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Lucas on Episode III's anti-Bush message

In a previous post I noted that many movie critics were finding clear anti-Bush sentiment in the new Star Wars movie, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

Speaking at the Cannes film festival, director George Lucas said that while he plotted the Star Wars prequel trilogy almost a decade ago, he nevertheless thinks the latest and final installment offers timely criticism of Bush and the war in Iraq. The Associated Press reports:

Lucas said he patterned his story after historical transformations from freedom to fascism, never figuring when he started his prequel trilogy in the late 1990s that current events might parallel his space fantasy.

"As you go through history, I didn't think it was going to get quite this close. So it's just one of those recurring things," Lucas said at a Cannes news conference. "I hope this doesn't come true in our country.

"Maybe the film will waken people to the situation," Lucas joked.
Of course, Lucas may have sketched out the prequels years ago, but he's had ample opportunity in recent years to add choice anti-Bush lines to the Episode III script. And audiences are getting the point:
"If you're not with me, then you're my enemy," Hayden Christensen's Anakin — soon to become villain Darth Vader — tells former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). The line echoes Bush's international ultimatum after the Sept. 11 attacks, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

"That quote is almost a perfect citation of Bush," said Liam Engle, a 23-year-old French-American aspiring filmmaker. "Plus, you've got a politician trying to increase his power to wage a phony war."

Though the plot was written years ago, "the anti-Bush diatribe is clearly there," Engle said.
It remains unclear why Lucas thinks America is at risk of turning into a fascist dictatorship. Does he really think there is even the slightest chance that Bush will ban all opposition parties, cancel new elections, and claim legislative authority? If not, what is he worried about?


Anonymous said...

Oh come on, Gajin! Everybody knows that it's a slippery slope from trying to get legislation supported by over half the country passed and prosecuting wars against declared enemies that are doing everything they can to circumvent peace and American security—to fascist dictatorship!

I mean, after all, the first thing Hitler did was invade Poland for ignoring international law, then turn the government back over to the Polish people to control it themselves, right? 

Posted by Brian

Anonymous said...

No, the first things he did, years before invading Poland, were to ban opposition parties, cancel new elections, and claim legislative powers for himself.

So Dubya has a lot of catching up to do. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

The questions that needs to be asked every time the moonbats go on their Bush is Hitler, Bush is a fascist rant is a simple one. If Bush is Hitler why are you still out on the streets calling him a fascist not in some death camp in the wilds of Utah? I have never gotten an answer to that question.


Posted by gbfan001

Anonymous said...

More Lucas-related thoughts here  

Posted by Brian

Anonymous said...

I think it is a reach to say that George Lucas designed Star Wars III with an anti George Bush message. Me, I think its the other way around. Its an interesting coincidence that GW happens to be president at the same time the last of the Star Wars movies comes out. Its like trying to read bibilical prophecy into current events......the truth is in the eye of the reader.

I think GB should give Lucas for telling a story with a timeless meaning, namely that those who fail to remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Bush has selective memory when it comes to understanding historical precedent. Also Lucas' trilogy do show that democracy is a pershiable quantity if we do not act vigorously to safeguard it.

If there were a big buget movie about the Roman Empire, or Hohenzollern Germany people would be saying the same thing. That still does not mean its not a great story on its own merits.

As for George Bush doing the banning of political parties, well that's for the new breed of sycophants that the right wing are growing up today, not him. GW is merely setting the ground for the seed to grow. In the polticial world, the real Anakin is receiving his tutelage from any one of several masters of the Dark Side. Read TTLB's post about blogging in 2014 for an accurate vision of the future.


Posted by skippy-san

Anonymous said...

GB, I can't believe you're still trying to read this as an intentional diatribe. Like I said before, the "with me or against me" line has been used in hundreds, if not thousands, of films and books in the past, and fits entirely with the themes of the dark side that Lucas built up in the previous movies, so to assume that Lucas intentionally added it recently seems like some sort of persecution complex.

That many people will think the movie's events aply to current events is inevitable, but it's a bit much to think that a story arc of which the majority was written decades ago was explicitly designed to criticize the current president. The parallels may be there, but if so, it is a case of life imitating art, not the other way around, because Lucas wrote it first . 

Posted by Big Ben

GaijinBiker said...

Lucas hashed out the overall story arc of his saga decades ago, but the actual script for Episode III was almost certainly written after "Attack of the Clones" came out in 2002.

At any rate, we are talking about a man who named one of the Episode I villains "Nute Gunray", after Newt Gingrich and Ronald Regan.

Do you really think he held back from slipping in a few intentional political references this time around?

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten about the Nute Gunray thing, which is evidence that he wouldn't be against adding little political jokes if they didn't get in the way of an entertaining story, but looking at everything in Lucas' career so far, if he were into delivering overt political messages, he would have done it before now. He makes popcorn fare, not political diatribes. And while the actual script may have been written recently, there couldn't have been any major changes to the storyline. I have yet to hear of anything beyond the "with me or against me" line that could even plausibly be directly aimed at Bush, and even that, as I've argued, is such a stock line in good vs. evil melodramas like this that it can hardly be proof of anything.
But you haven't just been arguing for "a few intentional political references" (for which I have yet to hear any unambiguous examples), you have claimed the movie itself was an anti-Bush diatribe, which is clearly ludicrous based on the age of the storyline.

You can criticize Lucas for taking advantage in recent interviews of the fact that the themes in his movie now seem "topical", and you can reasonably find fault with those who think Bush=Palpatine, but it's just not reasonable to assume that Lucas was prescient enough to have written it that way intentionally.

You know, the thing that annoys me most about this is that you've put me in the position of having to defend  George Lucas, a man who has betrayed my generation's childhood dreams and produced nothing but schlock in the last decade. There are endless reasons to slam the guy, but politicizing his movies just isn't one of them. 

Posted by Big Ben

Anonymous said...

I never called the movie an "anti-Bush diatribe".

In this previous post , the phrase was a direct quotation from movie reviewer Ed Gonzalez.

The same phrase appeared again in the post you are reading now as a direct quotation from 23-year-old French-American aspiring filmmaker Liam Engle.

I merely reported their comments. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

Putting it in the title of your post certainly sounds like an endorsement of that view, and you've continued the series of posts despite have not yet actually seen the movie. If it isn't your view, you should probably say so.

Posted by Big Ben

Anonymous said...

While I haven't seen the movie, I don't see anything wrong about reporting the views of other people who have — especially George Lucas himself. And regardless of whether the movie actually is an "anti-Bush diatribe", it is certainly worth noting that people who have seen it seem to think so.

My own view at present is that Lucas noticed that current events in America and Iraq related (in his opinion) to the story he had long ago planned out, and so he tossed in a line of dialogue here and there that might not have otherwise been in the film.

Certainly the "with me or against me" line bears a more direct connection to Bush's statement (as several reviewers have noted) than to a general plot of democracy turning into fascism.

As an example, when Anakin/Vader expressed a similar sentiment to Luke in Empire , he said:

"Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It's the only way."

And in Jedi, the Emperor says to Luke:

"If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed."

Yet now, in Sith, we have Anakin saying:

"If you're not with me, then you're my enemy."

Even the AP reporter observes that it sounds a lot like Bush's post-9-11 ultimatum:

"Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

Coincidence? I personally think not. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I considered bringing up those exact quotes to show that this is precisely the sort of melodramatic dialog that Lucas has written all along.
I'm willing to admit the possibility that Lucas consciously or unconsciously might have been mimicking Bush's statement, but I think the possibility that it's a coincidence is even greater. If he really wanted to use it to criticize Bush, you'd think he's make the phrasing closer to the Bush quote.

You've based your whole argument on this one quote that doesn't even look that much like Bush's statement (if-then rather than either-or, lack of paralellism in the second half of the sentence, etc.--It resembles the Emperor's statement in Jedi more than it resembles Bush's.) When the chances of coincidence are this high, criticizing a movie you haven't yet seen is hardly innnocent-until-proven-guilty. 

Posted by Big Ben

Anonymous said...

Is George Lucas and many of his Hollywood brethern motivated by their liberalism or their bank accounts?

Movies, and to a lesser extent, television are dependent upon the foreign box office/sales to generate the money to pay the big names who are profit participants in the production.

Perhaps the suits in Hollywood have noticed that in parts of the world where the U.S. is being vilified, their sales do not match their projections or are not equal to other parts of the world where the U.S. is not hated.

This would lead the managers/agents to conclude that when the U.S. is well liked, the profits are greater.
And greater porfits are good for Hollywood.

To paraphrase a oft-misquote of a former head of General Motors: "What is good for Hollywood is good for the USA."

Or as Robert Heinleein said, "[n]o matter what they say they are arguing about, they're arguing about money." 

Posted by Hornet

Anonymous said...

A.O. Scott in the New York Times weighs in:
Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders.  At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes."  

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

Like I said, it's inevitable that some people will interpret it that way, but that doesn't mean that interpretation is correct. Adding more people to that list doesn't even begin to answer my arguments.
Given that:
a. The with-me-or-against-me type ultimatum has always been a stadard trope of good-vs.-evil melodramas.
b. Star Wars is precisely that sort of melodrama.
c. The phrasing is consistent with the stilted dialog Lucas has used in the past.
Do you deny that it is at least plausible to believe that the similarity with Bush's statement is coincidental?

Hornet's point about money is important too. Do you really think George Lucas, who has based his career so far on squeezing as much money as possible out of his creations, would intentionally alienate half the electorate? 

Posted by Big Ben

Anonymous said...

I'll grant that reasonable people can disagree about whether Lucas intended to specifically reference Bush with various lines of dialogue. I don't have proof that it's not a mere coincidence.

But I believe it's more likely that he did so intend, and many other people have come to the same view.

On Hornet's point:

(1) I think Lucas has made enough money by now that he doesn't care about censoring himself.

(2) A large chunk of Lucas's audience is too young to vote, and presumably does not pay much attention to political references.

(3) No one is going to let an anti-Bush reference keep them from seeing the final Star Wars movie. 

Posted by GaijinBiker

Anonymous said...

I'll grant that reasonable people can disagree about whether Lucas intended to specifically reference Bush 

Ah, I see the Jedi mind trick is finally taking effect;) 

Posted by Big Ben

Anonymous said...

The line that sounds like Bush doesn't bother me in the least. Good and bad people say "your with me or against me" To Bush I would say "I'm with you". To Anakin I would say "I'm against you"

The problem I have is people not willing to say they are against evil. What the heck is wrong with saying "I am against you Anakin", "I am against the dark side", "I am against evil."?

What kind of whimp is Obi-one that he can't say he's against the Dark Side? According to his quote there IS no Dark side! 

Posted by Bradford Taylor

Anonymous said...

Finally, there is no question that Bush is a flaming lib and wants to influence people through his films. Read his wired interview. He all but comes out and says the problem with F911 is that it wasn't subtle enough. 

Posted by Bradford Taylor

Anonymous said...

"People need to be very careful about what they say, just as they need to be careful about what they do."

Donald Rumsfeld

Is it the phantom mirroring the menace or the menace mirroring the phantom? You tell me. 

Posted by Bojack

Anonymous said...

Several things amaze me:
1) Republicans calling the movie and storyline a 'bush-bashing' movie. Look at the original trilogy, look at this trilogy. If you see parallels to the Bush adminstration, maybe you need to put some thought into your government heroes. Aside from a couple specific quotes, the script was pattered after historical trends of Democracies/Republics disintigrating into Fascist Dictatorships. Its happened before - the warning is that it can happen again. Don't be tricked into thinking people are making up these parallels between the bush administration and past corrupt regimes throughout history simply because they're fed up with the Republican party's big-spending policy.

Which leads to the 2nd point:
2) Republicans referring to themselves as 'Conservatives' and Democrats as 'Liberal'. The past 25 years have been a quarter-century of proof that the Republican Party is the party of out-of-control spending, and stripping power from the states to consolidate into federalist rule; the party which believes the government should dictate the rules by which people live their lives, rather than the party who limits government interference. Anyone who is blind enough to believe the 'Conservative vs. Liberal' fallacy (most of the ill-informed, non-self-thinking public) are the people who are allowing this rapid corruption of our Union of Independent States into a Federalist, Fascist Empire.

While I identify with the Democratic party more than the Republican, it is because I believe in smaller federal government, less government regulation of Individuals   and more regulation of corporations. If you disagree with this being the face of the Republican/Democrat parties today, then you are simply droning along with what your selected media of choice is 'telling' you to think. Open your eyes, ears, and mind, instead of your overpowering mouths for a change, and think a little.  

Posted by SmellTheTruth



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