It’s Star Wars Day for another few hours! I know, I’m super late, and everybody else already shot a womp rat, or whatever you do to celebrate this holiday, this morning. But I love Star Wars, and I’ve had plenty of weird thoughts about it lately. So in the spirit of my earlier post of hot takes about Batman, here are 10 hot takes about Star Wars…
The Empire is a Prescient Example of an Evil Religious/Secular Alliance
The weirdest thing about the Empire in the original Star Wars trilogy is that it’s a quasi-fascist military force (their soldiers are called Stormtroopers!) that is governed by an evil mystic who wields strange psychic powers and belongs to a strange cult. On the one hand, you’ve got leaders like Admiral Motti scoffing at Darth Vader’s “sorcerer’s ways” and Vader’s “sad devotion to that ancient religion” of the Force. And yet, on the other hand, you’ve got the Emperor acting very much like an evil sorcerer who worships dark gods, out of any old Conan or Weird Tales story. It seems weird that defiantly secular imperalists work so closely with adherents to an esoteric faith — except that it makes perfect sense. Hitler was super into mysticism after all, and we’ve seen over and over again how easy it is to create alliances between fundamentalist zealots and secular thugs. This uneasy alliance is one of the most realistic things about Star Wars.
Jedi Mind Tricks Are Creepy and Kind of Invalidate the Jedi Philosophy
I did some searching, and apparently there are no real examples of the Sith using mind tricks—it’s just the Jedi, going around screwing with people’s minds. When they’re not, y’know, actually lying to people about their fathers being dead, or getting sucked into pointless wars over trade routes or something. It’s legit creepy that the Jedi rely so much on mind control to get their way—even if I guess Jedi mind tricks are more limited than, say, compulsion in The Vampire Diaries. There’s no example of a Jedi telling someone, “You’re going to go home and murder your entire family,” which happens all the time in TVD. To the extent that I understand the Jedi philosophy, it’s about living in harmony, because the Force connects all life. So it’s weird enough that the Jedi use this benevolent, empathic power to go around slicing and dicing with their laser swords — but it’s especially incongruous that they go around imposing their wills on everyone else.
It Should Be Easy To Go Back and Forth Between the Dark and Light Sides
Especially considering the end of the Darth Vader story — he has one moment of remorse at the end of Return of the Jedi, the slate is (apparently) wiped clean. He murdered countless people, including small children, but he chooses not to murder his son, so he’s all good. I’m reminded of the line in the 1967 version of Bedazzled where the Devil laments that Mussolini repented for one second in his final moments, and his soul was saved, undoing decades of hard work. So considering Vader’s redemption… why, exactly, can’t Force-sensitive people go back and forth between the Light Side and the Dark Side on a regular basis? I get that the Dark Side corrupts you, and that the Jedi work hard to master spiritual disciplines that could be hindered by going dark occasionally. But… if all it takes to go to the Dark Side is getting angry, then what the heck? Everybody gets mad sometimes. Everybody has a bad day or acts out. Nobody should have to be afraid of losing their temper occasionally. It would be different if going to the Dark Side required a sustained commitment, or some kind of irrevocable bargain, but clearly that’s not the case. The Jedi should have special procedures for their members who lapse into darkness occasionally, and it should be no big deal.
The Star Wars Universe Is Vulnerable To Currency Manipulation
Trade is a huge big deal in Star Wars, right? It started the Clone Wars. Every other character we meet is a smuggler, or a dealer in artifacts, or whatever. And apparently there’s a single galactic currency: credits. Which means there’s a central bank? Some kind of monetary policy? How do you track inflation across an entire galaxy? The mere existence of all these smugglers and merchants implies that goods can be scarce on one planet, but plentiful on another, too. I guess I’m just wondering how you maintain a stable currency when the value of goods and services is so variable. I kind of want a Star Wars movie about the heroic currency dealers who arbitrage between credits and various local currencies, taking advantage of massive fluctuations in their exchange rates. (Pictured above is Watto, who refuses to accept Republic Credits in The Phantom Menace, but then demands money. What currency exactly does he hope to be paid in?)
Subtitles Are A Sign of Sinisterness in Star Wars
It’s weird that Chewbacca talks all the time, and everyone else can understand him, but there are no subtitles. Right? Ditto for droids like R2D2 — everybody seems to understand R2’s beeps and clicks and whistles, but the audience is left to use context to figure out what R2 was saying. But meanwhile, you know who has subtitles? Greedo. Jabba the Hutt. Various other sinister bounty hunters and alien creeps. I’m racking my brains trying to think of a benevolent character in the movies, who speaks a non-English language and is subtitled. It’s almost like the existence of subtitles is a sign of nastiness/untrustworthiness.
The Death Star Should Be No Big Deal
The main thing that seems to be cool about the Death Star is that it can destroy a planet. Which… sure. That’s scary. But any one of those Imperial Star Destroyers ought to be able to use their tractor beams to tow a big asteroid and smash it into a planet. Basically, the same thing that happened in a recent season of The Expanse (keeping it vague because spoilers.) Maybe planets in Star Wars have anti-meteor defensive capabilities, but if so, we’ve never seen them as far as I know. Destroying a planet? Not that hard.
Star Wars Is the Poster Child for Stealing Instead of Remaking
George Lucas famously tried to get the rights to do a Flash Gordon movie, but couldn’t — so he created his own thing instead. He also threw in World War II fighter jet movies, Japanese Samurai films, Westerns and five other things, into a big stew of mostly undigested influences. Star Wars is proof that it’s often better to rip off instead of remaking — and it’s too bad that the barriers to original VFX-heavy film-making have gotten so much higher since 1977, since the best tribute to Star Wars would be to make something completely new that steals heavily from Star Wars.
The Jedi Order Would Benefit From a Lot of Schisms (and Less Hierarchy)
Why did the Jedi order fall in the first place? I would argue that its main vulnerability was a centralized, hierarchical structure in which the Jedi Council (which was mostly cis dudes) dictated policy for everyone. Imagine if the Jedi had been more of a diaspora, with a thousand competing schools of Jedi thought, including some Jedi anarchists or some Jedi who reach decisions by consensus. The Jedi are proof that sometimes unity isn’t a good thing — at least not if it means that everybody gets roped into taking part in the same disastrous project. When you consider all the different sects of Christianity, Buddhism or Hinduism, it’s downright weird that the Jedi don’t have more schisms.
I Want a Series About Artists, Writers and Yes, Sex Workers in the Star Wars Universe
So we know there are professional musicians in the Star Wars universe, because we’ve seen the Cantina Band and the Max Rebo Band. Are there big concert venues though? Does that arena from Attack of the Clones ever get used for rock shows? I know there have been comedy shorts about Max Rebo, and his lead singer Sy Snootles turned up in the Clone Wars series, but I need to know a lot more about how music works, and how musicians get paid. Or are they all enslaved, like most of Jabba’s entertainers? Do musicians get paid in credits? Also, what about artists? Is it possible to make a good living as a painter in the Star Wars universe? Finally, it’s kind of odd that we see gamblers and smugglers and various other criminals, but there’s no sex work to speak of. George Lucas was supposedly working for years on a TV show about the criminal underworld of Coruscant, and I would very much like to see this concept come to fruition — if it gives us some insights into the lives of people who aren’t engaged in epic struggles.
The Best Days Will Always Be Behind Us in Star Wars
This seems to be the one constant, unless you’re looking at tie-ins like the High Republic. Where Star Trek seems always to be looking forward to a brighter future (except when it’s not), Star Wars is always looking backward at some fallen glory. The Republic, the New Republic… the only non-evil institutions we ever hear about are the ones that have collapsed. Lucas constantly insisted that he wanted Star Wars to be about the Vietnam War, but in a lot of ways, his films are more about the American malaise that set in, starting in the mid-1970s, when the United States stopped feeling like an unbeatable superpower and started to feel more like a sick giant. Part of the essential conservatism of Star Wars is the sense that the past was nobler and better, and the future can only aspire to be a pale reflection. A Force ghost, if you will.
If you want more Star Wars content, you can watch Looking For Leia, a seven-part documentary series about women who love Star Wars (featuring interviews with me) here.
In case you missed it, I published a new book a few weeks ago! Victories Greater Than Death is my own take on space opera stories like Star Wars, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who and Steven Universe. It’s the story of Tina, a teenage girl who is secretly the clone of a dead alien hero, who was hidden on Earth as a baby until the time could come for her to reclaim her legacy. As a nerdy queer kid with a severe learning disability, I wanted nothing more than for aliens to swoop down and take me away from this planet, and I put all of that longing into this book.
Here’s an episode of the Storybound Podcast with me reading a couple chapters of this book, featuring lovely sound design!
And you can read some sample chapters here.