Stepping Into the Gray

Ok. Buckle up and let’s do this thing.

This is a subject that has a huge support base as well as a gigantic hate cadre. It has some evidence to support it and some to shoot it down. It has recently come to the forefront of discussion in the Star Wars fan community, and the teaser trailer for The Last Jedi has only fueled the debate like tossing liquid oxygen on a bonfire. What is it? Why, Gray Jedi of course.

So where did this even come from? One of the very first uses of the term, if not the first official use, was in issue #36 of the Star Wars comic Republic: The Stark Hyperspace War. Jedi Master Tyvokka, a Wookiee member of the Jedi Council, used it to describe Qui-Gon Jinn. When Plo Koon suggested Tyvokka nominate Qui-Gon for a seat on the council, he responded, “It will not happen. Too stubborn, that one. Jinn always does things his own way, always sure he is right, always incredulous if we do not see it his way. Some think he is a Gray Jedi”. While lacking a definition at that time, it associates the term with the style and philosophies of Qui-Gon Jinn. Another person with this moniker was former Jedi Jolee Bindo, in the Knights of the Old Republic video game, who called himself a Gray Jedi. And, in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, there is an item named the “Gray Jedi Robe”. While not specifically called Gray Jedi, others included within it’s parameters include the Voss Mystics, the Jensaari, and the Imperial Knights. The list of sources is longer than you’d think, and can be found here.

The vague description within the then canon seemed to be a relatively good person who was ruled by neither the light nor the dark side. However, it eventually got a  somewhat official definition in the Jedi Academy Training Manual. It refereed to Gray Jedi as “those who did not belong to any Force-based organization and who explored both the light and the dark sides of the Force without becoming corrupted by the dark side”. So, basically the same thing. It seems Gray Jedi have been around for a while, but things have changed.

There has been some serious push back on the term from people at Lucasfilm as well as many fans (including a certain fellow podcast host……Matt). I’ve seen some serious arguments and attacks on social media against Gray Jedi. The idea behind this is that to be a Jedi you have to follow the principles of the Jedi Order and their Code. Grand Moff Tarkin referred to the Jedi as a “religion”, and like a religion, to be considered a follower one would have to adhere to it’s doctrine. So, to use dark side powers or to accept some of those ideas would basically disqualify you from being a Jedi. Pablo Hidalgo has famously defended this idea on social media. I get this, and actually agree. But I feel as though this explosion of fan rage has gone a little overboard, and here’s why.

“Jedi” has been used as a general descriptive title for “Force-users” in the past. Even in the Star Wars universe you can see characters call people Jedi just because they can use the Force. This makes sense. If someone grew up on some backwater planet and only heard vague stories of Jedi, then a person comes along and moves something with their mind and that’s it, the person would see a “Jedi”. Anyone truly paying attention would know what really is and isn’t a Jedi. I’d like to point out that “Dark Jedi” has been almost totally ignored in this debate. Again, we know what really makes a Jedi, but Dark Jedi can easily be understood as a dark Force-user. I’m a die-hard Sith fan, but I also know not every darksider is a Sith but have been called such because they use the dark side and are evil. I get that. I’m cool with it.

Where I think people are getting lost, and I admit I may be wrong here, is that when they see people use the term they think that they are making a declaration of Canon. And maybe some people are. But I’ve used the term in the past, I’ve used it on the podcast, and I’ll use it in the future. Why? It’s easy. When I see a character in Star Wars that uses both sides of the Fore but isn’t evil, I’ll probably call them a Gray Jedi. I’m certainly not on the Lucasfilm Story Group (I wish), so nothing I say really matters in the grand scheme of things. So it’s all good. I’m not announcing a fact, just trying to describe something. So, in the interest of continuing relations between fans, I think we all need to take a deep breath, and chill. I don’t want anyone to take that the wrong way. I’m not calling people out. I just hate seeing fans at each others throats is all.

I think Gray Jedi are here to stay, and that’s okay. It’s a descriptive term for some. It’s head canon for others. If anything, it’s something we can discuss and debate about for years to come. As fans we love to talk about anything and anything related to what we love, so I see this as an opportunity. We should, however, be sure to do so in a friendly way. That’s just my two credits.

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2 thoughts on “Stepping Into the Gray

  1. It’s just another part of the epic saga, “The Nomenclature Strikes Back!” I think in this case in particular, though, some fans even agree on what a “Grey Jedi” is, but tear each other apart over what to call them. Personally, I don’t like the idea of “Grey Jedi” because I think it’s an oxymoron, but I agree with what you said about it also being a proprietary eponym – like people calling any tissue a Kleenex.

    Isn’t it great that we live in a world with so much Star Wars that people can have these debates over mostly esoteric, niche aspects of the greater saga? Isn’t it…?

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  2. I’ve never been fond of the official definition, a Jedi not ruled by the light side nor corrupted by the dark side. I think that reflects a misunderstanding of the dark side as a potentially non-fan malevolent entity. However, from my understanding, it is always corrupting, always self serving, and always afflicting. There can be, in my understanding, no application of the dark side without at least some portion of self sacrifice to it, hence corruption.

    You can’t dance with the devil and it not put it’s hand on your hip.

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