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June 19, 2005



Great idea for a novel, or a film for the European or Japanese market. Too sophisticated for the US market. The US audience likes simple good guys and bad guys. It might work on premium cable, provided the budget could be kept down.


You're not the only one to think of the application of hegemonic stability theory to the universe of Star Wars.

Abiola Lapite

Jonathan Last gets it! A dysfunctional republic policed by an unaccountable aristocracy of Jedi vigilantes is saved from ruin by a far-seeing chancellor who understands that the old ways have outgrown their use, and that what the people need most of all is peace under a strong leadership willing to recognize and reward merit. It's not as if the Republic is all that tolerant of political freedom, either, otherwise it wouldn't have been trying to crush a secessionist movement by force. Going by the precedent of Rome and Weimar Germany, most ordinary people who've lived through the anarchy of the late republic would probably be *grateful* to the emperor for sweeping away the ineffectual debating chamber called the Senate.

It's unfortunate that George Lucas didn't play up this angle more in episodes II and III (though I'm sure it occurred to him), but odocoileus is surely correct in saying that a more sophisticated movie would be poorly received by the target audience of teenagers, and one can't blame Lucas for wanting to recover his outlays. This is why I say it would be nice if someone were to eventually remake the entire series some day, but this time with a more sympathetic portrait of the empire in mind from the start. Maybe one could use the "Rashomon" technique to do this, but with one film dedicated to each point of view, and the final episode showing Luke's dawning awareness that the Emperor and his father were actually unto something.

Neel Krishnaswami

Actually, George Lucas was surpisingly sophisticated in his plotting (though unfortunately utterly incompetent in dialogue, pace, or characterization).

So, recall that Palpatine had fanned Separatist sentiment to the point that the Republic faced full-scale civil war (this is the Clone War). The rebels had genuine, widespread popular support, and it turns out that the origins of the Rebellion lie in the Separatist movement "defeated" in Ep 3. Furthermore, the Separatists had their strongest support among the nonhuman species, and the new Empire took a very discriminatory stand against aliens.

So what we have is a system where the Rebellion arose from a wag-the-dog moment by Palpatine, and homo sapiens forms the privileged class of the subsequent thugocracy (eg, note the parallels to how dictators routinely draw their henchmen from ethnic minorities to limit their populist appeal).

It's ENTIRELY credible that the Empire would be widely hated; it's only among humans that one would likely find much support for the Empire. This would make a nice, secondary re-reversal to follow-up Abiola's proposals -- to reveal that the glamourous and beautiful humans are hateful self-interested racists and the hideous alien monsters are the true liberals.

Abiola Lapite


Yours is an interesting twist, but it has one gigantic mark against it in my view - it restores the old picture of the "Evil" empire vs. the "good" rebels. At the very least, for this suggestion to make thought-provoking drama, one would have to portray the humanoids as a besieged minority in fear for their very lives should the rebels succeed, in an analogous manner to the way the Rhodesian settlers did, or as white South Africans viewed the prospect of "Total Onslaught." The viewer would first have to be made to buy completely into the picture of poor defenceless humans waging a struggle to preserve their civilized way of life against threateningly ugly and (supposedly) barbaric species incapable of the culture-bringing and culture-preserving tasks for which the human species is uniquely suited, and only once this identification was total would this worldview be gradually revealed for what it actually was.

Abiola Lapite

Actually, it's just occurred to me: even if the Empire were portrayed as discriminatory against non-humans, what's to say that it wouldn't have gradually undertaken an expansion of citizenship to other species with time, like the Roman Empire before it? Perhaps the "evil" Palpatine had just such plans in his drawer before the hotheaded radicals assassinated him and unleashed an inter-species civil war ...


Some ideas for Part 7:

The sudden collapse of Jabba the Hutt's business empire causes severe economic recession. Angry relatives press for the rebels to be brought before a war crimes tribunal after they destroy the Death Star which contained thousands of civilian construction workers engaged on an imperial public works scheme designed to lower employment in the most depressed parts of the galaxy. The rebels catch an incurable plague from the Ewoks which they spread across the galaxy, wiping out eighty per cent of the population and plunging the empire into the Dark Ages. In a fit of nostalgia for the old days, Jar Jar Binks is elected "Holy Roman Emperor".


There are a few problems with making the Empire the good guys.

1) The leaders get their power from the Dark Side. This is acknowledged to be evil, hence the name. Plus the emperor looks ugly from his evilness, and Vadar isn't all that pretty either.
2) They destroyed a planet , relatively unprovoked, with a death star.
3) They built a death star. To destroy planets. Seemed to be one of the first acts of the empire.

Lukas is not a subtle thinker. There is no redeeming the franchise by making the other side seem an understanable political outgrowth of a failing republic, mores the pity.

Abiola Lapite

"The leaders get their power from the Dark Side. This is acknowledged to be evil, hence the name."

Pah, rebel terrorist propaganda! No sane person will swallow Chomskyan rants about "Amerikkka the Evil Empire", so why would ordinary Imperial citizens buy into this "dark side as evil" stuff? Palpatine brought peace and jobs, expanded free trade, opened academies for the poor and talented, etc, which is more than can be said for the useless talking heads of the Republic.

"Plus the emperor looks ugly from his evilness, and Vadar isn't all that pretty either."

By that measure Winston Churchill was clearly the wrong guy to back in WW2, while Albert Speer and "Einsatzgruppe D" commander Otto Ohlendorf were virtue incarnated. The equation of beauty with virtue is the vice of the simple-minded, and if a popular television show like "Lost" can get away with showing its falsehood (the beautiful Kate is no angel), why can't moviemakers?

"They destroyed a planet , relatively unprovoked, with a death star."

Omelettes and eggs, yada yada yada. How about the Tokyo and Dresden firebombings? Sometimes war requires extreme measures. Alderan was a terrorists' nest.

"They built a death star. To destroy planets. Seemed to be one of the first acts of the empire."

And modern day democracies build city-destroying nuclear weapons. Why shouldn't the Empire have a right to self-defense against rogue planets?

"There is no redeeming the franchise by making the other side seem an understanable political outgrowth of a failing republic, mores the pity."

You're too pessimistic. George Lucas may not be the man to do the job, but it most certainly can be done. All the necessary hooks are there already, and it only awaits a proper emphasis on giving the "evil" Empire's side of the story.


Palpatine tells Anakin that "Good is a point of view," a sentiment far more nuanced than the Manichaean rhetoric about "Light" and "Dark" sides that the Jedi spout.

So is it the Sith who deal in absolutes, as Obi-Wan claims, or the Jedi?

Frank McGahon

Actually, although SWIII is a steaming pile of ordure it does hint in the direction you mention. I'd guess that this interesting twist is more of an artefact of Lucas' difficulty in tying together all the ends of SWII with the beginning strands of SWIV - particularly Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader - than a conscious attempt to add a layer of ambiguity. I had expected the story to follow a simplistic mephistophelian seduction by Palpatine - appealing principally to Anakin's vanity - but, probably because Lucas couldn't find any other way to write the story without Anakin as a protagonist, and so felt compelled to find an honourable reason for him to turn to the dark side, this aspect ended up more interesting. Palpatine's criticisms of the Jedi as an arrogant, anachronistic, unaccountable elite did make sense and the incident which occasioned Anakin's switch to the dark side was Windu's attempt to kill an apparently prone defenceless Palpatine, in cold blood, rather than arrest him.

Abiola Lapite

Hmm, you almost make Star Wars III sound worth watching - almost.

Frank McGahon

"you almost make Star Wars III sound worth watching"

I'm reminded of the (apocryphal?) story of Sam Beckett and a friend going to watch a cricket match. The friend remarked that it was "such a beautiful summer's day as to make one glad to be alive", to which Beckett replied "I wouldn't go as far as to say that"

Scott Wickstein

Actually the novelisation of the movie makes for better reading; it elaborates on Palpatine's seduction of Anakin and his criticism of the Jedi Order. By the end of the novel, Yoda recognises that the Jedi have been blind and arrogant, and the main fault for that is himself.

I enjoyed the movies, even "Phantom Menace" but I certainly recognise their flaws also. I do wish that Lucas had made the movies with kids in mind- not today's kids, but those of us that were kids when the first movies came out- now we're in our 30's and 40's we would have loved a complex political drama of the Fall of the Republic.

I certainly felt sympathy for Palpatine's point of view. One can dismiss the entire series as 'rebel propoganda' as many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.

But it's Lucas' baby, and its up to him what he does with it; just a pity he did not take a wider view.


Back to Abiola's initial proposal, something like this has already happened with the American Civil War, contary to Odocoileus' puerile stereotyping. It is still being refought in both literature and occasionally in film. Part of America thinks the rebels were doomed and glorious, part thinks they were racist traitors, and then there's Ellis Island America, that never really heard the question. But the reworking of all angles of the story continues.

Timothy Burke

Honestly? I think the films hint at something like this. If Lucas had been a more sophisticated person, and the mood different, you could even say you were being encouraged to think something along these lines. Certainly the prequels don't leave you sympathetic to either the Jedi or the Republic: both appear clueless and arteriosclerotic.

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