The Monolithic Jedi

Awhile back, I wrote a post on EUCantina about the prequelization of the post-Return of the Jedi era of the Expanded Universe. The article’s basic point was that in the early days of the EU, the authors had no official knowledge about the Jedi Order in the Old Republic. None of us did–all we had was our imaginations. We didn’t know that Jedi lived in a Temple on Coruscant, were taken from their families as babies, and trained from the time they were children. As such, Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy was full of adults from many different worlds, of different ages, and varying careers. Some of them even came from families of Jedi. Tionne was a historian, Corran was a pilot and a cop, Mara was a smuggler, Kirana Ti was a warrior, Streen was a hermit, etc. etc. No matter what your opinion of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, I have to give credit to Kevin J. Anderson for creating a diverse group of Jedi, personality and background wise (although in retrospect there could have been more non-humans and people of color). Even in other eras, like the Tales of the Jedi comics, being a Jedi seemed to be more “what you did” and less “who you were.”

Then the prequels came out, and everything changed.

Corran Horn: once he was a pilot, a cop, and a Jedi. Now he’s lucky if people remember he used to be in CorSec.

It started in the New Jedi Order series. The peaceful Jedi Knights were once again forced to fight against a formidable enemy, this time the Yuuzhan Vong. Even though we did get the awesomeness that was Jaina as a Rogue, we witnessed war tearing the Order apart, the government growing suspicious of the Jedi, and lots of people dying. Suddenly there was a Jedi Temple on Coruscant. (IIRC, it also appeared in the graphic novel Union.) The Jedi Academy on Yavin IV was destroyed. This isn’t to say I didn’t like the NJO–as a whole, I did. But the post-RotJ connections to the prequel era definitely started there. I can understand the importance of this–the authors and editors wanted new readers to be able to connect to the Jedi Order they were already familiar with through the prequels.

It wouldn’t have been bad if they’d stopped there. Instead we got the Dark Nest Trilogy, in which Luke unilaterally declared himself Grand Master of the Jedi Order and basically told the rest of the Jedi that if they couldn’t devote their entire lives to the Order, they needed to get out. (Remember Danni Quee? Yeah, she had to leave.)

Then, and now, I call such bullshit on that.

Since Dark Nest, the Jedi Order of the post-RotJ era has become a almost carbon copy of the Jedi Order seen in the prequels. The only difference is Jedi being allowed to marry. (I can’t help but wonder if they would have gotten rid of that too if it wouldn’t prove so problematic.) Up until Apocalypse, the Jedi were headquartered in the Temple on Coruscant, the same one used in the Old Republic. Now the Jedi Order has been driven from Coruscant, so its headquarters are somewhere else. Okay, that’s a slight difference, but the point is still the same–the Jedi all live in the same place. Early in the Bantam era, the Jedi only lived at the Academy if they were teaching or studying. Once they were done, they left. They lived their lives the same as before, but now they also happened to be Jedi. At least that’s the way I always perceived it. Possibly I was wrong, and was reading into the books what I wanted to see.

(Also, when did they all start wearing Jedi robes?)

Nowhere is this so-called prequelization of the Jedi more evident than if you read Troy Denning’s recent interview with Lightsaber Rattling. It’s a really good interview, and I thank Pete Morrison for conducting it. Brian has already made points about the out-of-universe implications. I’m more concerned with in-universe implications, especially concerning something Denning said in regards to Jaina Solo.

And it’s good to work that way, because if you’re working at alone (as most authors do), it’s easy to grow very myopic very quickly. A good example would be the Jaina-Zekk-Jag love triangle of the LotF series. I kept thinking that Jaina and Zekk ought to end up together, but Aaron and a couple of editors seemed to prefer Jag. So we went back and forth about that in emails and story meetings, and eventually ended up resolving the issues I had — which were that I didn’t want to see Jaina going off to live with Jag somewhere other than the Jedi Temple, because I didn’t want to lose her as a character.

In my view, Jaina is a vital character to the future of the whole EU, and whenever anyone said she should be with Jag, I kept having images of her being ripped from my writing life forever. I guess I was identifying with Han Solo a bit too much there. ‘You’re not going to take my daughter away. She’s going to live here in my Jedi Temple forever.’

But once we worked out a way to bring Jag to her and make him a part of the Jedi Order, I was very happy to see Zekk move on and write Jaina and Jag’s wedding at the end of Apocalypse.

So, basically, Denning believed that if Jaina married Jag Fel, she’d be forced to leave the Jedi Temple. As a result, she would be torn from the main storyline.

I don’t understand this at all. First of all, why couldn’t Jag live in the Temple? Are non-Jedi spouses and family members not allowed to live there? And if you point out that he was leader of the Empire and having to live on Bastion, well that didn’t happen until the end of Legacy of the Force. In a book Denning wrote. They could have changed that plotline if they really wanted him to end up with Jaina and couldn’t see any other way for him to be with her.

Second, why would Jaina leaving the Temple mean she could no longer be a part of the main storyline ? Is this not a universe equipped with the Holonet and hyperdrives? Having her live elsewhere could make the story more interesting. The authors could introduce new settings and characters. It’s been argued that the travel time to and from Bastion would prevent her from going on missions or quickly responding to problems. Um, I don’t buy that. This is a universe in which Palpatine felt Vader’s pain and immediately arrived on Mustafar to save him. Travel time in the GFFA is hand-waved all the time; getting from Point A to Point B takes as long as necessary to fit the plot. Finally, even if Jaina continued living at the Jedi Temple, wouldn’t she still have to travel? Not all problems the Jedi respond to happen on Coruscant.

But, instead of saying, “Well Jaina can just live elsewhere, that’ll work too,” the authors and editors had to come up with a way for Jag to join the Jedi. For him to marry Jaina, he had to give up everything and become an honorary part of the Jedi Order.

I call bullshit on that, too.

Mara’s Funeral: Jedi, Jedi Everywhere!

It’s true, though: in the GFFA that exists right now, a character cannot be a Jedi and live away from wherever their headquarters is at the moment. They have to be a Jedi at every moment. They have to put the Jedi first. They can’t have any other professional interests. One need only look at Mara Jade Skywalker’s funeral for proof. It was a Jedi funeral, non-Jedi need not attend. Except Mara wasn’t a Jedi for half of her life. The man who walked her down the aisle, Talon Karrde–the man who gave her a second chance by hiring her as part of his smuggling organization–was nowhere to be seen. Nor was Mirax Terrik Horn, who got arrested with Mara sometime between Vision of the Future and Vector Prime. Nor were any of Mara’s old smuggling buddies, with whom she spent ten years. This is completely and utterly wrong, not to mention a disservice to Mara’s character.

Does anyone else find this Jedi-centric universe completely boring? Remember Corran the cop? Tionne the librarian? Does anyone even remember Kirana Ti? This is a problem that relates to the diversity issue we keep harping on: everyone is now the same. No wonder I found most of Fate of the Jedi so boring.

That is why the Old Jedi Order was destroyed. They lived in a Temple, away from the rest of the general population. Regular people couldn’t relate to them. The Jedi took away their children–consensually, of course, but the practice still rubbed lots of people the wrong way. They grew arrogant. Look at what’s happened in the post-RotJ era as far back as the NJO. The government blamed the Jedi for the war with the Vong. That enmity has only grown over the years, leading to the Jedi Order being kicked off Coruscant and blamed for the war with the Lost Tribe and Abeloth.

Does anyone but me see a pattern here??? (The answer to that is no: Havac wrote a great blog post on Eleven-Thirty Eight about this same subject.)

Some people, who started reading the EU after NJO, probably won’t understand my problem with the Monolithic Jedi, as I call them. But I do. I want to go back to a time when being a Jedi was what someone did, not who someone was. Where a Jedi could be trained from birth, but still go off and have his or her own profession. Where a Jedi could get married, and living outside the Temple wouldn’t be cause for alarm that she’s going to be gone from the storyline forever.

I mean, gosh–what if Jaina’s just sick of living on Coruscant? What if she likes Adumar better?


19 thoughts on “The Monolithic Jedi

  1. Great article! And thanks a lot for the excerpt from the Denning interview, that explains a lot. I already read before that Denning didn't favor Jaina and Jag because he thought that she wold have to follow him to the Unknown Regions and be gone, which I already thought to be bullshit, but with "Jaina has to stay in the Jedi Temple" it becomes even more so.
    But it explains what happened to poor Jag in the novels. In the end, they didn't leave him any other option that to stay with the Jedi. Apart from the fact that I don't think it would have been necessary (hey, there are many couples with both spouses having their own job, and guess what, that works), why did it apparently not occur to Denning that Jag might have done it voluntarily, just because he loves Jaina?
    And Denning's comment about Han explains some things, as well. In one of the FotJ books (Abyss, I think) Han thinks something like "Jag would always choose duty over Jaina, and that was not good enough by far for his only daughter." which I always thought to be a very strange accusation. After all that had happened, there should be no doubt that Jag loves Jaina. But that doesn't mean that he has to do everything she wants, and fortunately he doesn't. And I think Jaina has profited a lot by that. And by being around normal people during most of the NJO. Rogue Squadron, later her own squadrons. I think it taught her that she was not impeccable, and that non-Jedi can make a difference, too.
    Actually, when I read "Crucible", I thought it to be a good sign for the Jedi Order that Jag, a non-Force-user, now helps training Jedi, but reading Troy Denning's interview, obviously it was not the intention to bring the Jedi into more contact with ordinary people, but to lift Jag to a position of honorary Jedi, as you said.

  2. "Does anyone but me see a pattern here??? (The answer to that is no: Havac wrote a great blog post on Eleven-Thirty Eight about this same subject.)"

    Ah, technically, the answer to that is "yes". =p

  3. Interesting blog post. 🙂 I fell out of the EU after DN; I just couldn't read on after that, but even so I have noticed this very, very jedi-centric view that has appeared over the later years. Just look at the CW, and now the coming Rebels series. Very first teaser poster from Rebels features not rebels, but jedi. WTF? Seriously, I expected a series about rebels, that is, pilots, mechanics, ground troopers, politicians etc. not jedi with that title. And Ahsoka have NO place in such a series. She out, dead. Why is it so hard to let go of characters and build new ones and new ideas and places? SW should not be about one single group of people, but about a lot of different people.

    And yes, I call bs on the idea that you can't be a jedi if you don't live in the temple, too. And what about Mirax and Han? They aren't jedi and never will be. And beside Luke would never not invite Karrde and the others over and make sure they came to Mara's funeral. Luke just isn't that jedi-centric himself in this view of things. (Or at least he wasn't in the old EU. I guess Denning changed him to fit his view of how things should be).

    *sigh* See, I knew there were more than a couple of reasons why I don't read anything after NJO. I like my diverse characters, and I'm even a big jedi fan, just not of cardboard jedi.

  4. Plus, in established G canon, How many non-Jedi's were at Qui-Gon's funeral? In the Clone Wars, in the final arc, they had non-Jedi at that funeral as well, if I'm not mistaken. So yeah, Mara's non-jedi funeral is rather baffling.

    Loved this article btw, and here's hoping this is one thing JJ and Ep.VII changes/fixes

  5. Great article! Some points, opinions, and nits:

    - Roles:
    I think what you're describing is not a wholesale EU failure of imagination, but the failure of imagination of the clutch of post-NJO authors. The writers of other EU literature have given us a broader range of Jedi, including Jedi healers, investigators, archivists (I loved Mander Zuma's character) and even a Jedi Botanist in the Old Republic era who was THE protagonist of a book. Prequel era books discuss the Jedi "Agricultural Corps" among other Jedi roles for those not suited to be combat Knights. So, shame on the post-NJO folks!

    I always imagined in my own mind that there was a broad range of Jedi roles we just never saw, in part because it may not make for compelling stories. I mean, Ken Palpatine the Jedi Accountant might not make for a riveting 9 book arc (although I might actually read that). Part of that, also, is just the myopia of storytelling in military sci-fi. How much of the Federation do we see outside of the Starfleet ships or posts? In my readings of the Honor Harrington universe, we've been shown fairly small slices of life of some military officers and few others. I always imagined a lot was going on for the Jedi "off-screen." For example, I always imagined a huge demand by businesses wanting to "rent" Jedi for projects like molecular biology (and thought about doing fanfic about that). Imagine what Vegere could have done for a pharmaceutical company!

    - The Temple:
    I always thought the temple was rebuilt, perhaps more than once, in the post ROTJ era. I could swear I remember references to that. I don't think the whole thing is the *same* temple from the prequel era.

    - Living in the Temple:
    Again, thinking to other EU literature, there are stories where Jedi are living outside the temple. I just recently reread Crosscurrent, for example (GREAT book, BTW), and Jaden Korr was living in an apartment outside the temple. In Revan, Revan himself and Bastilla were living in an apartment as well. The aforementioned Jedi botanist was stationed at a facility elsewhere in the universe. I've always made the mental assumption that the Temple was "home base" and there was "always a room at the Inn" for them, so to speak, but that they could be whereever they wanted and were needed.

    - Denning:
    While I think we're all perhaps taking his quote a bit too literally, I don't share his viewpoints or assumptions. Probably one of the reasons he's one of my least favorite EU authors. That may be his Star Wars, but it's not mine. The difference is he gets to write some books...

    Oh, and BTW, congrats on the community recognition of being on the Con panels!

    • I share a lot of those mental assumptions about what should be going on behind the scenes, but too often the works don't really reflect that assumption. The plot in Fate of the Jedi, for example, is dependent on the idea that a blockade of the Jedi Temple essentially locks the entire Jedi Order up inside. Apparently every single Jedi in the galaxy just sits on their asses in the Temple all day? It doesn't make any sense and shouldn't work, but those are the assumptions the writers are running on.

      As for roles, I think the problem is that, in the post-NJO stuff, the Jedi could have various roles, but instead they've all become identical cogs in the machine. Cilghal does scientific stuff, but otherwise, everyone is a StealthX-flying Force commando who does the same stuff and, if they're in some kind of group scene, randomly gets selected to mouth lines rather than having it emerge from the character's nature. It no longer informs Corran's character that he's a cop and a military veteran who's friends with high-ranking GA officers and has friends' kids serving in the military, or Kyp's character that he's haunted by his past and has a bad record with several of his colleagues. Nobody seems to consider that Kyle Katarn's commando experience may make him better qualified for some missions than, say, Saba, or that he isn't a crack pilot but Corran, Kyp, Jaina, and Saba are. The sense of depth to the characters is disappearing, as is the idea of any degree of variation within the general group of field-service Jedi.

      Anyway, fantastic article, Nanci, and it anticipates a few points I wanted to make about the way the Jedi are being genericized on Eleven-ThirtyEight. Great minds think alike, I guess.

      • Oh, I totally agree with you. Note that I said in my reply that the imagination failure was for the post-NJO books, one of the reasons I don't mind if Ep VII blows up the post ROTJ EU save for big sweeping elements (re: spouses, kids, deaths, etc).

        Really, in my mind, "My EU" is everything written in the timeline of NJO and before save for the random excellent non-Big-Three titles like Scourge, Crosscurrent, and Riptide.

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  7. I was wondering just the other day where Kirana Ti had got to. Great article and many good points. Ben's GAG training - though he was way too young to be hanging with the secret police, really - has come in handy lots of times.

    You know, Syal and Myri Antilles grew up with the Jedi kids at Shelter during the Yuuzhan Vong War. I love to get their points of view on some of this.

  8. As you can see, seeing from the words of Ahsoka Tano. She couldn't be at the Jedi Temple any longer either. So, probably one of the other Jedi can too do the same. if though young padawans stay longer "OR" leave when something like the Jedi Council didn't trust her but Anakin Skywalker did. why can't Jaina solve her problems like Snips and leave the Jedi Order instead of staying any longer? Jaina has a choice.

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  11. The Monolithic Jedi aren't only a problem in the Sequels era. A similar replication of the Prequel Era Jedi Order has been occurring all throughout the Star Wars timeline.

    For example, in the "Tales of the Jedi" comics, the Jedi Order is very different than the one portrayed in the Prequels (unsurprisingly, since the Prequels hadn't come out yet). Instead of a centralized Order, the various Jedi Masters were spread around the galaxy, doing their own thing, training their own students. If you felt called by the Force to be a Jedi, you had to go seek one of them out. The Order is so decentralized that it's a major plot point when all of the galaxy's Jedi Masters get together for a Conclave: if all of the galaxy's Jedi have to come down off of their mountains to deal with something, you know shit's getting real. It was a compelling portrayal of an earlier Jedi Order that left plenty of opportunities for fun adventures. Similarly, the old comics about Darth Bane portrayed a sort of feudal Jedi Order, in which central authority had almost entirely collapsed and various Jedi Lords defended the last remaining bastions of civilization.

    Since the Prequel movies, however, most of the stories written in the pre-Ruusan era portray the Jedi Order as little more than a carbon-copy of the Prequels. Big Temple on Coruscant. Centralized training system. High Council to tell everyone what to do. Forbidden emotional attachments. We see this in KOTOR, in SW:TOR, in the Bane Trilogy. And it's unfortunate, because it limits story-telling opportunities. The Jedi stories from KOTOR, SW:TOR, and the Bane Trilogy are all basically the same: good individual Jedi struggling against stiffing, uninspired, and occasionally downright corrupt authority. All because, rather than building on the vision of an ancient and different Jedi Order established in "Tales of the Jedi," or just doing something new in its entirety, the EU has opted to copy-and-paste the Prequel era Jedi Order up and down the timeline.

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