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Sith Happens: Two Georges With Dreams of Empire


It hasn't escaped my notice or, probably, yours, that the new Star Wars film (which, along with everyone else in the U.S., I saw over the Memorial Day weekend) is said to contain some digs at George Bush, presumably dropped in by that other George with dreams of empire, George Lucas. Two lines, in particular, have been widely cited as anti-Bush. The first is delivered by Princess Padme after the evil Chancellor Palpatine vests himself with new and sweeping powers before a cheering Senate. "So this is how liberty dies," she says, "With thunderous applause." The second exchange takes place near the movie's end during a climactic confrontation between the Dark Side-bound Anakin Skywalker and the Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi. "If you're not with me, you're against me," Anakin declares in an echo of George Bush famous Manichean line in the Middle Eastern sand. "Only a Sith deals in absolutes!" Obi-Wan replies.

Leaving aside the question of whether you think these gibes are eviscerating commentary or sloppy caricature fully in keeping with the exhausted mediocrity of the rest of the film (guess what I think), overall "The Revenge of the Sith" is a dramatically pro-Bush movie. I am sure this is not Lucas' intent (although he lives in splendid exile his own Xanadu in Marin, I would assume Lucas toes the Mullholland Drive party line) but just the result of the fact that Bush and Lucas both trade in the same heroic mythology and iconography. Although the Jedi have their spiritual side, to be sure, they are warriors, quick on the draw, cavalierly light sabring anyone who blocks their path. There's little diplomacy in that galaxy far, far away, at least as far as the Jedi are concerned. Confrontations with the Jedi always escalate, as they must for dramatic drive and good story-telling, but not as we might hope in the real world. Furthermore, notwithstanding Obi-Wan's claim, the Jedi deal in absolutes every bit as much as the Sith do. The amorphous Dark Side sounds very much to me like George Bush's idea of Evil. It isn't something you can negotiate with or compromise with or the unfortunate resultant of vectors of poverty and fanaticism. It's an absolute, to be rooted out wherever exists.

More reason for Bushies to cheer the movie: near the beginning of the film, the Jedi relentlessly pursue the Saddam-esque General Grievous into a vast spider hole in a desert world where Obi-Wan kills him. Lucas has attempted to reduce the body count in what are, the title tells us, war movies by making the vast majority of the Jedi's enemy dead robots. But, starting with C-3PO and R2-D2 in the opening frames of the very first movie, he also anthropomorphizes them, to charming effect. Characters like General Grievous and the cannon fodder grunt robots slaughtered by the thousands by the Jedi are as human as any other alien creature in the Star Wars universe, even if they fly apart into spare parts instead of blood and guts when they're killed. Finally, although Padme may lament the impending collapse of democracy, we should not forget that she herself if a princess and was once a queen, entitled to privilege and deference. Her children will be hereditary aristocrats, even if one of them, for a while, will be unaware of the fact. The retrograde allure of dukes and counts and princesses adds swash to Star Wars' buckle just as it explains the political appeal of Bush's campaign to repeal the Estate Tax.

Anyway, hopefully, the Huffington Post will rally geek legions to defend this idea and also to attack it and if it's already a cyberspace commonplace, then please accept my apologies in advance. I never read blogs except, of course, this one.