Regardless of a viewer’s familiarity with the current American political landscape, it is nearly impossible to sit through “Rogue One: A Star Wars Film” without noticing blatant political messaging. With its exploration of the righteousness of resistance and the necessity of banding together to defeat imperialist and fascist evil, “Rogue One” was one of the most unabashedly political movies of 2016. During a heated argument in the movie when the initially cynical and belligerent rebel Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) confronts Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a dedicated member of the Resistance, she attempts to deny the importance of the movement to which he has dedicated his life. Andor replies that he has never had the privilege to remain uninvolved, and that even though the Resistance is not perfect, it has been the only way for him to truly create change.
Ultimately, this exchange helps reshape Jyn’s political views. She grows to see the importance of the Resistance, and the film as a whole sends the clear message that it is key that the good that is done in the world is done as a part of a concentrated movement, the Resistance, even though the Resistance is flawed.
While the characters in the movie never quite directly denounce conservative Republican ideologies on-screen, many fans of the series believe that this is exactly what the creators of the franchise are attempting to do.
During the Women’s Marches that occurred across the world the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, protesters across the world held Star Wars themed signs to protest the beginning of an oppressive government. The late Carrie Fisher’s iconic Princess Leia was a particularly common figure, featured on signs with slogans like “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance” and “The Women Strike Back.” The signs combine feminist ideologies of Princess Leia and adopt the Resistance as an anti-Trump symbol.
Many Republicans have reacted negatively to the aforementioned interpretations of the franchise, in addition to the franchise itself. Hashtags, most prominently #DumpStarWars, began to trend in the conservative Twitterverse to denounce “Rogue One.” White supremacist groups, like the website InfoStormer, which prominently displays Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan on every page, have called for boycotts of the movie.
Yet despite this backlash, there always have been fervent conservative fans of Star Wars. Many conservatives believe that the political messaging in the franchise is applicable to them. One writer at conservativereview.com wrote a glowing review of “Rogue One” on the premise that it was an allegory for the necessity of standing up against Obamacare. They compare Obama’s leadership to the tyrannical Empire and call on Republicans to band together in a similar way as the Rebel Alliance, stating that “the American people put Republicans in power to repeal Obamacare fully. Now the people’s representatives have the means to do so. What they require is the will to go to war.”
With these fans in mind, is it really possible to conclude that the entire Star Wars franchise is supportive of a more liberal agenda? The short answer is yes. Not only does the most recent installment explore a decidedly political narrative, but it also picks a side. The producers of the franchise have certainly hinted and at times been very forthright with their liberal political allegiance and how that allegiance has manifested itself in the series.
Creator George Lucas has not hidden the parallels between some of the series’ most fearsome characters and conservative politicians. He compared the Emperor to both former President Richard Nixon and former Vice-President Dick Cheney and has likened former president George W. Bush to Darth Vader. Lucas has even admitted in interviews that the original Star Wars movie, “A New Hope,” was inspired by the Vietnam War, and has never denied the parallels between the series and the fight against fascism and Nazism. Lucas also donated money to former President Barack Obama’s campaign and called him a “hero.”
Lucas is far from the only person connected to the Star Wars franchise to decry conservative actions. Luna, the first Mexican actor to have a starring role in the franchise, has also come out in strong opposition to the policies of Trump and his administration. “Rogue One” makes a very political statement in the framework of the movie itself simply by having Luna keep his Mexican accent in an age when Trump has vowed to halt illegal Mexican immigration into the United States and build a Mexican border wall. Luna further cause a stir when he presented an award at the Golden Globes in Spanish, sending the message that he is proud of his nationality and that it has a place in the United States.
The creators of “Rogue One” and Star Wars continued to confirm the allegiance of the series when “Rogue One” writer Chris Weitz tweeted “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization,” and fellow writer Gary Whitta responded that the Empire is “opposed by a multicultural group led by brave women.” The pair also posted photos of Star Wars logos with safety pins in them—the safety pins were the symbols of an attempted movement led by white liberals to show their support for minorities under attack from Trump.
While Star Wars has had liberal leanings since the very beginning, there has always been room for conservative fans in the franchise. Will there continue to be room in the future? It seems that as U.S. politics continue to grow more and more divisive, the answer might be no.