Tuesday, May 17, 2005

# Posted 9:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

VADER: COMMUNIST OR NEO-CON? Arthur Chrenkoff is up in arms about George Lucas' comparison of Bush's America to the Galactic Empire. I have mixed feelings about Arthur's indignation. On the one hand, I am way past the point where I am willing to get worked up about moderately dumb statements made by Hollywood liberals. On the other hand, Arthur has a very compelling reason to care about the political integrity of Star Wars:
I most fondly remember watching the first trilogy in the late 1970s and the early 80s at the movies, when I was a boy living in the then communist Poland...

We simply couldn't escape the conclusion that the militaristic and freedom-crushing Empire with its legions of stormtroopers is a futuristic version of the Soviet Empire, which had conquered and enslaved hundreds of millions of people like myself...we too cheered when the Death Star was destroyed (twice), but whereas for our counterparts in the Free World this was just a great cinematic climax, for us it embodied the hope ("A New Hope", if you pardon the pun) that one day the specter of totalitarianism will vanish and we will be free again.
I'm not sure, but I've never even come close to thinking of Star Wars as an anti-Communist allegory. Perhaps Lucas' references to the Roman republic/empire and Weimar/Nazi Germany were so overwhelming that I didn't even consider other parallels.

But for a young boy in Communist Poland, what could be more natural than to interpret the films as Arthur did? Now that I think about it, Vader's corrupt existence as half-man and half-machine is the perfect metaphor for Communism's perversion of the soul.

Then again, a committed Communist might say that Vader's condition is an apt metaphor for capitalism's perversion of the soul. But speaking more broadly a Communist reading of the film doesn't work very well because of Lucas' emphasis on individual liberty. The Rebel Alliance's only ideology is freedom.

Toward the end of his open letter to George Lucas, I think Arthur goes a little bit over the top by suggesting that Lucas somehow thinks that Fidel and Mao and Brezhnev were on the right side of history. But what if...what if the entire six-film saga really is just Rebel propaganda?

In the 1960s, the lack of reliable information about domestic affairs in China facilitated the efforts of the European and American left to construct elaborate fantasies about the PRC being the true worker's paradise, as opposed to the corrupt and imperialist Soviet Union.

Now, I think it's fair to say that these days, there is a lack of reliable information about Coruscant, Alderaan, Tatooine and the other planets supposedly under the sway of (or obliterated by) the Galactic "Empire". As such, I think it's entirely probable that Lucas is totally confused about who the good guys and who the bad guys are in that galaxy, far, far away.

Exhibit A is Han Solo. Even Lucas admits that Solo is an amoral, self-centered smuggler. I wouldn't be surprised if the real Han Solo is some sort of organized crime lord or narcotics kingpin.

If the Rebels are really on the up and up, why do they associate with criminals like Solo? For that matter, why is Ben Kenobi so familiar with the inner workings of Mos Eisley, which even Lucas describes as a "wretched hive of scum and villainy"?

Now we come to Luke and Leia. They may have good intentions, but the bottom line is that they are just convenient figureheads for a Rebel leadership about which never learn all that much in any of the six films. Leia especially strikes me as the classic example of a child of wealth and privilege who runs off to join the guerrillas because her parents never taught her the value of hard work.

Finally, there is Vader. Why must the black man always be the villain? Moreover, is it any way appropriate in this day and age to suggest that someone is evil because of his physical disabilities? My sense is that the real Vader may be something of a cross between Martin Luther King Jr. and Stephen Hawking.

But alas we shall never know the truth, until Fox News opens up a bureau on Coruscant in order to provide us with a fair and balanced look at the universe.
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