Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Borowitz, Star Wars

Andy Borowitz has an excellent "story" today about improved Franco-American relations. Check it out.

On a completely different note, I went to see the new Star Wars movie yesterday (okay, so I'm the last one! Sue me.) and I realized why conservatives might be upset about it. Especially the exchange "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," and the reply "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." (Um, Obi-Wan? That's an absolute.) So, we're all nerds here (even Von Brawn*) -- here's the discussion question. Did you think this movie had some subversive political message? And on a more general note, can we really take anything out of this movie at all? After all, one might walk out of the theater thinking that the moral is that love corrupts you. Anyway, give me your feedback.

*Yes, this is meant to goad him into posting something. Anything. If this doesn't work, we may have to do a Deep Space Nine-related post.


Dr. Strangelove said...

There are many political messages in Star Wars, especially in the new trilogy, but they are inconsistent.

The most obvious message (explicitly stated several times) is that "democracy" is good and concentrating executive power in the hands of one leader is bad--a bland sentiment that is neither controversial nor "subversive." Despite the lip service however, Star Wars (as I argued in an earlier post) displays little understanding of democracy. This is vivdly illustrated by the elective queenship of Naboo. You just have to laugh when, as the Senate votes to give executive powers to Chancellor Palpatine, it is Padme who speaks sadly of the death of democracy--though of course she was quite happy to embody even stronger executive powers when she was Queen Amidala.

Another inconsistent message--which Bell Curve noted--deals with "absolutes." Both Jedi and Sith often speak in fairly absolute terms, and yet they also appeal to gray ares and relativism when it suits their arguments. When Obi-Wan asks Anakin to spy on Palpatine, and Anakin speaks honestly that it feels wrong to betray a friend, it is the Jedi Obi-Wan who tries to justify the request with the platitude, "we're at war." He even tries to backpedal and say it is the "council's" request--in other words, Obi-Wan is just following orders.

It is possible that there is a deeper message in the film. Perhaps these glaring inconsistencies are meant to be there. Perhaps Lucas is trying to show us how a democracy can fail. His image of a decrepit Galactic Senate is certainly meant to show us how democratic institutions can fail and invite tyranny. But he may also be showing how when people of good concscience start playing fast and loose with truth and morality in order to "save" democracy, it will come back to haunt them because such actions ultimately undermine democracy and people's confidence in it.

Yes, it seems clear (especially when Anakin argues for the efficiency of dictatorship and accuses his wife of "sounding like a separatist" for advocating diplomacy) that Darth Vader is meant to represent the conservative world-view. It's also clear that Obi-Wan is meant to provide the liberal response. Yet the clarity of Anakin's "absolute" view of the world rings more true than the muddled response of Obi-Wan, and the political naivete of the ineffectual, divided Jedi Council is no match for the cunning of the Sith.

And in that, I think, Lucas has captured the dilemma facing liberals in America today very well indeed.

Anonymous said...

The dialogue in the movie does seem to have some obvious similarities to Bush rhetoric. But there is something else in this movie. The Jedi. The self-appointed, self-perpetuating guardians of "freedom." What a bunch of intergalactic, Platonic hooey! The Jedi are portrayed as perfect Platonic Guardians. But we are left to wonder why it was so easy for the Chancellor to convince the masses that the Jedi were a threat. Perhaps because people resented the control Jedi exerted without being accountable to anyone but themselves?

I think Palpatine (aka Darth Sidius) made an intereting point when he said that when it comes down to it, Sith and Jedi are both all about gaining and retaining power. What is the real difference between the two?

Since we are getting nerdy, what could more nerdy than Babylon 5 ? In Babylon 5, the five year series seems to be leading up to a huge apocolyptic battle between two hyper advanced and mysterious alien species. The "Good Guys" were the Vorlons. Vorlons used their ability to convince less advanced species of their divinity to maintain order. The "Bad Guys" were the Shadows. Shadows lurked around starting wars from behind the scenes and generally causing chaos. In the end a group of less developed species (including Humans) confront BOTH the Vorlons and the Shadows and declare that they won't play their games anymore. The Vorlon and Shadow representatives keep trying to force them to "choose." But the hero of the hour tells them both to get stuffed.

If the message of Star Wars is "submit to your moral betters because only they can protect you." The message of Babylon 5 is "accept no tyrrants, no matter how well intentioned." 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

Good versus bad, it's always subjective, even in the case of the Jedi. Actually, they started to piss me off with their behavior and attitude. It's not at all consistent with the original series. 

// posted by Siddharthawolf

Anonymous said...

George Lucas has said he will not do any more Star Wars movies (we'll see how long that lasts) but it would be interesting to see what happens after "Return of the Jedi." Do we reach some kind of understanding that neither the Jedi nor the Sith would be the best rulers of the galaxy? Up until this point, Lucas has made it clear that Jedi=good and Sith=bad, but this last movie blurred those lines. I guess we can come up with our own conclusions. 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

I've been told the Tim Rice novels are good desipte being written at a fourth grade level...if that 

// posted by Siddharthawolf

Anonymous said...

The whole idea of doing the Star Wars series backwards turns me off. Call me conventional, boring, linear, but I like my stories to run from beginning to end. Rumor is that Lucas is now talking about a TV series  , a cartoon and then an action series. These will be set between parts III and IV, just to screw up the time continuum a little more. For a more advanced look at politics, I prefer Star Trek.  

// posted by USWEST

Anonymous said...

Ah, but Star Trek went backwards too!

But seriously, I think Star Trek had an enormous role in American culture. When it first hit the air waves in the late 1960s, most people assumed that humanity could be exterminated by nuclear war at any momment. So much sci fi from the Cold War era was about post-appolyptic night mare societies of mutants etc (see Mad Max etc). But not Star Trek. Star Trek said, "sure there will be a big nuclear war, but humanity will survive and thrive." When I was a kid, it really mattered to me that someone was saying that humanity's survival into the future was even possible let alone something to look forward to!

Three cheers for Star Trek! 

// posted by Raised By Republicans