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What Are The Values and Politics of ‘Star Wars’?

What Are The Values and Politics of 'Star Wars'?

The Force Awakens

Disney Studios

In a Paris
still paralyzed by the attacks of 11/13, the bulldozer marketing campaign of “the
Force awakens” is being rolled out on everything from water bottles to children’s
Christmas chocolate calendars. France being among the select countries where
the film premieres December 16th, Parisian publications and
institutions alike are shifting gear to prove the country worthy of the two day
sneak premiere. Aside from the omnipresent nerdy rants, there is a serious
intellectual discussion in French media; what are the values and politics of
Star Wars?


Fact is
that the buzz has even penetrated the bastion which is the Louvre, where Mona
Lisa has been joined by one of the original Darth Vader masks since October,
where it is a part of an exhibition on the great human creation myths. Very
ironically, one is not allowed take photos and send Snapchats you’ve always
wanted to send of the latter. And to further enhance this Guerre des Étoiles
craze, the magazine Philosophie Magazine dedicated their entire last issue to
dissecting the morals of this galaxy far, far away. This comes from a magazine
that usually puts Nietzsche or philosophy’s relation with communism on front
page.

Although the
lion’s share is dominated by profound existential dilemmas such as how the dark
side of the Force, much like Yin and Yang, needs to exist in order to create
balance, a chunk does bring up the often progressive political agenda of the
two trilogies. In a discussion spanning several pages, the rapper Akhénaton and
philosopher Raphaël Enthoven are drawing lines between the sexual liberation
and the increasing divorce rates of the 70’s to some of the key scenes in
Episode IV. The scene where Obi-Wan famously surrenders to Darth Vader is in
their eyes representing the eternal debate regarding the adoptive versus the
biological parent, where the false victory of Darth Vader in reality is a
confirmation that adoptive father has completed his work.

Albeit a
very abstract example on how George Lucas might have decided to comment on
current affairs through his galactic narrative, giving the prequel trilogy a
quick gaze reveals an abundance of sharp, concrete criticism. In the waves of
9/11, terrorism and unrest nestles its way into the story in the shape of
various attempts to assassinate Padmé in Episode II. The passing of the Patriot
Act gives us a very unsettling backdrop to Palpatine’s conversion of the
Republic to the Galactic Empire, argumenting that it is for the sake of “safety
and stability”. That chimes awfully familiar. Even more refined, and relevant
in our day and age, is the fact that the dark side of the Force has happened to
find allies in all domains of the corporate sphere during the galactic civil
war (the Trade Federation, the Commerce Guild, the Banking clan etc.)

The
conservative watchdog Fox News wasn’t late to comment on this painfully
accurate display of 21st century power structures when they in May
2005 published an article further underlining that Star Wars reflects political
ideals. To no surprise they use the Empire as an example of Big Government,
with its many regulations, nationalized industries, and taxes – “…just think
about the taxes necessary to keep the Empire functioning, the storm troopers
fed and the star destroyers and the Death Star flying.” The conclusion is that the
ordinary, freedom-loving supporters of the rebellion would’ve voted for tax
reliefs and the Republican party if they were eligible US voters.

Looking one month ahead, what critical comments
can be expected this time around? Firstly, Star Wars has far from a stellar
record when it comes to the representation of anything but white males. For
instance the saga has only had room for two female leads across its six
episodes, and the fact that the one died while giving birth to the other is,
when put in this perspective, tragicomical. On the subject of racial diversity,
a statistical compilation made by fan site eleven-thirtyeight.com shows us that
out of the 48.4 % of the times when a human was given traits, subtracting
whites and unknowns, only 7 % of the characters remain. After a quick scan of
the cast, and the allotted space in the poster, there are signs of slight
improvement with Daisy Riley starring alongside Carrie Fisher and John Boyega
being given a prominent character. But thinking that Star Wars would pick up on
the feminist currents in western popular culture would be deceiving yourself
(also remembering that the wife of Harrisson Ford, Calista Flockhart aka. Ally
McBeal, was once declared to be the death of the ideology by Time Magazine).
LGBTQ presence in this distant universe can be summarized by the recent release
of the first major homosexual hero, not to discourage the initiative, hidden
away in a book set between Episode VI and VII.

Will we see a galaxy plagued by austerity and
political instability? Economic shortcomings and distrust towards authorities,
as present as they are here, will most likely reflect in an extraterrestrial
world rising from the ashes of the Empire. Look at post-Soviet Europe where
hopes of a bright, peaceful future never have felt more distant with the
background of Russia’s military ambitions and repressive domestic agenda. Not
to mention thickening ranks of right-extremists sending a creepy throwback to
the 1930’s in the same continent. All of these contemporary phenomenons do
align with what can be expected of The Force Awakens when it hits the screens –
a fragile world still haunted by its malignant past.

This Article is related to: Features