This is perhaps too deep an analysis. After all, the films of George Lucas themselves were presumably never meant to inspire deep philosophical debate or be complex character studies. That side of Star Wars is better seen in the other media that surrounds its universe, such as the many books and comics and in Bioware and Obsidian’s series of games set in ‘The Old Republic’. Within the first half hour of the first film* the world is polarised between the evil dark side and the good light side. Regardless of this, there are still some pretty blaring ethical quandaries and, after all, it never hurts to tear apart the things we love (unless you do it literally).
Strangling people is evil but twisting their mind is fine
You could write essays on the notion of the sanctity of the mind, in fact many people already have, it’s a hot philosophical topic. One could argue that the mind is the one thing that truly belongs to a person (ignoring deterministic arguments for now), it’s the thing that defines them and makes them who they are, and thus by changing it you are effectively removing the person. Consider this, would you rather be dead or have your personality flipped? Would that arguably be erasing the old you? Granted, the majority of times a ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ is employed it’s only very temporary. Obi-Wan was probably justified in momentarily confusing that Stormtrooper seeing as keeping hold of the droids would help thwart a tyrannical rule. The fact that it’s a common tactic of the Jedi is somewhat dubious though, more significant things have been done with it.
The potentially evil nature of this power is epitomised wonderfully in Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic. *Spoilers* If the player decides to go down the path of the darkside they’re presented with some dastardly options. Zaalbar is a stern Wookie who owes the player his life. He will do whatever they require of him; except for one thing. A darker player can order Zaalbar to kill his best friend and companion, the young Mission. He refuses. But the player can then choose to use the force to alter Zaalbar’s mind, forcing him to kill her. That’s some pretty heavy stuff and it demonstrates the worrisome ethics of the mind trick.
In the Jedi Knight series of games the player can use the Mind Trick power to temporarily turn an enemy to their side, forcing them to attack their allies. What a horrific experience that could be, realising that you’ve killed your friends and aided your sworn enemy. And this is something that’s listed as a ‘lightside’ power. Strangling people and electrocuting them with lightning, killing them quickly, are considered ‘darkside’ options. It’s a tiny part of the game and ultimately not that important but it’s worth considering.
Human beings are created for the sole purpose of war
So you’ve got this war going on and you’re grossly in need of reinforcements. A recruitment drive is out of the question, as is, for some reason, just doing what the enemy is doing and building robot soldiers. In the end you come to the conclusion that you shall produce organic soldiers, based off of the DNA of a skilled fighter, giving you an elite force.
However, this loyal band are not just mindless drones. They’re actual people. They may all look the same but they all have different personalities. They’re unquestionably human beings, and yet they have no choice in their fate. They’re soldiers and nothing else.
“They grow up loyal to the Republic—or they don’t grow up at all.” says one soldier, quoting Jango Fett. They’re like the Unsullied from Game of Thrones, but at least there they acknowledge that their use is morally reprehensible.
According to Wookiepedia not all of the clones automatically switched sides when ‘Order 66’ came in. That means that all these people are conscious enough of their own existence to have their own individual understanding of morality. While we’re on the topic, what kind of fool makes their entire army loyal to the command of one single person?
Droids are basically humans
It seems there’s a recurring theme here, showing a pretty lax attitude to mental freedom. When does artificial intelligence achieve sentience? It’s forever a hot topic. Just the other day I was wondering whether the Sims in my experiment could be seen as being in any way alive. A disappointing realisation one often makes about sci-fi is that, in reality, there wouldn’t really be any reason to have your toaster get embarrassed if it burns the toast. One does not give sentience to a tool, it would be problematic. Given the number of emotions and opinions C3PO seems to have he seems pretty self-aware, he’s practically human. He’s like a human that is subservient to other humans, he’s like a slave really. Sure, he’s treated alright, but what about most other droids? Even that little mouse droid in A New Hope seems to experience fear, or at least something programmed to look like it.
Is slavery different when the slaves are literally programmed to want to serve? C3PO doesn’t seem to desire freedom. Well, when you start thinking like that you’re getting into shady territory, you risk sounding like a deluded Virginian plantation owner.** I believe that at times C3PO appears to feel pain. What terrible creator would make that a feature of their tools?
In a stable society that spans the entirety of a galaxy people still live like peasants and crime is still rife
There’s not much to say about this one as it’s largely brought about by the clash between the space-western elements of the original trilogy and the dull, supposedly more epic politics of the new three. It’s weird though, that there is such a divide between the rich and poor. Compare the city planet of Coruscant, seen regularly in the new trilogy, with Tatooine. Luke and his Aunt and Uncle barely get by as farmers whilst Coruscant is full of the rich and satisfied. Maybe Star Wars was meant to be a much better comment on the future of capitalism than we realised, but I doubt it.
*By which I mean A New Hope
**Not that this is a real analogue for that