Sith Lords, Pirates, and Bushwhacking

There has been an incredible buzz around Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

One of the stories is that those accursed Pirates™ (arrr, matey!) have leaked a bootleg of the film to the Internet. And, of course, given the
used recently by the
MPAA, there was not-so-thinly veiled outrage at these vicious criminals marauding the virtual high seas.

Despite these “crimes,” Revenge of the Sith broke the single-day record for film revenues. This movie, despite the fact that pirated copies exist and are easily obtainable online, sold more tickets in 24 hours than any other movie, ever.

When will the Intellectual Property fascists realize that enclosing Intellectual Property is not the answer? That imposing technologies that preemptively control the behavior of individuals, before any “crime” is committed, is not only unneccesary but ineffectual? This film’s success is yet another counterexample to the claim that Internet Piracy™ just isn’t the problem that the corporate studios claim it is.

Another piece of buzz about this film is that many have noticed similarities between the rhetoric of Darth Vader/Emperor Palpatine and George W. Bush. There are many responses I have to this comparison.

First, and most obviously, this story was conceived nearly 30 years ago, in the aftermath of Nixon, Watergate, and the Vietnam War. Though specific dialogue has been written recently, and all writing comes from a context, one cannot conclude that Lucas is intentionally making potshots at the BuShites.

Second, and to shift gears a bit, well let’s just say “if the shoe fits…” This is not an attack on any individual, not even George W Bush, but the fact remains that the rhetoric behind the actions of the BuShites is similar to the rhetoric behind the actions of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. So this is not really a personal attack, but a semantic analysis of their thinking and utterances.

Third — and this is the crux of the issue — the Star Wars stories, like Lord of the Rings, exist in a world where Good and Evil are easily defined. There are archetypes of both good and evil embodied in specific characters that exist in the story, though at least in Star Wars there is some question about what is right and morality being perspectival. My point, though, is that one cannot collapse George W. Bush into the same evil archetype as Emperor Palpatine or Darth Vader. It just isn’t the same; one exists in a real world in which a staggeringly huge interconnected network of real people making real choices; the other is the figure of evil in a piece of fiction.

This is not so much a defense of George W. Bush — it seems clear to me that history will regard him as a criminal at the very least — but rather a claim that focusing one’s perception of Evil™ onto only one man is incredibly narrow. Again, this is not to say that the BuShites aren’t evil, but rather that the presence of evil in politics is much larger than this one man, no matter how much his rhetoric resembles that of the Evil Archetype in the most successful movie franchise in history.

The outrage against Bush that has existed since the 2000 election needs to be examined more closely. If you don’t like Bush, examine what it is about him that you don’t like, and then take a closer look at American history. His Evil™ is hardly new, it’s just more foregrounded than ever before.

Leave a Reply