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Is the Empire a “White Supremacist” Organization? Should It Be?

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Mike: Many, many moons ago, before The Force Awakens and before the Expanded Universe reboot, our own Jay Shah wrote a piece entitled Senseless Sexism in the Galactic Empire. His premise, in short, was a) that the Star Wars setting offered no logical explanation for an Empire that actively discriminates against female officers, and b) that in practice the EU’s attempts to engage with the issue had been flawed to the point that it would have been better left out altogether.

Jay was reacting to the simple fact that because Imperials are the bad guys—and more importantly, stand-ins for real-life oppressive governments—many are quick to ascribe any and all bad qualities to them. Surely there’s an anti-alien contingent, as witnessed in A New Hope and further supported by the prequel trilogy, but does the Empire actually discriminate against women, or people of color, as well? It’s easy to get that impression when every Imperial in the original trilogy is a white man (though the Rebels in ANH and The Empire Strikes Back aren’t much more diverse), but looking at their successors in the First Order complicates the issue—as do prominent non-film characters like Rae Sloane, who has largely been met with joy from fans for making the overall setting more inclusive, and demonstrating that anyone can be, well, “the bad guy”.

With all this serving as prelude, in the aftermath of last week’s heated US presidential election, Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta, two writers attached to Rogue One, tweeted the following:

Chris Weitz @chrisweitz
Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization

Gary Whitta @garywhitta
Opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.

While nothing tossed off on Twitter (and since deleted) should be taken as canon, and it certainly can’t undo the existence of the powerful, serious black woman who becomes the nominal leader of the Imperial military after Palpatine’s death, I thought Weitz and Whitta’s comments (and let’s be real, the current events that prompted them) merited a revisiting of this topic. So I’ll put the question to all of you: as a separate matter from the “reality” of gender and race discrimination within the GFFA, which can never really have a definitive answer, is there value in explicitly, rather than allegorically, linking the Empire to misogyny and white supremacy? Can there be a sliding scale of interaction with real hate, or is it all or nothing? Read More

Luke Skywalker: The Hero Who Ran Away?

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“Luke Skywalker has vanished”

So begins The Force Awakens. Hold on, though – shouldn’t Luke be fighting with Leia’s Resistance against the First Order, taking on the villainous Snoke and his fallen apprentice Kylo Ren, rather than running away from his problems? For many fans, to whom Luke was a childhood hero, this narrative choice seemed at best out-of-character, and at worst a betrayal of everything he stood for.

Luke’s disappearance is indeed a long way from the swashbuckling young hero we saw in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. But Luke’s journey in the original trilogy is to become a Jedi, the Jedi – the one to correct the mistakes of the previous generation. From this perspective, his choices following Return of the Jedi make perfect sense.

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How Much Technology in Star Wars is Too Much?

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With the recent return of Star Wars Rebels, we’ve finally been exploring the aftermath of Kanan Jarrus’s blinding last season. Kanan’s existing doubts and fears were only amplified by his handicap, and he spent months in apparent isolation before finally learning from Bendu how to use his Force senses in place of the real one he lost.

“Warrior learns how to see without seeing” is a time-honored trope that was all but made for Star Wars, and I loved seeing Rebels‘ take on it—I see the value in telling that story, not just for its own sake, but as a means of growing Kanan as a character and opening his mind to new paths. But at the same time, I admit I have a little suspension-of-disbelief issue with it: couldn’t the guy just get new eyes? Forget the ample prosthetic limb technology that we already know exists; if they can clone an entire army of dudes and age them at double their natural rate, surely they could clone him new biological eyes?

Well, maybe, but maybe not. Post-reboot, there are far fewer examples of cyborgs in Star Wars than there used to be, and the ones that we do see often are often portrayed as faulty or not quite optimal–so it’s unclear whether a robotic eye, or a cloned one, is actually possible, as counter-intuitive as that might be. The reality is, Kanan doesn’t have new eyes because that story wouldn’t be as interesting—just like Return of the Jedi wouldn’t have been as interesting if Luke had to duel with his left hand only. Read More

First Steps into a Larger World: What the Prequels Taught Me about Life, Politics and Myself

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The release of The Force Awakens in December saw, predictably, a wave of reflections on the Star Wars prequel trilogy: from brief, usually dismissive asides in reviews of JJ Abrams’s sequel, to a range of works defending the prequels’ artistic value. The most well known are Mike Klimo’s ambitious Ring Theory and the documentary The Prequels Strike Back, though I would also recommend these three articles as particularly eloquent and interesting perspectives on the first three episodes.

Beyond the critical response, the assumption is often that the prequels were generally received negatively by the fan community. After all, the most prominent voices in fandom had long been those of the original trilogy generation, where the response was indeed mixed, as the younger generation has taken time to grow into adulthood and find its voice. But as Abrams says:

“…if you ask someone around the age I was when the original trilogy came out, “Whats your favorite Star Wars movie?” they will tell you one of the original trilogy. If you ask someone around that age when the prequels came out, they will say one of the prequels. And it’s scientifically proven and undeniable.”

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