Star Wars’ Rogue One, The Clone Wars, and the sequel trilogy all expose the perils of neutrality.
One of the strengths of the Star Wars universe is that it contains core themes that can be found in a variety of its stories. One such theme focuses on the dangers of neutrality. Even if the intention is to be peaceful and avoid conflict, neutrality actually contributes to injustice spreading further.
This idea has been tackled in many stories, from Jyn Erso’s journey in Rogue One, to The Clone Wars episodes “Supply Lines” and “Ambush”, and with Finn’s arc throughout the sequel trilogy.
Let’s explore how each of these stories highlight the dangers of neutrality.
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Between Saw Gerrera and her parents, Jyn Erso had a complicated past where both the Empire and Rebel Alliance were concerned. Both sides tore away people people she loved, making her feel abandoned and alone. She also witnessed both sides committing unspeakable acts. As such, she naturally felt no allegiance to either faction.
Saw Gerrera questioned this in Rogue One, asking if Jyn can stand to see the Imperial flag reign across the galaxy. She responded, “It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.” Jyn recognized the injustices of the Empire, but she was willing to ignore them in order to stay neutral and out of the conflict that robbed her of so much.
Of course, Jyn’s attitude changed after she heard her father’s message and after the Death Star fired on Jedha. Jyn spent most of her life trying to be neutral and avoiding both the Empire and the Rebellion, yet it’s her actions that finally unified the Rebel Alliance and proved to the galaxy that the evil Empire wasn’t invincible.
If Jyn had remained neutral forever, the Empire probably would’ve only grown more powerful and the Rebels wouldn’t have achieved their first major victory against the Empire, or later succeeded in saving the galaxy from the Death Star.
The Clone Wars
The episodes “Supply Lines” and “Ambush” largely focus on the planet Toydaria. Prior to these episodes, Toydaria had been a neutral system in the Clone Wars. They had no allegiance to the Republic or the Separatists and didn’t want to get involved. When Bail Organa requested that Toydaria help send aid to the suffering Twi’leks on Ryloth, they were initially resistant to the idea. Toydaria’s leader King Katuunko didn’t want to jeopardize their neutrality or to lose his planet’s prosperous trade agreement with the Trade Federation.
With compassion and honesty being key tenets of Toydarian society, though, King Katuunko risked neutrality and the alliance with the Trade Federation in order to surreptitiously send aid to the Twi’leks suffering under a Separatist invasion. Seeing the lengths that the Republic would go to help those in need, King Katuunko later opened up to and accepted an alliance with the Republic.
Had Toydaria remained neutral, the suffering on Ryloth would’ve continued. Even though the Toydarians’ intent behind their neutrality was pure, their neutrality helped the injustice of the Separatists spread to nearby planets. By choosing a side, Toydaria played a key role in combating such injustice.
Finn didn’t start as a character who wanted to become a hero. His initial motivation was just to get as far away from the First Order as possible. He wouldn’t fight for the First Order anymore, but he wasn’t hellbent on joining the Resistance either.
Even as his relationships with Rey and Poe developed, for a long time his instinct was still to run and stay neutral. In The Force Awakens, he nearly joined the pirate crew of the Crimson Corsair, just so he could get safe passage away from the First Order. As he admitted to Han Solo when they arrived on Starkiller Base, he didn’t go there to help the Resistance or to stop the First Order; he went to save Rey. In The Last Jedi, he planned on taking an escape pod and leaving the Resistance fleet because he believed them to be doomed. More importantly, he didn’t want Rey to return to the doomed fleet. He was fully loyal to Rey, but still not to the Resistance.
The character DJ tried to make Finn believe that neutrality was the best way to live. As DJ said, “Live free. Don’t join.” DJ was also the one who made Finn realize that neutrality is not an option, though. DJ’s choice to sell secrets to the First Order was made purely out of self-preservation and greed. DJ didn’t think it mattered, viewing it purely as business and arguing that one day the First Order will blow up their enemy and another day the Resistance will do the same.
Finn saw through DJ’s “Live free. Don’t join” mentality as DJ’s actions led to many unarmed Resistance pods being ruthlessly destroyed by the First Order. This, plus the influence of Rose and the whole Canto Bight storyline allowed Finn to finally declare himself “Rebel scum” and fully commit himself to the Resistance. He became an integral member and leader of the Resistance toward the end of The Last Jedi, throughout The Rise of Skywalker, and in stories in between the films such as Rebecca Roanhorse’s novel Resistance Reborn.
The Resistance benefited immensely from Finn’s commitment to their cause. His contributions and leadership were crucial to their survival and in defeating the Final Order.
The stories of Jyn Erso, Finn, and the Toydarians all highlight that even with the best intentions in mind, neutrality is a dangerous road to take. The wicked thrive when no one opposes them and take advantage of those who are just trying to avoid conflict. Only by joining the right side and opposing evil can life be made better.