Will the New ‘Star Wars’ Have Anything to Say About 2015?

A moment from the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
A moment from the trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

Last week, the first teaser trailer for J.J. Abram’s upcoming Star Wars continuation, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, hit the Internet, inspiring sentimental awe or newfound rage, depending on where you looked. Already, a few retrograde objections have appeared in opposition to the skin color of John Boyega, the first actor—supposedly with a lead role—seen in the trailer. In our increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-cultural world, conversations about race continue to appear in the sphere of political and pop culture in a way that they perhaps did not in the year 1977, when the first Star Wars film was released. Then again, a black man in a lead role—especially in science fiction—was a little harder to come by.

But that doesn’t mean that Star Wars was simply that—a science fiction adventure preoccupied with other worlds. In fact, the original film incorporated many political and cultural themes of the 1970s, some of which might be totally invisible to a young viewer in 2015, when the newest film will be released.

George Lucas admitted to some trickle-down influence of Apocalypse Now into the making of Star Wars as a reflection on the Vietnam War (in which, much like in Star Wars, a huge and oppressive government is faced by a small, ideological group of dissidents). Original drafts of the film even included a planet called Aquilae (ultimately scrapped in editing) specifically designed to resemble North Vietnam, and whose system has largely been conquered by neighboring gangsters.

In this way, an argument can be made that Star Wars contextualizes the United States as the Empire, and the rebel forces (Luke Skywalker and the gang) as the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong. So that even in a distant star system, our real world comes back to meet us.

I reckon that J.J. Abrams must be aware of this secret history, and hopefully he captains a ship worthy of the same real-world wonder Lucas managed to bring to a film about unrecognizable aliens and spaceships the size of moons. I hope that he took a good look at this second decade of the 2000s and found a place for it in a galaxy far, far away.

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4 thoughts on “Will the New ‘Star Wars’ Have Anything to Say About 2015?

  1. Interesting! As an avid Star Wars movie addict, I must confess to not being privy to these hidden undercurrents.

    But you know, as a lover of all things sci-fi, I see Star Wars more as candy than a healthy meal. When I eat it, I’m looking for a sugar rush — lasers, pew-pew, beautiful scenery, strange aliens of all sort. I’ll be happy if that’s exactly what VII delivers. It’s not the kind of thing I turn to for ‘substance’ (political, cultural, or otherwise). Some would argue that the grand story of Star Wars, if ever there was one, died in the prequel trilogy. Personally I couldn’t care less, since the prequels are still the most dazzling, sugar-coated sci-fi movies that I’ve seen to date (regardless of how many lens flares Abrams tries to cram into a ‘Star Trek’ movie!)

    When I want strong characters and deep story, I watch BSG. When I want politics and morality, I watch Star Trek. When I want some semblance of realism, I watch Firefly. But Star Wars? Leave the politics at the door and hand over my triple-scoop of gratuitous space battles, beautiful alien worlds, and magical lightning bolts flowing from the fingers of glorified warlocks.

    1. True, I must admit that Star Wars has become such a posterchild for standard “hero’s journey” storytelling that much of what was considered novel at the time has been overtaken by things like Battlestar Galactica (one of my favorite shows–if not my absolute favorite show–of all time). But you’re right: Star Wars is always good fun with or without the obvious subtexts of other famous scifi stories.

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