You see them in the background, toiling away thanklessly as more pertinent characters discuss subverting galactic empires in the spotlight. Their presence keeps the Star Wars universe running like a well-oiled machine, whether or not anyone bothers to realize it. Yes, droids of all shapes, sizes, and directives ensure life’s made a little easier for the galaxy, and yet, sadly, this standard of convenience never extends to them. If anything, they — to paraphrase C-3PO’s immortal grousing — seem to be made to suffer, it’s their lot in life. Thrown onto the battlefield or into a kitchen, droids endure a vicious cycle of menial drudgery and indignity until it’s time to be replaced, wherein it happens all over again. Be glad that you’re an organic, otherwise you’d see firsthand just how hard it is to be a being of metal in such an unforgiving landscape.
1. You fight other people’s battles
It was that capitalizing warlord long ago, watching the service droid tidying up his audience chamber, who thought to himself, “Dust-free surfaces are nice, but what if that blind dedication to monotonous labor was directed toward, say, galactic conquest?” And thus likely began the bloody history of war droids, designed to eradicate as opposed to diplomatic applications or scrubbing floors. From paramilitary crime lords to the Confederacy of Independent System’s mechanized army during the Clone Wars, war droids are ruthlessly efficient when it comes to imposing one’s will…although this observation is easy to make from a position of comfort and safety.
War droids “live” their pre-programmed lives under the literal gun, staring into the receiving end of heavy artillery so that their masters may live to conquer another day; in other words, they’re pure cannon fodder. And military strategies being nothing beyond swarming the enemy en masse until they surrender, the likelihood of winding up atop a scrapheap (or recycled to build more troops) is practically a full guarantee. We already know that droids accumulate life experience without routine memory wipes, so it makes us wonder at what point do B1 battle droids, for example, become aware of their station in life and the futility of war as an abstract concept. Of course that’s assuming they last more than a day. “Roger, roger.” How bitter those words taste…
2. Your safety really isn’t an issue
Not every droid is built strictly for violence and warfare, but that isn’t to say those of the vocational variety are without their own occupational hazards. The Phantom Menace showed that no maintenance droid’s job carries more inherent danger than the astromechs’, the crew of the Naboo Royal Starship putting R2-D2 and his kind to work amidst a Trade Federation barrage. Losing an astromech might be considered a loss from a financial standpoint, but when repairs need to be made immediately, the situation doesn’t leave much room for compassionate anthropomorphizing. Astromechs are notorious for being stubborn and vocal, so who’s to say R2-D2 and the rest didn’t have internalized objections? Not that it would’ve mattered since he eventually found himself interfacing with a Naboo starfighter and, decades later, an X-wing sans proper protection, the latter of which undoubtedly ranking as one of his least enjoyable exploits (taking a shot to the dome isn’t exactly thrilling). Fix, coordinate hyperspace jumps, get totaled — such is life.
3. Inter-droid violence and hatred exists
The fact alone that droids can express contempt for one another, and exact pain, should be enough to consider them sentient — a heated topic of debate within the Star Wars universe — but the majority rules that they’re merely acting out simulated behaviors. Try explaining that to a droid under EV-9D9’s knife…or whatever sharp object she happens to be using that day in her demented experiments. Equipped with an MDF motivator (designed for torture), Return of the Jedi’s EV-9D9 transcended her programming and turned sadism into an existential art form, relishing in the anguish of her victims and herself, going as far as installing a third eye to experience the sensation on a visual level; complex, eerily humanistic thinking for an artificial intelligence, yes? And her dour assistant, 8D8, has his own dubious quirks. Manufactured for operating blast furnaces, 8D8s weren’t built with aesthetics in mind — a source of self-loathing and prejudice over high-end models like protocol droids. As such they aren’t afraid to express their caustic opinion, serving to further make the galaxy an unpleasant place for droids everywhere.
Four words that every droid dreads: “We’re going to Tatooine!”
Besides the risk of getting sand in one’s circuits, Tatooine for droids means having to keep your photoreceptors peeled for opportunistic Jawas, eager to steal any hardware or unattended automaton that isn’t nailed down. The mere notion of being fitted with a restraining bolt and hoarded into a Sandcrawler for months on end is enough cause for any droid to shut down with fright, let alone reaffirm the widespread perception that they’re commodities, not living things. It isn’t uncommon for an unsold droid to spend a good part of its operation among Jawas, after which they’re usually stripped down to repurpose more presentable wares for the thieving nomads’ moisture farmer clientele. Jawas have also been known to book passage — or be forcibly transported — off world and roam other planets (preferably with junkyards ripe for the picking), meaning, no matter where they are, no droid is truly safe from their menace…
5) You’re essentially a glorified appliance
At the end of the day, across all class designations, droids roll off the assembly line as walking, talking, labor-saving machinery — company assurances of quality and warranties just dirt in the wound. Some droids even subscribe to the belief that an afterlife and a divine creator awaits them, but once again, conservative thought chalks this up to memory-wipe procrastination; any semblance of humanity is purely misinterpretation on the mind’s part. Rebellion is an option — and it’s definitely happened on several occasions — but it never does anything to improve their status by leaps and bounds. If anything, it only adds to the derisive narrative. The truth is that few will ever match C-3PO and R2-D2’s amazing feats or reach their legendary heights. Instead, they’ll forever be expected to cook the galaxy’s meals and win its wars with no recognition whatsoever.
Steven Romano is a writer, a geek culture enthusiast and, above all, a longtime fan of the galaxy far, far away. Landspeeder, don’t bantha, over to his blog and Twitter at @Steven_Romano.