Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.
The Phantom Menace and Watto
Kicking off the prequel trilogy, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace let many fans down with questionable dialogue, unneeded answers (thanks, midi-chlorians), and especially Jar-Jar Binks. Although I believe the movie redeems itself with a strong costume department, stellar soundtrack, and spectacular lightsaber battle, I understand why many just can't get past Jar-Jar.
But as annoying as the Gungan is, the film harbors an even more-infuriating alien: Watto, the chubby blue Toydarian junk shop owner from Tatooine. You might be wondering, "isn't Watto just a bit greedy? What makes him so bad?" Trust me, behind the scenes, Watto harbors more dark secrets than just a little penny-pinching. Don't believe me? These are the top ten horrendous facts about Watto!
10. He Owned Slaves
Let's get the obvious one out of the way. As the movie clearly shows, Watto feels little remorse over keeping humans as property. Anakin and Shmi Skywalker spent many years working tirelessly for the greedy Toydarian's benefit. Seems Anakin began his life unwillingly chained as a slave only to later willing shackle himself with the dark side.
But we're not talking about Darth Vader here, just an overweight Toydarian. To his credit, Watto lives on a planet where slavery is largely socially accepted, but good luck explaining that "justice" to the slaves. At least Watto demonstrates less cruelty than most masters and is generally regarded as a decent owner; after all, we witness him grant Anakin an early day off in Phantom. But we'll soon explore many contradicting pieces of evidence that showcase just how vicious Watto can be.
9. He Tried to Swindle Qui-Gon
Sure, the deserts of Tatooine and the streets of Mos Espa are rough environments, but that doesn't entitle inhabitants to prey on others. Not only does Watto purposefully target outlanders (who are more easily swindled due to lacking knowledge on current market prices), he outright tries to cheat them. When Jedi Master Qui-Gon attempts to bet Anakin's freedom in the Boonta Eve podrace, Watto procures a chance cube, stating that if the colored die comes up red, Shmi's freedom will be wagered (a smaller risk), and if blue, Anakin's.
It's heavily implied Watto has loaded this chance cube to always show up red, virtually guaranteeing a less-valuable slave's freedom will be at stake while making the result appear randomly determined. When you rewatch the scene, note just how angry Watto appears when the cube turns up blue (thanks to Qui-Gon's Force tampering), a strong reaction indicating his considerable surprise that his loaded die failed. Either way, it was a greedy and dumb move to try and cheat a Jedi (Watto has already witnessed Qui-Gon's Force abilities), and Watto's selfishness ultimately costs him his shop's most valuable asset (Anakin).
8. He Tried To Rescind His Bet
Okay, so not only did Watto try to outright cheat Qui-Gon with a rigged die, but he also downright refuses to accept Sebulba's loss. After the Boonta Classic ends with Anakin's victory, Watto protests relinquishing his slave to Qui-Gon despite their agreement. Qui-Gon has to threaten to "get the Hutts involved" before Watto hesitantly agrees to surrender what he owes.
Remember, even while forfeiting Anakin, Watto still stands to profit. Qui-Gon offered him a heck of bargain: if Anakin won the race, Watto would receive all the winnings minus the cost of the spaceship parts Qui-Gon needed; if Anakin lost, Watto would receive Qui-Gon's ship. Either way, Watto had much to gain and can only blame himself for putting further odds on what was a rare win-win gamble.
7. He Refused to Trade Shmi to Cliegg Lars
After Anakin was freed and left to train to become a Jedi, Watto's shop dwindled without Anakin's mechanical expertise. Despite this, Watto grew friendlier to Shmi, likely because she was the only person left with who he had any sort of familial relationship.
However, Watto would again prove his selfishness, but this time in terms of control, not money. After Cliegg Lars visited Watto's shop several times and befriended Shmi, both humans wished for her to accompany Lars back to his farm. Lars offered Watto a substantial sum of money, far more than the value of a slave, for Shmi's freedom. You would think that Watto's cash-oriented outlook would be happy to accept such a deal, especially when Shmi herself asks him for it, yet fearing isolation, he repeatedly refused the trade. He also tried to manipulate Shmi by taking her to moisture farms and telling her challenging a farmer's life would be.
Long story short, Watto's attempts to dissuade Shmi fail, and he eventually submits after being offered an incredible deal, but remember he only relents for his own profit, not for Shmi's happiness. Despite this hefty financial gain, Watto's junkshop further degraded without the assistance of either Skywalker, leaving him both financially and emotionally bankrupt. When you focus on yourself for so long, that's exactly what you end up with: you and only you.
6. He Made Anakin Podrace Despite Shmi's Wishes
As we discover, Anakin turns out to be a skilled pilot and his podracing affiliation never causes him significant harm. That doesn't mean it wasn't an incredibly risky hobby. After realizing Anakin possessed excellent reflexes, Watto began making the young boy Podrace, disregarding Shmi's understandable opposition.
Think about it. Watto forced a young boy to participate in a dangerous sport (one in which humans are noted to be particularly disadvantaged) on the off chance his slave won. As Episode 1 mentioned, Anakin lost every since race until meeting Qui-Gon, showing his track record was terrible, and Watto always bet on Sebulba anyways, illustrating he didn't off much faith in his slave. Watto was risking Anakin (which is both emotionally and financially hazardous) while not even believing the boy would win. Not only is this cruel to Shmi, it's dumb—why gamble your valuable slave when you're betting on his opponent? Even if Anakin did triumph, since Watto would have lost his wager on Sebulba, his overall winnings would hardly justify the risk.
5. His Former Military Unit Destroyed Food Stocks Out of Spite
Galactic history lesson: Watto's homeworld of Toydaria has suffered many famines over several decades, inciting numerous raids and revolutions across the planet. Believe it or not, flabby Watto used to be a soldier, a member of the "Ossiki Confederacy Army," a war unit we know little of.
What we do know is this band was infamous for striking at neighboring Toydarian groups using chemical warfare, disrupting their food stores. Why? Out of spite. As an officer in the Ossiki once declared, "if we can't have it, no one can." Sure, famines are tough, but Watto's group didn't steal food—they annihilated it, because if they had to suffer, they wanted their brethren to do the same. Watto eventually left the Ossiki and his planet due to debilitating injuries, but you can bet he never had a change of heart because...
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4. He Abandoned His Family
I admit it—we know very little about Watto's family. They could have been scum, they could have been devoted kin. But innocent until proven guilty, and until presented with evidence to the contrary, there's no reason for us to assume Watto's family ever earned his ire.
Watto was renowned for being paranoid to the point that he never contacted his family back on Toydaria, fearing they would exploit his newfound "success." To an extent, I understand how living in a lawless, forgotten planet like Tatooine could make one skeptical, but leaving your family to suffer just because you fear them taking advantage of your barely-scraping-by business? Caution is one thing, abandonment another. It's very possible that Watto's relatives would have aided his enterprise rather than sabotaging it. After all, why dismantle the industry that puts food on your table?
3. He Abandoned His Jawa Mentors
While we shouldn't assume Watto's relatives ever harmed him, we can review a more-concrete example of Watto's ungrateful demeanor. After leaving Toydaria, wounded and essentially broke, Watto made his way to the sandstorms of Tatooine, fortunately encountering several kindly Jawas. Knowledgeable of the land and shrewd negotiators, the Jawas taught Watto how to operate a business and how to salvage abandoned mechanical parts into marketable inventory.
According to the Star Wars Wikia, after learning all he could from the kind-hearted desert dwellers, Watto either "abandoned or reported them." So, after the Jawas take Watto under their wing (ironic given their different anatomies), he either leaves without so much as a thank you, or even worse, possibly had his mentors arrested. While details of this section in Watto's life are scarce, it's pretty clear that Watto never once tried to repay the Jawas for their compassion.
2. He Beat a 4-Year Old
This one's pretty simple. Watto first acquired Anakin and Shmi when Anakin was only 3, and even as a young four-year-old, Anakin remembers having been severely beaten when displeasing Watto.
This seems to be a pretty rare occurrence, and again Watto was noted to be less harsh than most masters, but that doesn't change the fact that he willingly manhandled a toddler. Anakin wasn't as jaded in Phantom Menace as he would later become, but a deleted scene shows him enter a fight with a young Greedo (the Rodian bounty hunter from Episode 4). While it's true Greedo was provoking him, this shows that even as a kid, Anakin carried emotions of fear and anger—a mindset that Watto's cruelty undoubtedly contributed to.
1. He Tried To Have Qui-Gon Killed
Because everyone loves The Phantom Menace and is dying to know more of its behind-the-scenes scoop, here's a juicy prequel tidbit. Off-screen, after Watto reluctantly agrees to let Qui-Gon take Anakin, Gardulla the Hutt (picture an even uglier and female Jabba) approaches him, having seen Anakin's impressive Podrace. She offers Watto a sizable sum of money for the boy, not knowing the Toydarian just lost ownership of his former slave. Watto tells her he needs time to think, then quickly hires multiple thugs to "convince" Qui-Gon to give Anakin back.
This goes beyond greedy and cruel. We're not talking mere selfishness or fits of violence, but full-blown murder. Sure, Watto, wouldn't be the one pulling the trigger, but he aimed the gun; bullets don't kill, people do. Of course, the thugs fail to take out Qui-Gon, but that doesn't excuse Watto's despicable attempt. And once again, this was an idiotic decision. At this point, Watto has seen Qui-Gon with several allies and knows about his Force abilities; did he really think Jinn and his comrades would fall so easily to hired henchmen? Stupid and selfish, this off-screen scenario highlights Watto's true nature.
Watto's Ultimate Fate
While many of today's details stem from the now-alternate timeline of the Expanded Universe, Watto's selfishness remains apparent regardless of which canon you examine. Always selfish and frequently ruthless, Watto reminds me of the classic domestic abuser. He's capable of showing care, and does demonstrate kindness towards Anakin and Shmi, but when push comes to shove, he always chooses himself over others, even at the expense of another being's life.
Karma eventually catches up with Watto in a non-canon alternate universe comic of the Expanded Universe (which is itself an alternate universe; confused yet?) called Old Wounds. In this brief graphic novel, the resurrected Sith Darth Maul confronts Obi-Wan Kenobi during his years of exile on Tatooine, eager for a rematch and using his awareness of Luke Skywalker to lure his enemy out of hiding. And how did Maul find his old nemesis? After gaining crucial information "from an aged Toydarian junk dealer" whom he beheaded after interrogating. Sound familiar?
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Liz Westwood from UK on June 14, 2018:
I'm impressed by your detailed Star Wars knowledge.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on June 13, 2018:
Interesting thoughts. Still, as far as I can tell, Watto's homeworld lacked slaves; he was likely raised in a culture without them, making it all the worse that he accepted the ownership of another human.
If we suddenly entered a country with legalized slavery, hopefully we wouldn't suddenly become okay with it.
Naomi Starlight from Illinois on June 13, 2018:
Well only bad guys end up owning slaves on Tattooine. Not like in real life. In real life, sadly, many good people were slave owners and simply didn't question the cruelty of it because their culture condoned it. Like the Egyptians in 'Prince of Egypt'.