Revenge of the Canadian Conservatives?

Starwars3_1 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 Bush’s 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.

"Why did the (ancient Roman) senate, after killing Caesar, turn around and give the government to his nephew? Why did France, after they got rid of the king and that whole system, turn around and give it to Napolean?"

Finally, Mind of Mog says "Geesh!" Enough with the political back-and-forth. "People need to get a life," says the Arizona blogger. "Or at least complain about something of importance. Let us enjoy the movie."

William Young
Posted 05/20/2005 08:15:14 AM

Sigh. It's just a movie. It was always just a movie. Lucas is only saying this kind of crap now to sell tickets in France, and he doesn't need to say anything to sell tickets in France. The movies are not a statement about anything other than the absolutes of Good v. Evil. It's getting rather tiresome to have everyone on The Left and The Right try and view everything through the prism of the current Republican administration, and try to find vindication/condemntation of the current Republican adminstration in whatever pop culture item they're referencing. Hence, this rather tendentious pop culture analysis post that attempts, for whatever reason, to believe that Lucas had some ulterior purpose to his whole Star Wars universe other than that he wanted to make movies and earn tons of cash doing it. Believing anything else is foolish: this is the same dude who ensured he owned all the licensing rights to the films' merchandising. As Yoda said: "Fooling you, he is, when he disparages America. For profit only he seeks and matters not which pocket he picks."

thereyet
Posted 05/20/2005 10:38:47 AM

Dan, you clever linkster. It's not sporting to make fun of Canadian politics. It's like shooting mooses in a barrel.

Ryan Sholin
Posted 05/20/2005 12:58:29 PM

I can't decide whether to laugh or cry out loud at the way people adopt the Star Wars story for their own political needs. And I must give Lucas credit: he set out to make the monomyth, and he has done it so powerfully, that EVERYONE sees themselves in his movies. The only thing that annoys me in any of this is the childish way in which organizations that I like/dislike try to hijack the plot for themselves, sounding more like shrill advertisers hawking action figures than political action committees. Lucas was writing these stories and their scripts LONG before Bush won either election, before Sept. 11th, and certainly the fact that there's a corrupting force in the Senate has as much to do with Rome as it does with anything going on in Washington this week. As for me, I'm going to see Episode III tonight, and I plan to forget about politics for 2.5 hours or so.

Geoff
Posted 05/20/2005 01:03:28 PM

Few things here: 1) How does standing up to toltarian communism give inspiration to the Empire and Richard Nixon being the emperor? Was it the millions of people who died at the hands of the commies post-Vietnam War? I don't think aging hippies/liberals have ever come to terms with how horribly wrong they were in the Vietnam era. That doesn't mean we could have won, etc., but they really need to face facts. 2) Have you ever noticed how the Sith in the original trilogy never lied? And the Jedis would bend the truth? 3) "If you aren't with us, you are against us." That is true. If you aren't with a tolatarian regime, you are against them, by their very nature. 4) "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." Obi-won is saying that absolutely only a Sith deals in absolutes. That's just common bad moral logic found in society akin to "that can be true for you but not for me." Whatever Obi-won.

skye
Posted 05/21/2005 11:32:29 PM

*SIGH* It is just a movie, set in a galaxy FAR, FAR AWAY! The catch phrases here are: galaxy and FAR, FAR AWAY. Jedi's do not exist, Jedi mind tricks only work in the movie NOT on planet Earth, and there are no such creatures called Wookies! If the french and political pundits want to see the movie because of perceived political jabs, then they are viewing the wrong movie! If you are looking for a movie rife with political innuendos and the ever popular "run away from Iraq" message. Reserve a seat for Kingdom of Heaven. Kingdom of Heaven is the story of Christian zealots inciting a war against the innocent Muslims because their bloodthirsty God wants them to kill infidels. Or as historian Jonathan Reily-Smith summarizes the movie as Osama Bin Laden's version of history. *Sigh* May the force be with us!

praetorian
Posted 05/23/2005 08:24:15 AM

anyone who thinks Lucas is slamming President Bush or any other conservative is a complete idiot. All six (actually nine) stories were written long before even Reagan was elected.

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