Calling yourself “Old Ben” is fine. Saying mean things about someone’s uncle is rude yet necessary. Pretending that you don’t remember your BBF’s old copilot droid is crappy, but saves time. Does that excuse all the outright lies that Obi-Wan Kenobi tells to Luke Skywalker? Maybe if those lies were truly essential to getting the kid to bring down the Empire. But they’re not, so most of those lies (and omissions) are pretty egregious.
Here are a few things that Obi-Wan could have said to avoid the most ridiculous ones. Because let’s face it, most of Ben’s lies are just kind of… ill-conceived.
1. Darth Vader and Your Dad Are the Same Guy, Sorry That Your Dad is Evil
When I’m trying to explain to people how I screwed something up, I always come up with a story—for framing purposes! Let’s say I kind of missed out on preventing a friend’s fall to evil? When I tell that story, I make sure to separate my friend into two different entities; the guy I drank brewskis with, and the fellow I trained who murdered the guy who I drank brewskis with. Two totally different bros. That sounds like a nicer story, yeah?
Okay, there are a few legitimate reasons for not immediately explaining to Luke that Vader is his dad. And telling the kid that Vader murdered a father he never knew is a good way to get him to care about bringing down the Empire. But there are so many ways that this plan could have backfired. Luke could have easily gotten fixated on vengeance. He could have said whoa, that’s kind of freaky, maybe I should sit this one out. He could have decided that he needed to know much more, and grilled Obi-Wan long after Alderaan had been reduced to space dust. Creating this whole goofy backstory about how Vader killed Luke’s dad just reads like a desperate attempt from Obi-Wan to sidestep the unfortunate fact that he is partly responsible for Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side. He’s really lucky that Luke didn’t tell his Force ghost to shove it once he learned the truth on Cloud City.
2. Your “Uncle” and Your Dad Only Met, Like, Once
Doesn’t it seem like one of the easiest ways to get Luke ready for a space-faring journey away from his family on Tatooine would have been to clue him in that they… weren’t really his family? Sure, neglecting that fact is kinder, but it results in Obi-Wan spinning this wild story about how Luke’s Uncle Owen didn’t “hold with your father’s ideals” and told his dad not to get involved in the Clone Wars. Which never happened because Owen Lars is Anakin’s step-brother, and the only time they met was years before Luke’s birth when the prodigal Jedi son returned to Tatooine to find his mother, and ended up returning to the family homestead with her dead body instead.
Owen and Beru Lars have been good guardians to Luke all this time, but they’re not related to him. Obi-Wan could have saved himself a lot of time by just telling the kid that he was hidden away to protect him from the Empire, and now it’s time to step out. It probably would have been a shock still, but at least you don’t have to spend several hours convincing the kid that he doesn’t have to do what his uncle taught him. It shouldn’t be a hard sell to get a teenager away from a life of moisture farming, but Luke is weirdly reasonable for an adolescent (trips to the Tosche Station not withstanding).
3. Here’s Some Background On the Jedi Order and the Empire
This isn’t a lie, but it is a gigantic omission that contains a lot of vital information. This is what you get for being shortsighted and short on time. Obi-Wan (and Yoda too, for that matter) give Luke practically zero background information on the war he’s entering into. It’s obvious why; they want Luke to do something very specific, wiping out the Emperor and his right hand guy. They’re not in education mode, they’re in weapons-making mode. As a result, Luke gets no rundown on the Jedi Order, their downfall, or the rise of the Empire. He gets the micro tale over the macro one — the Empire is the reason your dad is evil. Care about that part.
But the rest of that stuff? Is kind of important for the future that will come about if Luke is successful. If he doesn’t know much about the Jedi, he’s stuck putting the pieces together after the fact. Which could cause all the same problems that led to their destruction and a mega-evil Empire all over again. Case in point? From what we know about Luke post-Return of the Jedi, his whole new Jedi school kinda blows up in his face. When he fails to prevent the fall of his nephew. Does this sound familiar? I feel like I’m repeating myself. I feel like this also could have been avoided if you’d given him some Jedi books from the Jedi library. (I know, they’re gone now. But people have some holocrons of knowledge squirreled away and Yoda was old enough to have a lot of facts stored up that in green brain.)
4. Burying Your Feelings Deep Down is Not a Good Way to Defeat the Emperor
To be fair, this is one of those places where Obi-Wan got so good at lying, he even lied to himself. On a regular basis, in fact. It sort of makes sense, considering the fact that his best friend in the whole universe went berserk and killed practically everyone they knew, younglings included. Problem is, Obi-Wan bought into the Jedi doctrine wholesale, even in the places where it obviously came up short. Insisting that Anakin keep his emotions buried is part of what caused his fall to the Dark Side. His advice seems really even on this account—your feelings are a credit to you, but they might be of use to the Emperor, so just push them way down there—but it’s advice that also goes against all of his former training. Most of Obi-Wan’s first lessons to Luke in using the Force were about “trusting” his feelings and “stretching out” with his feelings. We’re mixing our messages here.
More importantly, trusting those feelings as he was initially instructed is how Luke actually works things out in the end. After burying his feelings until he rage-explodes, the kid finally takes a pause in the middle of thrashing his pops and realizes that he’s gone too far. He takes a deep breath, re-centers himself, and tells the Emperor that he will always be a Jedi—just like his father was. This declaration, along with some previous needling is precisely what allows Anakin Skywalker to resurface and kill the Emperor. If Luke had kept his feelings buried, he probably just would have wound up dead, and nothing would have changed. Emotion was the name of the game.
Of course, the most important lie-by-omission has a lot less to do with the Force…
5. That Princess is Your Sister, DO NOT Spend Time Thinking That Your Sister is Cute
Dude, we’re not in the Dune universe. Mating with your sister to keep the bloodlines pure is not a thing that we do around here. Letting this kid think that the princess in that holovid message is cute, then walking him onto one of the most dangerous weapons in the galaxy to rescue her? Ben, you know how forbidden love works. You’ve witnessed it, this is not funny, do your damn job and tell the kid that the princess is his sister. It’s like you don’t even remember that Order 66 was a thing, or that your apprentice and best pal flipped out when he thought that his secret wife was going to die.
You’ve witnessed enough of the Skywalker family to know that they’ve got some issues around their emotions, you are just setting this kid up to fail, what I’m saying is that it’s your fault that they kiss okay? THIS IS ON YOU, CRAZY OLD BEN. You didn’t even have to say sister, you could have just told Luke that Leia was his cousin! Someone he should feel weird about making googly eyes at. You could have stopped all this terrible confusion and prevented both those kids from needing serious therapy later on. You chose not to do that, Obi-Wan. You should feel bad.
Originally published in October 2017.
Emmet Asher-Perrin thinks that Obi-Wan should have stuck to what he was good at — snark and flirting with villains. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.