Since today is Star Wars Day and everyone I know is having a fantastic time writing, “May the 4th be with you” on Facebook and Twitter, I thought I’d ask a question that’s been troubling me for weeks now:
When are we going to deal with the troubling fact that Luke Skywalker is one of the most successful and best respected mass killers in history?
Not only does Skywalker kill tens of thousands — in hand-to-hand combat and by blowing up two iterations of the Death Star — but he’s celebrated as a galatic hero for doing it (to say nothing of that fact that Earth-bound movie-goers consistently name him as an exemplar of heroism decade after decade).
I understand that the Empire is an unquestionable evil and that bringing an end to Palpatine’s reign of totalitarian terror is laudable, but the body count that Skywalker racks up along the way surely must give us pause.
When that Death Star explodes and thousands of lives are lost, and then the very next scene shows Skywalker and his friends cheering and laughing, isn’t our moral compass taken for an uncomfortable spin? How can we explain these celebrations to our children?
This reminds me of the Death Star politics scene from Clerks. [Youtube]
Randal: So they build another Death Star, right?
Randal: Now the first one they built was completed and fully operational before the Rebels destroyed it.
Dante: Luke blew it up. Give credit where it’s due.
Randal:And the second one was still being built when they blew it up.
Dante: Compliments of Lando Calrissian.
Randal: Something just never sat right with me the second time they destroyed it. I could never put my finger on it-something just wasn’t right.
Dante: And you figured it out?
Randal: Well, the thing is, the first Death Star was manned by the Imperial army-storm troopers, dignitaries- the only people onboard were Imperials.
Randal: So when they blew it up, no prob. Evil is punished.
Dante: And the second time around…?
Randal: The second time around, it wasn’t even finished yet. They were still under construction.
Randal: A construction job of that magnitude would require a helluva lot more manpower than the Imperial army had to offer. I’ll bet there were independent contractors working on that thing: plumbers, aluminum siders, roofers.
Dante: Not just Imperials, is what you’re getting at.
Randal: Exactly. In order to get it built quickly and quietly they’d hire anybody who could do the job. Do you think the average storm trooper knows how to install a toilet main? All they know is killing and white uniforms.
Dante: All right, so even if independent contractors are working on the Death Star, why are you uneasy with its destruction?
Randal: All those innocent contractors hired to do a job were killed- casualties of a war they had nothing to do with. (notices Dante’s confusion) All right, look-you’re a roofer, and some juicy government contract comes your way; you got the wife and kids and the two-story in suburbia-this is a government contract, which means all sorts of benefits. All of a sudden these left-wing militants blast you with lasers and wipe out everyone within a three-mile radius. You didn’t ask for that. You have no personal politics. You’re just trying to scrape out a living.
Also I’m going to evoke Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth to lazily justify these actions to my children.