The Jedi Order of the Star Wars prequels did not understand the difference between love and attachment, but other incarnations of the Jedi do.
The Jedi Order misunderstands the concepts of love and attachment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but this is not always the case, depending on the continuity and point in their history. In both the canon and Legends continuities, the Jedi have become complacent and corrupt by the events of the prequels, with their philosophical and political issues allowing the Sith Order to destroy them, with the corruption of Anakin Skywalker being key to this plot. In the canon continuity’s High Republic era and Luke Skywalker’s Legends-era New Jedi Order, however, the Jedi had far more balanced and healthy understandings of relationships.
As explained by Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Jedi stress the importance of compassion, which Anakin describes as unconditional love, yet committed romantic relationships are forbidden, as are attachment and possession. The problem with this philosophy is that it creates an unhealthy lifestyle for the Jedi of the prequel era, conflating an unhealthy form of attachment with a healthy definition of love. Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side of the Force is in large part due to his attachments, yet it is love that ultimately helps him redeem himself in Return of the Jedi, proving that the prequel-era Jedi ways were catastrophically flawed and lacking High Republic nuance.
The Jedi Fail To Understand The Difference Between Love & Attachment
As explained by Charles Soule, the Jedi Order of the High Republic era believed in largely the same philosophies as the prequel-era Jedi, only their understanding of certain concepts, like the difference between love and attachment, was far more balanced. Attachment refers to a controlling sort of relationship with an inability to let go while love supports other beings, allows them to be who they are, and involves letting go if need be. Soule describes attachment as the way of the Sith while love is the way of the Jedi, and some Jedi notably have romantic relationships in canon’s High Republic era.
In the Legends continuity, the New Jedi Order adopts a similar understanding of love and attachment. Among Luke’s reformed Jedi, romance is common enough for there to be Jedi wedding ceremonies, with Skywalker himself marrying the former Emperor’s Hand Mara Jade. Luke Skywalker also demonstrates the ability to let go, as Mara Jade’s murder by Darth Caedus (formerly Jacen Solo) breaks Luke’s heart, yet he is not consumed by his loss and he continues to dutifully serve the New Jedi Order’s ideals and the beings he is sworn to protect.
Anakin’s Redemption Proves Love Is Of The Light Side
Anakin Skywalker’s tragic fall from grace in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is motivated by numerous factors but perhaps the biggest one is his attachment to Padmé Amidala. Fearing Padmé’s death and feeling unsatisfied by Yoda’s platitudes, Anakin makes a Faustian bargain with Palpatine, believing that the seemingly unfettered power of the dark side of the Force would be what saves Padmé. Of course, the tragedy of Anakin’s fall is that his actions ultimately led to Padmé’s death, leaving him with nothing but a resigned sense of duty to his role and identity as Darth Vader.
While attachment led to Anakin’s fall, love is what redeemed Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker is one of the last remnants of Vader’s former life by Return of the Jedi and Luke’s undying devotion to rekindling the good in his father, despite everything he’s become, eventually turns Vader against Emperor Palpatine. The final act of Anakin Skywalker is sacrificing his life to save Luke’s, acting out of love rather than attachment. In many ways, Vader’s actions are the perfect embodiment of Star Wars‘ interpretation of love and attachment.
Unlike his canon counterpart, Luke’s understanding of the difference between a healthy love and a possessive attachment continues to develop throughout his Legends-era story. Luke endures the deaths of numerous friends and loved ones and even helps his protégé Kyle Katarn embrace his love for Jan Ors rather than form an unhealthy attachment. The Jedi of the prequel Star Wars trilogy failed to see the difference between love and attachment, but the High Republic-era Jedi and the Legends continuity’s New Jedi Order had a far more balanced understanding of relationships. Therefore, while the prequel era Order was tragically mistaken, Jedi are clearly not inherently incapable of understanding the difference.
Next: ROTJ’s Luke Skywalker Proved The Prequel Jedi’s Ways Were Wrong