The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion From C-3PO’s perspective, ‘Star Wars’ is a prolonged nightmare

(David James/Disney/Lucasfilm 2015 via Associated Press)

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is almost here!

Which means that soon our giddy anticipation will give way to hard, cold reality like the planet Hoth — or soft, warm reality, like a Wookiee’s hug, as the case may be.

We know that C-3PO, everyone’s favorite useless golden robot butler, is going to be in the new movie. (You can see him in a shot from it, above, sporting a swanky new arm.) In honor of this fact, I would like to take the liberty of pointing out something that has been nagging at my mind for some time: namely, if you are C-3PO, the story of “Star Wars” is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. To be blunt, it is a protracted nightmare.


Episode I

You are created … by a child who says all his lines in an unnatural, cloying manner. The first time you meet another of your own kind, he tells you that you are naked.

What does that mean, you ask.

Your parts are showing, he tells you.

You are mortified.

Your owner could not care less. He takes you to a public place where there are many of your kind and makes you walk in front of him holding a flag. There are thousands of people in the crowd. They can all see you.

Then he leaves you — still naked, but with no one who knows how to finish you. The only skill he has given you is an ability to be “well-versed in all the customs,” which is — not helpful, really, considering that you live in total isolation on a desert planet.

Episode II

You meet the child who created you. He is now a man.

For no real reason, he takes you with him to a very dangerous place.

The same robot who told you that you were naked pushes you off a high ledge. Immediately, you get dismembered.

Episode III

You are — I guess — working for a senator now?

You wander around not being particularly helpful to anyone. They erase your memory.

Episode IV

You work in space, doing what you were supposed to do. Then some hostile strangers take over your workplace and your irascible colleague pushes you into an escape craft. You are grateful to have escaped, but you worry that he is not mentally well. He starts babbling about a secret mission.

Later, when he wanders into the desert alone, still babbling about his secret mission, you are positive that he is not mentally well.

The two of you are sold into slavery.

Your new master shows you consideration and gives you an oil bath, but this consideration is short-lived.

You get dismembered again, this time by “sand people.”

After your master reassembles you, you ask to take a nap. Hypothetically, if anyone had offered a lot of exposition that would have been really, really helpful for you to hear and understand what was going on, you would have been asleep for it and missed it all.

Your master goes into a bar, where they refuse to serve you. Instead of leaving the bar in solidarity, he makes you wait outside.

Then you wind up in a giant space station. Your master leaves you behind with your eccentric colleague, who turns out to be carrying Very Important Information. You have no weapons. “What should he and I do if we’re discovered here?” you ask.

“Lock the door,” your new boss says, leaving nonchalantly.

“And hope they don’t have blasters,” adds his new friend, a jerk.

Of course, you are overrun. You tell the people who now have the upper hand exactly where your owner is headed and try to make an escape.

When you finally discover their whereabouts (no one told you the plan), you do not reprimand them. You manage to save them just in time.

You all escape together. On the way out, you almost melt. No one expresses concern.

You offer to donate some of your internal organs to your eccentric colleague, but nobody takes you up on it.

Episode V

Your new boss is that same jerk from earlier. He does not listen to your suggestions. He almost leaves you behind when evacuating an ice planet. Later he asks you to help him by using your interpreter skills on his ship. Great! You feel valued and wanted. You manage to figure out what is wrong with the ship and tell him, but when you do, he pretends as though he knew exactly what was wrong the whole time. You no longer feel valued and wanted.

Later you manage to isolate the reverse power-flux coupling. He does not appreciate this either.

You land in a beautiful city and meet someone who looks just like you. He is unspeakably rude.

You get dismembered again.

You are reassembled, but backwards. Everyone thinks this is hilarious. They laugh at your pain.

You share lots of helpful suggestions and data with everyone, but no one appreciates or values them.

Finally, you meet up with your old colleague again. He insults you. Just as he is reassembling you, he gets up and leaves. It turns out that what he was leaving to do was to save everyone, but this doesn’t change the fact that he was rude.

Episode VI

You are back on that horrible desert planet again. You present a message to an evil slug. The message turns out to be that your master has just “gifted” you to him. Great. What did you do wrong? He never expressed any unhappiness with your work. But he has just given you to a slug who likes to dismember robots for sport. You have just about had it.

You continue work as a translator. You are struck by the slug and get slime on your face. During the rescue, someone chews out your eye.

Next you wind up on an unpleasantly forested planet.

Here, for the first time, people appreciate your true worth. The tribe of forest-dwellers there worships you as a god. Of course, your programming will not let you impersonate a deity. (CURSE YOUR PROGRAMMER, whoever he was.) They offer to cook your companions to honor you. This does not sound that bad, but you act embarrassed about it.

Your old master tells you to announce that you have magical powers. You do so. Then you find that you are flying through the air. You are terrified.

Your new worshipers refuse to cook your old employers any longer, which is, you guess, fine.

You get everyone membership in the tribe by telling a long-winded story. Your eccentric colleague supplies sound effects. Finally, your skills are valued and appreciated.

Then someone uses you as a decoy, and you are captured again.

Will this never end?

They defeat the evil empire. You are still pretty clearly someone else’s property.

Roll credits!