Star Wars is America

So, I’ve seen The Last Jedi. I have some thoughts on the film, but I’m not going to get into them too much on this post. I have some friends who are very disappointed – even angry – at the movie. I have friends who loved it. For me, the only opinion that really matters is what my kids think. But for this post, I’m going to talk about something else – the world around the creators.

I can totally understand how George Lucas, a guy who spent his formative 20s and early 30s in the 1960s and 1970s, could envision the original trilogy based on the America that he knew. Coming through the counter-culture revolution of the 60s, seeing protests against the Vietnam war, watching the president get taken down in the Watergate investigation -> a band of dedicated rebels, holding true to their ideology, fights off the evil galactic empire and liberates the world. The emperor was the manifestation of evil that had taken over the government from the inside.

Darth Vader was the America that Lucas knew – once a powerful force for good but consumed by darkness. But Luke (like Lucas, I assume) knew that there must still be goodness deep down inside, and by rebelling against the Emperor’s plan, Luke was able to help Vader return to the light, just as Nixon was removed from office.

And, after, America was at peace – no major conflicts from 1976-1978, and really only proxy battles during the cold war until 1986. The good guys had won, the world was a better place.

Cut to The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson spent his 20s and 30s with America involved in the Gulf War and the War on Terror in Afghanistan. We watched as politicians engineered these conflicts, with suspicion of their goals and motives. Wasn’t America better than this? Hadn’t the previous generation learned anything from their struggles?

One of the themes in The Last Jedi is that our heroes have feet of clay. Despite the new hope they bring when they overthrow the corrupt and get ready to change the world – they still falter and fail. Look at America today – despite promises of hope and change, there’s a deep divide in the nation, war seems unending, and corruption continues. It’s no surprise that Johnson underlines a point in the movie – the only ones who have benefited are war profiteers and arms dealers. The military-industrial complex in space.

A few reactions to this world are included in the movie: Kylo Ren says the entire system is broken – burn it down, start fresh. Don’t be beholden to the past, it only leads down the same path. The resistance, as voiced by Rose, says to fight to protect what you love. Hold on to hope.

See what happens in America over the next year, and then see how Episode IX treats these questions in 2019.

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