The Star Wars Dystopia

I’m getting close to wrapping up my epic Star Wars rewatch, and something that’s struck me is how much of a dystopia that universe is. It’s not just during the reign of the evil Empire. The whole time, it’s a pretty unpleasant place.

Even during the Republic, this was a place where people were owned as slaves, and this was apparently perfectly legal. The good guys who were the guardians of truth, justice, and peace took small children away from their families to train them as warriors and allowed them no contact with their families. “Bounty hunter” seems to have been a major career field. There were crime syndicates running drugs and slaves.

Some of that may have been in the more marginal areas that were under less control, but the capital planet is basically an urban hell, an entire world covered in a massive, multi-level city, so the only people who get daylight live on the upper levels and the actual surface of the world is a dark underworld. This is the “good” planet.

I wonder how intentional some of this was when it was first envisioned. I’m sure some of it comes down to storytelling, since you don’t get good stories in happy, nice places with no conflict. The whole urban planet thing seems to have been an effort to make something look really science fictiony and take advantage of special effects, but I wonder if Lucas thought this was a nice place or if he was saying something with it. This is, after all, the guy who established his own headquarters at a ranch in the country rather than in a major city.

The people creating Star Wars stuff now seem to be leaning into the dystopian elements, acknowledging where the problems were. I got the impression that the sequels were about to really try to examine that, particularly The Last Jedi, which was pointing out that there was rot, whoever was in charge, and questioning some of the premises of the Jedi order. That didn’t get followed up on much in the next movie, but it seems like some of those questions continue to be raised in the other shows.

In a way, it makes this universe a better place for telling stories when it’s flawed and those flaws are acknowledged, but I’ve gotta say, this isn’t a universe I’d particularly want to visit. I would love to tell stories there, though, especially if I were allowed to question some of the things that underlie that world, even when the “good guys” are in charge.

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