In a galaxy far, far away say, the blogosphere light sabers are rattling over what message George Lucas slipped into the final entry of the Star Wars septet about political battles closer to home.
With lines like "So this is how liberty dies with thunderous applause" and "If you are not with me, you're my enemy," the space opera that opened this week obviously is:
A slam against the Bush administration, as several conservative commentators and some gleeful foreign movie critics contend.
A metaphor for the struggle in the U.S. Senate over the power to block judicial nominations, says the liberal group MoveOn.org, which is launching TV ads that liken Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader, to the evil emperor.
A story about Canada, offers north-of-the-border blogger Joey deVilla. Don't ask - it involves actually following Canadian politics, but it has something to do with Belinda Stronach switching to the Liberals.
Or, a politically motivated perversion of the carefully developed Star Wars mythology, argues Stephen Bainbridge, a law professor at UCLA.
Bainbridge, a Doylestown-born scholar, is most steamed at a critical exchange between the darkening Lord Vader and his former mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. When Vader draws the us vs. them line - which to many ears echoes Bushs post 9-11 warning "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" -- Obi-Wan replies:
"Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."
That did it for Bainbridge.
Citing ample precedent -- dialogue from the first two films the professor argues in his blog that Lucas has tampered with the Star Wars message to play to Hollywood's "left-liberalism." Originally, he argues, Luke Skywalker found both Vader and the Jedis to be absolutists. In the original films, Luke's role was to restore a balance to the Force.
"The clear implication was that the Force had a yin-yang aspect, which both the Sith and Jedi had lost sight of," Bainbridge writes. "The core story arc thus was to be Luke's restoration of that balance despite opposition from both the remnants of the Jedi and the Emperor."
Ah, professor, replies Gary Beason in the blog called Southpaw, written by a left-leaning Fort Worth, Tex. collective. Aren't you forgetting the end of Episode VI?
In an email to Blinq, Beason explains: In that final chapter, "Luke takes on Vader and the Emperor, but, as the Emperor is killing Luke, Vader is the one who destroys (the) Emperor and, with him, the Sith. There is no 'relativism' in the end. It is the destruction of evil. The balance then is not some modification of the 'absolutism' of the dark and light sides; It is the destruction of the Sith, which is the complete opposite of Prof B's point."
Among the disappointed with Lucas is Arthur Chrenkoff, who grew up in Soviet-influenced Poland. The original series lifted up those who grew up under the boot of a oppressive empire, says the Brisbane, Australia blogger on his eponymous Web site, where he posts an open letter to Lucas:
You might be aware that all of us who saw the "Star Wars" trilogy throughout the Communist world saw it as an entertaining, yet still nonetheless powerful commentary on the current world events. 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. For us, of course, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and all the others fighting to restore the Republic were brave oppositionists and freedom fighters in the truest sense of the word.
But Chrenkoff writes that he and others who grew up in former Soviet lands were sadly mistaken.
To you, the Empire was the United States of America, and if that's the case, then the brave rebels could only be all those people around the world fighting the American Empire - the Castros, Che Guevaras, Ho Chi Minhs, Pol Pots, and by extension, the Brezhnevs and the Mao Tse Tungs of this world. You, of course, live in the Free World, and as such you have the right to believe that your country is the most powerful force for evil operating in the world. But just for the sake of completeness and historical accuracy, can I just mention that whatever the sins of the United States - and I certainly understand well enough that no country is perfect - your rebels, both when fighting for power and when finally in power, ended up being responsible for the death of tens of millions and enslavement of hundreds of millions; the Luke Skywalkers and Han Solos of the last century gave us gulags and re-education camps, terror famines and political prisons; they institutionalized cults of personality, stifled every human freedom and impoverished whole nations.
To all that, a reader whose homepage is called Bushout (by Ghandhi), replies:
Can you not understand that the Star Wars analogy can apply to both the Communist regimes and the Bush regime - and any other corrupt government for that matter?
Lucas, himself, has said he wrote the first Star Wars script in 1971 in reaction to President Nixon and the Vietnam War. Producer Rich McCallum notes the film was started long before the beginning of the Iraq War, which he called "this disaster."
But the story still resonates, Lucas told reporters in France. "The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable," he told a receptive audience at Cannes, where the film debuted.