There are three possible topics of conversation this A.M.:
- Vice President Biden’s decision on whether to run for president
- The Liberal Party’s sweeping electoral victory in Canadialand
- The new “Star Wars” trailer
I’m not going to write about Canada, because I’ve been tuning out that race for quite some time and there’s no reason to change course now.
So, “Star Wars” it is!
Here’s the trailer, for those of you who haven’t already watched it 50 times to deconstruct it frame by frame:
I’m extremely wary of the “Star Wars” narrative explicitly addressing politics. Still, there is no denying that this trailer makes a key political point about what happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away: the Rebel Alliance’s victory in the Battle of Endor was a catastrophic success.
The evidence is right there in this trailer and the previous two. The desert planet of Jakku does not seem to have benefited all that much from the three-decades-old Rebel victory. Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, appears to be a scavenger, and the planet is just littered with Imperial wreckage. If that hasn’t been cleaned up after 30 years, it’s a good sign that the Rebel Alliance has failed at statebuilding.
An even stronger sign that the Rebels’ victory was short-lived is the evidence in the new trailer that they won the battle but lost the narrative. Consider this exchange of dialogue in the trailer:
REY: There are stories about what happened.
HAN SOLO: It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side. The Jedi. They’re real.
Really? REALLY??!! Thirty years after the Galactic Empire is destroyed and the real history of the battle has been forgotten? Aren’t the victors supposed to be able to write the history? Han and Luke and Leia and Lando and Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar and the rest of the Rebel Alliance haven’t broadcast exactly what happened? Where are the holo-documentaries? Why hasn’t the Senate been revived as an institution? Why hasn’t fear been discarded as an instrument to keep the local systems in line?
That’s just poor postwar planning. It’s almost as if the rebels hadn’t expected to win so quickly.
Similarly, Kylo Ren’s ominous pledge in the trailer, “I will finish what you started,” as he caresses the charred helmet of Darth Vader is pretty disturbing. It suggests that the Rebels failed at advertising Vader’s abandonment of the Dark Side in the last minutes of his life, allowing later generations to inappropriately valorize a Sith Lord. This is somewhat less surprising: after all, Luke could not have produced any observable, verifiable evidence of Vader’s last-minute conversion to the light. So this narrative was bound to surface. Still, Mon Mothma and the Rebel leadership should have anticipated and planned for this contingency.
Perhaps we should not be too surprised. “Catastrophic successes” happen all too frequently on this planet as well. Republic-building can be really, really hard. Maybe this new trilogy will be about how the next-generation rebels learn from their predecessors’ mistakes, rolling up their sleeves, engaging in the hard, grubby work of politics, and finally restoring peace and tranquility to the vestiges of the old republic.
I just hope and pray that this movie really, really doesn’t suck.