Justina Ireland says romance repressed Jedi make The High Republic ‘different’

Out of the Shadows: The High Republic by: Justina Ireland. Photo: Disney Books.
Out of the Shadows: The High Republic by: Justina Ireland. Photo: Disney Books. /

Out of the Shadows, the latest addition to The High Republic era of Star Wars books, has arrived — and with it comes a new entry into the ongoing struggle between Jedi and their feelings.

While The High Republic has done an excellent job painting the Jedi as noble heroes at the height of their influence, it’s also spent many pages showcasing the peacekeepers’ very relatable battles with emotion… and all that comes with it.

A Test of Courage and Out of the Shadows author Justina Ireland sat down with SYFY WIRE to address the biggest bantha in the room: Why are The High Republic Jedi so, well, “randy” all the time?

The Jedi we know from previous Star Wars stories treat emotions like curses. Anakin Skywalker is reprimanded so repeatedly for the ease with which he feels love toward others that it becomes the very thing that turns him to the Dark Side.

One of the many things that sets The High Republic era apart is from other Star Wars narratives is the Order’s caution toward, not the prohibition of, feelings.

“I think that’s one of the things that does make this time period feel different than the other storytelling we’ve had,” Ireland said. “These are Jedi who are not like, ‘Avoid the bad feelings, push them aside.’ They’re like, ‘No work through them … What is this emotion telling you?'”

There’s even one character in both of the author’s High Republic stories, Imri, whose connection to the Force manifests as extreme empathy toward other living beings. His masters don’t scold him for having strong emotions; rather, they try to guide him through the maze of processing them similar to the way a mental health professional might do.

“It’s like, no, it’s about recognizing those feelings and working through them, which I think is also really honestly key to like our mental health as human beings,” Ireland said. “We have feelings. We should understand why we have those feelings.”

Why are the Jedi more prone to attachment of the physical variety than the heroes we know from the prequels, for instance? They’re encouraged to explore their feelings rather than suppress them, perhaps as a way to discourage them from tapping into the sorts of strong emotions that have been known to turn a Jedi dark.

If Anakin Skywalker had lived among the Jedi of the High Republic, maybe his love affair wouldn’t have turned deadly. While many related questions remain, one in particular stands out here: What happened between now and then to change the Jedi’s minds so severely about love, emotion, and bonding with other people?

We’re still only in Phase 1 of The High Republic. Chances are we’ll have our answers by the end of it whether we’re ready for them or not.

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The High Republic: Out of the Shadows is available now wherever books are sold.