The war between liberals and conservatives began a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
American politics have slipped beyond “Hardball” and “Meet the Press” and into “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.”
George Lucas’ final installment of the sci-fi epic, which opens nationwide Thursday, may be about more than light sabers, robots and opposing sides of the Force. It may actually be about … President Bush.
“It is clear that there’s a parallel between the Bush administration and the rise to power of the Empire, the Evil Empire,” said Newsweek movie critic David Ansen in a “Today” show segment Monday morning.
Ansen is just one of several voices asserting similarities between the politics of “Star Wars” and those of the current White House.
“Lucas dares, for the first time, to address how the hollow political conflict in his franchise correlates with the reality outside its panels,” wrote Ed Gonzales, movie critic for Slant magazine, in his recent review.
The “Today” show’s Michael Okwu summarized one of the new movie’s storylines as: “a warmongering chancellor of an intergalactic republic asks the senate to give up their liberties and to give him more power—under the guise of being under attack.”
Ansen said, “It appeared to be a reference to the Patriot Act and to our sort of giving up our civil liberties in the name of national security.”
In the movie, Anakin Skywalker, played by Hayden Christensen, completes his descent to the Dark Side of the Force and transformation to Darth Vader. In doing so, Anakin tells his former friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.”
The “Today” show balanced that movie line with a clip of President Bush saying in November 2001, “You’re either with us, or you’re against us in the fight against terror.”
Critic Gonzales said that exchange was one of the film’s two most affecting—and politically relevant—moments (noting that Obi-Wan’s response is, “Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes”). The other is an intense battle inside the intergalactic senate hall.
The Web is aflutter with these comparisons.
Discussants at the Rotten Tomatoes Forums debated Gonzales’ statement that “Sith” is “very much the film Lucas’ fans want to see, but are some of them ready for an anti-Bush diatribe?”
Some forum participants thought Gonzales was way off base.
“How is Revenge of the Sith critical of the Bush administration?” wrote one. “It isn’t. Palpatine’s [the chancellor’s] rise to power contains serious parallels to the current Bush agenda but to think that Lucas did this intentionally is absurd. In short, that guy’s a moron.”
Another wrote sarcastically, “Obviously, George Lucas foresaw the rise to power of George W. Bush back in 1977, and has slowly been unfolding his story of warning against the current Republican administration.”
Another participant said the “enemy” line “was almost certainly an intentional shot at Bush, but I don’t think the story overall was directed at Bush at all.” The discussant then referenced Lucas’ own comments about how historical examples, like the Roman Empire, actually inspired the story.
Indeed, Lucas told an audience at the Cannes Film Festival Sunday that his narrative for “Sith” was based on historical instances of fascist ideologies taking over democratic ones, according to an Associate Press article.
Lucas referenced the power plays of Napoleon and Hitler, and pointed out that he conceived the general storyline in the 1970s when Vietnam and Watergate—not Bush and Iraq—were on his mind.
“It’s just one of those recurring things,” said Lucas at the Cannes press conference. “I hope this doesn’t come true in our country.”
“You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control,” said Lucas.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The “Revenge of the Sith” official Web site is here.