Archive for February 12, 2010

Alternative Interpretation of Star Wars Movies: 01

February 12, 2010 19 comments

Unless you have been living in a hole for the last 30-odd years you have probably seen at least one star wars movie or are familiar with the general story-line. However I believe that the conventional narrative of the story is incorrect.

Before I talk about an alternative interpretation, let us review the conventional narrative:

An evil scheming senator (palpatine) convinces a tortured soul (anakin) to defect to the dark side. He does so and helps destroy his own colleagues (jedi) and enslave the galaxy. Two decades after that event, his kids (luke and leia) with the help of a ragtag group of characters lead a rebellion which ultimately succeeds in overthrowing the empire and a cocky pilot (han solo) gets the princess and order is restored.

I do however believe that the real story is more complex and carries a very different message. Let us consider a few things, shall we..

Why did senator palpatine go to dark side?

When the story starts, senator palpatine is already a sith lord, but have you ever wondered how he got there. What made him go to the dark side? The prequels suggest that palpatine was a respected middle-aged senator from a minor planet system (naboo).

My theory is that palpatine was an extremely ambitious and competent man who realized that the byzantine power plays of the old republic would always keep him from living up to his true potential. He was not charismatic or skilled at playing corporate politics, but he was rational and ruthless. He went over to the dark side because that was his only hope of fulfilling his destiny. The old republic was an old boys club, populated by degenerate and incompetent men from ‘important’ planet systems. If it had worked as a real meritocracy, palpatine would never have had to embrace the dark side.

Why was palpatine successful at destroying the old republic?

He was successful because the old empire was sclerotic, ineffective, protocol ridden and special interest driven. Nobody was acting in good faith, and everyone wanted to maintain the status quo so that they would keep on receiving their unfair share of the pie. Remember that the jedi for all their vaunted role as protectors of the order never gave a damn about slavery, indentured labor or fairness. The empire was malfunctioning and nobody cared.

Why was palpatine successful at getting anakin to come over to his side?

Because anakin was also not getting anywhere. Even though he was the most naturally gifted jedi, he was never part of the inner clique. He was always seen as an untrustworthy outsider by fellow jedi. He could not stop his mother from being kidnapped and killed. You see, she was the only human being who had ever loved him unconditionally, and he could not save her. I see this event as the point where he snapped in more ways than one. The padme death vision was merely an excuse for what had started before that.

How could anakin kill his fellow jedi, including kids?

Because by that point, all he felt was hate and anger. He had never been treated well in his life, and he simply returned the favor. While killing kids might seem morally problematic to us, he had lost all empathy towards others. They might as well have been inanimate objects in his path. His lifelong mistreatment gave him no reason to treat others as equal human beings. You reap what you sow.

I might write alternative interpretations of other movies in subsequent posts.