Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Certain Point Of View

Observation: When watching the original Star Wars trilogy, isn't it funny how we as Americans automatically identify with the rebels?

Why is that, I wonder? Probably has to do with this sense of "the rebel spirit" many Americans connect with. After all, we had our own "Evil Empire" to contend with in the early days of this nation's forming. We beat the British! And no one beats the British. Well, certainly not back in the 18th century when they ruled the world. So, yeah, we're the rebel scum that beat back the Empire and won our freedom. Naturally we're the good guys, and the Empire represents the bad.

However, when you think about it, this is completely the opposite reaction from anyone watching these films outside of the United States. To the rest of the world, unfortunately, we Americans are the evil Empire. When people in the Middle East or in Somalia--or, hey, even on reservations here in the U.S.--watch the SW trilogy, they probably project themselves onto the rebels on a personal level, and cast the American military in the role of the Storm Troopers. We even sorta resemble the Troopers, certainly in our indigenous policing tactics if not actual dress. What haven't we done that is not unlike the Empire reaching its arms across the vast cosmos and clamping down on even the slightest hint of militarized insurrection? How not like the Empire are we increasing trade with certain favored nations and excluding others in the form of retribution and/or punishment?

Like Obi Wan says in Return of the Jedi: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."

More apt words have never been spoken. Except, in the case of many Americans, I would insert the word "desperate" before the phrase "point of view."

Just some food for thought.


  1. Perspective, perspective, perspective.

    It is all an art.

  2. As an adult that has become one of my favorite quotes becuase it is so so true.

  3. Hi David,

    I wonder if you might be reading too much into this.

    I think that people watching Star Wars naturally identify with the rebels for two reasons. Firstly, it is written that way. Writers have an awesome power to play on readers'/viewers' feelings to get them to engage with the "right" side. Secondly (and sometimes supporting the first point, sometimes opposing it) I believe people everywhere naturally identify with the "rebel spirit".

    I believe that this is a natural, possibly universal, human trait.

    Although everything you say is true (and a lot more, besides), and speaking as a Brit, it honestly never occurred to me to identify the Empire in SW with America.

    I'm intrigued that you (and many Americans) identify themselves with the American pioneers beating off the British. That, too, had never occurred to me. I just saw it as a good, old fashioned, straightforward tale of rebellious good v. oppressive evil. A storyline so fundamental and archetypal there is hardly any need to "project" either side on to the real world.


  4. Thanks for the comment, Ian. Nice to see you here!

    Well, sure, you are right in that of course no one will naturally identify with the Empire, and would instead pull for the rebels. George Lucas obviously meant for them to be the protagonists.

    I also wouldn't expect someone from the U.K. to put an American face on the Empire. I meant that more for impoverished nations that may have been negatively impacted by U.S. foreign policy in the past.

    But, yes, if you were to do a collective psychoanalysis of the U.S., you may indeed find that much of our identity as "Americans" stems all the way back to the separation from Britain in the 18th century by military force. Along with the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, this has shaped our collective view that we are masters of the world and that God is on our side.

    This is also why, when Vietnam happened and 9/11, that many Americans could not cope with the ramifications that perhaps we could not win every war, nor trust to god to always protect our country from harm.

    Lastly: yes, I am indeed reading too much into this! :)


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