George Lucas, the guy who invented the whole thing, actually had something quite different in mind. The great political narrative of “Star Wars” is rooted in ancient history (one familiar to Today’s WorldView readers): How a republic, beset by complacency, naivete and quite a few wars, withers away into tyranny. Lucas was animated not by the Soviet Union, but something far closer to home. “It was really about the Vietnam War, and that was the period where [President Richard] Nixon was trying to run for a [second] term, which got me to thinking historically about how do democracies get turned into dictatorships?” Lucas told the Chicago Tribune in 2005. “Because the democracies aren’t overthrown; they’re given away.”
Lucas rolled out his much-maligned “prequel” Star Wars trilogy around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. In one installment, he even had the future Darth Vader declare “if you are not with us, you are my enemy,” echoing the “with us or against us” rhetoric of then-President George W. Bush. It seemed Lucas was aligning the imperial impulse in American politics with the evil Sith, the anti-Jedi of his story.