I love the idea of Star Wars. I love the original trilogy and I think there is a magic in it that is truly transformational. That magic is the reason why the franchise has been such a spectacular success all over the world. The movies speak to people on a truly deep level - the mystery of a galaxy far away, the connection of the Force to all living things, the hero's journey and space battles. Oh, the space battles! I can feel Luke Skywalker's hero journey hit home in a lot of ways as it connects to my soul, to something old and powerful.
With that said, Star Wars is also something that pisses me off to such a strong degree that I wonder whether I need to take chill pill, or maybe if it's best to move north and live in an igloo. (Do they have Netflix there?)
The Anakin Skywalker trilogy, while somewhat good in its portrayal of politics and false flag terrorism, and metaphysically hitting the bulls eye with the fall of the Jedi, also introduces some pretty horrendous things (midi-chlorians, anyone?) that really screw the whole thing up for me. The bad dialog and poor directing are just icing on the cake, I guess.
George Lucas did a lot of research into religion and politics, as can be clearly seen, but certain things baffle me, coming from the guy who managed to create the ultimate classic hero's journey film series. Reading his interviews, one gets the impression that Lucas had a great and powerful desire to introduce a kind of non-denominational religious experience to Star Wars through the Force, as well as imbue it with his personal view of morality. 50/50 on the effects of that one, Georgie boy!
While the Force is truly something special, its division into the LIGHT SIDE and the DARK SIDE turns Star Wars in a comical direction.
THE LIGHT SIDE VS THE DARK SIDE
The Force is basically God in Star Wars. Lucas attempted to translate his understanding of the duality of life, as he understood it from his study of the world's religions, into the framework of the Force. I kept looking for a character who would say: "Oh, stop listening to the Democrats and Republicans, um, sorry, the Jedi and the Sith! There is no Light Side, no Dark Side, there is only the Force. There are good choices and bad choices, light thoughts and dark thoughts, but the same Force is available to everyone!"
This dichotomy automatically separates people and places them on opposite sides. I guess my personal beliefs weigh in heavily here and make me view Lucas as amateurish and over-simplifying. If the Dark Side of the Force actually exists in the Star Wars universe, I haven't seen it. The Force flows to all and there is only our thoughts that make the difference whether we allow the Force to flow for goodness or the other type off stuff.
Now, the Force issue I can understand not being a big deal, being a question of metaphysics. Also, films like these work best when they can appeal to certain limiting beliefs in people - that there is an outside evil to be reckoned with. But the issue of the Jedi and the Sith, of who's good and who's bad, now that is a very big deal.
THE JEDI VS THE SITH
Considering Yoda's frequent warnings about being mindful of one's thoughts, I would think that the main difference between the good guys and the bad guys would be the quality of the thoughts that they think. If thoughts are what decide whether you're on Team Dark Side or Team Light Side, then I can't really understand how the guys who train child soldiers, hold elitist meetings in pursuit of Jedi goals while pretending to do it for the good of democracy, wave lightsabers around as they casually kill anyone standing in their way, crush democracy and secession aspirations of thousands of planets, could ever be considered anything even remotely good!
Supposedly peaceful-minded guardians of the galaxy have no problem leading an army of clones to destroy freedom fighters who wish to go their own way? I guess that's okay if you make the opposing side look like this:
And what about Yoda's admonition to Anakin and Luke about fear?
To me it seemed like all the Jedi did in the prequels was warn of danger, fear monger and, to paraphrase Qui Gon, focus on their anxieties about the future at the expense of the present. It is here that Lucas scores a victory, whether he meant to or not, by finishing the prequel trilogy with the decline of the Jedi. Their ways have grown stale and toxic and they had to go. But, instead of the viewer understanding their demise as a natural outcome of their wayward ways, we are led to believe that it is this grand tragedy of epic proportions, wrong and unjust.
Where he misses the ball completely is in assigning the other side a completely negative, evil role. He demonizes them and prevents the average viewer from learning what the Jedi did wrong.
He sets the Republic against the Empire, with a clear bias for one side, although both are authoritarian in their nature. He sets the Jedi against the Sith, with the Sith as the bad guys, even as they value independence, introspection and seek the ways of the same Force as the Jedi. But I guess it's easier to paint things black and white, while throwing in "realism" here and there.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Movies, tv, books and every other kind of entertainment storytelling sells us on something more than the obvious story and characters. It presents us with worldviews, hidden beliefs about the way things work and ingrains in us, below our radar, the acceptance of certain truths, thanks to the emotionalized content we consumed.
Even though we can see the fall of the Jedi and of their corrupt and evil ways in the new films, we still view them as the good guys, despite mountains of evidence, because, well, the villains are so villainy, and the Jedi love to wear white and beige and are the leads in the story.
Films and tv programming more and more often try to make us cheer for the bad guy and they succeed by creating an emotionally charged context through which we can empathize with the anti-hero. Cheering for Walter White and Tony Soprano is not the same as cheering for Yoda. We see the anti-hero under a more objective light because we are told to.
It is our heroes we need to question, just as we should supposed villains.
It's called programming for a reason - we need to question it, and not just consume it mindlessly.
Like Qui Gon Jinn said:
FOCUS DETERMINES YOUR REALITY!