For uneducated SJWs, politics is a binary on/off switch. They’re blissfully unaware that there are multiple political perspectives other than their own. No doubt you’ve read some variation of the argument that Star Wars has always had politics, all art is political, yadda, yadda, yadda. Well the argument about politics in Star Wars is rearing its silly head again, so it’s time to address it once more. Here’s some recent variations on that commonly parroted theme:
sing along with me
🎶saying you don’t want politics in your stories
is itself a political opinion
and it means you just want to see your politics in stories instead
and stories have always been political
because politics is about people and power
and so are stories🎶
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 9, 2018
🎶and if you say that thing about stories being apolitical
it’s probably code for ‘I don’t like certain people showing up in those stories’
people acknowledged and with agency
which probably also means you don’t like those people showing up in real life
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 9, 2018
It’s fascinating to watch people — ostensibly men — try to so vehemently demand that art be apolitical as they froth near endlessly ABOUT politics. Doubly weird when it’s creators who are also clearly creating stories with overtly political POVs.
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 9, 2018
Counterpoint: all stories are political, in that they are the result of personal political choices. We are the products of power dynamics, and our stories are a product of us. Hence: political. https://t.co/uCTrGMoyib
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) July 9, 2018
Internet Rando: Why can’t you keep politics out of your books?
A: That’s impossible. All art is political.
Internet Rando: Can’t you be less in your face about it?
A: I could, but no.
— Paul S. Kemp (@Paulskemp) June 12, 2018
Really Paul? The latch-hook toilet seat cozy with mushrooms and daisies on it that my great grandmother made is political? If you insist.
But SJWs can’t seem to grasp the notion that it’s not politics in general that normal people want out of Star Wars, but rather, it’s very specifically the modern SJW brand of politics that they want removed from Star Wars.
It’s the difference between watching this:
The He-Man episode The Problem With Power, without a doubt presents a political quandary. In addition, there are two opposing forces, each with their own internal power structures. But the political undertones in this basic story are easily applicable to nearly any similar situation in any time frame by anyone of nearly any ideology.
Compare and contrast that with the Animated Soviet Propaganda piece, which very specifically tells you who to hate. and why to hate them, by couching the antagonist in a contrived situation carefully orchestrated to communicate a specific on-the-nose political message.
This is a basic distinction that any high school level student ought to be able to make. A distinction that’s far too nuanced for the SJW pea-brain to grasp. It’s the distinction between political propaganda and genuine art.
So you can imagine my amusement when I stumbled across an authoritative article written by a non-authority, which boldly lectured people decades older and wiser than him on the nature of politics in art.
Britton Peele wrote an article at guidelive.com entitled, You can’t keep the politics out of ‘Star Wars,’ or any other pop culture story. Oy vey.
In it he writes:
It’s a day ending in “y” in the year 2018, so angry fanboys across social media are yelling at Disney, Lucasfilm and anybody tangentially related to them with the demand to “keep politics out of Star Wars.”
Anyone who is paid by Lucasfilm to produce content for the company is related.
Recently, a significant amount of that hate has been directed toward author Chuck Wendig, who wrote the trilogy of Star Wars: Aftermath novels as well as an upcoming comic about Darth Vader. That comic is being boycotted by fans who dislike Wendig’s previous Star Wars work and dislike the blunt, often uncensored ways in which he interacts with readers on social media. There has been no shortage of fans asking (or, sometimes, demanding) that he “keep politics out of Star Wars books.”
I do appreciate the linked citation, but some clarifications need to be made here. Mr. Wendig may like to think that the boycott is all about him and his clueless meltdowns. But in reality Mr. Wendig is merely being used as a tool to make a much larger statement about Lucasfilm as a whole. That message in essence, is that we don’t appreciate the misbehavior of Lucasfilm representatives in response to legitimate fan criticism as I detailed here, nor the imposition of deeply moronic social justice propaganda in the screenplays, novels, comics, games, etc. To that end we intend to withhold our purchasing power from Lucasfilm media until such a time as they correct course. The boycott against Mr. Wendig’s Marvel Darth Vader Annual is merely incidental as a small part of a much larger effort, and his silly public antics are only being used for that larger purpose.
This isn’t new, nor is it exclusive to Star Wars. Every pocket of popular culture has encountered pushback from fans asking creators (some politely, many not) to keep their medium free from commentary and agenda. “Keep politics out of music,” “keep politics out of comics,” “keep politics out of video games,” and so on.
It’s a confusing and even frustrating argument coming from Star Wars fans, though, because of how contradictory it is to the series itself. You want to keep politics out of Star Wars? You know that the Emperor, the series’ biggest bad guy, was a senator, right? You remember that the opening crawl of The Phantom Menace is all about taxation and trade disputes? And surely you’ve realized that the entirety of the original trilogy was about a group of people trying to overthrow a government? Without politics, you don’t have Star Wars.
Many have made that argument in admittedly flippant responses, but I suspect what they really mean is what I previously explained; the removal of a very specific brand of political propaganda rather than politics in general.
Star Wars under George Lucas dealt with large scale politics. Things that have affected all civilizations throughout mankind’s 6,000 years of recorded human history. The fall of republics to decadence, the rise of despotic empires, rebellions and revolution, etc. These things are cyclical, and timeless, and affect all generations and cultures.
Don’t just take it from me. Take it from Star Wars creator George Lucas. “It was really about the Vietnam War,” he said of the original Star Wars trilogy, “and that was the period where Nixon was trying to run for a [second] term, which got me to thinking historically about how do democracies get turned into dictatorships? Because the democracies aren’t overthrown; they’re given away.”
Yes, I’ve discredited that talking point before. George Lucas is a contradictory man. He has been oscillating between 12 Episodes, and no episodes after VI, for decades. So while George Lucas is certainly an inspired man, his words aren’t gospel by any means. Let’s first examine actual history here.
Unlike Palpatine, Richard M. Nixon didn’t take over. Rather, Nixon resigned instead. Emperors tend not to resign. So the allegory that George is trying to connect here, doesn’t make any sense. In fact, the criticism that President Obama received for circumnavigating Congress with Executive Orders much more closely resembles the Emperor subverting the Senate allegorically.
The Viet Nam War was about defending South Viet Nam against the communist North Viet Namese.
In North Vietnam during the 1950s, political opposition groups were suppressed; those publicly opposing the government were imprisoned in hard labor camps. Prisoners were abused and beaten atop of labor-intensive work forced upon them. Many died of exhaustion, starvation, illness (who often died without any medical attention), or assault by prison guards. Many middle-class, intellectual Northerners had been lured into speaking out against Ho’s communist regime, and most of them were later imprisoned in gulags, or executed, known as the Nhân Văn–Giai Phẩm affair. The government launched a land reform program, which, according to Steven Rosefielde, was “aimed at exterminating class enemies.”
The communist Viet Cong that George Lucas and James Cameron speak so highly of, engaged in horrific atrocities:
Under the cover of night on Dec. 5, 1967, a coalition of Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese troops set the village of Dak Son on fire as its inhabitants slept. The assailants used flamethrowers and grenades, and they had their rifles ready for anyone who tried to escape. Villagers who awoke to find the roofs of their thatched huts aflame tried to run, and many of those who managed to scurry into earthen tunnels and caves before bullets mowed them down were washed in the fire blasts of the flamethrowers or asphyxiated in their bunkers. When morning arrived, the survivors stumbled out to survey the damage, and they found more than 200 dead bodies, most of which were corpses of women and children. Other villagers were missing, presumed kidnapped by the attackers.
And the atrocities purportedly attributed to American forces, oftentimes never actually took place, such as the infamous image of the “Napalm Girl”. American SJW journalists falsely attributed the horror in that famous photograph to American forces, and many came to erroneously believe it. It was actually South Vietnamese forces who had made the horrible mistake instead.
PragerU corrects Lucas’ and Cameron’s hippie/SJW revisionism over Viet Nam:
So let’s get back to George Lucas.
Here’s a passage from from George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones:
“Lucas, wary of politics, publicly disavowed any and all sociopolitical theories and quashed speculation on the deeper meaning of his film. For Lucas, it was enough that Star Wars could be merely entertaining—and entirely the point”
So George’s earlier comments conflict with his later comments. Why?
Well remember, in the 1970s, George Lucas wasn’t the powerful media mogul that he is today. He was a young punk fresh out of film school with only American Graffiti and THX-1138 under his belt. In fact, the dippie hippie movement as a whole wasn’t in charge yet at that time. Rather, the Greatest Generation was still largely in control of government and corporate America. Hippie Boomers like George, still had to answer to their elders in positions of power. So George wasn’t an artist doing whatever he wanted, but rather, was under supervision. As was his script for Star Wars. It’s one of the many reasons he worked so hard to get out from under the studio system, so he could produce the Prequels in any manner that he desired.
So what likely happened back in the 1970s, was that George Lucas may have wanted to make his original Star Wars films about Viet Nam. He may have wanted to make his films about Nixon. But as I said, back in the 1970s, George Lucas wasn’t the powerful media mogul that he is today. Lucas simply didn’t have the power to do what he really wanted to do at the time.
So those who were overseeing his project likely guided him to make it more about Nazi Germany and WWII instead, since that actually represents a genuine fight against fascism, just as they guided him in other ways. Or at the very least they wisely guided him to make it less specific, since the Ewok/Empire conflict could just as easily apply to the conflict between American Colonials and England during the American Revolution. Unfortunately, Lucas doesn’t seem to have learned the lesson that the studio heads attempted to teach him. Few from his generation have.
But once Lucas got out from under the studio system and produced his Prequel Trilogy, he had more freedom to insert the kind of on-the-nose political propaganda that I’ve discussed earlier. That’s why Revenge of the Sith in particular received similar criticisms to that of The Last Jedi, which can be found with a basic Google search.
Lucas can say almost anything he likes now, because those who would have overseen his projects from 1975 to 1983 are all likely dead. And aging hippies from the 1960s have a really bad habit of lionizing themselves.
Star Wars isn’t alone in this confusing disparity between the source material and the things fans sometimes demand from it. Certain Star Trek fans also ask for that series to stay away from political issues, ignoring the fact that the first interracial kiss in television history happened on Star Trek. If you don’t think that was a political move back in 1968, you’re ignoring the context of its time.
I’ve already discussed the distinction between political propaganda and genuine art, so there’s really no need for me to go tit for tat with each of these IPs. My primary focus in this blog is Star Wars. But you may find the following quote from J.R.R. Tolkien enlightening, as it plays into the distinction of which I speak:
“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
In fact, J.R.R. Tolkien is making a criticism strikingly close to those who are critical of The Last Jedi.
Mr. Peele continued:
Even children’s television is political, and always has been. Ignoring the fact that a message as simple as “love your neighbor” is, itself, a political statement, an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has a seemingly low-key moment in which Mr. Rogers has his bare feet in a small pool alongside his friend Officer Clemmons — who is black. This action, at the time, was making a huge statement.
And it goes back further. On Twitter, user “Dagoth Valentine” presented Wendig with a challenge: “Explain to me how the Three Little Pigs is political without pulling something out of your [expletive].” Wendig responded with ease, noting political themes and motivations of multiple versions of the classic fairy tale.
Yet he struggles with the basic distinction between political propaganda and genuine art.
Here, I think, is the issue: If you don’t want politics in your pop culture, how is it that you define “politics?” While movies, shows, etc. will occasionally beat their audience over the head with a message directed at current political figures (we see you, The First Purge), in most cases the message isn’t specifically about politicians or policies — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t political.
I believe I’ve addressed that issue above.
Wendig’s Aftermath books have received criticism from certain Star Wars fans because of its “gay agenda,” because they feature characters that don’t identify as straight. But is acknowledging the fact that gay people exist really a “political” statement? Sinjir doesn’t stand up at a podium in Empire’s End and say, “Here is my speech on why gay marriage should be legal in the United States,” he’s just a dude that’s attracted to dudes. That detail helps establish who he is, how he acts and what his motivations are, but it isn’t the entirety of his existence. The “message,” such as it is, is that the universe is vast and it has all kinds of people in it, and people who are different than you can still be good.
It may be a vast universe with all kinds of people in it. But the title of the franchise is Star Wars. Not Star Vast Universe, or Star All Kinds Of People. It’s not a census survey, but rather, is a story about wars being fought in the stars, hence Star Wars. So it shouldn’t be reflective of everything and everyone. Rather, it should be reflective of the kinds of people who fight in wars.
Are there gay soldiers? Of course. But the kinds of characters these writers are inserting into their stories aren’t reflective of the portion of the gay community that serves in fighting forces, any more than Rey is reflective of the kind of women that serve in fighting forces. And therein lies the problem. It’s not about gender or sexual orientation, but rather, it’s about lack of wartime ruggedness.
But frankly, many of the gay characters in Disney-era Star Wars material strike me as pandering to the SJW groupies of the gay community, rather than appealing to the gay community itself. This may be symptomatic of a larger problem, given the viral popularity of the recent #WalkAway campaign.
There are some other points to be made here on this topic.
The first is whether or not gay characters are appropriate for what some call a kid’s movie about “space wizards and laser swords.” A large portion of the audience who failed to show up for Solo, may not necessarily have a problem with gay characters or the gay community in general, as much as they don’t care to explain gay characters to their 9 year old children upon walking out of the theater. Is it appropriate or not? I think that’s up for debate, and I’m not sure I have a clear answer myself. I’m open to considering arguments from all sides. But many others will simply avoid the situation altogether.
The next point is that traditionally Star Wars has really only tangentially hinted at sexual relationships, at least in the films. Even the heterosexual relationships weren’t dived into very deeply, with the exception of Attack of the Clones, and even then it was only lightly touched upon. The problem with over sexualizing characters in fantasy fare, is that you risk your film unintentionally coming across as Galaxina or Flesh Gordon. There’s a breaking point at which it becomes unintentionally comical and perhaps even exploitative. Where that breaking point is exactly, is open to debate and individual interpretation.
The last point is that, I just don’t know that I have any interest in gay characters within a war time setting. I’m mostly Libertarian, so I don’t care at all what mature adults do in their bedroom. That’s their business and none of mine. But it’s like that bawdy rowdy couple that you go out to dinner with, that has to loudly tell everyone at the table everything that they do to one another sexually. He does this to her, and she does that to him, and they want to make sure that everyone in the restaurant knows about it. It’s not that it offends me, it’s that I really just don’t care. It’s not an interesting conversation to me. So on some level it’s about simple disinterest rather than bigotry, because this kind of material starts to transform the IP into a silly day-time soap opera about who’s boinking who, rather than a war story. See Reylo, Hando, and SkySolo.
Does this mean that you’re going to lecture us about moving on and focusing on the things we love instead of on the things we hate? I’m genuinely curious, and that’s a good thing.
Of course we can. After all, you have no authority whatsoever to tell anyone that they can’t. They will anyway. It’s inappropriate for you to tell people what they can or can’t think, feel, and express, given your complete and total lack of all authority. It’s simply not your place.
Perhaps. Or perhaps some writers just are’t concerned with gay issues and it never even occurs to them to write such a character.
The thing is, you are far less likely to notice the politics of the entertainment you consume when those politics align with your own. Some of the people complaining fail to realize that they are explicitly pro-politics in their media — when the politics reflect their own worldview. How many pro-America songs dominated radio waves after 9/11? Those songs were political, even if they were espousing politics that most Americans were able to agree with at the time.
The problem you’re having here is that there’s nothing wrong with being pro-American. There is however, something deeply wrong with promoting socialism and/or communism.
I would have preferred it if he did.
I want to be clear on one point, though: I do not think that everybody asking for their favorite pieces of entertainment to be politics-free does so with malicious intent. I believe there are those who genuinely want to “turn off their brain” and enjoy a piece of fantasy without being forced to think about “real world issues.” Many will say outright that they want pure escapism — something to enjoy that doesn’t remind them of the heated debates they’re seeing elsewhere in their lives.
Indeed. SJWs are incapable of thought without a political lense. It’s why they erroneously believe all art to be political. They’re political activists and propagandists rather than genuine artists.
Are you writing a children’s book about a society of circular creatures? Well, why aren’t they triangles? Are you referring to the circles as “he?” If so, why not “she?” Do the circles want to escape into a world of spheres? Well, what does that say about our own three-dimensional existence? Every choice, no matter how tiny, matters. It’s all political, whether or not there is a politician in sight.
Perhaps. But do we need to assign Trump supporters to squares and SJWs to circles? Or can we tell the story about circles and squares in a manner that transcends time, and applies to all ideologies so that the reader can gather their own interpretations, rather than being lectured on what they ought to think by the author?
Sure, you can find media that already aligns with your own views and thus doesn’t make you uncomfortable. Yes, you can seek out entertainment that plays things “safe,” and that’s not inherently bad — though you may find it boring (conflict, after all, drives stories). But when/if you’re asking for Star Wars to stay out of politics, then you’re asking for something that has never and will never exist.
Well, then it’s a good thing that I’m not asking for that at all.
Interestingly however, some feel that the politics in Disney-era Star Wars fails in and of itself, without regard to the argument over the very presence of politics. Dan Gvozden of The Hollywood Reporter published a piece entitled, New ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy Is Failing Galactic Politics 101.
In it he writes:
After decades of theorizing, fan fiction and “Legacy” stories, The Force Awakens had the exciting task of updating fans of the series about what happened in the decades since we last saw our favorite characters and rooted for the Rebellion. Would we see a New Republic and what would it be like? Who would be the enemy of that Republic and what would our character’s places be in it? The opportunities were endless, with the possibility of giving audiences a brand-new vision for the series, but would also require a deft touch. Yes, the series would have to build on viewers’ knowledge of Star Wars history, but it could also do what A New Hope did: thrust us into a new scenario and slowly give us more information about what transpired to get us here.
As a huge fan of the series, looking back on the new films after the opening weekend of The Last Jedi, I have to admit an incredible frustration and disappointment in the result. While walking through my local Target, I could not help but feel like The Force Awakens had failed what I’m now dubbing the “toy test”: I couldn’t pick up a Star Wars toy and tell you who each character was and their political standings in the newest round of wars, as depicted in the films.
That’s not to say that all choices of political allegiances in these films should be binary: good versus evil; even the prequel trilogies, with their often overwrought delving into galactic politics, introduced the idea that perhaps this galaxy wasn’t as black and white as we formerly thought. What they should do is make sense, be consistent with what came before and presented in a way that audiences can follow. In both The Force Awakens and now The Last Jedi, I can’t help but feel that none of these are true, to the point that it undermines not only the stakes of these new movies, but also many of the wonderful thematics at play.
The opening crawl of The Force Awakens gave us our first cinematic look into what the galaxy had become in the years after Return of the Jedi. We are introduced, in full capital letters, to the FIRST ORDER, the REPUBLIC and the RESISTANCE, all of which apparently sprung forth from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. It’s a lot to take in, in Star Wars tradition, but the film does no work to fill in the gap and audiences’ expectations.
As viewers we never experience what it means that a New Republic exists and therefore can never really get a solid grasp of what they are fighting for; the only planets we see (Jakku, Takodana) are seemingly outside of the Republic’s jurisdiction. If not for a brief glimpse of Hosnian Prime, right before its destruction at the hands of Starkiller Base (more on that later), we’d never even have proof of the Republic’s existence. (Side note: Why are we able to see the destruction of the Hosnian system from Takodana’s surface? Are all these planets right next to each other?)
Then there’s the added complication of the Resistance, which The Force Awakens says was created “with the support of the Republic” and led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). The film does nothing to specify the difference between the Resistance and the Republic, so we must assume they are virtually one and the same and that the Resistance must be some sort of active army set against the First Order. It’s an unnecessary wrinkle in an already over-complicated setup, but easy enough to ferret out.
The First Order is something else entirely. The end of Return of the Jedi had everyone believing that if the Empire wasn’t ended altogether, it was reduced to a fraction of its former self: leaderless and crippled in every sense of the word. Now we are told that it’s become something else, the First Order, with an army of some size (comprising kidnapped children brainwashed into becoming soldiers), a fleet of ships, a Starkiller Base (much larger and more powerful than any Death Star) and led by a new Sith Lord named Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
It’s a lot to take in and even more to accept at face value, especially since it seems to undo nearly all of the achievements by the heroes of the original trilogy. The questions about this new status quo for the Star Wars universe seem endless, starting with “How was this First Order allowed to rise and what are their goals?” Not everything needs to be preserved in stone, but for a change this sizable an explanation would go a long way toward making an audience’s investments seem meaningful.
With the New Republic controlling the galaxy and the First Order rising to fight them, it seems the tables have been turned. Are the First Order the new version of the Rebellion, a small band of fighters out to destroy a galactic order they disagree with? We never really find out, except that they seem to be the Empire redux, a sort of cartoonish and exaggerated, hard-right version of their former selves but without a clear sense of purpose, just the fascist iconography and penchant for wholesale slaughter.
Fans should know that trusting that iconography could be misleading, even the clone troopers were good guy remixes of Stormtroopers, so it’s not safe to trust the armor as any sort of sign of political ethos. Are they just out to destroy things or to restore “order” to the galaxy? What exactly about the Republic’s rule do they find so objectionable? Even Finn’s (John Boyega) departure from the First Order isn’t about ideology or factional allegiance, but about the specific orders he’s asked to follow through on.
Instead of answers, The Last Jedi doubles down on the confusion and outright ignores that most of these questions exist. The film’s crawl opens with “The FIRST ORDER reigns. Having decimated the peaceful Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke now deploys the merciless legions to seize military control of the galaxy.” Apparently, the Hosnian system, which we barely saw, was the entirety of the Republic and the First Order was large enough to be ready, minutes later, to once again take control over the galaxy. How does this affect the rest of the galaxy? We’ll never know due to The Last Jedi’s decidedly limited scope.
Instead of the rest of the galaxy springing forth to get revenge on the First Order, under the Republic’s injured but far-reaching rule, no one seems to care (a point that becomes critical during the film’s climax). So why should we care? We spent the entire original trilogy caring about the political future of the galaxy only for it to become undone almost entirely offscreen. Not to mention that we’ve never been given time or reason to understand either the ethos of the Republic or the First Order. When Kylo Ren and the codebreaker DJ (Benicio Del Toro) suggest that both sides are evil and corrupt, how are we to know that’s not the case? The rest of the galaxy, based on its inaction toward these two small bands of people, seems to agree.
I had hoped that The Last Jedi would provide clarity and rationale that would allow me to reinvest in the politics of the Star Wars universe, but instead the suggestion seems to be that no one quite understands or cares about either the First Order or the Republic/Resistance/Rebellion. Am I the only one who feels like we are watching an increasingly irrelevant squabble between two factions that have long since forgotten their goals and are only left to faintly echo the past?
Dan isn’t angry over the mere presence of politics in Disney-era Star Wars. But rather, he’s arguing that the politics in Disney-era Star Wars is stupid. So am I, as are many others.