Darth Vader: Neocon
May 16, 2002 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Darth Vader: Neocon "Lucas confused the good guys with the bad. The deep lesson of Star Wars is that the Empire is good." If it wasn't off the Weekly Standard web site, you'd think it was satire.
posted by Iberaband (35 comments total)
A fascinating take.
posted by rushmc at 9:05 PM on May 16, 2002

Isn't needing a "Good" side a bit old hat?

I thought Star Wars was just about the misadventures of a couple of droids.
posted by krisjohn at 9:06 PM on May 16, 2002

Under the theme of being fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing, this is probably the place to point out ("CLONES" SPOILER, kinda) how off-putting it was to see the precursors of the Imperial storm troopers fighting on the side of the good guys. That was just weird.
posted by diddlegnome at 9:29 PM on May 16, 2002

He makes a good case, which is key to any debate. It's obviously an argument he can't win, but he portrayed his side well none the less.

I'd go with the misadventuers of a couple of droids as well. I watched the Criterion version of The Hidden Fortress, in which Lucas pretty much says that it's one of the key sources that he drew on for Star Wars.
posted by dave at 9:37 PM on May 16, 2002

Yes. The establishment are always the good guys. Don't question. Just accept. This Empire is not evil. This Empire provides and protects. Just accept. These aren't the droids you're---

Thing is, if the Empire is good, why don't the goodest guys of them all, the Jedi, not realize that? They're the fucking Jedi. The Jedi council decides what is right and beneficent.
posted by crasspastor at 9:42 PM on May 16, 2002

The Trade Federation=OPEC? Give me a break. Try the WTO.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:46 PM on May 16, 2002

Proving once again that it's impossible to over-banalyze the Star Wars mythology.
posted by Opus Dark at 9:51 PM on May 16, 2002

I'm just glad a conservative said this. If a liberal leveled this charge you'd hear them bitching for weeks.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:51 PM on May 16, 2002

So, does satire have to be blindingly obvious, clearly marked, and published only in approved satire journals now? Just curious.
posted by Nothing at 9:57 PM on May 16, 2002

I can say almost positively that this is satire. I don't think anyone could write an essay like that about Star Wars and not end up with something that had a satirical bent.
posted by dave at 10:04 PM on May 16, 2002

The Jedi Council decides if an essay is satirical or not.
posted by crasspastor at 10:10 PM on May 16, 2002

[in the Empire] those who show promise are promoted, often rapidly. In "The Empire Strikes Back" Captain Piett is quickly promoted to admiral when his predecessor "falls down on the job."

And you're only almost positive it's satire?
posted by ook at 10:18 PM on May 16, 2002

Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator--but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet

posted by vacapinta at 10:32 PM on May 16, 2002

Heh. Satire or not, it's a fascinating take. They've been playing the original trilogy on TV here lately, and I was struck by some of the same questions in watching them again. Aren't the rebels, after all, basically terrorists with no clear political endgame? They're either terrorists or "Freedom fighters" depending on who you ask, but what do they plan to do when the Empire is finished?

Step one: Smash the Empire.
Step Two: ???
Step Three: Profit!

It may be more fair to characterize the series as the battle of Royalists vs. Fascists, neither of whom I'm real inclined to sympathize with.
posted by rusty at 10:52 PM on May 16, 2002

This will spoil you:

What Lucas did in inject some moral ambiguity into this movie. The republic is described as being hopelessly corrupt and the jedi are about as bad. The jedi are revealed to be thugs, assasins, and have no problem with using slaves (clones) to get their way. They're hopelessly outdated, celibate, and don't allow women. Worse, they can't act on their own without consulting each other first. They have more in common with the secret police than the knights of honor as Obi-Wan describes them in the original movie.

I liked how the crowd applauded Anakin's slaughter of the sand people but didn't seem so happy when he admited to killing women and children.

I love the place Lucas is taking this story. Its not clear-cut good vs. evil like in the original first three films. Its slightly more complex and the dark-side of the force doesn't look much worse than the light side. He's showing how the republic wasn't conquered by the empire - it became it. It makes you wonder what 'bringing balance to the force' really means.

Best of all, it looks like Luke defeats the Emporer for nothing. If the rebels start a new republic its only going to go bad again.
posted by skallas at 12:23 AM on May 17, 2002

This is clearly a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I wouldn't call it satire. Read Last's other stuff - just this week he wrote that the Dark Side never seems really evil, in a lament for the movie villains of a bygone era. He also characterizes Lucas' worldview as influenced by a New Age "pop philosopher-anthropologist."
posted by transona5 at 12:28 AM on May 17, 2002

He's showing how the republic wasn't conquered by the empire - it became it.

'All democracies turn into dictatorships-but not by coup. The people give their democracy to a dictator, whether it's Julius Caesar or Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. Ultimately, the general population goes along with the idea ... What kinds of things push people and institutions into this direction?'

--George Lucas (link)
posted by chaz at 1:25 AM on May 17, 2002

It's an interesting article, even though I don't necessarily agree with it. The important point is that we, the viewer or the read implicitly accepts the author's point of view, without thinking to challenge it. We follow the fortunes of the rebels against the Empire, so the rebels must be the good guys and the Empire must be the bad guys, right? By their own twisted logic, the Taliban are, in their own eyes, the good guys, and America and the West is the evil Empire.

There's a particularly good science fiction novel by Iain M. Banks called "Consider Philebas". The whole novel is told from the point of view of the bad guys, but the reader is not told this. It only becomes apparent in the last chapter, whereupon the reader is forced to re-evaluate every assumption that he has made along the way. I remember hearing Banks talk about this novel, and in particular, about how one fan had become completely confused as to who the good guys were in the end. She was so used to books and films following the fortunes of the good guys that she just couldn't understand.

The whole notion of "who are the good/bad guys" applies to more than just silly books and films. It applies equally to life as well. Think about everything you believe in. Do you believe it because you've dispationately considered the facts and come to your own conclusion, or has it been ingrained in you? If you were a law-abinding (if slightly fearful) citizen of the Empire, is it more likely that you would think of Luke Skywalker as a terrorist?
posted by salmacis at 1:49 AM on May 17, 2002

It's necessary for Lucas to make the new films more ambigious - how would we sympathise with Anakin (essentially the main character of this trilogy) at all if it was clear he just 'decided to go evil'?

Our only clear indicator of whether characters are 'goodies' or 'baddies' is whether they are/are not using the dark side of the force, which is interesting because we don't know all that much about how the dark side differs from the light, or if you would have to make a concious descision to start using it.
posted by jzed at 3:09 AM on May 17, 2002

"Make no mistake, as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator--but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet. It's a dictatorship people can do business with."

Heh heh heh ... that, and the whole bit about Princess Leia being a known liar and Luke's parents being traitors, just scream satire. Who knows ... maybe the Fanboy Online Editor pulled the wool over his own publisher's eyes and snuck satire through?
posted by bclark at 5:47 AM on May 17, 2002

I just sent this e-mail to the author of the article:

Dear Sir,

I found your article "The Case for the Empire" a very interesting reading, but when you say that Pinochet is a "benign dictator" you totally miss the point.

Although General Augusto Pinochet hasn't been judged, "the State of Chile has recognized that in the referent period of the investigation, public officials, under orders of Augusto PINOCHET, kidnapped, tortured, murdered or "disappeared" other Spanish citizens and/or their progeny apart from those identified up to the date, ..." This a quote from the indictment produced by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón. I am sure you remember well the case, when the general was under arrest at an English hospital.

I still find your article worth reading and amusing, but please, be more careful picking examples for your writings.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Gómez
Barcelona, Spain

posted by samelborp at 5:52 AM on May 17, 2002

Do you believe it because you've dispationately considered the facts and come to your own conclusion, or has it been ingrained in you?

Quiet, you. The government is good, benign, and serves the people, working to better our lives. Go, America!
posted by rushmc at 6:26 AM on May 17, 2002

Slightly off-topic... but skallas, the Jedi don't "disallow" women. There are lots of women Jedis, and even some little Padawan girls-in-training. It's just that not all of them are human, so it gets hard to tell. Whatever else the Jedis' faults, they're not sexist.
posted by web-goddess at 7:25 AM on May 17, 2002

Thanks for that fascinating take, salmacis. What if Lucas plans to do the same thing Iain Banks did in "Consider Philebas" (a book I've never heard of but now I'm eager to read)? What if, at the end of Episode 3, we wind up rooting for Anakin/Darth Vader? Won't it be a kick if Episode 3 makes us reconsider 28 years of Star Wars movies?

Didn't Lucas originally plan a trilogy of trilogies? I recall that when The Empire Strikes Back came out, he said he was going to tell the story in episodes 4-6, then 1-3, then 7-9. Then, three years ago, he said he was going to do only six episodes. Didn't he say that, or am I imagining things?
posted by Holden at 8:15 AM on May 17, 2002

That was interesting, though the Pinochet thing totally tripped me up. I met a woman a few weeks ago who was in a prison camp under pinochet... Anyway, I have to say, I never saw phantom menace and that genetic jedi thing kind of complicates it all for me. All that zen nonsense doesn't have much to do with it, and the force just plain won't be with you unless you're special. I mean, after thinking about it, maybe it makes everything more fair, as then people can't feel bad about not having a particular talent - it's just not in their blood, literally. On the other hand, how depressing for people who grow up and just don't have it... Of course once they get medical knowledge up to speed they oughta be able to inject whoever with the right kind of mitochondria. Ok, I'm gonna stop worrying about this now.
posted by mdn at 8:33 AM on May 17, 2002

Holden: he did say that, the other day on Good morning america, he was asked about it, and said he had decided not to as he would be 72 or something and so would most of the cast. Basic jist of what I got early morning. Seemed like a weak excuse, he's probably tiring of it.
posted by bittennails at 8:43 AM on May 17, 2002

The Trade Federation is nothing like the WTO.

Man, know your star wars history. (A massive work time-waster, by the way).

As for Palpitine being benign.. uh.. no. I definately would compare him to Pinochet, but I'd hardly use the descriptive 'benign'.

Calculating, power-hungry murdering bastard, maybe.
posted by rich at 8:50 AM on May 17, 2002

So, it's really okay, then, if we stop worrying about the erosion of our democracy because it's really just a sclerotic republic that would be SO much better if we just let our inefffectual president declare himself emperor?

Ah, satire.
posted by briank at 8:56 AM on May 17, 2002

Last certainly makes some good and interesting points. He's not the first to notice these things, either -- Sci Fi author David Brin took the anti-democratic mythos of Star Wars to task in Salon, back when Phantom Menace came out.
posted by nickmark at 9:05 AM on May 17, 2002

Heh. Relatively benign except for the part about blowing up fucking planets. Pinochet isn't so bad a comparison.
posted by Foosnark at 10:50 AM on May 17, 2002

I think we're all overlooking the moral lessons offered by the unforgettable Life as a House.
posted by Skot at 10:58 AM on May 17, 2002

I like the idea that Lucas is promoting an anti-democratic message, especially when our politicians and media are constantly extolling democracy as virtuous, a sad fallacy indeed (it's a tool, like nuclear power, that can be used for good or evil).

I agree with Lucas' assessment that democracy is fundamentally self-destructive, as well.

I also agree that neoconservatives are part of the Dark side. They want "order at any cost" (apologies to the Simpsons episode about the Model UN and Lord of the Flies), and clearly Lincoln is the Palpatine figure who has moved us from Republic to Empire. They worship both characters, they worship the state, and they despise anyone who disagrees. They couch their words in the language of freedom (kind of like Palpatine), and with that they can justify any action. Pretty good strategy, it's worked in the past and it will work again.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:02 AM on May 17, 2002

The Trade Federation is nothing like the WTO.

Hmm, a supra-national/planetary organization that challenges the sovereignty of nations/planets? No, never, nothing like it...
posted by Ty Webb at 11:25 AM on May 17, 2002

"The Trade Federation was a consortium of merchants and transportation providers that effectively controlled shipping throughout the galaxy."

Sounds more like OPEC than the WTO.
posted by rich at 12:24 PM on May 20, 2002

I always wondered that myself. These "rebels" were fighting against their government just like the militias here in the US. Who is really the bad guy and who's the good?
posted by fresh-n-minty at 7:47 PM on May 23, 2002

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