[…]The Jedi Order is an ancient organization of intergalactic warrior monks who are framed as wise enlightened heroes with access to powerful mental abilities. As originally presented in Star Wars episodes 1 through 6, the Jedi Order is remarkably male-dominated and male-identified. If you freeze-frame in a few scenes, you can catch brief glimpses of female Jedi in the background but all of the Jedi speaking roles in both trilogies are filled by men.
On the surface Jedi Knights appear to be a welcome alternative to more traditional male action hero archetypes. They’re soft-spoken, careful, deliberate, and cool under pressure. They practice meditation and rely on intelligence and dexterity over physical strength. But even though Jedi are in some ways presented as different from the expected Hollywood fare, that doesn’t necessarily mean they represent a positive version of masculinity.
[…]Most of what we know about Jedi philosophy we glean from the words of Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi. We know, for instance, that Jedi masters admonish recklessness and advocate patience. But the real heart of Jedi dogma, the teachings that are given the most importance, have to do with emotions. In Star Wars, a Jedi’s worst enemies are not agents of the Dark Side; his true enemies are his own emotions. And because of that, Jedi masters teach that the expression of emotion must always be suppressed.
The tenets of Jedi philosophy are left a little bit vague in the original trilogy. To really get specifics, we have to travel back to the beginning. Long before he donned the mask of Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker is instructed to wear another mask: a mask of emotional invulnerability.
In The Phantom Menace (1999), a young Anakin is identified as being Force-sensitive. As a result he’s taken away from his mom and his home planet to be trained as a Jedi warrior. But when he’s presented to the Jedi council he is soundly rejected. And the reason that Yoda gives for rejecting this 9-year-old boy is because he’s too emotional. And why is he deemed too emotional? Well, it’s because he admits that he misses his mother–his mother who, let’s remember, the Jedi have just left enslaved to an unscrupulous junk dealer in another part of the galaxy.
I want to underscore the message being presented here. Anakin’s feelings of pain and loss are understandable and completely normal. But instead of getting the emotional support he so desperately needs, this child is instead publicly shamed for expressing his feelings of grief and sadness. And that’s because emotional detachment is valued above all else in the Jedi Order. Young Jedi are instructed to sever all close emotional connections to the people they care about. They must learn to hide their feelings from others, to deny their emotional selves, and to always present a stoic exterior to the world.
Now, at this point, some Star Wars fans may be saying to themselves, “Hold on, I thought the Jedi were all about feelings?” Well, not exactly. Jedi masters do encourage students of the Force to trust their intuition (think of it as a Jedi’s 6th sense) but they’re also sternly warned to always keep emotions buried deep inside.
To be clear, Jedi masters don’t push stoicism on boys to be cruel or malicious. They, like many well-meaning people in the real world, firmly believe that boys need to disassociate from their feelings and learn to tough it out in silence. But regardless of the intentions, leaving young men emotionally abandoned is psychologically damaging and extremely unhealthy.[…]The Case Against The Jedi — The Pop Culture Detective Agency