Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Politics in Pop Culture


Kyler Robinson

Politics in Pop Culture

The first time I saw Star Wars Episode III I was immediately impressed by the opening scene and incredible cinematography throughout the movie. Underneath those special effects and sub par acting, there is great political commentary that has been one of the incredible parts of the entire Star Wars series. In each of the installments, the seriousness of political debate has been great. Whether Episode I where we saw the issues of slavery and poverty in a desert climate to the original trilogy that explored the concept of a small rebel group in a struggle and ultimately defeating a great superpower. While this latest installment may seem quite appropriate with a plot that appears lifted from the news, it seems that it is unfair to say that it is contemporary politics. Instead it seems reasonable to realize that the political debate – which has concerned the same ideas even in Episode I and II – is merely the final installments of a series that was started long, long ago in a galaxy far away.

While Episode III is clearly the plot that was to bring the original series in camaraderie with the recent Episode I and II, it is important to note the similarities – and differences – as to better understand where our current politics are and possible grave conclusions and consequences that come out of misguided decisions. While some would say that the Chancellor Palpatine is in fact an allegory of President Bush because of increased authority through emergency powers, relating it to the controversial Patriot Act that has increased Executive powers, the very events that lead up to these powers can be traced back to Episode I where Padme – representing democracy – discusses the ideas of governments with Anikan and indeed even when it was released in 2000, which you may recall as pre 9/11 and pre war in Iraq and terrorism, there were indeed wars in Star Wars. And the reason for this fictional war? It allowed a dialogue about democracy and the abilities and competency of the senate who did little to stop the invasion by the droids and Trade Federation. Even the emergency powers in Star Wars Episode II that came out in 2002 given by the otherwise useless Jar Jar Binks would have been well scripted and even acted before the Patriot Act was even conceived at the end of 2001.

While discounting the fact that these ideas are not scripted entirely out of contemporary politics never mind being an attack on President Bush, the very fact that they are in pop culture demonstrates its usefulness at reflecting potential issues that can occur in society. Perhaps it is a demonstration instead of the far-reaching arms of the concepts in The Republic of Plato, the natural progression between the various forms of governments and oscillation and struggle in between. From the corrupt nature of the senate in the movies which leads – perhaps reforms for the worst (does this sound like any third world revolutions) – into a tyrannical empire. The emergency powers too show the dangers and perhaps brilliance that occurs when a government can turn support of ones country into the unwavering allegiance to its every decision without question. The very nature of all of the political dialogue in the entire Star Wars series is a great at showing and sometimes reflecting social and political issues, but just because it appears similar, doesn’t mean that its an attack on Bush. I bet Lucas is laughing while running to the bank with his $3.5 billion - mean he already said it wasn't an attack.

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