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The relationship between droid and organic in the Star Wars galaxy has been one of servitude, with the droids typically giving and the organic taking. In most instances, this is the case, and it’s met with contempt in return. Droids were built to serve the need of their masters. But with some droids developing a personality of their own, and creating long-lasting relationships with their masters, one has to wonder is it appropriate to treat a droid based on their programming? Or maybe we should ask ourselves, do we treat our cars like we treat our washing machines? No, but why?

TC-14 serving drinks.

Droids like TC-14 were meant to be servant droids and nothing else. In service of their human masters, much like R2-D2 and C-3PO but why the difference in programming? Why was TC just a servant droid and Threepio more? It always bothered me that TC-14 was treated so coldly by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, not only because they were Jedi, and Jedi should treat everyone with respect, but because she is no different from C-3PO. Both TC-14 and C-3PO were programmed to be protocol droids, but because C-3PO didn’t endure a mind wipe as often as most droids and developed a personality he deserved more respect than TC-14? I relate it to someone I don’t know. If someone I don’t know, like a waitress, serves me a drink, I treat them with respect. But in the Star Wars galaxy would a droid receive that same level of respect? Unlikely. In FLO’s (WA-7) case, the connection she was shown by Kenobi when she served him the Jawa juice was a rarity due solely to the fact she was programmed for service and had been for quite some time.

And what of their programming? Why would humans or humanoids create droids only to hunt down and assassinate other humans? It seems morally ambiguous at best. According to starwars.com, IG-88 was independently programmed to kill his targets. Again, one has to wonder how this is legally possible. Droids like R3-S6 (Goldie) were programmed to deceive/work as a double agent for The Separatists. On the one hand, how moral is it to program a droid to do morally corrupt work? Is it any different from having an animal in our world deliver messages or do jobs we’re not willing to do ourselves. Where does the line get drawn as to how much allowance is given to the owners of these droids to harm people?

During The Clone Wars, entire armies were bred for war. Battle Droids, Super Battle Droids, Destroyers, Vulture droids, and spider droids all had their purpose. It fills a role without risking lives, much like a drone, but what does that say about the manufacturer? The waging of wars, yet those who start them are not willing to participate. Does that make sense?

R2-D2 is an anomaly. He spoke in beeps and boops and had no service to humans directly (Artoo is programmed for navigation and repair), but his relationship with Anakin and, later on, Luke, was not unlike a bond between two friends. Compare Luke’s relationship with Artoo with his relationship with the WED Treadwell droid on Tatooine. This brings forth the question, is the treatment of one class of droids, or another, any different from how we treat our pets versus how we treat farm animals? In other words, farm animals are there only for our needs, whether it’s dairy or otherwise. But do farmers gain that same relationship with their cows than they do with their dogs, cats or horses?

R2 taking on a task that will change the galaxy forever

Besides R2-D2, we’ve recently gained some new droid friends such as BB-8, K-2SO, Chopper (C1-10P), and even AP-5. They’ve all had tremendously close relationships with their organic counterparts (notice I didn’t use the term master). Take note, out of the four I just listed, only one spoke basic, and K-2SO was a reprogrammed Imperial security droid. Speaking of programming, how does a droid escape their programming as 4-LOM did? A one-time protocol droid currently hunts bounty’s for a living with his companion Zuckuss. With today’s technology, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming science fact more than just science fiction, and how long before we see robots developing a personality and escaping their programming?

If you’ve been paying attention, You’ve noticed I used terms like “he” for R2-D2 and C-3PO and “she” for TC-14. Why? Again, according to starwars.com, TC-14 was programmed with feminine qualities. What does that mean to a droid? Are their voices pitched higher? There’s more to being male or female than the sound of your voice. BB-8 is also considered feminine by some, and a puppy by others, while Artoo is a dog and Chopper is a grumpy cat. Do we associate these droids with human qualities to make it easier to relate to them? Most likely. But as we see in The Clone Wars episode “A Sunny Day in the Void,” droids of different makes are capable of working together and possess compassion for each other–a very human quality.

I realize I didn’t answer many of these questions, and I also recognize that there are more prudent issues to be discussed as far as representation in Star Wars. But it is one that makes a person think about how we treat others, especially those that we consider unequal. After all, we all know who the real hero of the story is.

ericonkenhout@coffeewithkenobi.com

@EricOnkenhout

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