I recently encountered a post, promoted by “Crypto Cuddlefish,” and I decided to look into if this post, published three years ago, which has a number of movies as referents, has any basis. As a moderate Star Wars fan, it only makes sense to look at this post, which a transcript of a video by improv and standup comedian Dave Gutteridge. This article will respond to specific elements of the transcript with my own commentary. While this may not seem politically important, it is because of the effect that the Star Wars franchise has on what Jurgen Habermas calls the bourgeois public sphere and the minds of the populace, especially in the United States, and elsewhere across the world. Anyway, here it goes.
Addressing Dave Gutteridge’s argument
“I’m actually not a Star Wars fan anymore. But I want you to appreciate just how far I’ve come when I say I’m not a fan. When I first saw the very first Star Wars movie , I was so young and naive that I didn’t know that in movies the hero always wins. When Luke Skywalker was flying down that trench, and he was being chased by Darth Vader, and he had to hit that target just right… I honestly didn’t know if he was going to pull it off. I was genuinely scared the universe could be doomed. It made a deep impression on me, and to this day, when I see that scene, I can’t help but feel tense. I loved Star Wars. I had all those action figures they made, even the Boba Fett you had to write away for . I had Star Wars wallpaper in my bedroom. On Halloween I dressed as a Jawa. I watched, and enjoyed, that shitty holiday special they made. So you’d think I’d be the kind of guy going to conventions dressed like an Ewok and having furry sex or whatever.”
I must admit that one time I was as sorta that type of fan, when I was younger. I even saw two of the movies in the 2000s (Episode 2 and 3) in a local movie theater which had a huge screen, one of the last of its kind. That always made an impression on me when I watched the movies from time to time. As of now, I’m just a moderate fan but I wouldn’t buy any merchandise, toys or such from the Star Wars franchise. There’s no need.
“Sadly, those days are gone. As more movies were made, it got harder and harder to ignore the ugly truth.”
Well, this should be interesting.
I started to have doubts even before the new series of movies was made. Everyone had a “whoah, what the…?” moment when they first saw Jar Jar Binks . And for good reason. Jar Jar Binks apparently comes from a whole race of ready made Amos and Andy style sidekicks . They have built in Jamaican dreadlock-things and the whole “Me so happy massa” Uncle Tom attitude. What’s the racial message here Lucas? And what about the aliens that the Jar Jarians were fighting, these creatures that had flat faces and yellow, slanted eyes, and were all secretive… There hasn’t been this much sublimated racial stereotyping in a science fiction series since the wildly anti-Semitic Ferengi in Star Trek.
I haven’t seen Star Trek but I can say something about Jar Jar Binks. I think that Lucas did stick him in his movies as a sort of comic relief. However, I do think there is a racial stereotype in place, almost like his a modern version of Stepin Fetchit. Even if one countered this this stereotype, Binks is a horrid character in general who acts like a goof and is extremely mindless. But perhaps that is the point. I’m not sure what the racial message is there, or with the greedy Neimodians of the Trade Federation who could represent an Asian stereotype. As one writer points out, “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace clearly invokes imagery and audio from racist ethnic stereotypes. The fact that the recipient of these stereotypical characteristics are non-human aliens does not change this fact.” As a personal admission I’d need to know a bit more about racial stereotypes to see if this is the reality. Still, I think this a valid concern.
“But the clumsy racial metaphors aren’t what bugged me.”
This bothers me. The six Star Wars movies are white and male-dominated with female characters mostly pushed to secondary roles (except for Princess Leia and Padme Amidala) and male characters are put in the primary role. Literally there are only two black characters I can think of: Mace Windu, who gets pushed out a window in Episode 3, and Lando Calrissian, a black capitalist/racketeer who betrays the Rebels to the Empire in Episode 5 then turns around and “good” in Episode 6. Not a good track record. Yes, the most recent Star Wars movie does have a black main character, Finn, and a female lead character, Rey, but this doesn’t change the nature of the previous six movies in terms of racial and gender diversity.
“If anyone here has seen the movie Clerks , you might remember the scene where they are talking about Return of The Jedi . In it, one of the characters describes The Rebellion as a bunch of leftists. That got me thinking. A bunch of “leftists”.”
I don’t think I’d think of them as leftists necessarily, just a rebellious force, the details of which I’ll explain later.
“In the first movie, it was all about saving Princess Leia. Then in the new movies, there’s Queen Amalama …dabadoo , whatever her name is. If you’re a princess, you’re in a royal family… and monarchies are not democratic . Now, the far left is not always democratic either, but since the left is usually socialist in some way, I don’t know a lot of far left extremists who are pro-monarchy.”
Hmm, that’s a good point. However, Leia is only part of the rebellion, she isn’t necessarily leading it. As for Amidala, she is controlling a planet, Naboo, that likely embodies what some have called “capitalist peace” since it was, according to Wookiepedia, “considered a world of classical beauty due to the aesthetics of its population centers” and was “peaceful.” As a result, I don’t know if I’d consider the Galactic Republic, of which Amidala was part of, to be leftist in the radical sense. After all, as it is described, it sounds kinda elitist but a little like the American federal system, which could be endorsed by today’s liberals and conservatives:
“The Galactic Republic, commonly referred to simply as the Republic, and later also known as the Old Republic, was the democratic union that governed the galaxy for a thousand years prior to the rise of the Galactic Empire. The Republic was aided by the efforts of the Jedi Order, who stood as the guardians of peace and justice, enabling the Republic to be free of full-scale conflict for over a thousand years.”
Then you come to the Empire:
“Now take a look at the “Empire”. They come across as hard core right wing authoritarians. But if you look at how they operate, they have a republic, a senate… it’s not too clear if they have universal suffrage . Maybe only the wealthy planet owners can vote. But still… even if it’s a primitive Grecian style democracy, it’s still a democracy.”
I’m not completely sure about this. The reason about this, is that in Episode 3, that evil Palpatine/Sidious who killed most of the elitist force, the Jedi in what was basically a “surprise” extermination campaign, took power and created the Galactic Empire, a day referred to as “Empire Day” in other series. Palpatine in that movie declares that “In order to ensure the security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society.” That doesn’t sound very democratic to me. After all, Wookiepedia notes that this Empire replaced the republic, with authority going to the Emperor:
“The Galactic Empire…was the government that rose to power in the aftermath of the Clone Wars, replacing the Galactic Republic. Central authority was given to Darth Sidious, publicly known as Emperor Palpatine, who was also the Dark Lord of the Sith. For nearly two decades, the legislative body was the Imperial Senate, but it was dissolved by the Emperor shortly before the Battle of Yavin. During the reign of the Empire, countless star systems were conquered and dissident actions ruthlessly stamped out by the rapidly expanding Imperial Army and Navy. The Empire also oversaw the near extermination of the Jedi, with the destruction of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and its renovation into the newly named Imperial Palace.”
I know one could say this a Star Wars wikia and it will bias. However, what this says makes it obvious that the Empire was an authoritarian regime. Also in Episode 4, the Imperial Senate was DISSOLVED. The legislative body was a joke, as noted in the following passage from this article:
“…By its fourteenth year of existence, the new Senate had started growing weaker as the Emperor’s planetary governors assumed more responsibility over their territories. However, the Emperor preserved the Senate in order to make the Empire’s member worlds believe that they still had a part to play in government. Secretly, he planned to disband the Senate from the start but he needed it to preserve order until the Death Star was completed.”
So, I just don’t buy the idea that Empire was a democracy. That goes against the events in the Star Wars animated series and the movies (4, 5, 6) in general. The same goes for the First Order in the new movie which is described as a military junta that was inspired by the Galactic Empire, led by a Supreme Leader and his right-hand man, Kylo Ren who “would oversee the colonization of the Unknown Regions and destruction of the last Jedi” but lacked an official capital.
So back to Gutteridge. He writes that “we’re cheering a bunch of monarchists fighting a democracy? How’d that happen?” then tweets comparisons between the Rebel Alliance, which was a “military resistance government” just like the Resistance. So, in that way the Rebel Alliance are right-wing one could argue. However, one could say they are a resistance force to the empire, almost a guerrilla movement, and don’t really constitute a state like the Empire or the First Order which has, as Max Weber notes about all states, “monopoly on the use of force.” But I’ll address this later on.
“The hints were there from the start”
Ok. Let’s see what you have to say.
“Who exactly are these “rebels”? When you look at it, they don’t seem like an uprising of working class people. When we very first see Luke Skywalker on the farm on Tattooine , his Uncle owns the farmland. It’s droids who do all the blue collar work. It seems the rebellion is led by landed gentry and dispossessed monarchists who’ve had their traditional power structure threatened by an emerging republic.”
Hmm. You could say that and perhaps the rebellion is made up of middle-class folks. By this description Luke would be part of the petty bourgeoisie since he could be arguably part of a strata that “rely entirely on the sale of their labor-power for survival…and thus can buy the labor-power of the proletariat [the droids in this case] and lumpenproletariat to work the means of production” as noted here. At the same time the Rebellion could arguably include lumpenproletariat people like gangster Han Solo and his companion Chewbacca. But I agree its not a rebellion of the proletariat in a Marxian or radical sense. That can even be said about the group of rebels in the new animated series Star Wars Rebels in one sense or another.
Now onto the other claims. According to Wookiepedia, the Rebel Alliance had their origins in a group of Senators who “were vocal opponents of Palpatine’s reformations” and was “found itself increasingly at odds with the Chancellor’s increasing executive powers, and often had trouble gaining an audience with him.” Two of the individuals were key in what became the Rebel Alliance. Jumping ahead, another page notes that this rebellion had a mission to restore “liberty” to the galaxy, at least initially and eventual establishment of a Republic like the Galactic Republic in Episodes 1, 2, and 3. Another part of the same page notes that the Rebel Alliance constituted of a government and a military command led by the Chief of State who was led an “elected dictatorship, [since] the Chief of State had virtually unlimited power over the Alliance” and was taken out of power after the Emperor died. Other parts of the Rebel government included an Advisory Council comprises of representatives from “seven Alliance governments who had given the most lives in battle to defeating the Empire” and it was “responsible for approving or disapproving the proposals of the Chief of State.” There was also an alliance cabinet which allowed the Chief of State to “maintain and run the Alliance,” Alliance Allied Commands, or the “the individual governments of worlds, organizations, and groups that were members of the Alliance” and then the military which was led by the Chief of State. In this way, the Rebel Alliance can be considered a state but also a guerrilla movement at the same time. Undoubtedly it can be considered right-wing but so can the Empire.
“There was one time I was talking about this, a guy said to me, “actually Queen Abadalamadingdong was “elected” to her seat in the senate.” I looked it up on the interwebs, and that’s technically true. She was elected. When she was 14, though. Now, I know this was probably written this way because,George Lucas wanted to line things up so that Princess Allibabababoo [actually Amidala] wouldn’t be too much older, years later when she got it on with young boy-band-era Vader. I don’t know why that was a problem, because there ain’t nothing wrong with a little cougar action, but that seems to be what happened at the script writing level.”
Yes, this is true and Anakin was a creeper. Naboo definitely had what one could call an elected monarchy.
“Whatever, though. Lucas might have been more focused on character time lines than the politics, but it doesn’t excuse anything. We’ve still got the story we’ve got.”
I guess you could say that.
“No functioning democracy elects a 14 year old girl to anything higher than hall monitor , so she has to have been ushered into power by a ruling elite.”
That’s a good point, except not everything in the world that is considered a “democracy” is not necessarily a democracy. So in this way, yes, Naboo isn’t a democracy.
“If the rebellion were just the landed gentry, that might be a excusable. Hell, George Washington was the wealthiest land owner in the colonies , but there was still some merit in his rebellion. But the situation gets worse. Because at the heart of the rebellion are the Jedi.”
Ok, I don’t know how that would be excusable. Well, the Jedi are sort of at the heart of it, but they also aren’t.
“At first glance, the Jedi seem all Zen and spiritual and peaceful. You first see Obi Wan out wandering in the desert, fighting injustices, like Caine in Kung Fu . So, you know, you think they’re all a bunch of counter culture revolutionary warrior monks. But then in the movie The Phantom Menace , which historically is further back in time, you see the Jedi in the penthouse suite of some deluxe high rise on the capital planet of the galaxy. They have this Star Chamber with bay windows overlooking the metropolis. They’re casually chatting over Earl Gray tea about how to influence politics and alter the fates of all the citizens of the galaxy.”
That is kinda true if you think about it. I can remember some scene in a Clone Wars episode when a clone calls the Jedi slavemasters literally:
“As they present Slick before the Jedi, Slick snaps that his brothers are enslaved by the Jedi, that he was striking a blow for all clones and that he loves his brothers, but Cody and Rex retort that he has now exposed them all to certain doom. Cody orders the other clones to take the traitor to lockup.”
Not only that but I can remember people in the animated series saying there’s a hypocrisy for “defenders of the peace” (Jedi) to be warriors. This part from the Episode 3 screenplay is also relevant here:
MACE WINDU: I sense a plot to destroy the Jedi. The dark side of the Force surrounds the Chancellor.
Kl-ADI-MUNDI: If he does not give up his emergency powers after the destruction of Grievous, then he should be removed from office.
MACE WiNDU: That could be a dangerous move … the Jedi Council would have to take control of the Senate in order to secure a peaceful transition . . .
Kl-ADI-MUNDI: . . . and replace the Congress with Senators who are not filled with greed and corruption.
YODA: To a dark place this line of thought will carry us. Hmmmmm. . . . great care we must take.
Seriously they want a coup in a republic, arguably a bourgeois democracy/republic. Yikes! Thinking about that now, that’s messed up. This really would make them theocrats and actually kinda philosopher kings too in a sense. However, without this they are neither of these labels.
“Nobody elected these guys. Nobody voted for Yoda. What the hell happened to the separation of church and state? They’re like the evangelical movement in the US Republican party, pushing their agenda behind the scenes.”
Ok. However, they were basically treated as elite warriors who would defend the Republic. But in some sense you could say they are religious leaders. They aren’t really like the evangelical movement in the US. Here’s a relevant passage from the Episode 4 screenplay which sounds almost like the Force is a religion in a sense:
HAN: Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.
LUKE: You don’t believe in the Force, do you?
HAN: Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen anything to make me believe there’s one all-powerful force controlling everything. There’s no mystical energy field that controls my destiny.
Ben smiles quietly.
HAN: It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.
BEN: I suggest you try it again, Luke.
Then the post notes that:
“Not only are we cheering for anti-democratic monarchists, they’re also fundamentalist theocrats. These guys aren’t just out to stop gays from becoming stormtroopers. These guys start whole ground wars that get who knows how many people killed.”
I wouldn’t say the Jedi start the war. I think Darth Sidious wanted the invasion of Naboo. Even if the Jedi “ambassadors” hadn’t been there, showing their high status, then the invasion and blockade of Naboo would have included. But, yes in a sense we are cheering for right-wingers/rightests. However, there is a bourgeois democracy in the form of the Galactic Republic which sorta seems like the US in some way or another. This “democracy” as it will, which Marx and Engels called “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie,” mirrors the dictatorship that ruled Mexico with an iron fist from the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 until the 1990s which constituted a corporatist political structure led by the PRI and had the legislature as merely a rubber-stamp.
“For example, in Phantom Menace they go down to planet Jamaica where the Jar Jarians live, and convince them to fight a robot army and get mowed down like Aztecs being slaughtered by conquistadors . What do the Jedi offer in return? They send in two human white guys to rescue a human white girl.”
I guess you could say this. However, the Jedi do offer something in return. They help clear the hangar with the help of the Queen and her forces so that Naboo starfighters can destroy the Trade Federation ship of which Anakin succeeds in but by accident. Anyway, it is true they rescue a human white girl (the Queen). At the same time, the Gungans fight a robot army but are quickly surrounded and have to surrender, so I don’t think it accurate to say that they are slaughtered by Aztecs as that almost implies that the movie condemns imperialism which it obviously does not.
“Why do the Jar Jarians agree? ‘Cause the leader of the Jar Jarians is a fucking king… another monarchist. He’s got a divine right to rule to protect, so of course he’s on board.”
I guess you could say that but I think the Gungans are willing to side with the humans (“the Naboo”) because they see their planet under attack by a foreign force (a robot army led by the Trade Federation).
Now, you’re probably thinking “Yeah, but just look at the Empire, they’ve got lots of black, dark atmospheric mood lighting, and lots of heavy breathing. They’ve got to be evil, right? And the Jedi have all soft earth tones, lots of brown, long hair, and eating granola, they’ve got to be good, right? What makes them so good, all deep down?
No I wasn’t wondering that at all. Not sure who would be wondering that.
“Here’s where it gets really fucked up. In the new series of movies, George Lucas revealed to us what it is that makes a Jedi a Jedi. In order to be a part of “the force”, you have to have this stuff in your blood called “Midi-chlorians”. So… you have to be born with the right blood… Not just antidemocratic monarchist fundamentalist theocrats… they’re also racial supremacists! Holy fuck!”
I don’t think that is necessarily racial supremacy. I guess it could be considered genetic supremacy but not racial supremacy necessarily. This is because Jedi do NOT have to be humans to be Jedi. But I will agree it is strange. In fact, as they note in the movies, EVERYONE has medi-chlorians to some extent. As Qui-Gon said in Episode 1 to a young Anakin, who was literally a slave, but freed:
“Midi-chlorians are a microcopic lifeform that reside within all living cells and communicates with the Force. [they are] In your cells. We are symbionts with the midi-chlorians [or] Life forms living together for mutual advantage. Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to you, telling you the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear them speaking to you.”
So, I don’t think this constitutes racial supremacy akin to the Nazis. In fact, this kinda just says “the Force” comes from within you, but doesn’t have to do with if you have “the right blood.” One could argue this means it constitutes eugenics, but I don’t agree.
Now it makes sense why the Jedi wear the brown shirts ! We’re supposed to cheer for these fascists?
I don’t think they are fascists. Sure, you could argue convincingly they are theocrats, though I don’t agree with that viewpoint, but since the part of the movie about midi-chlorians was wrongly interpreted, this undermines that they are fascists. However, I see the Jedi and the Sith, who are basically conflicting sects of “The Force” religion, as religious warriors, not necessarily as totally theocrats since they don’t completely rule or govern “
“We’re supposed to be happy, singing “yub yub”, along with the Ewoks, when these authoritarian assholes win at the end of Return of the Jedi?”
Well, the Rebels are rightists but aren’t necessarily “authoritarian assholes.” Also by this time most of the Jedi in the galaxy are killed so they aren’t leading the Rebellion.
“A victory which is ludicrous when you think about it. I don’t know what it takes to build a death star, but apparently a death star is something an empire the size of a galaxy can only build one at a time. I think it’s safe to assume that they’d devote their best troops to protecting this thing. The best troops in an entire galaxy.”
Well it could be considered ludicrous except I think the Empire was over-confident and the Ewoks helped the Rebels turn the tide of victory. So its sorta unbelievable but this is fiction. What do you expect? You could say the same about the destruction of the Starkiller Base in the newest Star Wars movie. Additionally, it is possible for the best troops to be beat by troops that aren’t the best. Its happened in world history before in military battles. It is possible.
“We’re seriously meant to believe that they couldn’t defend a shed in the woods from a pack of plush toys with pre-bronze age technology? It’s so incredulous, it defies all reason… Unless… you think about what the far far away galaxy is like after the final battle that defeats the Empire.”
Well, they couldn’t defend it because of the Ewoks who were able to destroy much of the Empire’s technology in their guerrilla tactics. Also, they only sent a legion of troopers down to Endor, and the Rebels had fought the Empire for years, so I’d imagine there were seasoned enough troops who knew how the fight the empire. Also, what’s so bad with a “primitive” force defeating a “modern,” technologically-advanced force? It happened in Avatar, a movie which had issues considering the white male savior of indigenous people, so it can happen here most definitely.
“There’s probably some tough questions being asked during Luke Skywalker’s thousand year Reich . Questions like, “We fought all these battles, all these people died, We got rid of the evil overlord Darth Vader, and now… his son is in charge? Another Skywalker and his crypto-incestuous sister are running the show now? What kind of revolution was this?””
No, no one is asking those questions. Luke and his sister were NEVER in charge, they were just part of a broader rebellion. Sure, Leia was arguably more part of the ruling class, but she wasn’t directly in charge of the Rebels and Luke most definitely was not, but basically was just like a high-ranking officer in the military. Also, Vader (whose full name could mean “dark father” but it is contested) was never in charge, that was the Emperor. I do think this part of episode 4 is relevant here:
HAN: It is for me, sister! Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money!
LEIA: You needn’t worry about your reward. If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive!
Later Han becomes a loyal footsoldier of the Rebellion, but this still relevant here.
“Not only has all the power in the galaxy been passing around within one family, but with the death of exiled Pope Yoda, Luke has moved into the position of head of the official state religion. Church and state have been unified, and Ayatollah Skywalker reigns supreme over his dystopian theocratic dictatorship.”
I just don’t think that interpretation is correct. Yoda was never the head of the “official state religion.” The Force can be argued as a religious force or feeling but was NOT the official religion of either the Empire, the Rebellion, First Order, or Resistance. Hence, there was no “theocratic dictatorship.” However, there is a convincing argument that two rightist forces were fighting each other.
“And that’s when it hit me. I saw it, man, I saw what was going on. Maybe George Lucas is the most brilliant film maker of all time.”
What in the world. This ia almost half sarcastic.
“You see, think of it like this. History is written by the victors. So maybe what George Lucas is doing is writing this whole series from a meta-contextual point of view, showing us history as it would be depicted if the forces of evil had won.”
Um, ok history is written by victors. As for the next part of this quote, I just don’t think so.
“The story is shown from the point of view after Dear Leader Skywalker went all Stalin on the historical records. The photos have been airbrushed , the scrolls have been burned , the statues knocked down … we’re seeing the revisionist history the House of Skywalker wants us to believe.”
Luke Skywalker never did that. He never was really in a leading position of power. It is true he was a valued footsoldier of the Rebellion, but he was NOT the leader of the Alliance. I don’t even know what to say about the comparison to Stalin here.
“If that’s what George Lucas is doing, it’s fucking brilliant. The hints are there, but you have to peel back the layers of propaganda to look for the real story. What’s really going on?”
Oh boy here we go with the “layers of propaganda.”
“Before the story depicted in the movies begins, democracy was emerging in the galaxy in the form of a republic, with a democratically elected senate. The monarchists and elite were seeing their tyrannical rule coming to an end. They tried to maintain power by filling the sentate with their own kind, like they did with Queen Amadamadingdong. That failed, and they were marginalized.”
I don’t think its that simple. I think there was the pretense of democracy but it was, as Sheldon Wolin puts it, a managed democracy, in the Galactic Republic. But more accurately it was a bourgeois democracy. Yet, Gutteridge doesn’t say this.
“[Referring to an above picture.] In this telling scene, Anakin Skywalker argues against the extra-judicial summary execution of a political leader by a Jedi zealot, and calls instead for a trial by jury. For this, he is depicted as a villain.”
The “political leader” who speak of was actually also a theocrat in a sense and led his own branch of “The Force” religion. Hence, Palpatine was more like a religious leader who masqueraded as a political leader than the latter. He is almost more a theocrat than the Jedi since he holds a leading position in government while the Jedi don’t technically hold such a position but just kinda do their own thing, which has some consequences (good and bad). Also, Palpatine was trying to kill the Jedi warrior. Yes, Anakin was trying to call for a trial, but Windu’s point that he is “too dangerous to stay alive” if I remember the words right, is valid. In my thinking Palpatine knew something like this would happen, so he made it so the Jedi would say he should die and then Anakin would come to Palpatine’s aid. Also, Anakin is a bit selfish and out for himself, so he can’t be painted as the “good” guy here. Anyway, here’s the relevant passage showing that Anakin is painted an agent of evil for good reason, even though he advocated a right for trial of Palpatine even as the courts are corrupt (bolding is my emphasis):
ANAKIN lands his speeder, jumps out, and runs down a long corridor toward the Chancellor’s office.
In the heat of battle, MACE cuts the window behind the Chancellor’s desk, and it crashes away. MACE is forced out onto the ledge, which is twenty stories up. They fight over the precipice. ANAKIN arrives to see PALPATINE and MACE fighting.
They stop as MACE forces PALPATINE to drop his sword. PALPATINE and MACE start yelling at each other.
MACE WINDU: You are under arrest, My Lord.
PALPATINE: Anakin! I told you it would come to this. I was right. The Jedi are taking over.
MACE WlNDU: You old fool. The oppression of the Sith will never return. Your plot to regain control of the Republic is over . . . you have lost . . .
PALPATINE: No! No! You will die!
PALPATINE raises his hands, and lightning bolts shoot out. They are blocked by MACE’s lightsaber. PALPATINE is pushed back against the window sill.
PALPATINE: He is a traitor, Anakin.
MACE WlNDU: He’s the traitor. Stop him!
PALPATINE: Come to your senses, boy. The Jedi are in revolt. They will betray you, just as they betrayed me.
MACE WlNDU: Aarrrrggghhhhh . . .
PALPATINE: You are not one of them, Anakin. Don’t let him kill me.
MACE WlNDU: Aarrrrggghhhhh . . .
PALPATINE: I am your pathway to power. I have the power to save the one you love. You must choose. You must stop him.
MACE WlNDU: Don’t listen to him, Anakin.
PALPATINE: Help me! Don’t let him kill me. I can’t hold on any longer. Ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . . ahhhhhhh . . .
MACE pushes PALPATINE out to the edge of the ledge. As the Jedi moves closer, the bolts from Palpatine’s hands begin to arch back on him. The Chancellor’s face begins to twist and distort. His eyes become yellow as he struggles to intensify his powers.
PALPATINE: I can’t … I give up. Help me. I am weak … I am too weak. Don’t kill me. I give up. I’m dying. I can’t hold on any longer.
MACE WlNDU: You Sith disease. I am going to end this once and for all.
ANAKIN: You can’t kill him, Master. He must stand trial.
MACE WlNDU: He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts. He is too dangerous to be kept alive.
PALPATINE: I’m too weak. Don’t kill me. Please.
ANAKIN: It is not the Jedi way . . .
MACE raises his sword to kill the CHANCELLOR.
ANAKIN: (continuing) He must live . . .
PALPATINE: Please don’t, please don’t . . .
ANAKIN: I need him . . .
PALPATINE: Please don’t . . .
Just as MACE is about to slash PALPATINE, ANAKIN steps in and cuts off the Jedi’s hand holding the lightsaber.
As MACE stares at ANAKIN in shock, PALPATINE springs to life.
The full force of Palpatine’s powerful Bolts blasts MACE. He attempts to deflect them with his one good hand, but the force is too great. As blue rays engulf his body, he is flung out the window and falls twenty stories to his death. No more screams. No more moans. PALPATINE lowers his arm.
PALPATINE: Power! Unlimited power!
His face has changed into a horrible mask of evil. ANAKIN looks on in horror. PALPATINE cackles.
ANAKIN: What have I done?
Hence, its not as simple as just “defending” the right to a trial. There’s a bit more there.
“Even worse for the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father and their chosen messiah, is won over by democratic values. Anakin becomes so keen to distance himself from the cult that has tried to brainwash him since childhood that he dons a Subcomandante Marcos mask and renames himself Darth Vader.”
Well, he doesn’t completely distance himself. He still accepts The Force but just in a different form. In this way he is a religious warrior who will serve an authoritarian Empire and/or the Emperor. So, NO he is not “won over by democratic values.” Don’t you remember when he KILLS all those Jedi in the Jedi Temple literally. Isn’t that basically a religious massacre or what is called a pogrom? Come on now.
“He then aggressively, and for a time successfully, tries to purge the Jedi from the halls of power, making him a champion of the separation of church and state. Which, in my books, is a good thing.”
There never really was a state religion, hence there can’t be a separation of church and state. No one was EVER forced to believed in The Force. It was almost like the Jedi were like high-level thinkers or philosopher kings to some extent, except that they didn’t really have political power but had political prestige.
“By the time we get to Luke Skywalker, democracy is everywhere and things might have gone well, except no one could have anticipated just how ruthless Luke Skywalker would be. Luke was probably moisture farmer on Tatooine as much as George Bush was a Texan rancher. No, Luke was a demagogue laying in wait.”
I really don’t think that was accurate at all. There definitely isn’t democracy everywhere. The Republic at least had a Senate of some value. However, the Empire has a useless and mock-powerful Senate which is abolished in Episode 4. Of not is an episode of the new Star Wars animated series, Star Wars Rebels where Vader orders the burning of a city (Tarkintown) on one of the character’s home planets, Lothal in order to spread fear. Then there was the massacre, which has a My Lai quality, of the town’s inhabitants and the destruction of the town in the newest Star Wars movie as noted in this screenplay:
“Lor San Tekka moves sadly through the village as STORMTROOPERS wielding FLAME THROWERS destroy structures. Surrendering Villagers are ROUNDED UP. Penned ANIMALS panic…The Troopers and villagers in battle — as one Trooper is HIT and goes down. Another — OUR TROOPER — KNEELS to help. The hit trooper raises a torn, bloody glove — his HUMAN HAND visible — and MARKS OUR STORMTROOPER’S MASK WITH BLOOD just before he dies. Our Trooper, stands — overwhelmed by the battle.”
Then this goes on.
“The Skywalker name gives Luke the backing of the Jedi, but they need the money and resources of the monarchists and land owners to fund the Jedi’s jihad against the secular government. To convince the monarchists to come along, Luke and his cohorts concocted this whole story about how he discovered a weapon of mass destruction that only he could destroy. How convenient.”
No, they didn’t concoct the story. Come on. If the Empire is secular, it is a murderous secular state. Who would want to support that?
“Was there really a death star? Everyone who supposedly witnessed a planet being destroyed by a “death star” are all dead now, except, by no coincidence, for Luke’s sister.”
Um, all the rebel pilots saw the death star. Anyway, at the end of Episode 3 the Death Star was under construction and the Geonosians were apparently constructing it or at least had the plans for its construction in Episode 2.
“It was Luke and the Jedi cabal who blew up Alderaan! It was a galactic Reichstag Fire , Gulf of Tonkin , Manchurian railway in space. Great disturbance in the force my ass. It was a great disturbance by the force!”
This isn’t what actually happened and the writer of the original post knows this. It WAS the Empire that blew up the planet. Its almost sarcasm at this point.
“The monarchists were convinced, and supplied Luke with all the resources he need to launch his bloody coup d’état . Luke then makes a huge display of blowing up a star base that could have been a medicine factory for all we know, and the monarchists adorn him with medals for his “Mission Accomplished” moment, which, like similar moments , was only the beginning of the bloodshed.”
Um, it wasn’t a medicine factory. Also, they once again were NOT monarchists. And yes, the end of Episode 4 could said the reminiscent of Nazi rallies, but this was convincingly more the case in the newest Star Wars movie with a rally of the First Order. Seriously, those First Order folks were fascists.
“The final twist of the propaganda knife is claiming that his father renounced democracy just before dying. Again, anyone on the second death star who might have witnessed Vader sacrificing the emperor in an act of atonement to his son – they’re all dead now too.”
This is ridiculous. How is a system that is led by an EMPEROR a democracy? What movies did you watch? Jeez this is so far off that all I can do is laugh.
“That’s how Luke rolls. He kills all witnesses.”
Um no he doesn’t. He blows up the first Death Star, sure, but NOT the second one which is blown up by the Rebel starfleet. Also, the second Death Star killed people on the two ships it destroyed with its blasts to show off its power.
“The whole Star Wars series is Ayatollah Skywalker’s whitewashed history of his brutal ascent to power. It’s his Triumph of the Will !”
Gosh this is getting ridiculous. Skywalker, once again did NOT hold a leading position in the Alliance but was just one of the best fighters. Come on now.
“It even explains the terrible storytelling set against incredible scenery. I mean, it’s a state sponsored propaganda film. It has all the brilliant special effects of a Chinese Olympic opening ceremony , but the stilted story telling of a North Korean news report . Even in the very production of the films the historical revisionism is hinted at. I mean, we all know that the free market neocon mercenary Han Solo shot Greedo first, but even that detail got suppressed to support the official state narrative.”
What? It isn’t a state propaganda film. It is also is not like Chinese or DPRK news reports or ceremonies. Sure, Han Solo could be considered a “free market neocon mercenary.” However, from what I remember the movie NEVER says that Greedo shot first or is this detail expressed. Come on. Jabba the Hut, the head of the underground criminal network, is mad Greedo is killed but that’s about it.
“If it’s the case that the whole Star Wars series is a post modern metacontextual propaganda for the Skywalker regime, then maybe George Lucas is a brilliant writer working on so many more levels than we’ve even discovered yet!”
You got to be kidding me. There was NO “Skywalker regime.” There was just two rightist forces fighting each other. Additionally, the Rebellion was almost a tent for those of different viewpoints. However, it is evident that neither of the forces fighting each other can be seen as truly part of the Left.
I’ll agree that movie was horrible. I’m not sure if calling Lucas a hack is fair though even though I think he was broadly a conservative and wanted to reinforce “traditional” values coming from the 1950s from what I’ve read.
“Still, we’ve got the story we’ve got, the most deceptive and seductive pro-fascist narrative ever written. The Jedi mind trick has been played on all of us. “This is not the hero’s journey you were looking for.””
I just don’t agree with this at all. Considering the faulty interpretations elsewhere, this is just totally wrong. Yes, the six major movies have a conservative element and reinforces traditionalism along with arguably patriarchalism. The same could be said about the new movie, but there is some level of a corrective with a female lead character (Rey) and a black stormtrooper who refuses to commit a war crime, an equivalent of the My Lai massacre, named Finn. The same could be said about the new Star Wars Rebels series which has a number of female characters even know the cast is still male-dominated, and the second animated clone wars series, not necessarily the first one.
“So… I’m not a Star Wars fan anymore. If it ever happens again that I see that scene where Luke is going down the trench, I’ll still get tense… but I’ll be cheering for Vader.”
Good for you. Cheer for an authoritarian empire, which is kinda fascist just from the name of its footsoldiers: stormtroopers. How about cheering for NEITHER side since both sides are kinda rightist? Just an idea.
While I think that comedian Dave Gutteridge makes some valid points about the Star Wars, but his makes a number of conclusions which are not based on evidence from the series itself (ex: that the Empire is a democracy or that Jedi are theocrats). I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, but I just think there are a number of fundamental issues that he gets totally wrong as I note above. Perhaps I interpreted this all wrong and he is trying to be really really sarcastic but I sincerely doubt it.
Some additional thoughts
There are a number of historical analogies one could make in relation to the Star Wars series. Tom Engelhardt, argued in one written piece that George Lucas challenged the view that Americans shouldn’t be reminded about the Vietnam war, “decontaminating war of its recent history through a series of inspired cinematic decisions that rescued crucial material from the wreckage of Vietnam.” Engelhart continues by rightly pointing out that Lucas started the Star Wars series in its “own self-enclosed universe in deepest space and in an amorphous movie past…an era of civil war, an evil empire, rebels, an ultimate weapon, a struggle for freedom” and that “he uncoupled the audience from a legacy of massacre and atrocity” with Skywalker’s family suffering “its own My Lai,” He writes that this allows the audience and Luke to “set off on an anti-imperial venture as the victimized, not as victimizers” and that later on, “Lucas’s white teenage rebels would glide effortlessly among the natives. They would learn from value-superior Third World mystics…and be protected by ecological fuzzballs like the Ewoks.” Engelhart writes that after the 1970s, “Star Wars-like themes also began to penetrate the world of adult entertainment” and this allowed G.I. Joe to be reintroduced along with other “action figures” to released as Star Wars knock offs.
While Englehart makes valid points, I think it important to recognize the different interpretations of Star Wars before putting forward my own analysis. Steven Belletto and Daniel Grausam argue that the film quickly undermines the reading that it is critical of the United States, saying that Episode IV’s premise “associates the Rebels with Western settlers and heroes” and then populates the Empire “with soldiers and henchmen outfited for a Stanlist regime.”  They further argue, on the same page, that the movie also puts forward the idea that the West is represented by “technologically inferior Rebels” rather than an invading war machine, which revives the narrative that “the South Vietnamese Army comprised the freedom fighters” and that the North Vietnamese were “agents of a monolithic, evil, Communist empire set on world domination.” In writing about Episode 5, Belletto and Grausam argue that the movie is just “dumbed down Emerson” and claiming that Yoda has a resemblance to Reagan.  They argue that for Episode 6, Luke is an “optimistic Reaganite” who continues to underestimate the power of the Dark Side, that the Rebels aren’t for freedom from the Empire’s grasp but they want to supplant it as the governing force of the galaxy.  They later write that there is the triumph of the Rebels in episode 6 means that class distinctions are dissolved, with nobility, who they describe as Luke and Leia, along with Ewok and Wookies participating, meaning that, in their interpretation, “the Eastern establishment and European aristocracy acknowledge their appreciation for the lone ranger, just as he acknowledges his commitment to their benevolent monarchy.”  Belletto and Grausum also write that three patriarchs, redeemed Vader, Yoda and Obi-Wan, in their interpretation, return in Episode 6 at the end “to celebrate this marriage of Western adventurism [symbolized by Han Solo] and Eastern monarchy that confirm the union’s implicit hierarchy as part of the natural order.” 
Then, there’s Stephen McVeigh who looks at what the engine that drives the Star Wars narrative. He argues that the original trilogy (episodes 4-6) constitutes ” a post-Vietnam critique of military superiority whereby a technological superpower is defeated by smaller, more humanized forces” and that the films present “a dual reading of U.S. military might” as either a “morally bankrupt oppressor” or that U.S. interests and actions are just.  He also argues that while some critics tend to argue that the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany is represented by the Empire, that “the dark truth at the core of Lucas’s evil Empire is that it presents a version of America itself” and that the Star Wars movies are more than about posturing of Cold War superpowers, and by recognizing “that the rebels and Empire are one and the same side” only does Lucas’s mission come to the surface.  He goes on beyond this, but this alone is worth mentioning.
It is worth mentioning, last but not least that there is a group of writers that assert that Star Wars is related to Vietnam, as Englehart alluded to. McVeigh writes that Star Wars Episode 4 has to be seen in light of the Vietnam War and that instead of detailing the horrors of Vietnam, he “decided to offer a balm…ramp [of] the mythic landscape that had been so badly traumatized by American involvement in the war in Southeast Asia.”  His mission, as the writers argue, is to repair “the damage done by the Vietnam War on the American people.”  McVeigh also writes than later also argue that Episode 1 fit into fears of U.S. culture (conspiracy and paranoia) and that the relevance of Star Wars to “stories that connect to become an account of passage of American self-concept through the aftermath of Vietnam” assures the series a “unique place within American popular culture.”  Other than McVeigh, Dan Rubey argues that Episode 4 uses “an image ourselves from the past,” referring to dogfights during WWII which Lucas used as a basis for fights in the Star Wars movies, and that it has direct relation to Vietnam.  He also writes that the film feeds on the feelings of the audience of frustration along with numerous desires (escape, mobility, and power) and satisfies them with a good/evil dichotomy, numerous metaphors and endorse “traditional structures of racism, sexism and social hierarchy that have helped to create and maintain those frustrations.”  The same write also argues that Lucas has a “conservative ideological bias,” that Star Wars is a “chivalric romance plot” that is about power of the Force which is gendered as male, that the Rebels are restorers of the old order, and that “Lucas dooms Star Wars to repeat all the ideological cliches of our society” 
These assessments are validated in numerous ways by the franchise itself. In one Lucasfilm book titled Star Wars and History, Vietnam is mentioned 19 times. More directly are sections from J. W. Rinzle’s The Making of Star Wars (Enhanced Edition). In the book, it says that George Lucas originally wanted to make Apocalypse Now, which is as any viewers know, a very antiwar and anti-Vietnam War film. As Rinzle writes in a section titled “Vietnam Wars in Space,” “the Vietnam War was just too controversial” meaning that Lucas, who was apparently poor and in debt, turned to an unnamed science fiction project which became Star Wars. In the book, Rinzle quotes Lucas as saying he had “very strong feelings” about Apocalypse Now, implying that Star Wars was about the Vietnam War with political ideas he was going to put in that movie going into Star Wars.  The most telling quote from Lucas which basically confirms that Star Wars is about reclaiming the Vietnam War (with “selective” concepts) is as follows:
“A lot of my interest in Apocalypse Now was carried over into Star Wars. I figured that I couldn’t make that film because it was about the Vietnam War, so I would essential deal with some of the same interesting concepts that I was going to use and convert them into space fantasy, so you’d have essentially a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters or human beings.”
I could go on and mention numerous other books that mention how Star Wars is a reflection on the Vietnam War. However, I think it best to give my other thoughts at this present time. The argument that the Rebels and the Empire are just two sides of the same coin, representing different elements of the United States, is relatively convincing.  I was thinking about this today and if the Empire represented the Soviet Union, the process of events doesn’t make much sense. I say that because there was no major military defeat of the Soviet Union by the United States before the 1970s, which would be represented by the Death Star’s explosion, and America was not defeated by the Soviet Union as they were by the Empire at the beginning of Episode 5. This would get even more confusing because the Empire was originally a Galactic Republic, which Russia was NOT before the Russian revolution of 1917. I also thought that maybe Episode 1 referred to WWI and that the Clone Wars referred to WWII but in terms of the events that happened in Star Wars, this doesn’t make much sense either. Neither does the destruction of the Death Star refer to the Korean War or the battle of Hoth in episode 5 refer to the Bay of Pigs invasion (and disaster), as one could think.
Still, there are a number of important observations to make and I don’t need to read the Star Wars and Philosophy book in order to assert them. Both forces, “good” and “evil,” are arguably right-wing. The Galactic Republic in episodes 1-3 is basically a bourgeois democracy, the Trade Federation in episodes 1-3 which was “an interstellar shipping and trade conglomerate,” while the CIS in episodes 2-3 is a confederacy led by a Sith lord. It is also possible that Lucas is condemning certain ideas since, as noted in this Wookiepedia entry, the trade groups that supported the CIS’s cause were nationalized by the Galactic Empire. As for the Rebels in episodes 4-6, they were, as noted earlier, an authoritarian government that aimed to bring back the bourgeois democracy of the Galactic Republic (of which they succeeded in Episode 6). Then, the Empire is obviously a fascist force which is authoritarian in nature as well. The same dynamic is the case in the newest Star Wars movie with the First Order as obviously fascist and after the New Republic, which representing the bourgeois democracy, is destroyed, the Resistance is just like the Rebels.
After reading through these different books on the subject, I am more critical than ever of the series. Still, I guess unlike Gutteridge and others, I guess I still have some hope in the Star Wars series and think that it has at least some value due to its deeply problematic aspects. But, this hope could obviously be shattered into many pieces, and that is why I look forward to your comments on this issue. In the end, I plan to write another article on this topic but I hope that this is the beginning of a more critical approach to the Star Wars series which is lauded too often, especially after the recent movie.
 Belletto, Steven and Grausam, Daniel. American Literature and Culture in an Age of Cold War: A Critical Reassessment. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2012. 197.
 Ibid, 198-9.
 Ibid, 200, 203.
 Ibid, 205.
 Ibid, 206-7.
 Sweet, Derek R. Star Wars in the Public Square: The Clone Wars as Political Dialogue. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015. 8.
 McVeigh, Stephen. The Galactic Way of Warfare. Finding the Force of the Star Wars Franchise: Fans, Merchandise, & Critics (ed. Matthew Kapell and John Shelton Lawrence). New York: Peter Lang, 2006. 38.
 Ibid, 39.
 Ibid, 46, 54.
 Rubey, Dan. No So Long Ago nor Far Away: New Variations on Old Themes and Questioning Star Wars‘ Revival of Heroic Archetypes. Myth, Media, and Culture in Star Wars: An Anthology (ed Douglas Brode and Leah Deyneka). Lanham: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 2012. 51.
 Ibid, 52
 Ibid, 53, 57-8, 63.
 The book also notes that Vietnam, along with conflicts and government affected his thinking about the series. Also, in one part of the book it reprints a telling quote from a legal pad he used when writing ideas for the original movie which shows he is not necessarily against American empire: “Theme: Aquilae is a small independent country like North Vietnam threatened by a neighbor or provincial rebellion, instigated by gangsters aided by empire. Fight to get rightful planet back. Half of the system has been lost to gangsters…The empire is like America ten years from now, after gangsters assassinated the Emperor and were elevated to power in a rigged election…We are at a turning point: fascism or revolution.” Elsewhere the book quotes Lucas as saying that the movie is a reflection on the Vietnam War: “to not make a decision is a decision…what usually happens is a small minority stands up against it, and the major portion are a lot of indifferent people who aren’t doing anything one way or the other. And by not accepting the responsibility, those people eventually have to confront the issue in a more painful way, which is essentially what happened in the United States with the Vietnam War.”
 Also, since there is the division of the galaxywide religion of the Force which is divided into “light” and “dark”, Jedi and Sith, it is clear once again that we are talking about two sides of the same coin.