Subtitle: fight or flight
Like the story that immediately precedes, this episode is centered on a conflict between an unaligned planet’s natives and representatives of the Republic. But this time it’s a straightforward representation of the crimes of colonialism.
The Jedi lost contact with their outpost on the snow planet of Orto-Plutonia so they send our heroes to investigate, dressed in their snow day best:
I hardcore love these outfits. Clearly they reference Empire Strikes Back, but isn’t it wonderful that Anakin’s blue lines up to Han’s Hoth jacket while Obi-Wan is in the lighter colors of Luke and Leia? It also subtly reflects Anakin’s blue lightsaber – which has since become the most important lightsaber in the Star Wars mythos – and which otherwise makes no appearance in the episode beyond that depicted in the third cap (more on that later). Anakin is a weapon, in many ways the weapon of the Republic which becomes the Empire, and all sides use him. I think it’s important how clearly the Jedi logo brands them in these outfits (I also spent far too long trying to decide which Pokémon Go team logo it most resembles) – especially coupled with the flash of the Republic logo on the ship.
Two representatives of Pantora, the nearby civilization that claims the planet, accompany the Jedi:
Senator Riyo Chuchi, a politician in the mold of Leia and Padmé – a stylish and bold but inexperienced young woman opposed to the terrible men in power.
And Chairman Chi Cho, the terrible (and I mean terrible) man in power. When the Jedi realize the planet has a native population Cho declares them trespassers, deliberately torpedoes negotiations, and orders the clones to attack. All the while he justifies his actions by calling the Talz “savages”.
When Europeans “discovered” America they found thousands of indigenous people living there and decided they were ‘savage’ so they could justify staying. In “Trespass” Senator Chuchi is able to oust Chairman Cho (and he dies in battle) and leave the Talz in charge of their own planet. In America that didn’t happen. The “savages” were destroyed, their people dehumanized and murdered, their culture devalued and erased. And that’s only one example. And it’s still happening here and now.
The rise of every Empire is built on fear.
When Anakin is afraid, he instinctively goes for his weapon. It’s human nature, a flight or fight response (and Anakin always picks fight). And Anakin’s instincts aren’t all bad.
Here he’s able to communicate their intentions to the Talz with instinct (and art) when Obi-Wan cannot with trained diplomacy (word, tone, gesture). When Senator Chuchi negotiates peace she uses all of the above.
In a meta way so does this episode, so does this series. Hey kids, don’t steal land. Don’t make assumptions about someone else’s culture. Don’t listen to fear mongering. Stand up to hatred. Believe in yourself. Trust your instincts – but don’t let them rule you.
Riyo is clearly afraid. She gets angry. Because Chairman Cho is completely terrible and he can order the clones to fight, he can ruin their chance at peace and he absolutely tries to, right up through his dying breath. Fear and anger are the appropriate response to a racist bully in a position of power. Riyo uses her fear and anger to fuel her determination to do something. I think that’s a better lesson than Yoda’s.
- At some point I need to do a deep dive into the organizational operation of the Republic, the Senate, the Jedi, and the Clone Army because I’m confused and interested (Obi-Wan in particular is very deliberate about his role in the conflict during this episode).
- Threepio doing his job is always, always, always better than Threepio as comic relief and/or damsel in distress.
- Seriously I want a hoodie that looks like Anakin’s blue snow gear. [Update: these are now available. I can’t afford one, but they exist!]