Thursday, March 13, 2008

Palpatine for President: Or my new reason for Hating the Sequels.

Lately I have been wasting far, far too much time on a newish Gawker site called io9. io9 exists in that perfect not to hot, not too cold bowl of online porridge. Dealing with the wonderful world of Sci-Fi it never gets bogged down with the scandals and punditry of real news and the entertainment world, and it does it all with a sense of pride, fun and understanding deserving of good, old school nerds. Best of all, it is a bit lighter on the snark. They also have the usual area for me to voice my elegant opinion because I love the sound of my own voice.

Recently on the site, in this election year, there have been several polls dealing with Science Fiction and real world politics. Who's facist regime would you live under, what villain would make the best president, and so on. Understandably Star Wars rears its pretty head regularly, being somewhat of a gold standard in the world of SciFi. It has gotten me thinking. Senator, now Emperor Palpatine's Empire may have been the best of several evils.

When I was a child you could get no cooler than Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo. These 3 with grit, determination, and a wonderful invisible power called the force defeated a nasty horrible faceless villain hell bent on destruction and limitless power. Our hero Luke's journey was that much more difficult because Darth Vader (spoiler alert), the cold emotionless villain, was his father. He had to save and sacrifice his own blood for the good of the universe. Amazing. It even had Ewoks, who I will never apologize for because they are awesome. If you hate them, you hate them because they are small and cute. So you might as well hate other small and cute things like puppies, Dunnys and Little People. Hating little people is like hating black people ergo.. if you hate Ewoks, you're a racist shit.

Where was I? Ah yes. All of this wonder existed in a glorious universe conjured up by Lucas from his vast knowledge of mythology and literary archtypes. Taking cues from Joseph Campbell each character from R2D2 to Nien Numb existed to fill a specific purpose in his re-imagining of a time tested tale. We knew Luke was good simply because he was our main character, we knew Darth Vader was bad because he wore black (and choked people). We knew Han was a trustworthy rogue because he wore a vest. Knowing these simple unspoken truths made this a tale that sank into the public's heart for 20 years and never left. I only had trouble with the word Rebel. I didn't understand how they could be Rebels, and be good, when in all the states right below me in MD, rebel meant "people who fought the north and wanted slaves". Then I grew up. My love for the films never swayed, but the story changed, and it got me thinking... The Jedi had to go.

Now before I go on I don't want anybody bringing in arguments and plot points from the god-damn expanded universe. Star Wars begins and ends with the moving image. Yeah, that means that to me "Life Day" holds more sway than "The Sith Era" or "KOTOR". If it didn't happen on a screen that I couldn't contol... it didn't happen as far as I'm concerned.

The problem came with the prequels. Lucas began to take his mythology and explain it. Political posturing, midiclorians, trade disagreements, senate hearings. They had Terrence bloody Stamp as the leader of the Senate!!! How could that be boring?! Then we learned more, a lot more, about the Jedi. So what had been a group of cool noble laser sword weilding knights slaughtered by an evil force became a political organization of freelance soldiers imposing their religious will on the universe at war with another political force. This got the ball rolling in my head. What did the Empire do that was so bad?

V had Lizards rounding up innocent civilians and podding them for food. The Fremen in Dune are hunted for being natives to a priceless planet. Enemy Mine, slaves, At no point in the original trilogy does the empire attack someone that didn't have it coming. Oh sure, there was Aalderan. They were a peaceful planet... A peaceful planet harboring rebel fugitives and who's princess was a Rebel leader. Right or wrong, you gotta expect some blowback from that.

Where were the concentration camps? Where was the persecution? Look at Mos Eisley! The place is worse than Reno! Gin joints, hookers, fights, people of all walks of life milling about. Does the Empire care? Nope they just want the plans for their Floating Planet Smasher that they'll use to scare people into what? Paying the proper trade guild fees? Fine, here's 5 credits go blow up another planet.
And how do they go about getting the plans? Casually asking motorists. The next time you're at a traffic stop nonchalantly wave your hand and say "You don't need to search my car." See what happens. And we don't even live in a totalitarian regime.

Just take a look at it in terms of today's politics. Let's say there was a party of fight happy, organized religious nutbags ready to go anywhere and attack or invade anyone to prove that their way of thinking was the right one, would you vote for them? Or, would you vote for the other guy. The weird old guy in the hood with his shiney helmeted half robot VP who just wants a little of your money for taxes.
What about WAR "Emperor"? Not a problem we'll take care of any and all conflicts and not a single one of your sons or daughters has to die because with the taxes you are paying... Clone army... done. Not only that, but I'm guessing any political party that is cool with that level of cloning is gonna have absolutely no problem with stem-cell research.

What about Hoth, Yavin, Endor.. Those are battles buddy! Maybe they wouldn't keep trying to crush your rebellion if you weren't always trying to blow up their Not-a-moons.

And who would you want for a leader? The guy who rose through the ranks, learned his trade, built his forces and allegiances over time... Or the hick son of a lifelong politician who finally crawled his way out of the boondocks, not going to the academy, finding religion a couple decades into his life and going on a crazy crusade with a crotchety old man at his side to ruin all the hard work the government had done balancing budgets, establishing good relations with other planets and bringing all people under a united banner.

I wish I didn't think these things, but I do. All it would've taken was for Lucas to show one Gungan gas chamber, some propaganda posters in Coruscant calling for people to out their Jedish neighbors, innocents getting plucked up by the 501st and never seen again, but he didn't. He built the world as he wanted us to see it. Hell, do you know anyone other than crazed warlords who use children soldiers?! Nope. But there were the younglings ready to roll with their rat tails and light sabers. Twisted.

So this November... Vote for Palpatine. And George Lucas...stop fucking explaining everything, you're sucking all the fun out of it.