Star Wars - Force and State
"Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view"
(Spoiler alert: the text below contains references to punchlines. If you read this, you should probably do so after seeing the video)
This was performed and recorded before the news came out that George Lucas had sold the rights to Star Wars to Disney , but edited after. The central premise, though, is something I've been kicking around for years, and first performed around 2003, or maybe even earlier. I would come back to it now and again, whenever something happened that kicked Star Wars back into the zeitgeist, like when a new movie came out, or when different versions of the movies were re-released. Each time, though, felt like the last opportunity to do something with it. I was sure that eventually Star Wars would fade into the past, and continuing to do material about it would become as stale as Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonations.
I finally decided to perform it with the intention of putting it online, just of to get it out of my system. It's not really like most of my standup, and I want to focus on other, more personal topics. Making a video of my Star Wars bit for online viewing is my way of putting it to rest without all my efforts going to waste.
Then, recently, as I was editing this together, the sale to Disney was announced along with the production of three more movies . It would seem that my expectation that Star Wars will lose currency as a topic is probably not going to happen in my lifetime. I imagine that even beyond the three movies, they will constantly re-release things with new technologies, like a virtual reality version when that becomes feasible, as well as coming up with new content. So long as there is money to be made...
There's a good chance that the new movies will present information that will ruin my beautiful theory about the hidden dimensions to the story. Or maybe the new movies will only provide more evidence for what I suspect is the truth behind the veil of special effects, and my ideas will seem prescient... Either way, it seems like now is a good time to get it out there.
Below is the transcript, which differs slightly from the live performance. There's only one small joke that I regret missing when I recorded the video, the bit about brown shirts. Also, I think in the performance I skimmed too quickly over the point about the disconnect between being supposedly "leftist" and yet pro-monarchy. Other than that... meh... no live performance is ever perfect, and that's kind of the point. I could have just edited together a video and narrated it with script in hand, and done it with more precision. But I like the energy and flaws of a live performance, as it creates a more natural feel. Or maybe I'm just an attention whore, because you can't hear applause when you just upload a video.
I feel a little bad for calling Lucas a "hack" at the end. He seems like basically a nice guy , and maybe the cultural impact of something like Star Wars gets beyond any one person to handle . Open letter to George: I do disagree with a lot of the creative choices you've made over the years, but no one can take away how awesome that first movie was. That moment when Luke turns off his targetting computer is still one of the best scenes ever put to film. Thanks for having created a world which helped make my childhood a lot of fun.
If you enjoyed this video, you might also like my take on Avatar .
Transcript for Star Wars - Force and State
I'm actually not a Star Wars fan anymore. But I want you to appreciate just how far I've come when I say I'm not a fan.
When I first saw the very first Star Wars movie , I was so young and naive that I didn't know that in movies the hero always wins. When Luke Skywalker was flying down that trench, and he was being chased by Darth Vader , and he had to hit that target just right... I honestly didn't know if he was going to pull it off. I was genuinely scared the universe could be doomed.
It made a deep impression on me, and to this day, when I see that scene, I can't help but feel tense.
I loved Star Wars . I had all those action figures they made, even the Boba Fett you had to write away for . I had Star Wars wallpaper in my bedroom. On Halloween I dressed as a Jawa. I watched, and enjoyed , that shitty holiday special they made.
Sadly, those days are gone. As more movies were made, it got harder and harder to ignore the ugly truth.
I started to have doubts even before the new series of movies was made. Everyone had a “whoah, what the...?” moment when they first saw Jar Jar Binks . And for good reason. Jar Jar Binks apparently comes from a whole race of ready made Amos and Andy style sidekicks . They have built in Jamaican dreadlock-things and the whole “Me so happy massa” Uncle Tom attitude. What’s the racial message here Lucas?
And what about the aliens that the Jar Jarians were fighting, these creatures that had flat faces and yellow, slanted eyes, and were all secretive… There hasn't been this much sublimated racial stereotyping in a science fiction series since the wildly anti-Semitic Ferengi in Star Trek .
But the clumsy racial metaphors aren't what bugged me.
That got me thinking.
A bunch of “leftists”.
If you're a princess, you're in a royal family… and monarchies are not democratic . Now, the far left is not always democratic either, but since the left is usually socialist in some way, I don't know a lot of far left extremists who are pro-monarchy.
Now take a look at the “Empire”. They come across as hard core right wing authoritarians. But if you look at how they operate, they have a republic, a senate... it's not too clear if they have universal suffrage . Maybe only the wealthy planet owners can vote. But still... even if it's a primitive Grecian style democracy, it's still a democracy.
So... we're cheering a bunch of monarchists fighting a democracy? How'd that happen?
The hints were there from the start
Who exactly are these “rebels”?
When you look at it, they don't seem like an uprising of working class people. When we very first see Luke Skywalker on the farm on Tattooine , his Uncle owns the farmland. It's droids who do all the blue collar work.
It seems the rebellion is led by landed gentry and dispossessed monarchists who've had their traditional power structure threatened by an emerging republic.
There was one time I was talking about this, a guy said to me, “actually Queen Abadalamadingdong was “elected” to her seat in the senate.” I looked it up on the interwebs, and that's technically true. She was elected.
When she was 14, though. Now, I know this was probably written this way because, George Lucas wanted to line things up so that Princess Allibabababoo wouldn't be too much older, years later when she got it on with young boy-band-era Vader. I don't know why that was a problem, because there ain't nothing wrong with a little cougar action, but that seems to be what happened at the script writing level.
Whatever, though. Lucas might have been more focused on character time lines than the politics, but it doesn't excuse anything. We've still got the story we've got.
No functioning democracy elects a 14 year old girl to anything higher than hall monitor , so she has to have been ushered into power by a ruling elite.
If the rebellion were just the landed gentry, that might be a excusable. Hell, George Washington was the wealthiest land owner in the colonies , but there was still some merit in his rebellion. But the situation gets worse. Because at the heart of the rebellion are the Jedi.
At first glance, the Jedi seem all Zen and spiritual and peaceful. You first see Obi Wan out wandering in the desert, fighting injustices, like Caine in Kung Fu . So, you know, you think they're all a bunch of counter culture revolutionary warrior monks.
But then in the movie The Phantom Menace , which historically is further back in time, you see the Jedi in the penthouse suite of some deluxe high rise on the capital planet of the galaxy. They have this Star Chamber with bay windows overlooking the metropolis. They’re casually chatting over Earl Gray tea about how to influence politics and alter the fates of all the citizens of the galaxy.
Nobody elected these guys. Nobody voted for Yoda. What the hell happened to the separation of church and state? They're like the evangelical movement in the US Republican party, pushing their agenda behind the scenes.
Not only are we cheering for anti-democratic monarchists, they're also fundamentalist theocrats .
These guys aren't just out to stop gays from becoming stormtroopers. These guys start whole ground wars that get who knows how many people killed.
For example, in Phantom Menace they go down to planet Jamaica where the Jar Jarians live, and convince them to fight a robot army and get mowed down like Aztecs being slaughtered by conquistadors . What do the Jedi offer in return? They send in two human white guys to rescue a human white girl.
Why do the Jar Jarians agree? 'Cause the leader of the Jar Jarians is a fucking king ... another monarchist. He's got a divine right to rule to protect, so of course he's on board.
Now, you’re probably thinking “Yeah, but just look at the Empire, they’ve got lots of black, dark atmospheric mood lighting, and lots of heavy breathing. They’ve got to be evil, right? And the Jedi have all soft earth tones, lots of brown, long hair, and eating granola, they’ve got to be good, right?
What makes them so good, all deep down?
Here’s where it gets really fucked up. In the new series of movies, George Lucas revealed to us what it is that makes a Jedi a Jedi. In order to be a part of “the force”, you have to have this stuff in your blood called “Midi-chlorians”. So... you have to be born with the right blood...
Not just antidemocratic monarchist fundamentalist theocrats... they're also racial supremacists! Holy fuck!
Now it makes sense why the Jedi wear the brown shirts ! We're supposed to cheer for these fascists?
We're supposed to be happy, singing “yub yub”, along with the Ewoks, when these authoritarian assholes win at the end of Return of the Jedi ?
A victory which is ludicrous when you think about it. I don't know what it takes to build a death star , but apparently a death star is something an empire the size of a galaxy can only build one at a time. I think it's safe to assume that they'd devote their best troops to protecting this thing. The best troops in an entire galaxy .
We're seriously meant to believe that they couldn't defend a shed in the woods from a pack of plush toys with pre-bronze age technology?
It's so incredulous, it defies all reason...
Unless... you think about what the far far away galaxy is like after the final battle that defeats the Empire.
There’s probably some tough questions being asked during Luke Skywalker’s thousand year Reich . Questions like, “We fought all these battles, all these people died, We got rid of the evil overlord Darth Vader, and now… his son is in charge? Another Skywalker and his crypto-incestuous sister are running the show now? What kind of revolution was this?”
Not only has all the power in the galaxy been passing around within one family, but with the death of exiled Pope Yoda, Luke has moved into the position of head of the official state religion. Church and state have been unified, and Ayatollah Skywalker reigns supreme over his dystopian theocratic dictatorship.
And that's when it hit me. I saw it, man, I saw what was going on. Maybe George Lucas is the most brilliant film maker of all time.
You see, think of it like this. History is written by the victors. So maybe what George Lucas is doing is writing this whole series from a meta-contextual point of view, showing us history as it would be depicted if the forces of evil had won.
The story is shown from the point of view after Dear Leader Skywalker went all Stalin on the historical records. The photos have been airbrushed , the scrolls have been burned , the statues knocked down ... we're seeing the revisionist history the House of Skywalker wants us to believe.
If that's what George Lucas is doing, it's fucking brilliant. The hints are there, but you have to peel back the layers of propaganda to look for the real story.
What's really going on?
Before the story depicted in the movies begins, democracy was emerging in the galaxy in the form of a republic, with a democratically elected senate. The monarchists and elite were seeing their tyrannical rule coming to an end. They tried to maintain power by filling the sentate with their own kind, like they did with Queen Amadamadingdong. That failed, and they were marginalized.
In this telling scene, Anakin Skywalker argues against the extra-judicial summary execution of a political leader by a Jedi zealot, and calls instead for a trial by jury. For this, he is depicted as a villain.
Even worse for the Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, Luke's father and their chosen messiah, is won over by democratic values. Anakin becomes so keen to distance himself from the cult that has tried to brainwash him since childhood that he dons a Subcomandante Marcos mask and renames himself Darth Vader.
He then aggressively, and for a time successfully, tries to purge the Jedi from the halls of power, making him a champion of the separation of church and state. Which, in my books, is a good thing.
By the time we get to Luke Skywalker, democracy is everywhere and things might have gone well, except no one could have anticipated just how ruthless Luke Skywalker would be. Luke was probably moisture farmer on Tatooine as much as George Bush was a Texan rancher. No, Luke was a demagogue laying in wait.
The Skywalker name gives Luke the backing of the Jedi, but they need the money and resources of the monarchists and land owners to fund the Jedi's jihad against the secular government. To convince the monarchists to come along, Luke and his cohorts concocted this whole story about how he discovered a weapon of mass destruction that only he could destroy. How convenient.
Was there really a death star? Everyone who supposedly witnessed a planet being destroyed by a “death star” are all dead now, except, by no coincidence, for Luke's sister.
It was Luke and the Jedi cabal who blew up Alderaan! It was a galactic Reichstag Fire , Gulf of Tonkin , Manchurian railway in space. Great disturbance in the force my ass. It was a great disturbance by the force!
The monarchists were convinced, and supplied Luke with all the resources he need to launch his bloody coup d'état . Luke then makes a huge display of blowing up a star base that could have been a medicine factory for all we know, and the monarchists adorn him with medals for his “Mission Accomplished” moment, which, like similar moments , was only the beginning of the bloodshed.
The final twist of the propaganda knife is claiming that his father renounced democracy just before dying. Again, anyone on the second death star who might have witnessed Vader sacrificing the emperor in an act of atonement to his son – they're all dead now too.
That's how Luke rolls. He kills all witnesses .
The whole Star Wars series is Ayatollah Skywalker's whitewashed history of his brutal ascent to power. It's his Triumph of the Will !
It even explains the terrible storytelling set against incredible scenery. I mean, it's a state sponsored propaganda film. It has all the brilliant special effects of a Chinese Olympic opening ceremony , but the stilted story telling of a North Korean news report . Even in the very production of the films the historical revisionism is hinted at. I mean, we all know that the free market neocon mercenary Han Solo shot Greedo first, but even that detail got suppressed to support the official state narrative.
If it's the case that the whole Star Wars series is a post modern metacontextual propaganda for the Skywalker regime, then maybe George Lucas is a brilliant writer working on so many more levels than we've even discovered yet!
Still, we've got the story we've got, the most deceptive and seductive pro-fascist narrative ever written. The Jedi mind trick has been played on all of us. “This is not the hero's journey you were looking for.”
So... I'm not a Star Wars fan anymore. If it ever happens again that I see that scene where Luke is going down the trench, I'll still get tense...
... but I'll be cheering for Vader.