Star Wars Is A Mirror For The World, And It’s Best When It Remembers That

Say what you will about the “Star Wars” prequels (or maybe don’t, otherwise we’ll be here all day), but their depiction of the Empire’s ascent and Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side have only grown more prescient with time. To quote Emily St. James’ 2019 Vox piece, “The ‘Star Wars’ prequels are bad — and insightful about American politics”: 

For as stilted and affectless as the films can be, they’re tapped into something raw and real about how often seemingly stable societies collapse into fascism, into revolution, into political upheaval.

“Star Wars” would once again stumble into political relevancy after Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012. The first movie to release under the Mouse House, “The Force Awakens,” undeniably rehashes much of the plot of “A New Hope.” (Cue the requisite “It’s like poetry, they rhyme” joke.) Yet, shortly after its arrival, it became unsettlingly apparent just how timely the film truly was — telling a story about a new generation of tyrants emulating those that came before them, only more extreme, and a young band of marginalized heroes forced to fight the same battles their predecessors had supposedly “won” long ago.

The next two films, “Rogue One” and “The Last Jedi,” further emphasized the ways civilians can bring about larger social reform and the importance of learning from history, not repeating its mistakes or dwelling on past failures. Even “Solo,” despite its tired origin story, highlighted the ways inequality and injustice thrive under fascism. And yet, before the divisive response to “The Last Jedi” caused a panicked Disney to try and steer the franchise away from topical issues (resulting in the nothingburger that is “Rise of Skywalker”), many of these movies would resort to nostalgic fan-service at the expense of their intrepid, substantial storytelling.

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