How did I miss this?

Examining the Empire's point of view isn't a new idea--Kevin Smith used it in "Clerks" to good effect when he had Dante and Randal and a customer debate the responsibility that contractors have for their personal safety when they take on jobs. The comparison there was between the Empire and a mob boss, with the customer taking the position that if you take the job knowing who you're working for, and you get caught in the crossfire, you have yourself to blame.

But this take on it is more subversive, in part because of the comparison--the destruction of the Death Star is compared to the attack on the Twin Towers, complete with a nod to the controlled demolition conspiracy theory--but mostly because of which side gets identified with the Empire.


The US's national mythology casts us in the position of rebels, and that's how we continue to see ourselves individually (and in many cases, as a nation). I expect our collective cognitive dissonance about how we can simultaneously be the world's sole hyperpower and its great rebel could be the subject of several very large books. But the reality is that we're the Empire--our aircraft carriers are Death Star, if you will, projecting military power around the globe. We've made jokes about this recently--Darth Cheney, anyone?--but I haven't seen anyone make the point as deftly as the makers of this video did.

We like to see ourselves as the Rebel Alliance in Star Wars, the scrappy underdogs fighting to throw off the oppressive chains of the Empire, because we've internalized our mythology. But we're not the 13 colonies fighting for the right to keep our own tax money, and we haven't been for a long time. We've been an empire in our own right for more than a century at least, and since the end of World War 2, we've been dominant on the world stage, sharing the spotlight with the Soviet Union for a while and with China now. There's nothing rebellious about us.

But disturbing as that realization might be to some, the really subversive part of this video, the thing that no doubt makes heads explode, is the subtext. If we're the Empire, which is looked at as oppressive and domineering, then who does that make the Rebel Alliance? Who's Obi-Wan Kenobi? The notion that Al-Qaeda could very plausibly fill the role of the hero in the Star Wars story would send lots of people around the bend. But they could, depending on your perspective and on how you identify yourself in the narrative.

What else does this video do? It humanizes the Stormtrooper, which doesn't happen in the films. Again, this isn't new--other web videos have played with this idea in the past. One of my favorite is the one which puts Stormtroopers on Tatooine as cops on patrol with a camera crew riding along. That one, though, doesn't have the same affect this one does because we see the Stormtrooper at work. This video, though, has them at a bar, having a drink after work. If it weren't for the costumes, you wouldn't know they were Stormtroopers. But by doing that, the filmmaker makes the Stormtrooper sympathetic. They're no longer the soldiers who can't shoot straight--they're guys with lives, with friends who were killed at the Death Star, who were supposed to be there that day, who are trying to put some meaning into what happened that day. They're no longer ciphers, and as a result, we're forced to recognize them as humans and acknowledge that not everyone who wears the armor is either evil or a mindless lackey of Darth Vader. If you're still identifying with the Rebel Alliance as the heroic side, this might make you uncomfortable, since you're now faced with the idea that your heroes killed some people who weren't wholly evil, i.e. the Rebels killed people, as opposed to caricatures.

Put simply, this video made me re-examine the Star Wars saga to a far greater degree than all the prequels put together. I'd pay to go see a movie about these guys--as long as Lucas didn't direct it.

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