on Oct 15, 2015
We killed the sexbot in the previous episode. This ignited a debate as to what the moral thing is in this case. The bot ran off. The bot is property. What’s the right thing to do?
Clearly, Star Wars does not present droids an an oppressed underclass. The fact that they’re property is not social commentary and we’re not supposed to worry about their freedom. While I do nerdrage against George Lucas now and again, I’ve always given him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he’s NOT pro-slavery.
To reconcile this apparent contradiction, I always assumed Star Wars droids didn’t really have feelings. This is entirely headcanon on my part, but I imagine that droids don’t really feel emotions. Their apparent emotions are to make them easier to deal with for their owners. If my protocol droid is worrying and stressed, I know it’s near capacity for whatever task I’ve given it, or that it’s at risk of failing at that task. It’s just a more advanced version of giving a friendly voice to Siri. Siri isn’t alive and doesn’t actually care about me, but its creators gave it a friendly female voice because that’s nicer and more convenient than a dialog box.
The movies contradict this notion, though. At one point you see one droid being… tortured? That’s too goofy a notion for me to wrap my head around, so I usually ignore it.
But having a droid run away from its owner undercuts this idea of droids not having feelings. Clearly if a droid is going against the will of its owner you can’t argue that the “emotions” are just cosmetic.
On the OTHER hand, if you pay attention to what the droid says, it’s clear the droid is actually trying to kill itself for the benefit of its master. It has concluded that she’s delusional, neurotic, crazy, or whatever. It’s destroying itself in hopes that she will move on. Presumably if she were better balanced the droid would be content to hang around and give her all the robo-sex she wanted?
But who knows? Star Wars is actually much too pulpy to seriously tackle questions like this. The writer didn’t put droids in the story because they wanted to ask questions about consciousness, identity, free will, or the moral implications of creating a sapient designed to be your servant. They put droids in the story because robots are fun and different from people, and make the world more fantastical.