A Character Everybody Else Loves That You Hate
And this is why I went with Mace Windu for my least favorite male character. Because I can contentedly hate him all on my own, but for this one, everyone else’s love contributes to my bafflement, which adds to my hate. I’m talking about . . .
Yes, you aren’t interpreting that wrong. You’re on a Star Wars blog, dedicated to the love of Star Wars, and the blogger is here to tell you that Yoda is a despicable pimple on the face of the whole franchise, and I’d love to squeeze the pus right out of him.
I don’t understand where his reputation comes from. I don’t know why he is considered “literally the wisest being in the universe” (I read that on a blog recently), or beloved, or a great teacher, a great warrior, great anything, or any of the other things that people find him.
Here’s what Yoda is: a great deceiver. And this is not a sentiment that requires acceptance of the prequels as canon; in fact, ESB taken by itself will bear this out. All the films together create a great tapestry of the unbearable troll. But I’ll start with his performance in Empire. It is likely that Yoda caused Luke’s instruments to malfunction so he would crash in the swamp on purpose; what kind of teacher has to take advanced measures to make sure his prospective pupil can’t get away from him? Particularly when said pupil was seeking him out with every intention to stay and do whatever he was told? You can say it was a test, but here’s the thing about tests — they are to establish possessed knowledge. Since Luke’s training had not even begun, what exactly was it meant to test him in? Frankly, everything about Yoda’s initial interactions with Luke are designed to frustrating and exasperate him — a dismal teaching method.
Because the next thing Yoda does is assume a fake identity (talking about himself in the third person with intent to confuse) and harass, tease, and harry Luke until his frayed nerves give out, and then, revealing himself to be the object of Luke’s quest, he belittles and derides him for the outburst he himself provoked. He has done everything in his power to make sure Luke has the worst day ever, criticizes his having feelings, and then ventriloquizes Obi-Wan’s voice to have an argument about how he’s not going to train Luke, to further draw out his would-be pupil’s supposed weaknesses to taunt them. (No, I don’t really think that’s actually Obi-Wan talking to Yoda in ESB. I think Yoda is doing all that himself to manipulate Luke.) Also, what is with Yoda’s “this one, a long time have I watched”? Creepy. Finally, after making Luke apologize for living and defend his every decision — most of these accusations aren’t even true, such as “all his life has he looked away to the horizon,” which Luke has clearly not been doing for the last three years as an innovative commander in the rebel alliance — Yoda acts badgered into agreeing to train Luke. And the last thing he says is the distinctly unjedi assurance that Luke will be afraid.
“Training” consists of him making Luke carry him all over Dagobah, while barking and snapping in his ear the entire time and telling him shallow, zen-sounding things about the Force. Luke, who can’t have been on Dagobah more than 72 hours at this point, dares to ask a question, at which Yoda outbursts in an impatient fury, “There is no why! Clear your mind of questions! Nothing more will I teach you today.” Frankly, he never seems to have taught him anything. Then he sends his as-good-as-untrained pupil into the Dagobah death cave, where Luke fails some unstated, unexplained, and incomprehensible test. Yoda is pleased to constantly remind Luke of his “failures,” deriding him when he makes more mistakes, and chewing him out completely over his game attempt to lift a multi-ton spaceship out of a swamp. “There is no try” is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard anyone say — because if he’d let Luke try, Luke would’ve stood there until he got it right. As it is, it’s no one’s favorite method of teaching to be mocked into doing something, fail, and have the teacher show you up.
Despite all of this, Yoda remains some sort of a beloved figure. The smartest thing Luke does is escape this supposed “training” and run to help his friends on Cloud City. Yoda does not think anyone should have friends, of course, and wants Luke to let them die. He also tells Luke pointedly that because he failed the unspecified test in the cave, he will die on Cloud City. A teacher with no confidence in his pupil is a touching thing to see. Luke goes anyway — it is his triumph that he learns Vader is his father, not his failure (as Yoda posits in the next film). Yoda would have kept Luke ignorant and tricked him into killing his own father out of sheer arrogance: this is where the weight of the prequels has bearing. Yoda believes that because he was unable to destroy the Emperor, no one can.
In Episode III, Yoda refuses to send Obi-Wan to face off against Palpatine, even though Obi-Wan is the greatest warrior in the Order. (The novelizations consistently have conflict between Yoda and Obi-Wan’s greatness, warring to accommodate them both, when only Obi-Wan’s is really demonstrated.) Instead, Yoda sends Obi-Wan after the less glorious prize — the rogue Jedi he didn’t want to admit into the Order in the first place. Obi-Wan, unable to kill Anakin — and having told Yoda he couldn’t do it — allows for the creation of Darth Vader. Yoda, by refusing to take Anakin out himself, creates the Empire, Darth Vader, and all the rest, and concludes that because he couldn’t stop it, it is unstoppable. His arrogance is shocking.
Stepping backward, he is also responsible for the creation of Vader because he tells Anakin not to care when people die. This is great advice for a would-be psychopath. In Episode II, he criticizes Obi-Wan for faults more evident in himself than in the younger master (like when he accuses Obi-Wan of arrogance), criticizes Obi-Wan for answering questions Mace Windu put to him, screws up his own dialect a lot, and makes an eerily strange comment about, “Begun the Clone War has,” when he can’t possibly have known it was going to be called the Clone War. That’s like someone seeing Archduke Ferdinand get shot and remarking, “There’s the beginning of World War I!”
He’s intolerable in Episode I, too, in case you were wondering. Affection for Yoda seems to come out of his mismatched speech and meaningless zen statements. His vague empty-headedness is camouflaged by the fact that he never says anything real, and he strikes me as an intense liar. His fight scene in Episode II is embarrassing, as I’ve mentioned before. And the way everyone hypes him up with nothing to back it up is just plain offensive.
In short, the only reason to endure Yoda’s yammering in the original trilogy is . . . Luke’s biceps. Holy freaking cow.