IS GEORGE BUSH A SITH LORD?
And Does Ice Cube Save America from Donald Rumsfeld? Well, Duh!
by Shlomo Svesnik
In two of this spring's Hollywood blockbusters, you have to wait until the very last of the final credits for the real punch line.
"All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."
Uh-huh. We've heard that one before.
Everybody's talking about the Bush allusions in Revenge of the Sith, the dark conclusion of the new (and, thankfully, last) Star Wars trilogy. There were several obvious parallels for the fall of the Galactic Republic to a despotic Empire, from ancient Rome to Weimar Germany. What a strange twist of fate that this final installment, in which the dread transition reaches its climax, should be released as precisely this phenomenon appears to be befalling the American republic.
"If you're not with me, then you're my enemy," the fledgling Darth Vader notoriously proclaims, echoing nearly verbatim George Bush's post-9-11 warning "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." The other line everybody points to is: "This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause." So speaks pure-hearted Padme Amidala as Senator Palpatine declares himself Emperor. It could be the passage of the Homeland Security Act.
Fewer noticed that the last installment, Attack of the Clones, had the Galactic Senate voting to raise a standing clone army exactly as Congress was voting to approve military action against Iraq here in the real world in 2002, with Chuck Schumer happily voting along like a clueless Jar-Jar Binks. Now the new movie reveals that the Separatist rebellion was a phantom menace to justify war--just as the real-world media are acknowledging as much about Saddam's WMD threat.
This instance of life imitating art is sufficiently blatant that the right is calling for a boycott. (FreeRepublic.com's chat forums are all over it.) If only this FX-fest was a fraction as dangerous as they think. But then, as Obi-Wan says, "Only Sith deal in absolutes."
There are more than a few ironies to the Star Wars series' cultural trajectory. When the first one came out in '77 (remember how spontaneous and refreshing and fun it seemed in comparison to the stiff bogus solemnity of the latter trilogy?), it was bashed by many as a move away from the then-fashionable dystopia genre of sci-fi in favor of mere Flash Gordon nostalgia. In retrospect, Soylent Green and Omega Man were also pretty reactionary, with their Malthusian nightmares and Social Darwinist assumptions. But at least they were addressing (or exploiting) "issues" like ecology and the nuclear threat, while Star Wars was seen by socially-conscious popcorn-heads as apolitical escapism.
Still, in the post-'60s climate, it was mandated that the good guys be the Rebels and the bad guys the Empire. It wouldn't have worked the other way in an America that had just been through Vietnam and Watergate. The Star Trek heroes with their imperial Federation belonged to a zeitgeist that had passed (for the moment). In fact, the Ewoks, those low-tech guerilla teddy-bears who bring down the ultra-mechanized Imperial forces in Return of the Jedi, were an obvious parallel for the Viet Cong.
Yet (I think Marx called this the paradoxical unity of opposites) the very nomenclature of the Star Wars series was appropriated by Ronald Reagan precisely to reverse the post-Vietnam aversion to militarism and imperialism. The very name "Star Wars" became the popular shorthand for the Strategic Defense Initiative, the system of space-based weapons (which the government is still pursuing, under other names and slightly less grandiose forms). The Soviet Union, of course, became the "Evil Empire."
So maybe George Lucas thinks he is atoning for his sins in Jedi fashion by making a flick with unsubtle disses of Darth Dubya. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just shrewd--even cynical--marketing. You know how all along the series has had these hifalutin' pseudo-Taoist pretensions? Yet you notice that Lucas is not above decidedly un-Taoist Burger King promotional tie-ins. (You think Yoda would eat that crap?) Similarly, one of the trailers that ran before the showing of Sith we attended was an ad for the Air National Guard, with digitally-enhanced fighter jets careening around the screen like a (no doubt intentional) harbinger of the dazzle to come in the feature attraction. The kicker--"Guarding America, Defending Freedom."
Who's taking who for a ride, Freepers?
Much has also been made of the creepy ethnic innuendos in the second trilogy, with alien species designed to invoke the Yellow Peril, Third World Wogs, and so on. Our fave was Watto, the (literally) elephant-nosed slave-keeper from Episode IV, who was simply an undifferentiated Semite, so he could be appreciated by Judeophobes and Arabophobes alike. The same stereotypes apply: the official Star Wars website helpfully informs us that this digital creation is "shrewd and gruff," with a "love of credits" and "a knack for haggling."
Nobody's talking about ethnic allusions in the new flick, but we can't help but notice that the notion of Empire as secret pawn of the demonic Sith cult (Sith=Seth, third son of Adam and ancestor of the Jews=Set, Egyptian god of evil) smells a little like the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion--and the current paranoia on both the left and right that the government has been taken over by hidden Semitic puppet-masters (the Israelis or the Saudis, take your pick).
Another thing nobody is talking about is that two of the current cinema extravaganzas are essentially about a right-wing coup d'etat: the other one is State of the Union, second installment in the burgeoning xXx series. xXx is obviously conceived as James Bond for the young, hip and tuxedo-alienated: the anti-Bond. In this one, Ice Cube plays a thug from the 'hood who becomes Agent xXx and teams up with his old car-jacking homies to save America from the putschist designs of a bellicose Defense Secretary who smells suspiciously like Donald Rumsfeld. (Incongruously, the president he seeks to overthrow seems more like Al Gore--he must be removed for seeking multilateralism, wanting to rebuild bridges with Europe and the UN, cut the Pentagon budget, et cetera.) It is set almost entirely within the Beltway, yet the action is nearly Jedi-like in its implausibility. The most significant difference is that Ice Cube saves the day before going underground at the end of the flick; Obi-Wan and Yoda fail to before they do the same thing.
So is it true? Has Hollywood really been taken over by screaming liberals who seek to undermine respect for authority, cause us to falter in the War on Terror and indoctrinate us in weak-willed globalism?
Don't be a shlemeil. All they're interested in is making money, and they are adept at playing both sides of the spectrum in order to do so. The best evidence is that the same guy who directed State of the Union, Lee Tamahori, also directed the last 007 monstrosity, Die Another Day. Not only a square Bond flick in which the hero drinks martinis and wears a tux, but one which shamelessly featured bad guys from the Axis of Evil (the downsized Evil Empire)--North Korean terrorists, Cuban mad scientists.
They've been playing this game for a long time. Just like Archie Bunker could be a caricature to laugh at for the liberals or an icon to admire for the bigots. Just like Paul Verhoeven's sinister 1997 production of Heinlein's Starship Troopers could be lampooning fascism for the deconstructionist crowd, or glorifying it for teenage testosterone-heads.
As Hakim Bey has written: "The problem is not that too much has been revealed, but that every revelation finds its sponsor, its CEO, its monthly slick, its clone Judases & replacement people."
See Shlomo Svesnik's last piece:
OY VEY, JERUSALEM!
Why Both Christian and Muslim Fundamentalists Hate Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven
Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, June 10, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution