When I say the name Lando Calrissian what do you think about? A traitorous, less-than-scruffy looking nerfherder, who betrayed his best friend and then inexplicably wore said friends clothes as he piloted said friends spaceship, with that same friends girlfriend and Wookiee companion? Or do you think of the most morally courageous figure found in the Star Wars saga? Obviously if you read the title of this article, you know I am going to be arguing the latter.
Now let’s dive into some backstory. Lando was the Baron Administrator of Cloud City, which he won in a card game from the previous Administrator. Cloud City was a tibanna gas mining colony that floats about 60,000 kilometers above the planet Bespin, which was an uninhabitable gas giant. Cloud City’s official census data (because this actually exists in the Extended Universe) shows the population to be at 5,247,080 not counting droids.
Want to guess why they call it Cloud City? Because it’s perpetually cloudy, and the person naming Bespin locales had about as much creativity as the guy who named the Orange.
When we first meet Lando in Empire Strikes Back he appears to be very similar to Han Solo. He has a questionable past, but he seems to be well on his way to being a somewhat decent guy. Lando is a gambler turned civil servant who has a penchant for well-coordinated capes and seduction.
Unfortunately Lando gets a bad rap due to a moral dilemma that plays out before we even meet him. When Darth Vader finds out that Han and Leia escaped Hoth and are heading to Bespin he gives Lando a choice to make. Lando can either betray Han by turning him over to Vader, or he can allow Bespin to fall under the tyrannical rule of the Galactic Empire.
So, as we come to find out, Lando decided that giving his friend over to Vader was the best decision, and they all attend what had to be the most awkward dinner ever.
For many his decision to betray Han makes Lando a traitor, but his decision is less egotistical than it appears. The decision that Lando makes is, in fact, a utilitarian decision. Quick philosophy lesson, utilitarianism is a philosophy that states all actions should be directed towards achieving the greatest happiness for the greater number of people.
In other words, to determine which decision we should make in any given situation, we must evaluate each option available to us and attempt to calculate the possible consequences of that decision. Whichever decision leads to the best outcome for the most people is the decision that must be chosen.
So when Lando, being a utilitarian, is given his choice he must weigh the cost of betraying Han and thus causing his unhappiness versus the unhappiness that will be caused by letting his entire city fall under the command of the tyrannical Emperor and his Stormtroopers. Lando gave up Han in order to prevent his people from suffering at the hands of the scrotum-faced Emperor and his cronies.
Of course, for many this goes against what our view of friendship means, but when seen from the utilitarian’s point of view Lando did what was moral. In reality Lando’s only choice is whether to save the mining colony or not since Han is going to be captured by Vader anyways, seen this way he made the only right decision.
When Lando realizes that Vader altered the deal and the Empire is going to take over anyways he does what he can to evacuate the colony, as well as save Leia and Chewbacca; he does not think of himself at all. Lando immediately joins Luke and Leia in an attempt to rescue Han from his fate as a questionable choice for wall decorations, even going undercover for a year or more in Jabba’s Palace (and you know that place stank something awful).
We usually view Lando as an egotistical, scum bag who betrayed his best friend to save his own ass. However, when we view his decision in light of a utilitarian view his decision shows moral fortitude.
So what do you think? Is Lando still the backstabbing scoundrel you always thought him to be, or is he a moral stalwart worthy of our admiration?