If you have listened to many episodes of Unmistakably Star Wars you’ve probably heard some derisive comments about The Golden Protocol Droid. You may have also heard my name mentioned in the context of C-3PO advocacy and apologetics.
So why do I love this prissy, fastidious robot who is often the butt of many jokes, and decried as the often cowardly, occasionally cruel, oddball character of Star Wars?
It’s true. All of it. It’s all true.
First, I’ll admit a couple of things. See-Threepio is my eight year old daughter’s favorite character in all of Star Wars. She immediately latched on to the humor and vulnerability this character brought to the saga. This makes me happy, because I love 3PO too. Another reason I love C-3PO is that it’s almost an act of self-love. Because of all the characters in Star Wars, when I’m truthful with myself, I’ll admit I resemble C-3PO the most. I’m not brave like Leia, I’m not special like Luke. I’m not cocky like Han or wise like Obi-Wan. I have skills that aren’t always useful or transferable. When I try to help a situation, I can often make it worse. I get anxious and afraid. A lot. When I’m stressed out, I don’t always treat the people closest to me well. I might even snap at them. But despite my short-comings, I’m loyal and will do my best for you.
To me, C-3PO embodies many wonderful things. Threepio is a helpful companion. From talking Luke into purchasing R2-D2 in A New Hope, to cluing in Han to Luke’s absence in beginning of Empire Strikes Back to negotiating an alliance between the Rebels and the Ewoks (and thus directly impacting the victory of the Rebellion on Endor) in Return of the Jedi. Threepio’s mark on Star Wars is a mosaic of numerous small, seemingly random occurrences that unite to form a picture of one of the saga’s heroes.
See-Threepio is loyal. His devotion to Anakin and Padme during the prequel trilogy and Clone Wars is exemplary, and second only to his dedication to R2-D2. Threepio has many instances of selflessness, like when he loses an arm to a Tusken Raider, and he volunteers to stay behind so that Luke won’t be in danger of another attack. And in his truest moments, C-3PO acknowledges his affection for his companion R2-D2, even offering to donate any of his parts to get his friend functional again.
Keep on keepin’ on
See-Threepio is anxious and afraid a lot of the time. He openly shares his worries, often in an unhelpful and intruding way. But when it comes down to it, he perseveres and does the job anyway. He tries his best, even when that isn’t good enough. He suffers rudeness and defamation from Jedi, Clones, Han and others. But he doesn’t let that interfere with his programming.
The audience is always aware of how fearful he is, and while he is often derided for this, I find it makes him eminently relatable. Because I am anxious and fearful a lot of the time. But knowing that Threepio is afraid, but does his job anyway is actually really inspiring to someone like me who feels like they may never be able to tackle the Vaders of our own world; but may be able to chat with an Ewok. (And that talk with an Ewok made a pretty big difference after all).
See-Threepio is programmed in etiquette and protocol. But the droid rarely gets to use the skills he is programmed for. He never really gets to be the droid he was made to be. But he is the droid he needs to be, and I for one, thank the Maker for him.