There was never an Empire there was never a rebellion
July 16, 2016 9:00 AM   Subscribe

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, we see for the first time a full Rebel Alliance fleet; vast blobby spaceships to rival the Empire’s. Aren’t warships expensive? Who’s funding these people? Consider that when we see that fleet, it’s positioned outside the Galaxy. There’s a name for groups like the Rebel Alliance. Not freedom fighters, but Contras, right-wing death squads.
Smash the Force
posted by griphus (123 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
And we are always at war with the outer rim territories.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:07 AM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


Such predictable insurgent claptrap, wabbitwax-- truly, you are a shameless rimmer.
posted by Construction Concern at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Han engaged in counter-revolution first!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:17 AM on July 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


OK. Having read TFA (not The Force Awakens, the other thing), I question the writer's ill-supported thesis. They say Joseph Campbell was wrong, but do a pretty poor job of explaining how he was wrong.
But all this assumes that Campbell’s story really is universal and absolute, something that precedes culture and ideology. Which it isn’t: it’s the product of an antisemite’s ecumenicalism, the kind of syncretic cultural milkshake that Umberto Eco describes as the first condition of fascism.
Really? That's all you've got? Campbell was an anti-semite and Umberto Eco said something about fascism one time? Those things may be true, but they don't really have any impact on Campbell's idea of the Hero's Journey.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:18 AM on July 16, 2016 [30 favorites]


I approve of this analysis. I am only sorry it did not exist about 20 years ago, when I would have had a chance to argue about it at length in a smoke-filled room semi-officially granted for student union use.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:19 AM on July 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


truly, you are a shameless rimmer.

If you can't rim without shame, there's no point in rimming at all.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:19 AM on July 16, 2016 [54 favorites]


Those things may be true, but they don't really have any impact on Campbell's idea of the Hero's Journey.

Considering this is Jacobin and Sam Kriss, I suspect they're expecting the audience to be at least a bit familiar with the failings and criticisms of Campbell and the monomyth/hero's journey.
posted by griphus at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


That was fun but this crack in the deadpan is like a hole letting in a draft:

All this is perfectly demonstrated in the sadly underappreciated Star Wars prequels.
posted by thelonius at 9:27 AM on July 16, 2016 [26 favorites]


I'm all for deconstructing Star Wars, but come on.

The story of the hero and the great evil can admit no particularities; the Galactic Empire doesn’t have anything as crude as an actual name;

The Galactic Empire's name is exactly as descriptive of the Roman Empire, which is hardly a surprise since the fall of the Roman Republic is clearly one of the things at the front of Lucas' mind as he put the whole thing together. This is also why there are references to support within the Senate, which the writer finds so disturbing.

the Rebel Alliance isn’t burdened by anything so weighty as an explicit ideology

Of course a writer for Jacobin would think resistance needs an explicit ideology.

I really, really prefer David Brin's deconstruction, which hits on a lot of the same points without the tiresome Jacobinism
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2016 [20 favorites]


Sam Kriss' career is essentially the conceit of Ian F. Svenonius' The Psychic Soviet extended into an ongoing franchise.
posted by acb at 9:37 AM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


I agree that this author isn't taking seriously enough the movie with the laser sword.
posted by beerperson at 9:40 AM on July 16, 2016 [37 favorites]


That's the exact opposite of my beef with the author.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:42 AM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Thankfully there's no reason to worry that the author might not be taking himself seriously enough.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:45 AM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


The Galactic Empire's name is exactly as descriptive of the Roman Empire, which is hardly a surprise since the fall of the Roman Republic is clearly one of the things at the front of Lucas' mind as he put the whole thing together.

Which means, had Palpatine emerged victorious from the Galactic Civil War, he would have ushered in 40 years of Pax Galactica. Thanks Skywalker!
posted by leotrotsky at 9:47 AM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm no Star Wars fan, but even I know that they borrowed the ships from the Alliance.
posted by Automocar at 9:47 AM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought this was pretty neat, and I tend not to be the world's biggest Jacobin fan.

1. I thought the part about the border zones and the hollowness of the Empire was quite perceptive and kind of funny.

2. Personally, I like it when people are all "here is a simplified reading of this bit of Hegel", both because it contextualizes things for me and because it makes me more likely, over the long haul, to actually read Hegel.

3. I often like the little asides about "and Adorno said [thing]" - they usually expand my knowledge of people like Adorno where I've read some of their work but certainly not the majority.

4. Perhaps it's my fanfic background, but I'm cool with multiple AUs. This is the AU where it's all Hegel; you can have your AU where it's...not Hegel?

Since I'm leading a discussion today that will be in part about swashy-buckly fantasy and how world-building is done, this has really primed me with some interesting questions about core and periphery and borders, and reminded me of a useful bit of Franco Moretti we ought to look at for next time.
posted by Frowner at 9:51 AM on July 16, 2016 [14 favorites]




Rimmer!
posted by ennui.bz at 10:03 AM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Wait, what? Is this true? I thought for sure the movies talk about the force having light and dark sides.

I just checked all three screenplays. "Dark side" appears a bunch but the phrase "light side" does not appear at all. I didn't check all the instances of "light" tho bc "lightsaber" clogs that up.
posted by griphus at 10:04 AM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Some of this can only be put down to the fact that pop culture is intrinsically fascist

Guys. I have some bad news about that hokey escapist space fantasy with the laser swords, and also everything else that you enjoy.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 10:05 AM on July 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


Oh post modernism: don't ever change!

This is fun because it's just art, but in passing, it's kind of disturbing to consider this sort of retconning/reinterpretation of well established narratives exercises the same mental muscles that politicos, dishonest marketers, dictators and propagandists use to manipulate people. I feel a little dirty and reactionary even pointing that out as an aside, but it's true, isn't it? How much more complicated do human relationships become, I wonder, when we start applying the facility to dramatically reinterpret events as a form of play so much it becomes second nature?

(...stops taking fun and silly thing too seriously now; eats plate of beans instead of picking at them...)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:07 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I mean, I always sort of suspected that Ariana Grande was a crypto-fascist.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 10:08 AM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


(I actually totally agree that the hero myth stinks of protofascism...)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:09 AM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


I was gonna make some parody Ariana Grande lyrics but it turns out both of her songs I knew are actually by Selena Gomez so someone else will have to do it.
posted by griphus at 10:10 AM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Guys. I have some bad news about that hokey escapist space fantasy with the laser swords, and also everything else that you enjoy.

To be fair, the "young man with unusual abilities destined to grow into great power and authority" is pretty much a fascist trope. It's one of the reasons that you can't fight fascism with superheroes, because you are just replacing overmen, not erasing them.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:12 AM on July 16, 2016 [27 favorites]


That's why I like Squirrel Girl, she is like the least fascist superhero ever.
posted by rikschell at 10:23 AM on July 16, 2016 [28 favorites]


To be fair, the "young man with unusual abilities destined to grow into great power and authority" is pretty much a fascist trope.

To also be fair, Star Wars passes on the latter half of that. The young man with unusual abilities grows into great power, and appears to sidestep authority, leaving that sort of thing to other people while he wanders off and deals with personal business.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 10:30 AM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


The awards scene at the end of A New Hope is famously a copy of a scene in the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, but with Luke, Han, and Chewie instead of Hitler and his cronies. I wish I could make myself believe that this was a conscious attempt by Lucas to subvert his hero narrative by likening the rebels to nazis, and not just something he did because he thought it was a cool shot.
posted by surlyben at 10:35 AM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Not to derail, but the existence of propaganda, awards ceremonies, and overmen does not make fascisim. It's the actual actions that are taken, and the organization of thise things into directed activity that makes facisim, no?

And as to what makes the Galactic Empire evil, I dunno, there was that one scene where the blew up a planet of some 10 billion odd people...
posted by herda05 at 10:44 AM on July 16, 2016 [21 favorites]


"Light side" is (decades later) mentioned in the force awakens. Not sure about the prequels.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:46 AM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


And as to what makes the Galactic Empire evil, I dunno, there was that one scene where the blew up a planet of some 10 billion odd people..

Those ten billion people seemed pretty normal to me.
posted by azpenguin at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


During Luke's training on Dagobah there's this little bit of dialogue (I'm not sure if I've remembered it perfectly but it's close enough)

LUKE: Is the dark side stronger?

YODA: No. Quicker, easier, more seductive

LUKE: but how am I to know the good side from the bad?

YODA: You will know when you are calm and at peace ....

That's about as close as it gets to specifically mentioning the "light side."
posted by wabbittwax at 10:53 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


The hero with a thousand faces has evolved, for the 21st century, into the ragtag crew of motley friends who save Manhattan from a vast array of outlandish monsters.
posted by miyabo at 11:13 AM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


/dons Star Wars nerd-pedant hat.

Yeah, I have some quibbles with this guy's hot take.

As any good student of Mao knows, a revolutionary movement can only succeed if it wins the trust of the people; holding territory is a game played by the State, not those trying to overthrow it.


Seriously? The Rebel Alliance is at no point "holding" territory; they are hiding from the Empire on deserted planets, and as soon as they are found they make no attempt to continue to hold their territory but rather try to make a hasty retreat as quickly as possible. Revolutionaries who are driven out into the remote hills is not exactly one without historical precedent; just look at the last few decades of Afghanistan's history. Given the Empire's blatant, callous disregard for the value of sentient life, it's easy to see that attempts to take shelter amongst the people would've been met with brutal, indiscriminate force. The Rebels, who do value the lives of the people, would've been forced to flee to uninhabited lands simply to avoid endangering the lives of sympathetic non-combatants.

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, we see for the first time a full Rebel Alliance fleet; vast blobby spaceships to rival the Empire’s. Aren’t warships expensive? Who’s funding these people? Consider that when we see that fleet, it’s positioned outside the Galaxy. There’s a name for groups like the Rebel Alliance. Not freedom fighters, but Contras, right-wing death squads.

The Rebel Alliance fleet was miniscule compared to the Imperial navy; it had the advantage, as any good insurgent movement does, of being able to choose a battlefield and focus all of its assets at that one location (although gathering its forces together must've been a dangerous and risky logistical undertaking; no surprise that they would've been forced to gather outside the galaxy itself), while the Imperial Navy was scattered thin, attempting to hold a galaxy-sized swath of territory. As for funding, the majority of the Rebel fleet is actually repurposed non-combat ships (much like the British fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada); even the Mon Calamari cruisers that comprise the bulk of the fleet in the scene he describes were originally designed as passenger ships and transports. Indeed, the fact that the Rebels were able to assemble such a fleet at all is evidence of exactly the popular support that Mr. Kriss insists the Rebels don't have.

The Empire rules the entire galaxy, but all we see are border zones: corrupt, bandit-strewn scrubworlds; autonomous mining colonies; planets inhabited only by storms and monsters; bucolic pre-agricultural fantasies. There are warships and soldiers, thousands even, but that only proves the existence of a border, not anything on the other side. The Empire is all hollow inside, it’s nothing more than its own border.


The fact that all we see are border zones, and that these border zones are inhabited only by criminals, miners, monsters, and rural redneck farmers does not disprove the existence of a central core, but rather proves it must exist. Much like in Firefly, the suffocating weight of the authoritarian regime at the center is precisely what forces all the action of the films to take place out on the fringes. The core planets, full of the ordinary law-abiding, peace-and-security-loving citizens, are the fertile ground for fascism from which the Empire draws its strength. There is no room on those planets for criminals, revolutionaries, or conflict, and so our story cannot take place there. (Note that this is *not* true of the prequels, which show the rise of that fascism and have much more action set on the central planets.)

If you have shipyards, why build your weapons platform off the forest moon of Endor?

Same reasons the U.S. Airforce's top-secret bases are out in the ass-end of Nevada and places like that, one would imagine. Development of horrifying weapons of mass destruction tends to get done well out of the public eye.

The Jedi...are shown marching into battle alongside the armies of proto-Stormtroopers as they wage a war of extermination against some poorly defined separatists, whose view that the Republic is essentially evil turns out to be absolutely correct.

No, the poorly-defined separatists were a false-flag operation, manipulated and used precisely to breed fear and compel the citizens of the Republic to give up liberty for security. In the Star Wars universe, 9/11 really is an inside job.

Anyways, it's a rubbish argument that prominently displays absolutely no grasp of the Star Wars universe's political situation, and I've spent far more time poking holes in it than it actually warrants. /doffs hat
posted by mstokes650 at 11:31 AM on July 16, 2016 [105 favorites]


THE EMPIRE NEVER ENDED
posted by benzenedream at 11:32 AM on July 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


Of course there is a light side of the force. How can you have a dark side without the light side ?
posted by Pendragon at 11:38 AM on July 16, 2016


Hello everybody. IT'S A MOVIE! Maybe just enjoy and don't over analyze?
posted by haiku warrior at 11:40 AM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pendragon: Of course there is a light side of the force. How can you have a dark side without the light side ?

Möbius Force?
posted by clawsoon at 11:41 AM on July 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


Does this author know anything about the Star Wars universe? That fleet of rebel warships wasn't much more than retrofitted cruise ships(Mon Calamari), cargo vessels and small frigates. It is like pitting a Carnival Cruiseliner with some guns attached vs the USS Wisconsin aircraft carrier.
Oh and don't get me started about the Imperial's idea of Human High Culture. It is basically cosmic racism that frequently results in genocide against nonhuman races by the Galactic Empire.
posted by Muncle at 11:43 AM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


I’ve not yet seen The Force Awakens, but a few conclusions are already easy to make.

That's like an ur-version of what the intrepid child-philosopher who is immensely confident in his thesis and doesn't want them troubled by evidence would say.
posted by chavenet at 11:50 AM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


mstokes650 - you forgot to end that with an emphatic "Good day, sir."
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:51 AM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Not to mention that, according to the novel New Ruins: Prophets of Justice (still technically canon), the Rebel forces are relocating their base of operations to the Jenovah system, which is famously based off the sayings of Cesar Chavez. Jenovians are probably best-remembered by fans of the movies for the character of Hugo Sitch, who confronts Darth Vidios in the Tarkash Mines at the end of Episode V.5.
posted by beerperson at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


The fact that all we see are border zones, and that these border zones are inhabited only by criminals, miners, monsters, and rural redneck farmers does not disprove the existence of a central core, but rather proves it must exist. Much like in Firefly, the suffocating weight of the authoritarian regime at the center is precisely what forces all the action of the films to take place out on the fringes. The core planets, full of the ordinary law-abiding, peace-and-security-loving citizens, are the fertile ground for fascism from which the Empire draws its strength.

I have a perverse fondness for Jacobin, but not getting this rather basic point illustrates fairly deftly the difference between an ideologue and someone who actually has a working understanding of history. Violence and defiance of centralized authority have spawned in border zones since, like, we've had anything resembling civilized authority. That's why so many tales of adventure are set in those zones!

Also, I'm pretty sure that at least 2913 fanfic writers have done the "what if the Rebellion was the real evil?" before.
posted by praemunire at 12:07 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Even just in the pull quote:

Consider that when we see that fleet, it’s positioned outside the Galaxy. There’s a name for groups like the Rebel Alliance. Not freedom fighters, but Contras, right-wing death squads.

I recall no indication whatsoever for the first statement, and can see no logical connection between that and the conclusion?
posted by kafziel at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


That's like an ur-version of what the intrepid child-philosopher who is immensely confident in his thesis and doesn't want them troubled by evidence would say.

Except his conclusion:

"it’s very likely to be a dull soup of knowing, pseudo-pomo references to the original trilogy, to keep the fans happy; where the prequels tried to extend the story, the sequels will probably only recapitulate it"

is etirely correct? Accusing someone of lacking empirical evidence only works when said evidence shows that they are wrong.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:18 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not to derail, but the existence of propaganda, awards ceremonies, and overmen does not make fascisim. It's the actual actions that are taken, and the organization of thise things into directed activity that makes facisim, no?

Well, capital-F Fascism is authoritarian nationalism developing in the early 20th C with a strong focus on the total organization of the people and economy toward the goals set by the Leader (arguably, the ruling (and only) Party, but focused on a specific leader like Mussolini or Franco). Since a major goal of the Fascist state is homogeneity of political and cultural outlook, propaganda and grand nationalist ceremony was a significant element, and the presence of such ceremonies is reasonable evidence of a small-f fascist direction in the culture (this is why attentive people are usually troubled by overt nationalism).

Anyway, Fascism 9and fascism) are forms of political organization, rather than "evil governments." I suppose it's possible to imagine a "good fascism" which drives toward the Good of all (Alan Moore kind of imagines this in Miracleman, but there it's a cautionary tale). In practice, fascism almost always uses Others to define "the people," which leads invariably to horrific domestic policy and, via imperialism, to horrific foreign policy. Fascism could be used for good the way Frank Miller's Batman fights crime -- only if there is an invested god making sure that the "hero" only hurts the truly evil.

Now, in the Star Wars Universe, it's a little hard to tell, because Lucas was not interested in telling a political story, and his careless and enthusiastic embrace of pulp imagery from the 30s tripped him up more than a few times (fascist ideals were very much in the pulps -- Doc Savage is a great example of a hero who is... actually pretty disturbing when you look at him). Anyway, I think it's reasonable to identify the Empire as fascist (if not Fascist) because of the highly-militarized nature of the society as we see it, the strong hierarchy, and, of course, the person of the Emperor (and the plot of the first Trilogy is meant to evoke the fall of the Roman Republic and its replacement by the nascent Empire under Augusts (also an inspiration for the Fascists, who take their name from a Roman symbol of authority). The First Order, being basically "Empire Lite," pretty much fills the same shoes, although it's not really clear what their political and economic structure is -- they sort of seem to be a fascist military unconnected to a state (a criticism which could be leveled at the Empire as well). The problem comes in when we look at the Rebellion and the New Republic, where the lack of any political information leaves us falling back on the characters -- the leadership seems to be make up of various aristocrats and "people of destiny,"" which, while it makes for fun (if a little cut and paste) heroic story telling, also has a strong whiff of fascist sympathy. Without some sense of the Rebellion's ultimate political and economic goals, one can't make any sort of definite statement, but I wouldn't rule them out at all.

The focus of Fascism (and fascism) on the Leader leads to and arises out of the "Destined Great Man" -- that leadership is conferred on people of special character and power. This aligns well with Absolutist Monarchy, but usually supersedes it (which is why I wouldn't call the Lord of the Rings fascist, although it's a fellow traveler in an older style). Anyway, the focus on the Destined Leader taints all politically-inattentive heroic narratives with fascist sympathy, and this is especially true for superhero stories. It's really hard to tell a superhero narrative with any sort of political engagement without flirting with fascist tropes. The Wachowskis' V for Vendetta is one of the few superhero narratives that explicitly rejects fascism on both narrative and trope levels (something that Moore's comic failed to do).

tl;dr -- the Empire and First Order: almost certainly fascist. The Rebellion: probably not? but given Lucas's bad track record of thinking though the implications of his trope, they deserve a bushel of side-eye.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:21 PM on July 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


So much overthinking.

Star Wars is like a football game.

You need beer, you need junk food. And you need to ignore the dialogue and "plot", for lack of a better word.
posted by ocschwar at 12:25 PM on July 16, 2016


At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, we see for the first time a full Rebel Alliance fleet; vast blobby spaceships to rival the Empire’s. Aren’t warships expensive? Who’s funding these people? Consider that when we see that fleet, it’s positioned outside the Galaxy. There’s a name for groups like the Rebel Alliance. Not freedom fighters, but Contras, right-wing death squads.

But isn't The Empire essentially a military coup? First the Emperor gets populist support in the Senate, enacts a state of emergency and then executes the only other source of political and military power, the Jedi. I had always read the rebel fleet as ships that were from the Republic Navy by those loyal to the Republic. Plus there were presumably some ships belonging to Alderaan (yes, convenient to skip over a genocide for this analysis isn't it?) that are now base-less and part of the "rebel" fleet.

Anyway, an amusing analysis that mostly only reveals its ignorance of numerous on-screen details to counter it.
posted by GuyZero at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is a fun game: Pick a story, any story.
1) Reduce it to a trope.
2) Find a fascist who used or commented on this trope. If you can't find a fascist, use someone who said something offensive at some point that by modern standards would be associated with fascism. Conclude that the story, the author, and anybody associated with the story are fascists.
2) Identify parts of the world in which the story takes place that are never fully fleshed out. Insert fascism.
3) Identify incompletely defined dichotomies in the story. Of any dichotomy, one part must surely be fascist. Therefore, since the other part is not defined, it must be the same as the first part, and thus fascist.
4) Repeat until transitive closure is achieved.
5) Say "See?" In an annoying voice. If anyone argues, say "Derrida" until the Fascist shuts up.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 12:41 PM on July 16, 2016 [28 favorites]


Dooku did nothing wrong. The Separatists shall rise again!
posted by Apocryphon at 12:42 PM on July 16, 2016


Except his conclusion:

"it’s very likely to be a dull soup of knowing, pseudo-pomo references to the original trilogy, to keep the fans happy; where the prequels tried to extend the story, the sequels will probably only recapitulate it"

is etirely correct?


Is it? TFA didn't seem particularly knowing or pseudo-pomo to me. It was a fairly straightforward recapitulation of the original movie. That audience, conceived broadly, doesn't actually want "pseudo-pomo" or knowing, beyond the occasional cute callback. They want comforting repetition.

Unless he thinks having a teenage girl and a young black man as the lead heroes makes it auto-pomo, in which case he is cordially invited to go climb a tree.
posted by praemunire at 12:54 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Kriss makes kind of a compelling point about how the Force in action looks more like Anaximander's apeiron than the Dao. I'm going to have to follow up that Derrida book he mentions.

Anyway, if you didn't like this, you're going to absolutely hate his take on Pokémon Go.
posted by Iridic at 12:55 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Dooku did nothing wrong. The Separatists shall rise again!

I'd rather be oppressed by Christopher Lee than by Andy Serkis, that's for sure. Easier on the dignity.
posted by praemunire at 12:57 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


praemunire, you could always look for a The Wicker Man LARP....
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:01 PM on July 16, 2016


This is an article about Star Wars. (self link)
posted by dng at 1:09 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Dooku did nothing wrong.

He lost, that's what he did wrong. Don't you watch game of thrones?
posted by biffa at 1:18 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Non-ideological? I always thought the Alliance was more like a sort of Space-Taliban.


Seriously, though- this essay reads like it was written by Rick from The Young Ones.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:40 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


Anyway, if you didn't like this, you're going to absolutely hate his take on Pokémon Go.

Ha, of course those were written by the same author.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:43 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, while the Jedi are certainly problematic (you know- secretive monastic order of psychic ninja with laser-swords who go around influencing trade policy, but who somehow can't see how their philosophy of detachment might be lost on a kid who was purchased out of slavery but had to leave his mother behind to be murdered), the Empire are definitely the baddies. Just look at their uniforms!

Also, the Empire pretty obviously represents a racialized from of crypto-fascism. You don't see any Wookiees or Mon Calamari in those grey officers' uniforms. And while most of the galaxy has real issues with treating droids as equals (or even sentient), at least the Rebellion is giving them a seat at the table.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:49 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Guys. I have some bad news about that hokey escapist space fantasy with the laser swords, and also everything else that you enjoy.

I have a powerpoint slide for that.
posted by clorox at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


Iridic: Anyway, if you didn't like this, you're going to absolutely hate his take on Pokémon Go.

The opening paragraph made me think I'd absolutely hate it but by the end I found myself agreeing with parts of it. A good piece of writing, thanks for linking it!
posted by Soi-hah at 1:54 PM on July 16, 2016


I always imagined that there was "the Force" and that there was "the dark side of the Force" when it was out of balance. The Force is not a dualistic concept. Therefore, the relation of Yoda to the Emperor is more akin to a healthy body compared to cancer.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:03 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this was pretty silly and I enjoy it as such, but the author has clearly focused on post-Enlightenment theory rather than history or Star Wars nerdery.

In order:

1) Told that Rebels good/Empire evil

While (if we imagine a real conflict) it would likely be more complicated than that, the Empire destroying planets full of civilians does pretty much imply that it's evil.

2) A radical revolution against tyranny

Well, for a mag called "Jacobin," you'd think a better familiarity with the French revolution. Unless that wasn't against tyranny? That also lacked an explicit ideology — Rousseau and Locke and Paine in a barrel, shaken — and had a mixed class composition, with support from young scions of aristocracy, petit bourgeoisie, sans culottes, lumpen proles, etc. Robespierre was a lawyer from a prominent family; English Jacobins Wordsworth and Coleridge were also petit bourgeoisie; early leaders include the Comte de Mirabeau.

Even Mao was the son of a wealthy farmer, and Chen Duxiu was the child of wealthy government officials.

3) Support within the Senate

The French Revolution included Antione Barnave, member of the Assembly and deputy to the Dauphin. The Bolshevik Party held seats in the Duma. That the Alliance was on deserted planets stockpiling arms doesn't really tell you anything about its ideology.

4) Popular support

As addressed prior, that most of the Alliance fleet is civilian ships is a pretty strong indication of popular support. As is the broadly diverse membership of the alliance, with many planets represented. As for propaganda, Luke's best friend, Biggs Darklighter, covertly confesses that he's going to join the rebellion from Imperial Academy flight school.

5) Contras

We don't see the Alliance mount any attacks on civilian targets. That they're outside of the galaxy doesn't actually mean anything — were the Bolsheviks less revolutionary when they had their conferences in Poland? There's also no sign of a competing revanchist empire funding them.

6) The Empire

The Empire is shown with vast industrialized worlds — mostly in the prequels. They're also moving quickly to take planets that used to be Republican. Why build a weapons platform off of Endor? Well, the previous Death Star was destroyed, and it takes a long time to build, so maybe they don't want it hit again? Why are ICBMs in the middle of the Dakotas?

7) The Light Side

I also can't find any explicit references to "light side," but it's frequently described as the "good side," and that the overall role of the Jedi is to keep those forces in balance, with the back-narrative that the destructive and aggressive use of power is seductive on its own to need no outside advocates.

8) Balance

Regarding balance, can't the dao be unbalanced through pain and suffering? Similarly, Vader is ultimately the one that brings balance to the force — by tossing the Emperor down the chute and recovering the good within himself. And if you're going to make a Heideggerian argument about The Force as a nihilistic entity, it'd be good to recognize that Heidegger doesn't posit absence and dread as the apeiron, but rather as what opposes being — for a cod-Heidegger adventure, see The Neverending Story, with the Nothing as a Heideggerian existential villain. The Force is nothing like that. It's important to realize that Heidegger was an anti-Hegelian too — putting him on the same side as Hegel is incoherent.

9) Prequels

As noted by others, the Separatists are a false flag, the Jedis are a religious order of monks (it's like complaining about Franciscans in peasant robes), and they repeatedly attempt to redeem the opponents — the only thing they exterminate are droids. Likewise, the charge that they're anti-democratic is true but not very weighty — it's hard to argue that Jacobins or many other ostensibly proletarian revolutions who governed in the name of the peasantry were in any way democratic either. That's part of the idea of the vanguard party, after all, and part of the way that the Jacobins lost power was by alienating the peasants with an expansive military program.

10) The Force Awakens

One of those clues that you're reading bullshit theory: Critiquing something unseen but finding that it totally validates your theory anyway.

11) Mass awakening

Undeniable fascist overtones? Tell that to the "conscious" movement of black thought — from conscious rap to the mantra "get woke" in Black Lives Matter, awakening and consciousness are intertwined.

This is all the very definition of sophistry, in which fancy rhetorical dodges are used to support an inherently empty argument.
posted by klangklangston at 2:16 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm gonna have to find some better weed before I can read this whole thing.
posted by Etrigan at 2:17 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Of course, I could be wrong about representation in the upper echelons of the Empire. Maybe they've set up sympathetic collaborationist regimes on the worlds they've subjugated. Perhaps there's a Twi'lek Iron Cross. Or a Quisling on Kashyyyk. Or even a Vichy government on Mon Cala.

Maybe the Hutts have an agreement to run things on the outer Rim and pay tribute to the Empire, the way Bespin was forced to. Perhaps there's even a Hutt trying to smuggle prisoners out of an Imperial labor camp on some backwater planet, using his own business as a cover. Maybe Mos Eisley has a big underground trade in exit visas...I'm sorry, what was I talking about, again?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:17 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


the only thing they exterminate are droids.

This is one of my problems with the Star Wars universe -- I mean, droids are sentient, right? They seem to express hopes and fears, and yet... their mass slaughter is heroic and even droids very friendly with the main characters are treated... well, pretty shabbily. Sure the Rebels are friendly with the Wookies, but their scorecard on machine life is pretty bad. I kind of want to see C3PO invite the Berserkers in for the amount of mockery he's taken.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:27 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


"This is one of my problems with the Star Wars universe -- I mean, droids are sentient, right? They seem to express hopes and fears, and yet... their mass slaughter is heroic and even droids very friendly with the main characters are treated... well, pretty shabbily. Sure the Rebels are friendly with the Wookies, but their scorecard on machine life is pretty bad. I kind of want to see C3PO invite the Berserkers in for the amount of mockery he's taken."

I think the droids have a varying level of sentience, and getting too deep into that starts poking at the thin fabric of definitions of sentience for anyone. The redeeming factors seem to be that droids are effectively immortal to the extent they can be repaired over and over, and many of them seem more defined by roles than by personalities, with a couple of main NPC droids shown as exceptional.

It can get kind of problematic to delve into — given how much it can mirror depersonalizing racist tropes — but on the other hand, at what point do you let the Furby vote?
posted by klangklangston at 2:31 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, the Trade Federation droids appear to be sentient to some degree, but they were manufactured to fight in support of the Federation. Did they choose to do so? Or are they conscripts of one sort or another? How should they be treated in terms of Republican forces ROE? Should they be slaughtered wholesale? How would this apply to the clones who would eventually become stormtroopers? They were also "manufactured" to fight in support of the Senate. Did they consent? What about latter-day stormtroopers? Are they volunteers? We know that First Order stormtroopers are indoctrinated from childhood- they don't even have names. Can they be treated as willing combatants?

These questions are all more interesting than those asked by the original essay.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:40 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


but on the other hand, at what point do you let the Furby vote?

Ironically, this is a sound bite from a Rebel political organization.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:41 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Empire is the Teutonic Knights/Nazis, minions of the Catholic Church trying to dominate Orthodox lands.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 2:42 PM on July 16, 2016


Therefore, the relation of Yoda to the Emperor is more akin to a healthy body compared to cancer.

This doesn't really fit with the idea of balance though. The healthy body would be the desirable state, not something between the healthy body and the cancer.

Also, the prequels make it obvious Yoda is a massive wanker.
posted by biffa at 2:47 PM on July 16, 2016


The rebel fleet could possibly be merchant shipping converted into warships. After the Versailles Treaty which tried to limit the major powers' naval tonnage, nations still designed unarmed ships that left bays for guns. If tensions escalated, they could easily lower turrets into the bays to rapidly mobilize. One of the first aircraft carriers, the HMS Ark Royal was originally built as a cargo ship. The Rebel fleet might not even have originated from a single state, but from separate admiralties of various sovereignties like that of the Dutch Republic during the 17th century.
posted by whatthefook at 2:49 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like the idea. In execution, it is hobbled by ignorance.
posted by ethansr at 2:51 PM on July 16, 2016


This doesn't really fit with the idea of balance though. The healthy body would be the desirable state, not something between the healthy body and the cancer.

I mean to say that there's no "light side of the Force." Jedi serve the Force aka the healthy body of the energy field that binds the galaxy together. Sith and fallen Jedi use the dark side, or the cancerous unbalancing of the same field. Think of fallen Jedi as those that are redlining the Force, doing damage both to it and themselves to get extra power sooner and with less tranquility needed.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:54 PM on July 16, 2016


Heh, I always kind of assumed that the force had both a "light" and a "dark" side; it's kind of interesting that characters in the OT never really referred to a "light side" as such. Does that indicate Yoda/Obi-Wan et al. just kind of assumed they were the "light side", the bringers of peace and justice to the galaxy, so much that references to a light side would be redundant? At the very least, the "dark side" is presented as a threatening other, while the force as understood and used by the remaining "good Jedi" was presented as self-evidently good in and of itself.

Of course, any reading of the OT should probably be considered in light of the fact that script of the OT was the product of several talented film-makers and screenwriters working with Lucas to refine his "vision". Without the influence of those voices, we might have gotten a richer political backstory to the Rebellion, but we probably would have got a much worse set of movies. From what I've read, Lucas's original idea for the Star Wars was a weird mish-mash of 30's pulp sci-fi, classical Hollywood tropes, and political ideas from the history and philosophy of the Greco-Roman period. Lucas's collaborators greatly pared down the last piece of source material, so we were spared long scenes containing speeches about stuff like sanctions, trade routes, and existential threats to democracy in the OT.

Then comes prequel trilogy, where Lucas is free to do whatever he wants, and we get a much richer politico/philosophical grounding to the story; although the movies are much worse. And what happens? The force changes from a quasi-mystical entity grounded in the "new-age" mysticism of the 60 and 70's to a weird pseudo-biological entity involving "medichlorians". The force also now apparently requires "balancing" ........ because it is out of balance. Just what the implications of an out-of-balance force to the average non-Jedi citizen of the galaxy were never clear to me, but it was the a problem important enough that the higher-ups of the Jedi took it seriously.

These Jedi higher-ups apparently were so concerned with this problem that they decided to undertake a massively dangerous training program for an individual who ended up playing a major role in the systematic massacre of the vast majority of Jedi, as well as the creation of a genocidal empire that, if we are to take the OT at face value, terrorized the non-Jedi population of the galaxy to the point where they were forced into an apparently suicidal rebellion. Would you want to mess with the type of people who can create a Death Star? Still, the OT ends with the individual at least partly responsible for the destruction of the Jedi and the rise of the Empire "redeeming" himself by killing the evil emperor - also a Jedi, but a bad one - at a crucial moment.

And thus, balance is restored to the force, at the cost of trillions of sentient lives. But what do non-Jedi get out of this? What does the force do, exactly, for people who are not Jedi? In fantasy series like Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time", the magical force is portrayed as something that can be a stand in for what we know of as technology. In Jordan's world, humans use the non-corrupted version of his force to make airplanes and heal people. In Dune, the quasi-mystical spice is a vital to space travel. In Star Wars, however, technology as we know it exists in an even more advanced form. The force isn't needed for hyper-drive, droids, and bacta-tanks. It's not really apparent what functional importance the force has for anybody who isn't a Jedi. Even as a tool for maintaining political order, the force seems to cause more harm than good because most of the political problems in the galaxy seem to result from Jedi plotting and scheming against each other.

So yeah, in all, I think the author has a point. What good is the force? At best, it seems like living next to an active volcano. Yeah, you can use the rich soil for productive farmland, but you better fucking hope you aren't alive when it erupts.
posted by eagles123 at 3:12 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


To be fair, the "young man with unusual abilities destined to grow into great power and authority" is pretty much a fascist trope

I hadn't realized that the tales of Joseph and Moses were necessarily fascist. How clever of them to invent fascism 2000 years before Europe.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:23 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


A contrarian take can be fun, but really it should be coherent. I think he loses it when he calls the Rebels "Contras, right-wing death squads". That would make the Empire a socialist state, and 1) that's pretty dumb, and 2) that doesn't say good things for his notion of socialism.

The piece also shows, I think, the problem with redefining "fascism" to mean "stuff I don't like." In most cases the concept he's grasping for is "militaristic" or "totalitarian". But using those might require realizing that socialism too can be militaristic or totalitarian. Even if you think Mao's peasant revolution was better than Washington's bourgeois one, it was still not, as the man himself said, a dinner party.

Which isn't to say that Lucas's world holds together! It's a mess, and the Jedi/Sith are basically samurai or knights, politically dubious but a great narrative convenience.
posted by zompist at 3:28 PM on July 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Of course there is a light side of the force. How can you have a dark side without the light side ?

Because darkness isn't the opposite of light, it's the absence of it?

Check your head!
posted by alex_skazat at 3:37 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Although a fun piece to read, my takeaway was that Jacobin needs more editors.
posted by sudogeek at 4:32 PM on July 16, 2016


Unless he thinks having a teenage girl and a young black man as the lead heroes makes it auto-pomo

Oh, so any movie with a teenage girl and a young black man is automatically a porno? Is that what we have come to? What kind of stereotypes are we dealing with here --

*parses more closely*

[Emily Litella] Never mind.
posted by delfin at 4:38 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


So, Wookies are brown hairshirts, then ?
posted by y2karl at 4:45 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm glad even serious sites like these have a humor columnist.
posted by demiurge at 5:55 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


What in the hell is a cod-structuralist?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:07 PM on July 16, 2016


This is one of my problems with the Star Wars universe -- I mean, droids are sentient, right? They seem to express hopes and fears, and yet... their mass slaughter is heroic and even droids very friendly with the main characters are treated... well, pretty shabbily. Sure the Rebels are friendly with the Wookies, but their scorecard on machine life is pretty bad. I kind of want to see C3PO invite the Berserkers in for the amount of mockery he's taken.

You might be interested in the story behind C-3PO's new red arm.
posted by mstokes650 at 6:07 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


But what do non-Jedi get out of this? What does the force do, exactly, for people who are not Jedi?...The force isn't needed for hyper-drive, droids, and bacta-tanks. It's not really apparent what functional importance the force has for anybody who isn't a Jedi. Even as a tool for maintaining political order, the force seems to cause more harm than good because most of the political problems in the galaxy seem to result from Jedi plotting and scheming against each other.

So yeah, in all, I think the author has a point. What good is the force?


Let's say the force is no good. What do you do with that decision?
posted by Sauce Trough at 6:13 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's worth considering that the Galactic Senate is more like the UN than either the Roman or the US Senates. Galactic Senators represent the recognised government of their system, planet, trade, race or political bloc, with no consideration of how they are selected or for how long. The selection process for the US Senate is well known. Roman Senators represented themself, their family, or at most their clan, and once picked they were generally there for the rest of their life. The three Senates are very different animals.

Although fascism can be partially retrofitted onto periods of the Roman Empire, the Roman Empire itself was too primitive and polymorphic to merit such a description. Augustus was a strongman and a warlord, but Nero (as many a later emperor) was a hereditary monarch. Nerva was appointed by the Senate, but then ushered in a period of adoptive monarchy where each emperor was the adoptive son of the previous emperor. Many emperors were imperial generals raised on the shields of their armies, but others were the sons or nephews of previous emperors who overthrew the emperors that replaced their parent or grandparent.

The Galactic Empire was undeniably fascist, but comparisons of Palpatine with Augustus fail. Augustus took over by first smashing his opponents, then imposing himself on the ruins. A better comparison for Palpatine is Hitler Nerva, who was first elected to power and then consolidated that power.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 6:17 PM on July 16, 2016


What in the hell is a cod-structuralist?


Someone who believes that every cod exists within a set of relationships among every other cod, which are ultimately reflective of a larger system or pattern of cod.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:18 PM on July 16, 2016 [14 favorites]


Yeah, this was pretty silly and I enjoy it as such

I read it the same way, as sort of a fun thought exercise. Then I clicked on some of the other articles, and realized: holy shit these guys are absolutely serious!
posted by kanewai at 6:24 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm gonna have to find some better weed before I can read this whole thing.

Etrigan: unfortunately, it doesn't help. TFA is still wildly incoherent logically/lacking in dialectical clarity. But don't let me stop you from conducting your own investigation ;)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 6:51 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


What in the hell is a cod-structuralist?

This was news to me, but "cod" has a slang meaning of fake or hoax, so, I guess that's what he means here.
posted by thelonius at 6:59 PM on July 16, 2016


This is close enough to hyperliterate goon ultratroll Supermechagodzilla's shtick that I suspect it to be written by him. No bad thing, I think it's an entirely legitimate reading though it discounts out of hand the duty of art to entertain.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:35 PM on July 16, 2016


So, Is Jacobin always this dumb? I've only read this, and the "because you are playing Pokémon, you are not doing the revolution, which you would otherwise be doing, like I am by writing these articles" article.
posted by ignignokt at 8:27 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Let's say the force is no good. What do you do with that decision?


I think a responsible Jedi council would stop training new jedi and collectively retreat to some outter-rim world to live out their lives and then die. Or commit mass suicide. Either way, it looks like the Jedi don't really add value to the galaxy. They seem incapable of preventing the occasional acolyte from becoming a super-powerful genocidal maniac. Better they just let the one in a billion force sensitive kid who would hopefully become a friendly jedi but maybe become a sith go through their lives without training and enjoy winning at cards or pod-racing rather or whatever they'd do.
posted by skewed at 8:37 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


skewed, you *could* do that, but when you think there are two practicing Sith out there it's not a great idea to abandon the galaxy to them either. That's why you set up the chain of events which leads to Vader killing Palpatine leaving nobody else trained in the Sith ways. But despite your best efforts, a partially trained jedi (Luke) survives, and decides he should take on pupils...
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:42 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


>Let's say the force is no good. What do you do with that decision?

Depends what you mean by "you".

As a viewer I enjoyed the both the OT and the TFA, so my viewpoint regarding the force doesn't really affect my enjoyment of the movies. It's just something fun to think about.

As a non-Jedi in universe character, I might be somewhat fearful/distrustful of force users. A relationship between non-force users and force users similar to the relationship between mutants and normal humans in X-Men seems plausible to me.

As a Jedi .................... maybe that realization is something Luke himself is dealing with by the time-frame of TFA. He did look awful pensive in that last scene. I wonder if the next two movies in the trilogy might deal with this theme/question.
posted by eagles123 at 8:43 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


But despite your best efforts, a partially trained jedi (Luke) survives, and decides he should take on pupils...

Yeah, the decision to restart the Jedi line post ROTJ really doesn't look like a great idea, I'm sure the next movie will have Luke wringing his hands over pulling a Kenobi.
posted by skewed at 8:58 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure collective suicide or sequestration is a credible answer to the "problem" of the force, though. Jedi don't choose to be born Jedi. In a universe where the force is a "bad" thing, they are condemned to it.

If all the Jedi in a particular historical period decided to just disappear or off themselves, that would still leave a galaxy full of force sensitive individuals to develop without guidance or structure, in addition to whatever Sith might be marauding about.

That is hardly an ideal situation.

In the spirit of some of the philosophers quoted in the original article, Jedi are condemned to dealing with the problem of the force, just as we are condemned to dealing with the uncanniness/absurdity/anxiety of being-in our world. Suicide doesn't appear to be an option for the Jedi any more than it was an option for Camus.
posted by eagles123 at 9:16 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think we should look at the prequels as historically accurate; they're anti-jedi propaganda created long after the facts by anti-republic forces. Unlike their characters in the prequels, Kenobi and Skywalker the elder were good friends, and Skywalker didn't turn as a whiny-ass teenager, but as an adult.

The "chosen one" narrative and the insertion of almost every Battle-of-Yavin-era historical character is a clear indication that we are dealing with fiction, not history.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:20 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


The Jedi — a rich, powerful, aristocratic military order, unaccountable to any democratic oversight and pompously decked out in peasant robes — are shown marching into battle alongside the armies of proto-Stormtroopers as they wage a war of extermination against some poorly defined separatists, whose view that the Republic is essentially evil turns out to be absolutely correct.

Ummm...somebody show this guy the TvTropes entry on Xanatos Gambits? The separatists are one side of the coin being flipped by Palpatine. The Jedi could've joined the separatists and fought beside them, to the same outcome.

Now, I agree that the Old Republic, as shown in the prequels, was a corrupt, inefficient, broken system and that is one of my frustrations with the prequels - they undermine the original films in that they make what Leia & crew are fighting for something that is perhaps most charitably described as the "less bad outcome" than a tyrannical despot who rules via brute force and fear. Was the Republic evil? Guess it depends on how we define evil; I see no evil intent in the Republic, but rather a place where evil could grow due to arrogance, neglect, short-sightedness, and so forth.

But the Republic/Empire duality is a false one, as I think the article correctly notes - the Star Wars Saga is about the Force. Is the Force evil? Much like the above question, I think there's a question of intent here that is not addressed in the article. What is the intent of the Force user?

The Star Wars movies never deal in subtlety; for all that we read things into them, I don't think there's much in the way of intentional subtext. Which is not to say that we shouldn't look at these films and scratch against them and see what there is that furthers discussion about ourselves and our current politics and such forth; works of fiction always have something to say about their audience and their time. But to scratch too hard against the surface of Star Wars reveals more of the intent of the person writing the critique, I feel.
posted by nubs at 10:19 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, Is Jacobin always this dumb? I've only read this, and the "because you are playing Pokémon, you are not doing the revolution, which you would otherwise be doing, like I am by writing these articles" article.

I find their blog to be a mixed bag. They publish a lot of posts from a lot of different people or organizations, in sort of a pan-leftist sort of way. I like some more than others and some (like these) are a bit dire. The actual articles in their print magazine seem more consistent from what I've seen.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:05 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't think we should look at the prequels as historically accurate; they're anti-jedi propaganda created long after the facts by anti-republic forces. Unlike their characters in the prequels, Kenobi and Skywalker the elder were good friends, and Skywalker didn't turn as a whiny-ass teenager, but as an adult.

The "chosen one" narrative and the insertion of almost every Battle-of-Yavin-era historical character is a clear indication that we are dealing with fiction, not history.


The prequels make a lot more sense if you think of them as the distorted, incoherent mixture of memory and fantasy that flooded through Vader's dying mind as he lay on the floor of the Death Star 2 at the end of ROTJ.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:37 AM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Let's say the force is no good. What do you do with that decision?

Having seen the new movie, I can answer this: you put on a hooded cloak, move to a windswept island in what looks suspiciously like northern Scotland and devote yourself exclusively to beard-growing. Also, I didn't realize it at the time but apparently the beard is Hegelian.
posted by No-sword at 3:39 AM on July 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


fighting for something that is perhaps most charitably described as the "less bad outcome"

I dunno, that would be awesome if the prequel movies were, you know, not crappy. Because that would be a nonobvious moral choice, like the ones in the world we live in. The overall idea-- how an evil system develops-- is worthwhile and ambitious. Lucas just had no idea how to tell that story.
posted by zompist at 4:29 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Old timer here. Haven't posted in a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. I just wanted to say that Star Wars would be nothing without the score by John Williams. The music is what sold it and I have always thought so.
posted by crasspastor at 5:29 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I’ve not yet seen The Force Awakens, but a few conclusions are already easy to make...[it will be full of] pseudo-pomo references to the original trilogy, to keep the fans happy; where the prequels tried to extend the story, the sequels will probably only recapitulate it.

Hah. Wasn't wrong, was he?
posted by modernnomad at 6:00 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hah. Wasn't wrong, was he?

No, but it reads to me like someone who hasn't seen the movie but who hasn't gone unspoiled either. I mean, I didn't see the movie until three weeks after it was out and while I avoided everything I could, I went in knowing that it followed the same beats as the OT. Maybe I'm being uncharitable, but it feels like a smug "prediction" of facts already known as a means of bolstering credibility.
posted by nubs at 7:09 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can't say I agree with the whole article but I really dig the idea of the Force being a lure of self-annihilation better left alone. You can't be corrupted by the "dark" side of the Force if you never tap into it in the first place. And I think it would be interesting to have a story of an enlightenment movement that rejects the force entirely, opting for some peaceful alternative way forward involving science, perhaps a bit of psychedelics. Take the authors' concluding riff of "smash the force" to its logical conclusion. So what's the Star Wars equivalent of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters?
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:19 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Given the abundance of linguistic, visual, and narrative references to WWII across the movie series, it seems a bit weird to say that the Alliance are right-wing death squads against a largely non-existent threat. If Lucas/Kasdan/Kirschner have a major flaw, it's the overuse of dog-whistle signifiers where stormtroopers, German-styled uniforms, entire shots lifted from WWII aviation movies, and genocide convey backstory. Then you have the interpretive weirdness of accusing a Jewish screenwriter of producing antisemitism. (If Campbell's unsourced quote is relevant, so are Kasdan's views as a Jewish Humanist.)

And in Lucas's case, it's never wise to attribute something to conspiracy gaps that can be attributed to writerly incompetence and neglect. Plot holes are plot holes, not necessarily blank slates into which you can build an alternate theory that the series is really an ideological double-bluff.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:21 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also not defending Campbell here but I'm not entirely clear how giving the Moon to the Jews is immediately anti-Semitic? Devoid of context of the rest of the conservation one could read that as a misguided but well intentioned idea of providing a permanent Jewish State with no history and therefore no potential for future conflict. The comment was made after the moon landing, it's not impossible to think that Campbell was just being ignorantly optimistic about solving current politics. But I guess that's still a kind of anti-semitism in the end, so maybe not.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:41 AM on July 17, 2016


The prequels make a lot more sense if you think of them as the distorted, incoherent mixture of memory and fantasy that flooded through Vader's dying mind as he lay on the floor of the Death Star 2 at the end of ROTJ.

I like to think that Vader was posting a lot of anonymous Old Republic fanfic to various message boards while he was hanging out in that weird pod of his, and someone tried to collate it into a coherent story, which became SW 1-3.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:43 AM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Also not defending Campbell here but I'm not entirely clear how giving the Moon to the Jews is immediately anti-Semitic?

Not so much immediately as premeditatedly:
I can't breathe comes to mind, for one.

tl/dr: Are You Kidding!?
posted by y2karl at 11:23 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


and someone tried to collate it into a coherent story, which became SW 1-3.

It would be interesting to see a coherent story version of SW 1-3.
posted by biffa at 11:47 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


"But what do non-Jedi get out of this? What does the force do, exactly, for people who are not Jedi?...The force isn't needed for hyper-drive, droids, and bacta-tanks. It's not really apparent what functional importance the force has for anybody who isn't a Jedi. Even as a tool for maintaining political order, the force seems to cause more harm than good because most of the political problems in the galaxy seem to result from Jedi plotting and scheming against each other.

So yeah, in all, I think the author has a point. What good is the force?
"

Canonically, the force is something present in all living things that is connected through microbes called "midi-chlorians," (a friend of mine misheard that as "mini-Floridians" and now that's what I always remember it as) and individuals with a higher concentrations of midi-chlorians are able to tune into that sensitivity. So people who aren't Jedis are still in theory animated by the "Life force," which, in turn, holds the galaxy physically together through the "Cosmic force." It's the universal woo.

(In the Jesus/Mithras origin story of Aniken, he's ostensibly from a virgin birth, fathered by midi-chlorians.) That's why his power level is OVER 9000!
posted by klangklangston at 12:30 PM on July 17, 2016


Even just in the pull quote:

Consider that when we see that fleet, it’s positioned outside the Galaxy. There’s a name for groups like the Rebel Alliance. Not freedom fighters, but Contras, right-wing death squads.

I recall no indication whatsoever for the first statement, and can see no logical connection between that and the conclusion?


I puzzled about the first statement for a while last night; when I got up this morning, my conclusion is that he is taking the visual of Luke & Leia staring out onto what appears to be a side view of the galaxy to mean the fleet is outside the galaxy. Which, maybe? *shrug*. The presence of the hyperdrive means ships move at the speed of plot in Star Wars, and I never took anything from that scene to have meaning beyond "cool visual backdrop".

As for the assumption that the Rebels are automatically right-wing as a result of being "outside", I'm struggling to see the connection - surely the argument can be made that any rebel group of whatever political stripe starts the fight from the "outside".
posted by nubs at 1:01 PM on July 17, 2016


Can't say I agree with the whole article but I really dig the idea of the Force being a lure of self-annihilation better left alone. You can't be corrupted by the "dark" side of the Force if you never tap into it in the first place.

Fan theory I've seen is that this is exactly why Leia has never developed her own force abilities.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:57 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I puzzled about the first statement for a while last night; when I got up this morning, my conclusion is that he is taking the visual of Luke & Leia staring out onto what appears to be a side view of the galaxy to mean the fleet is outside the galaxy. Which, maybe? *shrug*. The presence of the hyperdrive means ships move at the speed of plot in Star Wars, and I never took anything from that scene to have meaning beyond "cool visual backdrop".

What with the confusion in the general populace between the meaning of "solar system" and "galaxy," and the "parsecs" gaffe in ANH, I've never assumed that anyone involved in the film had any idea what that pretty swirly thing at the end of Empire actually was.
posted by BrashTech at 2:31 PM on July 17, 2016


That wasn't a gaffe! It's explained very clearly in Star Wars Technical Operand '93 (the UK edition, with General Thrawn's Chissmas card list in Appendix G) that the Millennium Falcon was able to thread a shorter route through &c. &c.

Also: Metafilter: Some peaceful alternative way forward involving science, perhaps a bit of psychedelics.
posted by No-sword at 5:02 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


mstokes650: "Same reasons the U.S. Airforce's top-secret bases are out in the ass-end of Nevada and places like that, one would imagine. Development of horrifying weapons of mass destruction tends to get done well out of the public eye."

But Nevada isn't the middle of nowhere, it's the middle of everywhere that also happens to be sparsely populated. That means it is hundreds of miles away from any boarders with hostiles. The same reason ICBM silos are in flyover county.

Building the Death Star around Endor is like building a nuclear air craft carrier at Jarvis Island.
posted by Mitheral at 5:59 PM on July 17, 2016


Wait... wait... so the Empire is a fascist government in which a single dictator uses his absolute authority to tyrannize and subjugate every planet within his grasp, and creates a militaristic society in which people serve robotically, terrified of punishment for the least failure or infraction. It reaches its apex of power with the creation of the Death Star, a terrible and costly weapon that can execute entire worlds with the ease of executing a single person. This Empire was formed very recently, during a period of intense warfare in which it was deemed "necessary for order," and represents a distinct break from the previous thousand years of democratic rule.

The Rebel Alliance is made up of people who are disgusted and horrified at the sudden emergence of this violent Empire, and seek to overthrow it and return the galaxy to its previous state, in which planets were allied in a sometimes messy but democratic alliance.

OMG! How can i turn that around and make it the opposite of what it is?

Maybe someone should write an article about how Joseph Kony is a saint and how charity workers who feed starving children are the real villains. Because of reasons and such.

Ugh.
posted by ELF Radio at 7:10 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


If we're trying to debate whether the Force has a dark and light side, we should figure out what the Force is in the first place.

How has it manifested in the movies (ignoring the canon books for now)? We've seen it used to control inanimate objects, get some sort of psychic premonition or sense (blind fighting), control weak-minded individuals, and on the Sith side, Force Lightning and Force choking.

We've seen it compared to some spiritual force that should be in balance, and also as some addictive substance that pulls you in further (on the dark side).

Here's the thing though, I think it's possible to have a value system where using the force to psychically control people is more troublesome than Force Lightening. "The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded." Well, yes, and shouldn't we be protecting them from this practice instead of exploiting them? We know Storm Troopers have been indoctrinated at a very early age to follow orders, these are precisely the people we should be freeing, not manipulating for our own goals. I assume in the prequels the Jedi Council training includes ethical use of this power, but we don't see that in the original series.

Or using the Force to win at dice against bad Jewish stereotypes? Really?

At least with Force Lightning and choking you have physical evidence you can present in a Space Trial or submit some form to HR or whatever. The space police can go, "Yeah, this cauterized wound was made at a temperature of 2000 degrees and diameter of one inch, that's a perfect fit for Kylo Ren's lightsaber."

It's much more difficult to prove cohersion, which is why using the Force to control minds seems especially problematic.

And in the newest Star Wars, Leia is a General, so perhaps her innate Force strength is being used unconsciously to manage people effectively (less problematic, but still unsettling).

Hell, at the end of Return of the Jedi, Palpatine explicitly lets Luke choose his own path. Those Storm Troopers on Tatooine were never given that choice.
posted by formless at 8:48 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I realize my comment about Leia's leadership skills can be misinterpreted as an attack on the ability for women to lead without outside influence. No, Leia is a strong character. I'm just noting that if we accept Annakin was using the Force unconsciously in Pod Racing, it could manifest in other forms too. For that matter, you could apply that argument to Palpatine and if you believe in the Jar Jar Jedi theory, his rise to leadership.
posted by formless at 9:37 PM on July 17, 2016


even the Mon Calamari cruisers that comprise the bulk of the fleet

TFW you're trying to have a serious discussion about the Star Wars universe but George Lucas undercuts you by naming a species of squid people Calamari.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:27 AM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


TFW you're trying to have a serious discussion about the Star Wars universe but George Lucas undercuts you by naming a species of squid people Calamari.

It's a trap!
posted by nubs at 10:30 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


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