Found Hiding, Star Wars Awakens
Imagine for a moment that the story of Star Wars is not the dramatization of a complicated, inter-planetary struggle between good and evil, a pure record of rivaling factions, or a close accounting of technological horrors against entire planets and races. Imagine that this story, instead, originated fully, not so much “in a galaxy far, far away”, but specifically from a society of a particular territory seeking control over resources, law, and the movements of people. Such a story is told only by the settlers of Tatooine.
So, imagine that none of the fantastic events ever took place. That is, not strictly as you heard and saw over the course of many movie episodes. The saga only exists as a story within a story, as an elaborate, multi-layered, constructed history of a population of settlers who would prefer to insulate themselves than to begin to understand and to interrelate with peoples they had previously dominated and made use of — in fact, are likely still dominating and making use of even while they recite the story! The “Star Wars” of this exercise is a nearly perfect example of a one-sided story told by a particular sect sympathetic to the goals of a particular politics.
In this rendering of Star Wars we are presented with the rhetoric of a group with respect to their relationship to the environment and to other groups. The story creates an illusion of balance in the way in which montage is used to jump between light and dark, between good guy and bad, aggressor and defender. This feeling of balance appeals to our solipsism, the viewer-participants, in that each of us believes with perfect conviction that we can be objective arbiters of truth, citizen jurors who can dispassionately get both sides of a story. Afterward, we can decide just as dispassionately and come to a fair verdict. We do indeed believe we’ve gotten such facts throughout a series of movies and we see, rationally, that there must truly be a Dark Side to this Force that is depicted. Do we ever find out who is telling this story and for what purpose? We might think that the narrator is, at worst, merely impartial.
We’ve noted, so far, with an attitude of objectivity, that everything we’ve heard about evil Darth Vader, for instance, is precisely as that radical fundamentalist, Ben Kenobi, preached. We’re accustomed to trusting images as being “just the facts”: The Emperor surely must be as satanic a figure, the army of Storm Troopers as vast and as impersonal a martial force, the Princess as devotedly democratic and loving of peace as we’ve heard and hoped to be true. We’re never given a moment — certainly never encouraged to take a moment — to think about, then ask where all the money and equipment came from to pursue these military ventures against the Empire. We might care to ask who benefits and who will yet benefit from these wars. What business interests are furthered and what monarchy with its “legally appointed” board of directors and their feudal hangers-on will profit? They all may fear for their own livelihoods and so would continue to support this monarch with enthusiastic loyalty and without question. The entire chain of appointments and business interests would effectively shut out the majority of citizens, minding their own concerns, from real political power.
When that army wins (or did win), that army we’re accustomed to calling “Rebel Forces”, that is, will the Jawas and ‘Sand’ people then continue to be marginalized and treated as racial outliers? Will the Hutts continue to be castigated in their role as greasy Mafioso? It’s an odd coincidence that the native population of Tatooine would consistently be described in the most inhuman and racist terms. Greedy, beady-eyed and cheap Jawas peddling stolen goods? Really? ‘Sand’ people who love violence and who make their inhuman calls and who wander with their dirty flock of Banthas? Greasy, disgusting Hutt, ready to rig any casino and pay off any official? This is familiar language.
It’s a shame, we are told within the narrative of Star Wars, that these all have to be sacrificed, to ensure the survival of a few noble and civilized settlers. Do we ever suspect that the story we’ve been told about all of these groups isn’t skewed and exaggerated? The anonymous “Empire” destroyed Alderaan. That could very well be the conspiratorial version. We simply “know” that it was done with malevolence.
But, hang on a moment! Wasn’t it the Empire that made it possible to be a white — er, “human” — settler on hostile Tatooine? We don’t know that it happened, but it’s not implausible that the Empire cleared away the racial “impurities” and gave away parcels of land (and little else) to any poor taker. Neither is it such a stretch to imagine that it later became more trouble, politically, and more costly than the armies were worth after so many generations. The settlers, many of whom may very well have been pointedly racist fundamentalists of The Force cult, wanted more protection from the non-settler communities than the Empire was willing to give. And, too, wouldn’t organized crime in the urban centers like Mos Eisley pay off officials of the Empire? Wouldn’t government agents begin protecting their own interests by privatizing services and selling public interests to the highest bidder?
In this view, the entire revelation-from-above, robotic saga of Star Wars reads like little more than some self-serving and self-pitying propaganda from a group of people who’ve long ago convinced themselves that their tiny piece of backwater was given to them by the gods; that the land is theirs to exploit in whatever manner they see fit; that it is their right and privilege to seek domination. Maybe they’ll ultimately convince themselves and their children, against all facts to the contrary, that a Genuine Royal Princess and her army of Rebel Forces fought for their special place in the kingdom!
We get just a small taste of some very important truths throughout Star Wars if we pay attention to the details. One such truth is that more than two sides — more “forces” exist — than those asserted by a self-interested story teller, between “The Force” and “The Dark Side”. Another is that the Faithful, the self-identified upstanding, the law-abiding and patriotic are never quite as critical of their own glorious histories and their own doctrines and “regrettable” deeds as they are of literally anyone who dares stand in their way or even just sullies their glorious history. Breaking through the elaborate, hodgepodge narratives that inform, then attempt to prove, in circular fashion, everything they think they know about the world is a task which might seem nearly impossible. Those convinced of their own majesty and grandeur are not easily convinced otherwise.