In case anybody is concerned, this isn’t a terribly serious post. It’s one of those pretentious thought experiments that tend to get people riled up for no discernible reason. But…
I have a weird little theory that the prequels reconfigure our political understanding of the Star Wars original trilogy consistent with George Lucas’ changing views. Oooooh eeeeer, controversial.
When Lucas was creating the original trilogy, he was the relatively unknown newcomer. He was a bright young gun challenging authority and shaking the establishment. The story was of Luke Skywalker, a relatively unknown newcomer who was a bright young gun who decided to join up with a rebellion to challenge authority and shake the establishment. The story included a princess falling in love with a smuggler while they fought against the Emperor and his stormtroopers.
When Lucas was creating the prequel trilogy, he was a wealthy, well-known director-producer with his own little media empire. The story was of Anakin Skywalker, a sulky, angsty, whiny, awkward adolescent who can’t accept the wisdom of the Jedi teachings and traditions. When the mores and customs of the Republic are challenged, Jar Jar Binks ends up in the Senate and everything goes a bit fascist.
Now watch the whole hexology through from beginning to end. It’s about the authority of tradition being challenged, everything going pants, and then the remnants of the traditional old ways indoctrinating a new generation to restore the glorious past.
It’s a conservative parable. Sure, progressive attacks on conservative tradition might sound sexy and glamorous. Sure, they might appeal to your adolescent issues with authority. But if you go down that path you end up with children being slaughtered for no particular reason and women dying in childbirth. Plus that whole fascism thing.
Key scenes from the original trilogy support this reading:
Ben hands Luke the saber.
LUKE: What is it?
BEN: Your fathers lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not
as clumsy or as random as a blaster.
Luke pushes a button on the handle. A long beam shoots out
about four feet and flickers there. The light plays across the
BEN: An elegant weapon for a more civilized time. For over a thousand
generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice
in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire. [Source: A New Hope]
Oh, wow. This movie isn’t about a progressive future where women can have jobs other than ‘Stripper in Jabba’s Palace’. This is about an appeal to the ideals and values of the medieval past. Guns and technology? Forget it, Luke. What you need is the weapon used by several thousand generations of our monastic order which acts spookily like the Catholic Church.
Meanwhile, on the Death Star:
MOTTI: Don’t try to frighten us with your sorcerer’s ways, Lord Vader.
Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you conjure
up the stolen data tapes, or given you clairvoyance enough to find the
Rebel’s hidden fort…
Suddenly Motti chokes and starts to turn blue under Vader’s
VADER: I find your lack of faith disturbing. [Ibid.]
Vader isn’t choking Motti for insubordination. Vader is choking Motti because he still sees himself as the progressive hero from the prequel trilogy: Motti is reminding him that he used to be part of ‘that ancient religion’. The only fitting punishment for reminding a progressive that their ideals and values are predicated on traditions and customs is a force choking.
If we adopt this conservative reading of the Star Wars hexology (and we should, because it’s obviously correct and not at all ridiculous), we are rewarded a better understanding of why there’s only one African American with speaking lines in the original trilogy, why ability to succeed is based on inherited attributes, why — despite entire galaxies being at war — it’s all over when three men have a fight in a throne room, and (again) why the greatest concentration of women in the Star Wars galaxy is in Jabba’s palace.
Search your feelings. You know it to be true.