In what has been a strange election, nothing has been weirder than the political battle over the movie Star Wars. Both Glenn Beck and President Obama both claim to be battling the Empire. Obama believes that he is the young Jedi battling a special interest empire in the name of democracy, while Beck thinks of himself as a Mormon Luke Skywalker.
Here is Obama telling an Ohio audience that the Empire is striking back:
Obama said, “I want to warn you about something. I hope you don’t mind my losing my voice, because I’m still fired up, but I got some campaigning to do over the next couple of weeks here. Right now, the same special interests that would profit from the other side’s agenda, they’re fighting back. The Empire is striking back. To win this election they are plowing tens of millions of dollars into front groups. They’re running misleading negative ads all across the country. They don’t have the courage, they don’t have the gumption to stand up and disclose their identity. It could be insurance companies, banks, we don’t know. This isn’t just a threat to Democrats. This is a threat to our democracy, and the only way to fight it. The only to match their millions of dollars is all of you. Millions of voices who are ready to finish what we started in 2008.”
In Obama’s telling of Star Wars he is the Jedi, but According to Glenn Beck, the Tea Party is the ones the battling Obama’s empire. On his October 1 radio show, Beck delivered his own retelling of Star Wars:
Beck said, “Have you watched it lately?….You should watch it because, wow, wow it is a appropriate story for today. My gosh, it is just such a, you know the republic is going down the empire is starting. Your Jedi that old religion is gone and not powerful.” Of course, Pat picked up the theme and chimed in with, “Well, one of my favorite lines that I think applies today comes from was it the latest Star Wars where Queen Amidala says, “”So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.” I mean how many times have I thought that as people are applauding redistribution of wealth, or some other stinking concept that these guys are putting forward.”
Beck responded today by again naming George Soros, Emperor Palpatine:
Beck said, “I don’t know if Barack understands this. You are the Empire. You have all the power. You’re the Sith Lord. I don’t know. George Soros is the Emperor. I don’t know if you’re just Darth Moll, or who you are, but you’re not the Emperor.” Someone really needs to tell Beck that George Soros has publicly stated that he is not involved or donating to Democrats in the 2010 election. He is sitting this one out, which renders Beck’s whole description irrelevant and pointless.
I have my doubts about the effectiveness of the Star Wars narrative when it comes to motivating voters. I have a feeling that most young voters don’t get fired up by references to a film franchise whose first and best trilogy concluded before they were even born. Why don’t Beck and Obama reference Citizen Kane or Gone With The Wind while they are at it? Hasn’t anybody in politics seen a movie since Star Wars? No one will reference Harry Potter because Christine O’Donnell has proven the danger in touching the electric third witchcraft rail, but come on, a reference to something within the last decade would be nice. Maybe Beck could use Narnia, with its religious messages, and Obama could use The Lord of the Rings?
Beneath all the movie debate is a serious political point. Coming into the homestretch of any campaign, both sides want to portray themselves as the underdog. Conservatives especially thrive off of the fantasy that they are the oppressed minority, and somebody is always out to get them. Democrats really are the underdogs in 2010 and they are using this status to try to motivate their voters to go vote.
Star Wars is a retelling of the classic hero story, so it is no surprise that both sides are trying to use it to their advantage, but Star Wars has always had a more liberal message, because of creator George Lucas.
Glenn Beck’s narrative only works if several key elements of Star Wars are ignored. All six of the films have a powerful anti-war message. All the films have a message about diversity. It can be argued that there is a social justice component to Star Wars, so no matter how hard Beck and Tea Party try to change the story to fit their ideology, the reality is that their leanings and their supporters are much closer to the Empire than they are the Rebel force battling for change and freedom. Most importantly at Barack Obama’s inauguration Lucas himself said that Bush was Vader, and Cheney was the Emperor, which would make Beck and the Tea Party the Empire’s clueless storm troopers.