Star Wars doesn’t just breed theories: it thrives on them.
It must be the first fantasy franchise that developed a system of verifying and licensing the fan fiction it spawned, though Disney has since tamed and demoted the “expanded universe”.
But if Star Wars has always encouraged misreading, the films’ famous opening crawl is a sort of disclaimer – it was “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”.
The politics – no matter how much this aesthetic mirrors this or that – is not reflective of a specific, nuanced case in the modern real world. It’s the Light Side vs the Dark Side.
That hasn’t stopped theories and counter theories comparing Rogue One – the first film to take place outside the episodic Skywalker arc – to modern political events.
For a quick recap, screenwriters Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta, following Donald Trump’s election, co-opted Star Wars as a symbol for liberal opposition in now-deleted Tweets. “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” said Weitz, with Whitta chiming in: “Opposed by a multi-cultural group led by brave women.”
Star Wars against hate. Spread it. pic.twitter.com/Dtf5uqpxba
— Chris Weitz (@chrisweitz) November 11, 2016
This led to Trump supporters declaring the film itself anti-Trump, going as far as to suggest the film’s ending was reshot to further this angle, and starting up a #DumpStarWars hashtag for a boycott.
Star Wars writers rewrote and reshot Rogue One to add in Anti Trump scenes calling him a racist. Disgusting.#DumpStarWars
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) December 8, 2016
Both are instances of projection. Star Wars has always been bigger than its writers.
Just look at the way it has established its value independent of George Lucas, with many fans loving the franchise but having no loyalty to its creator.
And then Kathleen Kennedy herself – George Lucas’s chosen successor and top of the Star Wars Empire – has said in an interview with The Telegraph that she “would genuinely say no” to their being a political message to the latest film.
“We certainly didn’t set out when we were creating the story with any of that in mind.”
Yet it would be equally reductive to say there was never any political or historical inspiration behind George Lucas’s original vision.
The films are heavily opposed to totalitarian rule, and the name for the Stormtroopers was taken from the Nazis.
While not explicitly white supremacist, the Empire was human supremacist, which amounts to a similar thing considering how many humanoid races there are in the galaxy.
Neither have the films themselves, with their Light Side versus Dark Side dichotomy, been very subtle. And having watched the new film, it’s safe to say there is scant evidence of a political message or parallels.
— Star Wars (@starwars) December 19, 2016
Could you say, perhaps, that the way Stormtroopers seem to interfere with every level of daily life, bothering anyone who has a conversation, is reflective of modern surveillance? Or, taken a step further, the registration of Muslim Americans that Trump has at one point proposed? Hmmm.
It’s really no different from the Imperial status quo of the original movies, shot in the late Seventies and Eighties. Whether these aspects are reminiscent of or relevant to today is a different story. But it’s not something unique to this film.
And what of the supposedly reshot ending? Spoiler alert one: Darth Vader kills a corridor full of rebels in what is arguably the most impressive lightsaber barrage we have seen from the character. At one point he grabs a blaster bolt with one hand, continues to kick arse with the other, then shoots said laser back out of his hand. Is this supposed to be a veiled comparison to Trump? If so, it’s surely complimentary, no?
Spoiler number two: computer-generated Leia. Is this Trump? Well, she does look a bit hokey, and have weird hair. Or perhaps the inclusion of Carrie Fisher’s character is insulting to Trump supporters, because the actress once implied on Twitter that he did cocaine before a debate:
@reimamy I'm an expert & ABSOLUTELY
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) October 10, 2016
Had the election come a year earlier, people would have had their fill of bogus parallels and coincidences in the wonderful Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
The recently reformed Republic represents the Democrat establishment, while The First Order, with its orange-haired poster boy looking to make the Galaxy Great Again and drain the swamp of the “corrupt” republic, as it were, is the alt-right.
Who knows? Perhaps the film foretold the rise of Trump. People will read into whatever is in front of them.