Friday, October 10, 2003

some inherent and usually overlooked moral implications of Star Wars

I love this article, "Star Wars" despots vs. "Star Trek" populists and there are a few spots that touch me the most.

on page 3:

There are the horrors involved in truly thinking about Star Wars. The various implications regarding Darth Vader are some of the scariest. We take a lot of it as is because it is "great drama" but if we truly thought about it would we think the same way?
--few protest the apotheosis of Darth Vader -- nee Anakin Skywalker -- in "Return of the Jedi."

To put it in perspective, let's imagine that the United States and its allies managed to capture Adolf Hitler at the end of the Second World War, putting him on trial for war crimes. The prosecution spends months listing all the horrors done at his behest. Then it is the turn of Hitler's defense attorney, who rises and utters just one sentence:

"But, your honors ... Adolf did save the life of his own son!"

Gasp! The prosecutors blanch in chagrin. "We didn't know that! Of course all charges should be dismissed at once!"

The allies then throw a big parade for Hitler, down the avenues of Nuremberg.

It may sound silly, but that's exactly the lesson taught by "Return of the Jedi," wherein Darth Vader is forgiven all his sins, because he saved the life of his own son.

This is ridiculous, but this is what we do. In the final frames, in the final scene we see Anakin Skywalker, cleansed and forgiven, standing beside both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, all angels already proven in our state of mind.

Worse, we know, especially if we were truly paying attention that Darth Vader is some sort of Hitler-figure. Indeed, he's much worse.
How many of us have argued late at night over the philosophical conundrum -- "Would you go back in time and kill Hitler as a boy, if given a chance?" It's a genuine moral puzzler, with many possible ethical answers. Still, most people, however they ultimately respond, would admit being tempted to say yes, if only to save millions of Hitler's victims.

And yet, in "The Phantom Menace," Lucas wants us to gush with warm feelings toward a cute blond little boy who will later grow up to murder the population of Earth many times over? While we're at it, why not bring out the Hitler family album, so we may croon over pictures of adorable little Adolf and marvel over his childhood exploits! He, too, was innocent till he turned to the "dark side," so by all means let us adore him.

A good deal of us are engineered to do this for the whole of the first movie in the prequel trilogy, and we're all expected to. (I didn't for I really hate the child actor stuff. I don't even like sitcoms revolving around this kind of crud). In the second movie, written and released after this article was published portrays the teenage Darth Vader as more-or-less a straight protaginist throughout most of the movie. We're meant to still feel for him throughout most of the movie. He's central on the DVD cover and a good deal of the conflict revolves around him, primarily as a hero of some sort. When and where he does have his moral pitfalls it's portrayed as teenage caveats (which makes the romance throughout the movie, and the resulting marriage seem odd and actually illogical) and not entirely symptoms of his destined immersion into the Dark Side of the Force and his descent into villainy.

We're meant to run with this guy. George Lucas wants it to be tragic, like old Greek tales. He's wrote it wrong then. It shouldn't be like Greek tales if it's supposed to end in the original trilogy. As it all works.... "The apotheosis of a mass murderer is exactly what it seems. We should find it chilling." Why are we cheering for Hitler times twelve?

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