Last night, partially in preparation for next week’s discussion, on March 27th at 8 PM, of the SNAP (Students and New Archives Professionals), a division of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), which will be on “the representation of archives and archivists in popular culture” I watched Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, a film that came out 17 years ago. The movie itself has the theme of archives throughout at least part of it, as it is a major plot point. I don’t wish to tread on the same ground as Samantha Cross, the archivist whom combined her passion for pop culture and archives together on POP Archives, who wrote an article about how “two movies in the Star Wars franchise have made use of the archive as an important setting within the narrative” and in doing so “highlighted the importance of archives as institutions of memory and accountability while simultaneously showcasing the shortcomings of archives to protect the people they serve.” She also focuses on Rogue One, but I’ll talk about that in a later post on here. With that, I’ll begin my post in earnest, focusing on the interconnection of archival themes with Star Wars Episode II. All images in this article are used under the fair use exception to U.S. copyright law, as they are used as a means of criticism and education, nothing more.
The first mention of archives in the film is not when Jedi Master Obi-Wan (played by Ewan McGregor) comes to the archives of the Jedi Temple in Coruscant. Rather it is when he talked to his old friend Dex, whom owns a small restaurant, complaining that the analysis droids in the archives were no help in identifying the poison dart fired from a bounty hunter, with Dex telling him it is from the cloners on Kamino:
While the photos above are not their whole conversation, the screencaps I show above are the most relevant parts. In fact, there is a deleted scene from the movie, where, according to Wookiepedia (the premier Star Wars encyclopedia), Obi-Wan has “the Kamino saberdart analyzed in the Analysis Rooms in the Jedi Temple,” which he considers in some sense to be part of the archives!
From there, the movie transitions to the archives of the Jedi Temple, said to contain “possibly the single largest source of information in the galaxy,” a bit like the Library of Congress, having blue-glowing books/records:
Soon enough, Jocasta Nu (played by Alethea McGrath. ), the lone arranger of the Jedi Archives, asks him if he needs any assistance, helping him try to find the planet of Kamino, which does not appear in the archival star charts. Some of the more memorable parts of their interaction are shown below, with a focus on the archivist’s responses particularly:
And the line that undoubtedly defines the whole interaction not only for the viewer, but for Obi-Wan, in the sense of the movie’s plot:
After not helping him, declaring that the archives is totally immutable, Obi-Wan is literally left to contemplate, like he is in the wrong and she is in the right:
As the Star Wars Databank describes the interaction, the archives were of “disturbingly little help,” containing no record of the “planet Kamino” and that “the caretaker of the records, Madame Jocasta Nu, proclaimed the Archives complete and secure, and instead faulted Kenobi for chasing a phantom planet.” The entry goes onto say that further investigation showed that “the planet did indeed exist” with “sensor data of the surrounding space show[ing]…the gravitational influence of the system, even though the system itself was missing,” proving that “the Archives were tampered with, something that could only have been accomplished by a Jedi.” It is here I am reminded of what the former president of the SAA, Randall Jimmerson, whom said in his 2005 presidential address said about the movie, which is also noted by Cross, that “George Lucas presents a more confident view of archives.” Jimmerson says that the movie highlights how “Archivist Madame Jocasta Nu, a frail elderly woman, provides reference assistance, but Kamino does not appear on the archives’ star charts” and tells Kenobi that “the Archives are comprehensive and totally secure, my young Jedi,” followed by her terse response “One thing you may be absolutely sure of: If an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist.” He adds while it was clear that “the existence of the missing planetary system had been erased, in an act of archival sabotage” that this futuristic vision “shows the limits of archival control” as the “archivist’s pose of omniscience is truly an illusion.” Even so, the fact that “Obi-Wan must physically enter the Jedi Archives in his search shows the power of the archivist,” making clear that “the role of the archivist is crucial and powerful.”
Cross’s comments on this interaction are also worth noting. She writes, rightly, that Obi-Wan suggests that “the record may be incomplete is met with immediate reproach by Jocasta Nu,” a woman of “age and experience” which comes with “a confidence in the institution she serves” and that since we never learn if there “are other archivists serving the Republic, but if we’re to assume Jocasta is the lone archivist, then it makes her complacency and confidence far more worrisome.” She goes to add, later on in her article, that while Madame Nu is “confident in the security afforded the records, there’s a distinct lack of scrutiny and curiosity in Jocasta that’s endemic throughout the Republic,” leading to a number of questions.
I would also like to add that Madame Nu “served as Archives Director for over 30 years,” after being on the Jedi Council for 10 years, with her robes indicating a “devotion to knowledge and learning” and that while she served as “custodian of the records,” she would also “prepare mission briefs for Jedi taskforces and Knights on assignment.” The same entry on the Star Wars Databank also describes her as “caretaker of this [Jedi] lore” and that while she had an “appearance…of a frail, elderly woman, she possessed a sprightly demeanor and an abrupt temperament,” noting that since Kamino did not “appear in the Archive records, Nu instantly concluded that the planet did not exist.”This showed, argues the entry that since she was so “reliant…on the Jedi Archive’s data, she neglected to consider that perhaps the information could have been tampered with,” indicating that “this was but one example of Jedi complacency getting in the way of their service.” This has a number of implications for archivists, specifically on the fact that the perception of archivists that everything in their collections is all there is, that they have everything, that records could not be tampered with, which is absurd, to say the least.
After his lackluster visit to the archives, Obi-Wan talks with Master Yoda and the younglings he is training, one of whom says that the record of the planet must have been erased. Below are some screencaps from that interaction:
Then Obi-Wan basically declares it is impossible to delete the records but Yoda corrects him, saying that Jedi can delete records, and that this creates a quandary which he will have to mediate on:
Of course, as we all know, Obi-Wan finds the “missing planet” of Kamino and discovers a clone army “built for the Republic”:
Later on, as a group of probably 20 Jedi, along with Padme Amidala (played by Natalie Portman), Obi-Wan, and Anakin Skywalker (played by Hayden Christensen), are hopelessly outnumbered, surrounded by groups of battle droids, Count Dooku (played by Christopher Lee) says that Jedi Master Mace Windu (played by Samuel L. Jackson) has “fought valiantly” and that his conduct will be recognized in the “archives of the Jedi order”:
Just as they are going to die in the arena, Clones come in, on gunships and save them. The film has one more records-related moment: the passing of the plans for the Death Star from the Geonosians to Count Dooku (the figurehead leader of the separatists, whom is played by Christopher Lee), which connects to later films (like A New Hope and Rogue One). So, its not really archives-related persay, but it is related to records transfer, which is relevant here:
This whole movie, for me, brings up a number of questions. First of all, as I said on Twitter, “why are Jedi allowed to delete records from the archives? After all, if the archivist Obi-Wan met is a lone arranger, then why would this be allowed? Also, don’t they have records on whom last accessed the archival star charts?” Furthermore, I wonder if they even have backups of the deleted records and if so, couldn’t Madame Nu have looked there. I also still believe, as I noted on Twitter, that this “Hollywoodified archival experience…started out good, but ended badly, painting archives as a bit incompetent” but some of you may see it differently, perhaps.
I’m not that surprised by this, however, as this was a movie where a quarter to half was taken up with the romance between Anakin-the-creeper and Padme, the Senator and leader of the opposition, so this movie isn’t really something to write home about. Films like this do not have very good internal logic and often fall apart when you really examine them, with this film somewhat falling into this category. You could also point out the racism in characters like Jar Jar Binks (like Stepin’ Fetchit) and Nute Gunray (negative characterization of Asian people perhaps), along with a number of others, making it clear this movie undoubtedly has problems to say the least! I understand why more hardcore Star Wars fans would hate this movie with a passion.
There’s also something else I’d like to say about Madame Nu, which Wookiepedia calls either “chief librarian” or “master archivist,” with the entry saying that she had absolute confidence in her collections, implying it was perhaps too much, and seeming to say she continued her archival practices after the Jedi Purge (beginning with Order 66 in Star Wars Episode III). Apparently, in issue 75 of the Star Wars Insider (likely within “Appearing Knightley (and the Women of Star Wars)” article), it says that “a lot of Nu’s backstory and scenes from Attack of the Clones were cut before filming and during editing, including the revelation that Nu and Count Dooku used to be in love during Dooku’s days in the Jedi Order,” as noted on her Wookiepedia entry.  Now, this creates an ulterior motive for her, perhaps, for saying that the archives are complete and that the record was deleted. Is she part of a cover-up of the record in that her previous love with Dooku clouded her judgment and/or that he took advantage of her, allowing him to delete the record? Lots of questions are raised from this fact.
In future articles I’ll focus on portrayal of Nu beyond this film, specifically in the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series, along with focusing on other portrayals of archivists and librarians in popular culture since movies produced by Hollywood are one of the ways that people’s perceptions of archives are shaped.
 While I’m not going to buy it, apparently Issue 75 of Star Wars Insider is being sold for four to eight dollars on eBay, to go by a very quick search of the topic.