We all know dislike is my stock and trade. At least we should know, after my explanations about hating Yoda, Mace Windu, and Padmé. Disliking a character isn’t really the same as hating one, though. I’d like to focus on the OT for this one, because I don’t want to make it sound like I direct an inordinate amount of dislike the PT’s way, so let me think about this.
There are three characters in the Original Trilogy whom I rather dislike. And I’m not talking about characters you’re not supposed to like, like random Imperials or Darth Vader, and I’m not talking about spit minor people, either, like the woman who coughs in the Hoth sequence of Empire Strikes Back. (Actually I know her name and life story but that’s not the present issue.)
I have never particularly liked Artoo. My earliest feelings toward him were of bemused toleration, sort of how Threepio acts most of the time. I liked Threepio from the get-go and related to him well, since he was constantly suffering with the knowledge that nobody ever wanted to listen to him talk. (Poor Threepio. Get a blog, it helps!) And he seemed to have some valid criticisms about Artoo. After I became aware of the sweeping, nearly universal fan adoration for him, well, my disinterest leveled up to dislike. What do people see in him? He’s rude. He squeaks, he beeps, he manipulates everybody to get his own way. I guess he’s a determined little creature, but, still, nothing about that droid recommends him to me. I just am never going to love that astro droid.
Princess Leia is another one I just really don’t like, which you probably should’ve gathered from my least favorite romance. I explain there pretty thoroughly why I don’t like Leia: she’s bullheaded at the expense of reason, proud, hotheaded, contrary, and ungrateful. She shrieks. And then, to complete the package, she is exactly average — neither plain nor beautiful, neither brilliant nor bimbo. She’s not regal or challenging. The reason she gets pegged as such an awesome character all the time is that she’s no “damsel in distress,” but “not helpless” is not a great recommended of females in my book. I’d rather have an intelligent and logical female who can treat the men around her respectfully as equals even if she does panic and need rescuing when the going gets tough. Leia treats Han horribly. Her consuming passion for politics and the black and white of wrong and right cause more harm than good. A little less ranting and a little more discretion on her part might have gotten the Death Star plans into rebel hands without losing Alderaan — or at least little common sense on her part might have gotten them to the rebellion without risking Yavin. She’s just so . . . ugh.
But really, the person who is so much more annoying than either of them is the not-so-subtly named “Old Ben Kenobi.” (An aside — in early days, I used to wonder if Obi-Wan had been a clone of the Clone Wars because his name was so similar to the droids’ designations — OB1.)
Part of the reason I wasn’t really that in to Star Wars on the first watching was there was nothing terribly compelling about it. A squawky kid runs around with an old hermit and blows up a space station. Fun, but not fascinating. And it took all three prequels before I could actually enjoy ANH and not just look at it as something to get through to get to the “good ones.”
The chiefest reason ANH isn’t compelling? This irritating geezer! Sorry. But I’m serious. It took Ewan McGregor for me to take Obi-Wan off my list of least favorite characters, and nevertheless, I can’t help being all “boy did not age well! What a crank.”
Because seriously, what does he do? If you take the story in context, he hides out on Tatooine for twenty years while the Empire stockpiles its tools of war and entrenches itself throughout the galaxy. It’s all well and good for Joseph Campbell to write about the hero’s journey and the mentor, etc. etc., but what kind of warrior goes into hiding for two decades waiting for a “last hope” to age appropriately? And even if a guardian of peace and justice might take that route, why would he leave Luke with unbelieving relatives and only attempt to introduce him to the Force when he was, by Yoda’s observation, too old to ever learn it properly? What was stopping Obi-Wan from raising Luke himself? His phobia of diaper changing? It’s not like Luke or Leia had any legal status whatsoever — Padmé’s children were considered dead in her womb. Obi-Wan’s claim on the kid was just as good as Owen and Beru’s.
Obi-Wan does literally zilch on Tatooine for almost a quarter of a century, and when events finally conspire to bring him out of self-imposed exile, he loads Luke up with lies, half truths, and skewed views of the Force. He says using the lightsaber in the cantina was a last resort, but it was also his first response, so what’s Luke supposed to make of it? He warns that abuse of the Force leads to the dark side, but then proceeds to mind-manipulate Stormtroopers and even one old nonhuman buying speeders. No wonder Luke cries in frustration, “How am I to know the good side from the bad?” (and get a frustrating non-answer from Yode the toad). I’m just coming off reading I, Jedi, it’s true, but Corran Horn hits it with a hydrospanner when he observes that Obi-Wan and Yoda were poor teachers — and I’d add that they did Luke more harm than good.
Let’s talk about Obi-Wan and Yoda. Far more annoying than even old Obi-Wan there’s . . . Ghost Obi-Wan. Ugh. It’s possible Luke has had visions of Obi-Wan in the last three years, but then, maybe not, since he becomes convinced it was his delirium that sent him to Dagobah and not a vision in the Force.
If Obi-Wan in life is a dicey teacher and friend, ghost Obi-Wan is downright annoying. If regular Obi-Wan delivers whatever truth however he wants, ghost Obi-Wan is a study in vague abstractions and bad timing. He never offers an explanation for why he can’t interfere with Luke’s confronting Vader when he can show up any other time. In fact, the times he shows up are peculiar at best, and I have a serious suspicion that ghost Obi-Wan is in fact just a Force illusion cast by Yoda in an attempt to further manipulate the poor guy.