Thursday, May 19, 2005

Episode III: Return of the political commentary

Yes, it's politics, deal with it.

When looking at any movie, one of the things to consider is the point of view that a good director brings into the movie, whose perceptions are very likely to filter unto the frame. While a great director can do this without you knowing about his politics or life history (such as say, Million Dollar Baby, to name a recent film), the knowledge of such politics can make the film even more powerful. In the case of George Lucas, it is probably important to know that he is in fact a person that would tend to lean towards liberal politics, and someone that, having lived through southern California in the 1960's and 70's was probably fairly influenced by all that happened through that era. So having seen return of the sith, I must say, that while two of the three movies are terrible, at least he has kept a semblance of a coherent theme.

Probably one of the most surprising things about the second trilogy was the fact that the empire became as it was, not because of a military coup, which at the time of Episode I, was what everyone expecting (o.k. I was), but because it was essentially engineered to happen. And I have to say, that, that was pretty impressive on hindsight, considering what has been happening since 1997. Anyway, suffice it to say that I've been intrigued by all the political controversy focusing on Return of the Sith. So, while browsing, I saw the following at Freiheit und Wissen:

"The Jedi operate as a sort of check on the power of the Chancellor and the Senate, but no one apparently operates as a check on the Jedi. With their completely unmitigated surveillance and police power, never once does a Jedi take a prisoner who will stand trial and go to jail. Instead, they seem to operate completely above the law, dispensing their own justice on the spot wherever they see fit, without any internal checks from themselves or from the Republic."

Now Cntodd (who writes a pretty good review, so please, don't think that I am picking on him) goes on to say that he thinks that this was actually a rather foolish of Lucas to do, as it is just elevating one form of concentrated power (the Jedi) instead of another one (the empire), and (I'm inferring, so I apologize if I got it wrong) that it really doesn't matter whether or not the jedi are for democracy, as they are still a form of concentrated power.

Believe it or not, I was also wondering about this bit, thinking that if the movie was political allegory then it was fairly crappy political allegory. Yes, the empire is meant to be a cautionary tale with Palpatine and the Senate are obviously meant to be an allegory to a presidential system gone wrong and the separatists are meant to be the other, the enemy, the hate, the non-existing threat from orwell's 1984. But what about the Jedi? Are they supposed to be another political party? That doesn't work, as one would assume that the senate encompasses that view, and indeed Bail Organa and Amidala (who utters the only line that actually made me perk up from my seat) represent. Are they meant to be the Judges? That almost works, except that Lucas is going a bit further by making them be policemen at the same time, and that seems a tad fascist considering his beliefs.

Now remember that he probably wrote this movie after the buildup to the war on Iraq. I'm assuming that this is his artistic and subconscious response to that event, the fact that it will make him billions or dollars is just a side issue.

So here is the little secret, here is what I think that he is trying to say (and I could be so far off, that I apologize). The empire rose because it was given its powers by the people, because they were afraid of the threat. The Emperor became who he was because he tricked everyone, and he knew that there was one thing that could stop him, the one thing that could have opposed him, the one thing keeping a check on his power, the one thing that had more credibility than him, the unelected watchdog of society, keeping a tab on the powerful

The Jedi, are the press, and they were seduced to the dark side.