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By Jordan LaPorta
Forty years ago, pop culture was changed forever by a film most people thought would be nothing more than an ephemeral summer flick. The movie’s mastermind had minimal acclaim prior to its release, and his biggest hit before 1977 was American Graffiti. But in 2017, Star Wars is now a household name. Its characters have become as recognizable as any in cinema, and its lines of dialogue are co-opted and spoofed on a daily basis.
Almost everyone loves Star Wars, and anyone who does not share that opinion is generally seen as a cultural outlier. Every franchise made since has tried to mimic the success of the space opera saga, but few, if any, have been able to capture the same magic.
Star Wars appeals to people for varying reasons, as the movies tell exciting tales of adventure, romance, and friendship that cut across all ages, races, and backgrounds. At the center of the beloved galaxy far, far away is an idea also similar to that which has also made America great: the idea of liberty.
When people go to the movies, politics is generally not their primary concern. Average, everyday people go the theater to be entertained and escape the drama and perils of real life. What makes movies like the Star Wars saga so successful is their ability to connect with people on a basic human level. Whether hardcore or casual American fans realize it or not, Star Wars taps into key political elements of the American identity that have been present since the Nation’s founding.
Anyone who has made it farther than grade school knows about the story of the American Revolution. The story was about a land, ravaged by taxes which were being imposed by a distant empire that excluded their voices and oppressed their people utilizing a large police state. The colonists, growing tired, rose up against the British Crown, eventually declaring independence in 1776.
The story is told over and over again in schools, tv shows, and movies. The revolution’s heroes are represented on national monuments, the names of cities, and even on our currency. It is a story that Americans cannot escape, and it is a critical part of who we are as a society.
The rebels in the Star Wars universe are hardly different from the men Americans grew up learning about in history books. Like their American counterparts, the Galactic Rebellion opposed a harsh, militaristic, distant Empire, whose harsh tactics were fleshed out in the recent smash hit Rogue One. The Galactic Empire, headed by the tyrannical Sheev Palpatine, used fear to keep the local systems in line.
Palpatine’s Nazi-like regime employed the iconic storm troopers to maintain its rule, headed by none other than the ruthless Darth Vader. In its short thirty-year reign, the Empire wiped out an entire religious group, established work camps for political dissenters, and oppressed “lesser” alien species.
The Emperor came to power by consolidating his authority over the original Galactic Republic through “emergency war powers.” He then mobilized the government against an external threat he concocted, and persuaded the Senate to abdicate its role and reorganize as a centralized empire “for a safe and secure society.”
Throughout the original six movies (plus Rogue One), the government is the villain, and the heroes take armed action to actively overthrow it. Whether liberals like it or not, the rebellion is a gun-carrying group of ruffians opposed to the evils of an oppressive, overbearing state.
Consider the original cast of characters. Luke Skywalker was a simple farm boy looking for a better life and higher sense of meaning. Han Solo was a shoot-first space pirate who actively ignored the government’s rules on intergalactic shipping. Princess Leia was a diplomat who helped organize the rebellion against imperial rule. Obi-Wan Kenobi was a relic of a religious group systematically wiped out by a government looking to avoid conflict. These people despised the Empire, and they dedicated their lives to seeing its violent end.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that the progressive opposition to Donald Trump has dubbed itself The Resistance — the same name of the group that succeeds the rebels in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. While Donald Trump is certainly no libertarian, the members of the so-called “Resistance” are not exactly classical liberals, either. In fact, they prefer centralization, forced conformity, and big government more than almost anyone else — just not when the person at the helm is Donald J. Trump. These tactics favored by today’s progressive left formed the bedrock of the Empire’s galactic tyranny.
Americans may not always favor libertarian solutions in practice, but they still look to libertarianism as an ideal to strive toward. No matter how statist a politician’s plans actually are, voters always gravitate towards the rhetoric of limited government, personal responsibility, and liberty. It was clear in the words of The Declaration of Independence, and it is still clear today in our love for Star Wars.
May the force be with you.