The politics of the latest Star Wars film

I stopped watching the Star Wars films after seeing episode 1 titled The Phantom Menace which, as all aficionados know, was the fourth film is the weird sequencing of that franchise. (Q: Why did episodes 4,5,6 get made before episodes 1,2,3? A: In charge of production, Yoda was.) So I had not planned to see the latest episode (I don’t know what number it is) titled The Last Jedi. But this review by Kate Aronoff surprised me because she says that this film takes a side in the class war.

She says that in past films, the politics was essentially regressive, as you can tell by the comments of some of the worst people in our politics.

In 2002, conservative writer Jonathan V. Last wrote in The Weekly Standard that, “The deep lesson of Star Wars is that the Empire is good,” calling Emperor Palpatine — the main villain and ouright authoritarian of the original trilogy and prequels — an “esoteric Straussian.”

“Make no mistake,” he writes, “as emperor, Palpatine is a dictator — but a relatively benign one, like Pinochet. It’s a dictatorship people can do business with. … The Empire has virtually no effect on the daily life of the average, law-abiding citizen.” Bill Kristol defended the position at the time and again more recently, tweeting that there remains “no objective evidence Empire was ‘evil.’”

Pinochet was a benign dictator? On what planet was this because it was definitely not on Earth.

Aronoff says that these groups are not fans of the latest film and explains why this might be so.

BEFORE TOUCHING DOWN on the planet of Canto Bight, Rose looks down forebodingly to tell us that it’s full of the “worst people in the galaxy.” Cut to champagne glasses clinking and a casino full of galactic 1-percenters.

With “The Last Jedi,” “Star Wars” has chosen a side in the class war.

What “The Last Jedi” advises is a radical break from resistance as we know it: abandoning old tactics and loyalties and handing the keys — or at least more of them — over to the grassroots: the mechanics, the child laborers, the Ewoks, and the rebel foot-soldiers. The resistance of the “Star Wars” films has never been particularly visionary, operating as a kind of top-down, underground rebellion looking to reconstitute the New Republic of the prequels. Its biggest heroes have been messiah figures, princesses, and the so-called great men.

The biggest heroes of “The Last Jedi,” by contrast, are the proletariat — working stiffs who’ve gotten the short shrift throughout the franchise. They’re also mostly women, and many are people of color — not unlike the makeup of the American working-class. Rebel Admiral Leia Organa stays true to her roots as a class traitor and longtime consort to rebel scum: staying the course and boosting morale in the darkest of times, while occasionally pulling out some crazy impressive force powers for the greater good.

If “The Last Jedi” has a political takeaway, it’s for political revolution and a bottom-up transformation of not just who’s in power, but who gets to decide how that revolution happens.

I expect that many of this blog’s readers have already seen the film and am curious if they too sensed this new and progressive class element in it.

I have also read that some were displeased that so much prominence was given to women and people of color. Based on this review and the fact that it has displeased the right people, I think I will see the film.


  1. Dunc says

    Well, yeah, there is definitely some of that in there, but I think a lot of people on both sides of the political divide are reading way too much into it… Also, I would be cautious about the interpretation of anyone who can’t even get Leia’s rank right -- she’s a General, not an Admiral. And there are no Ewoks in this one… To be honest, given the obvious errors I see a lot of people delivering these overly-politicised hot-takes making, I have to wonder how many of them have actually watched it.

  2. Dunc says

    Also, it’s hardly class treason for the foster-daughter of a Senator to want to see the restoration of the Republic…

  3. lanir says

    I wouldn’t necessarily recommend watching the first film in this series (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) because you’d mostly be there for the character building and side stories of how Rey, Finn, Kylo and Poe end up where they are when this more recent film starts. The main storyline of Force Awakens is a rehash of elements from Return of the Jedi which tries to up the ante on them in a desperate and ultimately failed attempt at making them seem new.

    For background I think all you’d want to know is storm troopers are mostly clones (Mano: this comes up in the earlier prequels you didn’t like). Finn is an ex-storm trooper with a serial number for a designation. Kylo Ren holds a similar place to Darth Vader but while he’s done some awful things already, he’s newer at it than Vader was in the original trilogy. Part of the plot of the previous film was about Rey going on a long journey so when you see her on screen again she has a lot of expectations. That’s about all you need to know and it’s as spoiler-free as I can make it (I tried to make it about framing rather than substance).

    On a side note, I like the name Canto Bight. The second part feels like it lends itself equally well to being conflated with “bright” or “blight”. Which basically becomes another part of the subversive messaging.

  4. Holms says

    Bill Kristol defended the position at the time and again more recently, tweeting that there remains “no objective evidence Empire was ‘evil.’”

    They destroyed an inhabited planet for laughs…

  5. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    You forget, Holms, that when a genocide is committed a “long time ago” we can’t judge by contemporary standards. It’s time to let the administrators of Darth Vader Elementary determine the curriculum used to teach children their history without moralizing over it. Besides, have you ever actually met a victim of the Alderaan Explosion? Surely you’re not saying that there’s merit to the argument that people today might deserve reparations because other families were able to pass down wealth, but their own families’ wealth was destroyed. You’re not saying that, are you? Of course not.

    Now, if there was objective evidence of evil, I would accept it, but this biased whining by people who see themselves as victims because some family member died (when they would have been dead by now anyway) or because they had to go through a bit of interrogation, which every government does, is far from objective. It’s not that I tolerate evil, it’s just that unlike you my mind is open to the actual evidence.

  6. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but if true then this really is a break from the past narrative, though not a complete one.

    In the Star Wars universe, it is constantly true that one’s lineage is nearly everything. The ability to use the force, and your approximate power potential when doing so, is literally in your blood. Political power is passed through families, as Amidala was a member of the Royal House of Naboo before she was “elected” queen: she had to be. Only members of the Royal House were eligible to be elected. In many other situations power is also passed through families from older to younger generations without the possibility of that power being given to those outside the line of descent.

    Yes, Leia was given power within the hybrid moribund-senatorial/incoming-imperial system despite being only an adopted daughter of Alderaan’s leader, but it’s not as if her power was not dictated by her parentage -- she was a royal of Naboo and a child of Vader. Bail Organa merely adopted a child born to power through one house into another house of power.

    Some might think that Anakin was the exception, but this isn’t true. Much is made of Anakin being conceived without a father -- with the vague theories in the canon material most commonly hinting that the Force itself somehow caused him to be born. If that’s true, then his parentage has everything to do with his power.

    The primary alternative theory is that the Sith Master that took in Palpatine as an apprentice (Darth Plagueis was that master) used the Force to cause Anakin’s conception without having actual sex with Shmi Skywalker (Anakin’s mother). While sex isn’t involved, Anakin’s parentage would still have everything to do with his adult powers.

    And, of course, note that whether the Force itself or whether Darth Plagueis caused Anakin’s conception and thus his birth, Shmi Skywalker does not benefit from this. Far from elevating the common, the working class, or the oppressed, Shmi is a mere vehicle who is killed by members of a violent underclass (the Tuskens) by the design, or at the very least with the foreknowledge, of then-Chancellor Palpatine, the most politically powerful person in the galaxy and a Sith Lord to boot. Anakin isn’t without a pre-birth connection to power, and Shmi never benefits from her son’s magical/mysterious parentage. In fact, she dies a horrible death because she is too closely connected to her son’s power without being born into power herself (which she might have then used to protect herself from an element as crude and common as the Tuskens).

    No, the Star Wars universe isn’t taking sides.

    If the article above accurately reflects how power is acquired, shared, and legitimized, then the Star Wars universe is changing sides.

    Let’s not pretend that the universe of Lucas didn’t have a political standpoint before now.

  7. Mano Singham says

    Wow, Crip Dyke, you really know the Star wars lore! Thanks for this. It will help me make better sense of the film.

  8. says

    Crip Dyke is largely right; the Star Wars universe has been one where power is a birth right, not only in the canon films, but the now non-canon expanded universe (EU for short). There were a few possible exceptions, one being Princess Leia, who, as noted in Aronoff’s article, was largely a “class traitor” in the originally released trilogy. Though she used her princess status as a way to gain influence, she had little issue getting her hands dirty and finding herself in the middle of battle. She is a character that defined stereotypes, rare for the 1980’s. (Though, there does seem to have been a trend of strong female characters in that era, with Sigourney Weaver playing a number of such roles.)
    The other character that I am currently less sure about would be Han Solo. He’s presented as basically a nobody smuggler who decides to change his life around in that originally released trilogy. The movie from two years ago, though, suggests that he later returned to his old ways. There is a Han Solo origin story movie slated for next year, so we’ll have to see how that goes. Is he truly a “nobody,” or is he “born for greatness,” but loses his way?

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