Along time ago, In a galaxy far, far away…

Along time ago, In a galaxy far, far away…

America has one great supernatural myth. No, not the illiterate lumberjack and his giant bull. Nor is it the uneducated man with a tin can and an apple fetish. America’s great myth is none other than George Lucas’s two generation spanning fourteen hour long epic space opera: Star Wars. Star Wars is so successful and well known it doesn’t even need a synopsis on the back of the DVD case. People say Star Wars is so successful because it resonates with so many things. Greek myths, Arthurian legend, Christian mythology, and popular history, have all been cited in Star Warsian allegory. Perhaps one of the largest reasons that these movies have done so well is the fact that this supernatural myth resonates with America’s greatest historical myths. 

The only difference between the words Rebellion and Revolution is that Revolution has an airy connotation of Enlightenment philosophy and an excessive amount of flag waving. The same is true of the differences between Star Wars Episodes VI-IV and the American Revolution. In fact, if one gives General Cornwallis a red laser sword and King George the ability to shoot lightning from his fingertips this paper becomes redundant. To begin, both rebels and revolutionaries had to struggle with an evil Empire who denies both of them their God-given right to rule themselves. In the beginning of Episode VI we learn that the Emperor has dissolved the Imperial Senate and given the regional governors total power, just as Parliament denied the colonists representation and put them under military rule. The “shot heard around the world” can be heard again with a “thousand voices screaming out, then suddenly silenced.” The pitched battle against the Death Star at the climax of Episode IV resembles the desperate stand at Bunker Hill. In fact, the phrase “Use the Force, Luke!” has become almost as iconic as “Don’t shoot ‘till you see the whites of their eyes!” Hiding on the ice planet Hoth seems almost a blatant reference the harsh winter at Valley Forge, while the actions of Lando Calrissian at Cloud City are comparable to the quintessential American traitor, Benedict Arnold. Sadly, Arnold did not get a sequel performance to redeem his character.

The incredibly technologically inferior but illogically tactically superior Ewoks can be paired off with the infamous American militia, Swamp Fox. Finally, the grand coalition of species and planets coming together for the two-front attempt to topple the Emperor’s second Death Star has a twin in the conclusive victory of the Americans and French over the British at Yorktown. 

So then the side of the Republic has won and the Empire has been toppled. But, how did things get to that point? Or, depending on which side of this paper one stands on, how can it get worse?

Star Wars has a dark side. While the last three movies are a triumph of hope and goodness over despair and evil, the first three are a gritty degradation into it. This decay of society can be seen in our history namely, the Civil War. Both the Separatists and the Confederates succeeded from the Republic (Union) in the name of Planetary (State’s) rights. Both successions lead to widespread military conflict, and both the Separatists and the Confederates had a charismatic and seemingly unstoppable leader, Count (General) Dooku (Lee). Fortunately for America (The Republic), the side of democracy (Or is it Republicanism?) has its own charming champion, Obi-wan Kenobi. Granted, Grant was a bitter drunk who was about as charming as a menstrual wolverine and lost far more battles than his rival did, but the comparison (kind of) stands.

The Clone Wars dragged on and ended in a true Hitlerian fashion with Palpatine rising to the status of an almost divine monarch through use of political cronyism and terror-mongering. Thankfully, America won its war and avoided this tragic circumstance. 

The sinister side of any Republic is that with the right amount of fear and propaganda, one can become a military dictator without using a military. Lucas illustrates this with the rise of Darth Sidious. History does the same with figures like Caesar and Napoleon. People scoff at the idea of something like that happening here, but the concept is not so implausible. Palpatine’s Executive Powers and Bush’s Patriot Act are not so different in content or intent. Both larger than life figures refuse to relinquish their powers in the name of chasing down the boogiemen of Osama Bin-Laden and General Grievous. Both use terror inspired by others to gain extraordinary power, and neither is afraid to use that power through brutal methods to achieve their ends. Think that is an unfair comparison? Let us just put Guantanamo Bay and the infamous Order 66 right next to one another.

History repeats itself, even if it happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. From the Revolution to the Clone Wars, and from Endor to 9-11, Star Wars and American History pair off almost seamlessly. So too, are the lessons that they both teach us. The question is, can we save our dream of democracy, or will the dark side dominate our paths forever? 

Whatever the future may bring in the days ahead, may the Force be with you. Always. 

Michael Robinson   Michael Robinson wrote
on 4/11/2008 9:18:59 AM
Well done and captivating.

lindsay   lindsay wrote
on 4/9/2008 11:09:43 AM
Very interesting and well written.

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Comparative Essay between American History and the Star Wars Saga
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