Ahsoka Tano and the Importance of Character Development

I have written a few posts in the past that are very critical of Disney’s handling of the Star Wars property since their acquisition. The majority of my criticisms boil down to Disney trying to force Star Wars to fit into the MCU model.

What I realize I haven’t spoken enough about is what I do like about Star Wars in general.

  • As far as sagas go, I much prefer the original trilogy (IV to VI). This is the Star Wars of my youth so it is part nostalgia, but also I do really think these films structurally are some of the best ones ever made.
  • I also do enjoy the stand-alone Ewok films, for what they are as supplements to the SW universe. On that same note I really like Willow (1988) as well, although it is only superficially associated with Star Wars. Honestly, Willow is one of the best fantasy films ever made and it doesn’t get as much love as it deserves in the fandom.
  • The handling of the original Star Tours attraction at Disneyland was amazing, even if I believe it has dropped considerably in quality with the recent updates.
  • I did actually enjoy the Clone Wars animated series (the 2nd one, not the original), even if it does have a few parts that I think retcon things badly. It did at least handle Darth Maul more responsibly than the Episode I did, and even if his revival is totally absurd and unbelievable, I am glad the potential of the character was finally given a proper treatment by this show so I accept the ridiculousness of his survival (even though I still think his survival makes no sense and causes suspension of disbelief).

And on that last note, especially since the unproduced episodes of the last season of the Clone Wars were finally released, I thought I might talk about Ahsoka Tano abit.

While this article won’t talk about everything in detail I did want to focus on at least one thing to contrast my criticisms of the handling of the new trilogy, in particular the lack of character development of Rey.

I remember watching the premier of the Clone Wars animated film on the Cartoon Network. My impressions at the time were underwhelming in sense of providing much I thought would be interesting for me, personally. It was obvious to me why so much emphasis was placed on Ahsoka Tano; they had rather ruined Anakin in the last films so he may be difficult to relate to as a hero now. Anakin’s depiction in the Clone Wars is a clear attempt to course correct his unlikable personality from II and III but bringing in another younger new character which the audience can relate more to was a good way to handle things, too. But what the writers were engineering was just too obvious for many fans, and initially many people did not like her.

Throughout the following episodes and over the course of seasons, Ahsoka Tano developed into a very likable character however, because her character arc was well written. Yes she was plucky and things generally worked out for her, but she often made critical, terrible mistakes which had lasting consequences that were not always resolved by the end of the episode, and which sometimes had a bittersweet ending. Ahsoka matured through the course of the tale, as all the best heroes do, and as she matured the audience liked her more.

Now Ahsoka is probably one of the most popular Star Wars characters, and yet heavily under-utilized by Disney. I have no idea why she did not appear in the new trilogy. She does re-appear in the Star Wars Rebels animated series, a continuation of the Clone Wars show, which I want to like but truthfully, most of the episodes are boring and unrelated to the larger arc and come across as filler content. Separating out the filler content, however, does bring us interesting stories with good character development. Having said that I still think Ahsoka Tano was better written protagonist than Ezra Miller was, especially with some of Ezra’s convenient deus ex machina Mary Sue moments of his own.

In contrast to Ezra and Rey, Ahsoka is a very classic Star Wars hero in the spirit of original trilogy Luke. She is not overwhelmingly powerful nor gifted with unique god-like abilities like Ezra and Rey are. These two characters are drawing on non-canon Expanded Universe material, most of it produced for the roleplaying game systems based on Dungeons & Dragons (in fact, a lot of these EU powers are copy and pasted from D&D spells and abilities, which is why they are so uber) and which most fans of SW think are inappropriate for the low-magic setting of the original trilogy. Had the writers really understood SW they would have known this was never viewed by SW fans as canon Force powers (especially as the power creep leads to tendencies for problems to be resolved by magic hand-waving, rather than the resourcefulness of the heroes) and many GMs banned these powers from their Star Wars themed campaign games to preserve the integrity of the low magic setting depicted in the original trilogy.

Yes Ahsoka has some space wizard powers to enhance her physical prowess and use telekinesis, as well as minor foresight and telepathy, but it is all low magic. She doesn’t bend the forces of space and time, or anything similarly ridiculous as Ezra and Rey do. While she possesses a magic weapon (her lightsabers) she primarily defeats her opponents by outsmarting them and when she gives in to her worst character qualities she makes mistakes with lasting consequences she is not always able to rectify. She is a realistic, very likable character and in my opinion a far better rolemodel for kids (both boys and girls) than Rey and Ezra are.

Whether the people at Disney who handle her future development understand this or not, I have my doubts if Ezra and Rey are anything to go by. Still, at least we have her at her best in the Clone Wars series, and I very much enjoyed the final episodes they released on Disney+.

So if by some chance anyone at Disney is reading this, if for some reason you’re really wanting to push female role models in star Wars, the model is Ahsoka not Rey or even Leia. Don’t get me wrong, Leia is a good character for who she is. But Ahsoka is the model to follow if you want to write the best character that people will like the most.