Stuck in the Middle with Bendu

by Madge

There’s an ongoing debate within the Star Wars community about which side of the Force is better: the Light or the Dark. It’s not always a discussion of power, but more of morality – a question of what is a better path to follow.  The Jedi are typically seen as the good guys, the champions for the Light side and fighting for peace in the galaxy. They’re also known for incredibly shadowy practices done for that dubious and questionable Greater Good. Things like keeping young kids from their families, and telling them that emotions are bad – both of which are pretty yikes-inducing. On the other side of the spectrum are the Sith, the ‘bad guys’ who believe in promotion of the self over others, and work towards breaking chains. They’re also the ones who build up a massive totalitarian Empire (helmed by Emperor Sheev “Rules are Optional” Palpatine).  Each side has their merits, and they’ve been discussed at length on Never Tell Me the Pods Episodes 3 and 22, so I won’t get into that too much. Instead, I want to  focus on what happens when a Force-user falls in the middle of the spectrum: the Gray Jedi.

For those unfamiliar, Gray Jedi were Force-users who didn’t necessarily adhere to either the Jedi or Sith schools of thought. The Jedi way of viewing emotion, for example, proves detrimental to the well-being of Force-users who feel things stronger than others. Their views are used as a type of leash, a way to keep Jedi from becoming so powerful that they can’t control themselves but also from truly performing the role that Jedi are supposed to fill: peacekeepers. Anakin said it in an albeit slightly creepy way, but Jedi are supposed to show compassion, it’s hard to do that without getting attached or feeling a twitch of something. Gray Jedi don’t encounter that issue. They’re able to feel everything to its full extent while still acting toward bettering the galaxy. Many Gray Jedi had received formal training, but for one reason or another didn’t continue to follow the teachings after a point.  As a popular example, Qui-Gon Jinn is commonly believed to be a Gray Jedi — though it’s never been officially proven or denied. In fact, the majority of canon Gray Jedi have been shoved into Legends territory, leaving behind the ones like Ahsoka and Qui-Gon who fit the description nebulously at best. Gray Jedi have become few and far between.

That’s not to say that the center of the Force has been cut out entirely, just pushed back to a really foggy and gray area with the introduction of the Bendu. In Rebels, the Bendu was a giant creature living on Atollon who gave various members of the Ghost’s crew advice and spiritual guidance. He claimed to be “the one in the middle”, existing between the Light and Dark sides of the Force.  Being introduced to Bendu had me pretty much bouncing up and down in my chair, jabbing a finger at my screen and excitedly proclaiming that this was proof that Gray Jedi were still a thing.  To me, he was an extension of the Daughter, the Son, and the Father from the Mortis arc in The Clone Wars, a physical manifestation of a balance between the two sides. It gave the conflict that Rebels was dealing with at the time more depth and possibility than there had been before.  Bendu, like Qui-Gon and Ahsoka, does things that Jedi wouldn’t normally approve of, like encouraging the study of a Sith holocron; but unlike them, he’s more focused on being in the middle.  He was so focused on staying out of the conflict between Light and Dark that he went somewhere that he wouldn’t be found, only to be dragged back into it by Kanan.  Despite all this, the term “Gray Jedi” has never been used to describe him.

In fact, most appearances of Gray Jedi in Legends were simply references, and a lot of the major parts have been retconned. Today, the closest we get to Gray Jedi confirmation is a Force-user proclaiming that they’re not a Jedi while not doing outright Sith-like things. Being fairly new to the Legends side of things, I don’t have access to a lot of the information that I would probably need to get the full picture, but what I’ve gotten from scrounging through Wookieepedia and The Jedi Path, along with the introduction of the Bendu have warmed me to the middle ground of the Force.

Gray Jedi show that emotion and passion aren’t tools for evil or to facilitate weakness. They have the potential to be used in these ways, yes, but more often than not they’re used to bring about some of the most important parts of the Star Wars universe. The Rebellion was formed out of a passion and desire for freedom and democracy; Ahsoka shows a whole range of emotions, and she’s one of the fandom’s most beloved characters; Luke is able to be both emotional and the hero that the galaxy needed; and that’s just going off the top of my head.

When I first heard about Gray Jedi, I thought they were just another weird thing about Legends/the EU that I could just skim over and forget, but the more I come back to them and their very concept, the more I love them and admire their beliefs.  They deserve to be respected as Force-users, just like the Jedi and the Sith, not turned into a joke or a meme.

By being able to be passionate and emotional, we make the galaxy a better place, just like the Gray Jedi.  And if anyone knows something about being passionate and emotional, it’s Star Wars fans.

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Madge can be found in text form on Twitter @madgequips and in audio form on Alien Happy Hour’s Lucky Sevens podcast.  She spends a lot of her time shouting about Star Wars and comic books, but sometimes shouts about other stuff.  Madge is also a freelance graphic designer and social media consultant.

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