Friday, June 3, 2005
By Steven L. Taylor

Robert Hayes takes on the political ethics of the Star Wars universe in an essay over at the Blogger News Network. It is quite interesting, and worth a read. It is a good illustration of the shallowness of Lucas’ writing and reminds me yet agian of how good a story this could have been had better writing (and more thought) been utilized.

He raises some legitimate points about both the Republic and the Empire. The politics of the Republic make no sense. As I mentioned in my own review of Attack of the Clones how can there be a 1000 (indeed 1000s)-world political system, but no standing army? Exactly how does the Senate work? As Hayes notes, is it really “democracy” when Senators seem to be appointed, and at least in the case of Naboo (ugh, what a name) and Alderaan, are representative of monarchies?

And in regards to the Empire, most of what we see in terms of evil-ness comes in the form of fighting the rebellion (that and wearing black and speaking with menacing voices).

Imagine if the politics of the Republic and the Empire had actually been thought out and well developed–how much better would the story have been? What if the behavior of the Jedi in episode I-III made sense?

Robert comes to the following conclusions, for which he does give some interesting supporting evidence:


The Jedi are (were), basically, selfish and evil.

The Empire is (was), basically a normal human political entity, flawed but not unredeemable.

George Lucas has a moral compass that’s about 90 degrees skewed from what most of us would consider right.

I really don’t think that Lucas’ moral compass is the problem, per se, as much as is his infantile writing: the movies, despite the fact that they do have a strong compelling element, are constructed so as to say: the good guys are good because they wear white and we say that they are good, and the bad guys are bad for the opposite reasons. To be fair, the movies were supposed to be homages to the serials of the 1930s, which were hardly complex literary presentations. However, that works for one movie, it may even work for three, but one one has the chance to add nine hours to a saga that are supposed to explain the other nine, then one’s get-out-of-simplicity free card has been revoked.

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13 Responses to “The Political Ethics of Star Wars

  1. Mark Says:

    Reading your Clones review, you ask where do little Jedi come from? Well, I think it’s the same principle as the priesthood. :-)

  2. Benito Guajardo Says:

    Hayes isn’t the only one with similar toughts

  3. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:


    This I understand. My point was that in IV-VI we are told that “the Force is strong in families” indicating, as was clearly the case with Anakin with Luke and Leia, that a parent strong in the Force could have children strong in the Force.

    However, if all the Jedi aren’t allowed to have children, it would seem to make it more difficult over time to find people sufficiently strong in the Force to be Jedi.

    Hence my qualm.

  4. Scott Gosnell Says:

    Actually, not to pick nits, but most of the bad guys wore white (the stormtroopers). This has always bothered me, as if something inside me thinks they should be wearing ecrew or something.

    Could it still be a form of federalism (democracy) if the Senators are appointed by the governments of their own planets, rather than appointed from the top down? In that case, though the affairs of the individual planets may not be democratically managed, the affairs of the Republic (a representative democracy, not a true democracy) were (i.e. voted on democratically in the Senate). An imperfect analogy, I grant you (analogies, by definition, are), but remember that our U.S. Senators were originally supposed to be elected by the state legislatures, not the public.

    This post constitutes the sum lifetime total of time and effort allotted to me for the contemplation and expression of the politics of Star Wars.

  5. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    Of course, in the case of Naboo (again, what a name), and the only one where we have any information, th Queem appointed Padme to be Senator (although there was some talk of the Queen being elected, I think). Most odd in any event.

    The writing/thought issue aside (which is the real problem) the funny thing in terms of Lucas is that in III he makes a big deal about the death of democracy and protecting democracy, but there isn’t much actual democracy on display.

  6. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    And, technically, a system could be federal in arrangment, and not actually democratic.

  7. Jan Says:

    My sister thinks that the Jedi and the whole saga are more representative of religion than politics. Having never seen any of the new trilogy I can’t personally comment. However, after hearing your “glowing” reviews, I really have even less desire to see them than I did before.

  8. Sarge Says:

    Politcs is devoid of ethics, especially in America.

    Or what’s left of it.

  9. Brett Says:

    As to the standing army…. Could It be that each system is responsible for its own defense and armed forces (Ie. Naboo and the Trade Federation in Episode I). I think it is better to think of the republic as a confederacy or EU type organization than a federal system.

  10. Dr. Steven Taylor Says:

    One would think, but if that were the case, where were said militaries during III when Grevious’ droid army was attacking? Where were they in IV-VI during the rebellion? Why did Obi-Wan need the clones in II or, for that matter, why did Palpatine need them in III+? He was the duly elected Chancellor and then duly crowned Emperor, and therefore should have been able to gather such forces unto himself.

  11. Steve Says:

    This brings back fond recollections of my geeky past, when in high school we used to argue forcefully (sic) about things such as whether the Starship Enterprise could beat the Battlestar Galactica in a fair fight.

    I find very little entertainment value in discussing a government system described in a screenplay, especially in scripts that are as badly written as the Star Wars scripts. You will inevitably find yourself injecting far more meaning into the story than the author(s) brought to the job.

    My high school friends and I still argue about things like this from time to time, but nowadays we concentrate on the ideas put forth in books that have gone to the trouble of developing an idea with some degree of consistency. Our current favourite is The Culture from Ian Banks’ books.

  12. The Window Manager Says:

    Does This Make Me a Nerd?

    Mrs. Director and I tried to figure out the politics over cocktails afterwards, but as Poliblog noted, they just don’t make sense.

  13. PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » More Star Wars Politics Says:

    [...] ics
    By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 6:38 pm

    Professor Bainbridge joins in the fun over the interstellar politics of the SW universe. (non-scifi geeks can move along, this isn’t the post you [...]

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