Tyler Durden, or The Matrix, where the story is told through Neo's eyes but the gaze is actually that of the unfreed occupant of the Matrix). Gaze helps shape the direction of a film as it usually encapsulates groups of tropes without time-intensive character development. For example, even though Rorschach is sort of unhinged the fact that he is investigating a murder both sets his gaze on the side of "the good" and shows that he is not mentally deranged (since, ostensibly, the level of analytical skill needed to "investigate" someone is at least higher than a mental patient). Forrest Gump, on the other hand, loves his mother but is clearly a bit on the slow side, setting his gaze toward a main character that is simple, lovable, yet a tad bit retarded.
In Star Wars, the gaze of the film is decidedly from the Light Side's perspective. But it positions The Dark Side in territory usually reserved for films that explore the unknown as opposed to a war between Good and Evil. That Sith are shown killing people without a full explanation (there is never any explicit mention of money even though implicit ones abound). They use the Force indiscriminately to hurt or torture others. It seems reminiscent of King Kong or Apocalypse Now where the villain is really the chaos of the wild as opposed to a named enemy. The technique daftly colors the Dark Side literally with the dark. It is an unknown force to be reckoned with--powerful, misunderstood, uncontrollable.
From this standpoint the Dark Side resembles not an army, as is with Sauron's legions, but rather a wild animal akin to Shere Khan. The Dark Side does not mean to kill you… it simply does not know any other way.
I suspect that JJ Abrams, and George Lucas before him, sought to portray the Sith and the Empire not as conquistadors of the Space Age but rather sick animals who must be saved from their own uncontrollable pathology. Anakin Skywalker is a victim of his own rage. Count Dooku of ambition. Kylo Ren of insecurity. All three emotions driven by power or lack thereof. They are emotions of the Id, untempered by the calming aspects of reason that the Jedi, the Super Ego, specialize in.
It'd be nice if this aspect of the drama was exposed a little more. Perhaps portraying more of the internal struggle that the Dark characters go through. It would go a long way in telling a more whole, more fulfilling story that the fight waged by the Jedi is not to battle others, but to literally shed light into the dark.